The labels we apply

I’ve been in a couple of situations lately that have left me with some food for thought. I often walk around in the world with a pretty solid confidence in the choices we have made in regards to the boys education. When people ask me what grade they are in or where they go to school I asnwer with “oh they don’t go to school.” Which 99 percent of the time is followed up with “Oh you homeschool.” I smile and nod and leave it at that most of the time because explaining the nuance of what we are up to is more than most casual interactions call for. In my mind these random people walk away still with an image of my boys in their mind. Naive of me. Yes quite possible. I’ve lived in a rather sheltered bubble for a good portion of my life. Recently though I’ve had some deeper conversations where people have shared with me more about what hearing those words does in their mind. And it’s left me questioning and exploring the labels I so easily attach to other people and what misintrepetation about them I may be carrying about in the world.

In the first instance, I was in an environment that was created for conversation of the honest, open and potoentially vulnerable sort. One woman revealed she was under the impression that everyone who homeschooled was doing so under religious influence. Another admitting to believing those who are homeschooled lack the skills required to interact with their peer group and the world at large. In the other instance a woman approached me with curiosity. She wanted more information on homeschooling in the teen years and I launched into a ten minute explanation of what it is we do to support learning day in and day out in our home. At the end she said “ever since I met your boys and they seemed so well adjusted and happy I’ve been curious about how you did that while homeschooling.” I know she was curious and her intent was well meaning but it still made me wonder what she thought about my children before meeting them. I do wish I’d been quick enough to ask that question.

With this new information pulling at the edges of my mind I am going out into the world with a more cautious approach to how I take a label and apply it to any one person. Wanting to take a step further to ask the follow up question of  “and what does that mean to you?” so that I might not walk away thinking I know something about an individual based on a social construct built outside of their individuality.

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