If there is one thing I love most about homeschooling it’s the fact that it allows for a ton of freedom. Freedom with your time, what your children are learning, and most of all freedom for your kids to delve into their interests and become who they want to be without a lot of outside influence.
There is no pressure to “be cool” or to shun things that aren’t considered “normal”. If you have a son who wants to take ballet that ‘s ok, a girl who wants to shave her head, no one is going to bully her, it is a great way for kids to have the time to grow and become people with diverse interests and opinions.
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But here’s the thing. Whether your kids are homeschooled or go to school, eventually they look around and start to realize that they’re not exactly like everyone else. Or you start to have people make comments about their hobbies, their hair color, the clothes they choose to wear, and you realize how much pressure comes from the world to assimilate and be “normal.”
I’m a parent who has always let my boys make decisions about their appearance, what hobbies they get into and who their friends are. This has resulted in blue hair, really long hair, a pierced nose, swim teams, and skinny jeans. The choices they make are as unique as they are, and I love that they have the confidence to make decisions for themselves.
But there is always that knowledge that some decisions that people don’t understand, it makes them uncomfortable, judgy, and puts pressure on our kids who are creative original souls to change themselves to be more like everyone else.
I want my kids to know that they don’t have to change who they are, that they can continue to be their different, fun, original selves in this world and there is no need to try to blend in to be like everyone else! The older they get the more intentional I’ve become about it so that as they reach their teens and adulthood they continue to march to their own beat!
- Surround them with like-minded people – We’re lucky to have a great homeschool group where everyone lets their kids be themselves. No matter if your kids are in school or homeschooled you can help them find friends and groups of people where they can be themselves! Encourage their friendships with other kids who march to their own beat, and whose parents encourage originality.
- Talk openly with them about people can be – When my son chose to dye his hair purple and pierce his lip I let him. However, we had a chat about people’s reactions. I wanted him to understand that right or wrong people judge based on appearance. He needed to realize that his choices might not be well received by everyone and he had to let that roll off his back. While we can’t keep people from judging or having their own opinions we can be aware of them and not let them get to us!
- Let them make decisions- Allowing our kids to be different includes letting them make decisions that maybe we wouldn’t. When my son went to college last year he needed a foreign language credit. I recommended taking Spanish because he took it in high school, and it’s the choice I would have made. He went with Chinese. It turned out to be an amazing experience for him because he was the only kid in his class! When we give our kids room to make their own decisions and support them when they do it allows them to feel confident and continue to make decisions that feel right to them, and not worry about other people think!
- Don’t worry about other people’s opinions – As parents, we often face the ramifications of letting our kids be different. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me why I don’t make my 10- year old cut his hair, or why I let my son go to public school and then back to homeschooling. I don’t know how many times people have questioned our decision to homeschool or asked my boys what sports they play only to look in bewilderment when they say, none or I’m a swimmer. Our society has this status quo. This idea that we’re comfortable with sameness, the kids that stand in line, do what they’re “supposed” to, don’t rock the boat, make “normal” decisions. Normality is rewarded in the form of participation trophies and certificates that celebrate doing the same thing everyone else is doing.
When we truly look though we see the people who change the world are the ones who think outside the box, who don’t get good grades, who make the choices that other people deem weird. They are the people who dive into their unique interests head first and make amazing lives out of it, or excel in areas that few venture into.
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As a parent, it sometimes seems like it would be easier if our child was “normal” maybe they wouldn’t be bullied, maybe relatives wouldn’t question them or us about the choices that we’re making. It might be easier for them to make a friend, or people wouldn’t mistake them for a girl instead of a boy. Our society makes it easy to fit in, to just become one of the herd and go along with everyone else. There is nothing wrong with that if it makes you happy if your child is a joiner and loves being part of the group that’s awesome. But if you have a kid who is a little different, takes risks, makes unexpected decisions and wants to blaze their own trail then let them. Let them move through life on their terms and be there to love and support who they uniquely are!