It is true that I have always enjoyed being around different types of people. I don't have that hard of a time seeing things from different points of view. This can actually cause a problem for me, because people I interact with tend to think I agree with them about everything. I am not trying to be misleading. It's just that I can easily "stand in someone's shoes." Although, at other times -- especially with people in my family or very close friends -- I can be argumentative. So, when I see President Obama get bashed for seemingly changing his opinion depending on what group he's talking to, I wonder if he is actually like me. And I imagine that if I ever run for office, I will be accused of the same thing. This thought stresses me out quite a bit. Not that I want to run for office. I don't. It's just something that enters my very active imagination, and then I get anxious. I have a rather ridiculous imagination. :-/
So, you may be wondering why I am a conservative. A lot of it has to do with growing up during the trials and tribulations of the 1970's and then experiencing the "Reagan Revolution." Some people hate Reagan, and I'm not saying he was perfect, but this is the thing. The morale of the country was pretty awful at the end of the Carter era. Reagan was full of hope and optimism. He made us young people -- at least a lot of us young people -- feel positive about our country and about our futures. The way he made us feel is very similar to the way Obama gave (and still gives) many people hope. Obama came into office at a time of great difficulty for our nation. He was upbeat and seemed resolute in his attitude that we could pull our country out of its difficulties. That was the way Reagan made a lot of people feel when he was elected. Of course, many people couldn't stand Reagan, the way many people can't stand Obama today. They feared that he was a nutty, out-of-touch-with-reality old coot who was going to start a nuclear war at the drop of a hat. I never thought that. Frankly, I never thought we would have a nuclear war. It's not something I worried about in the least. I just couldn't believe that anyone in our country, or in the U.S.S.R., was actually crazy enough to start one. Maybe I was crazy for having that attitude, but that's how I felt about it.
Another factor which influenced my conservatism was the feminism of my day. I think modern feminists are better. They seem to realize the value and fun in being wives and moms -- even stay-at-home moms (SAMS, as they are nick-named nowadays). When I was a young woman, the "career" of motherhood was often spoken of in a derogatory way. And when I shared with other young women -- especially more feminist-minded young women -- that I really hoped to be a mom at home one day, I was scoffed at, most of the time. I was told by many young women that I would be wasting my education, that I would be bored, that I would be putting my economic future at the mercy of some probably unreliable male. This made me sad. My own mother stayed home with my sisters and I, and I always appreciated it. We had wonderful times together. Of course, not all young women were critical of the idea of moms being at home with their kids. Some feminist women I knew were even supportive of the concept. But, by and large, the young women who felt the way I did were conservative, politically and religiously. Those were the people who ended up being my closest friends. I liked the more liberal women, but they often made me feel like they were laughing at me. Maybe that's not entirely accurate, but in my early 20's, that's what it felt like. So, when I got married, I married a man who supported me in my desire to stay home with our kids. He is a good man, and I've always known I can rely on him to uphold "his end of the deal." And I have striven to hold up mine.
Please don't think that I disapprove of women in the workforce. I don't. I believe each woman needs to make the choice that seems right for her and her family. Secondly, when I say that most of my friends were more conservative religiously, you must understand that "religious conservatism" back in the 1980's was much different than it is today, at least in the area of the country where I lived -- namely, the San Francisco Bay Area. In my opinion, the "religious right" has morphed into something with which I am extremely uncomfortable. I see a lot of plain old meanness going on in this school of thought, along with strange conspiracy theories, a very unhealthy level of distrust of anything that has to do with the government, and very odd ideas about such things as economics and science. You may see things differently, but this is my opinion.
My kids started out their educations by going to our neighborhood public schools, which were very nice. We did end up homeschooling them, though. Many people, when I would tell them that we homeschooled, would assume interesting things about me and my family. They assumed we were religious extremists, that we disapproved of public (and even private) schools, that our kids didn't have any friends or activities, and that they would never be able to go to college. A lot of people assumed that I was just plain weird. The fact of the matter is that I am weird. ;-) The actual story, though, is that my kids had friends who homeschooled, and they ended up asking me if I would homeschool them. Being that I had been a teacher, I decided that we could give it a try. There was a caveat -- they had to do what I told them to do without any complaining, otherwise it was back to school they would go. And, I have to say, all three of them were delightfully cooperative (most of the time). Homeschooling was a very positive experience for us. We had a lot of fun together. And my kids learned well. I did make sure that I gave them a solid course of study, and I was careful to monitor their progress. I tried to adapt the curriculum to their particular learning needs and styles. Lo and behold, they also had friends and activities in which they were involved. And they all went to college. My oldest two have graduated; my son is a junior. They have all done fine academically and socially in college. Yes, as we homeschooled, there were bumps in the road. Yes, there were some panicky moments. But, I have asked all of my children, within the past year, if they are happy that they were homeschooled, and they answered me, "yes." So, I suppose it all worked out. Homeschooling is definitely not for everybody, and I feel that nobody should feel pressured into it. And I have seen mothers putting pressure on other mothers to homeschool. I have even experienced Catholic mothers telling other Catholic mothers that their kids' souls are at stake. I think this is a terrible and inexcusable thing for one mom to say to another.
(Note: You may think I am unqualified to homeschool based on the grievous grammatical errors you see in this blog. But, it is my blog, so I just do what I want.)
Here is a funny story, though, that does demonstrate how I did, at times, look like a rather weird homeschooler:
The kids in our "homeschool group" had what my younger daughter describes as their "homeschool uniform." This came about because of the concern most homeschoolers have about dressing their daughters modestly, combined with the need of children to play in an active manner. This "uniform" -- for the girls, anyway -- consisted of a rather loosely fitting t-shirt with some kind of Catholic symbol or clever Catholic motto imprinted onto it, combined with a knee-length to mid-calf length cotton skirt with an elastic waistband. Shorts could be worn under the skirt, so that after Mass the girls could take off their skirts to play. Most of the skirts were sewn by the girls' mothers. I do not know how to sew. Never have. Never will. No interest here. But, there is a home-based business run by a sweet Menonite family that makes these types of skirts. So, we procured the desired garments from this business. This little business also makes other types of modest garments for women, including modest dresses. One year, my girls and I decided (in a fit of what can only be called insanity) to purchase some of these dresses. Please don't think I am making fun of the Menonites. I'm not. It's just that their fashions are a little bit out-of-place in urban and suburban Southern California. The dress I ordered had a loosely-fitted bodice, as the Menonites don't believe clothes should be too form-fitting. The full skirt flared out from the waist and hit me mid-calf. The sleeves were puffy and came down to my elbows. There was a rather large collar on the dress, and big blue buttons that went down the front. The dress was made of a couple different types of fabric. The bodice and skirt were blue with slim white stripes. The sleeves and collar were made of a blue and pink flowered material. And, yes, I actually wore this out in public, especially on days when I was tired and didn't feel well. It was an incredibly comfortable dress, and I didn't need to wear a bra under it, because it was so loose. (The Menonites probably wouldn't approve of that whole bra-less thing. I hate bras, though. I HATE them. If I can get away with it at all, I will not wear one. Sorry if this is TMI.) It was okay if I wore the dress to homeschool functions, because it fit in well with the fashions being sported by the other moms at these affairs. But, I wore it other places, too. One day, I wore it to Mass at our very middle-of-the-road, normal, suburban parish. At this particular Mass, I was required to get up in front of the congregation, in order to hand out some certificates to the people who were going to receive Sacraments at Easter. I kind of forgot what I was wearing, but I noticed that many people were looking at me rather oddly. I had no idea why. Until I went home and caught my reflection in the mirror. Let's just say that was the last time I wore that dress. It was a beautifully crafted piece of art, though. Truly.
My career as a homeschool mom came to an end in June of 2012, as my youngest child graduated from high school. In many ways, it was a relief to be done. But, I was also sad. It had been a great ride.
Let me tell you, though, there is nothing quite like the anxiety a homeschool mom feels as she sends her kids off to college. I used to spend sleepless nights the first semester each of them was away from home (and they all did go away to school) nervously thinking about everything I could have done better. I felt that if they didn't succeed at their chosen institutions of higher education, it would pretty much be all my fault. Every struggle they experienced weighed heavily on me. I waited with bated breath for those first report cards to arrive. So far -- thanks be to God -- all has been well.
Next time, I'll talk about what has been up for me since my youngest went off to college, and how all the events of my life have influenced the way I think about things now. Not that I'm claiming that the way I think about things is correct. But, "it is what it is." ;-)