There was something I read in an Uncle Eric book years ago about two laws for a peaceful world, “Do all you say you are going to do.” and “Do not encroach on another person’s person or property.” As I move through the home education world, I find that the first one is something we all have a very hard time with.
I’m not pointing out people. I’m guilty of it myself. We all are. But for some reason, when it comes to homeschool field trips and events, there is a disproportionate number of people who violate that rule a lot.
As a group, home educators are a pretty independent lot. We tend to do things in our own time, on our own schedule. We love the flexibility that home education gives our family. A hike at a local park or a visit to a museum on the calendar doesn’t mean that we can’t just thrust that off to the side when we feel the call of the amusement park or a great movie debut. It is pretty glorious.
Many times we don’t have a central place or business that coordinating field trips or a get-together. It’s usually another parent that has decided they would like to take advantage of a group discount or that they’d like to organize a group of families to go with them to the museum so that they can get a tour or add in the element of socializing with peers while their kids experience modern art. They donate their time and energy to plan, organize, invite, and wrangle other families. They aren’t paid or compensated other than seeing other families benefit from their efforts. And we all benefit from it. The more people that jump in and do this, the more experiences we all have, the more rounded our children’s education is.
And now the down side. There is nothing more disappointing and embarrassing to an organizing parent than to show up at a venue with a reservation for twenty and having five show up. Most of these events are free, so people have no problem forfeiting their spot. But it does cost the museum to have the docent there ready to give the tour. And it sure makes us all look bad that we can’t commit to showing up when we said we would, on time. The next group that tries to make a reservation or group ticket is given a hard time because of the last experience. And we are given fewer and fewer opportunities to show our kids the wider world.
Sometimes the field trip that parent organized is the first one that venue has ever done. It may be the docents first experience with home educated kids. Don’t you think we should be a light to others who may be considering homeschooling as well. Wouldn’t it be awesome if that young docent at the art museum was so impressed with homeschoolers in general that it made it normal for her and she decided to go that route as well? I realize that’s a bit idealistic and if we all went around feeling like we were on display for others instead of just living our lives, it could have negative effects. But couldn’t we at least put our best foot forward when we’re out in public? I’m not talking about having beautifully behaved children at all times. I’m talking about showing up, on time, and following the rules of the venue without disturbing others around us too much.
I’d like to also add that we think about how we treat the organizer. They are just another parent trying their best to home educate. They aren’t professionals. They’re doing this out of the kindness of their heart. It may be the first thing they’ve ever organized. They may not be very good at it. And they are doing the very best they can. They probably have their own children there waiting for the event. Try to be helpful and extra courteous. They are learning too.
Next time you see a free or low cost event published online for homeschoolers, check your schedule before committing to it. And if you do make that reservation, write it down and make a point to be there, maybe even a little early if need be. If something comes up and you can’t make it, be sure to tell the organizer as early as you can. We all need to be a little more responsible for ourselves and think about those around us. It’s not just about you showing up. It’s the organizer’s time and effort. It’s the venue’s time and budget. It’s the homeschooling community’s reputation.