But is the ditch digger socialized?

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Twenty years ago I thought I’d like to homeschool. I tossed the decision at my husband and he immediately tossed it back in my lap.
“You’ll be doing all the work. I’ll support you, whatever you decide.”
That is pretty much the reaction we got from both sides of the family.
“Go for it. We support you.”



Cashiers at Sam’s Club, on the other hand, were confused when I had my young sons in their store in the middle of a school day.
“Is that even legal?”
My cousin, on the  board of a small Christian school, felt betrayed.
“We lose a few more families to homeschooling and we’ll need to close our doors.’

The conversations in those early years from my husband’s co-workers ran along these lines:
“Is your wife crazy?”
“A little.”
“How can she expect them to learn anything?”
She has her teaching degree.”
“Oh.That’s OK then. But what about socialization?”

I told my husband that nothing—NOTHING—I learned in my education classes prepared me to teach at the kitchen table, but he was grateful for the degree. It kept people off his back.

Our sons got older. People would look at them with pity.
“I’m sure they benefit from one-on-one attention. But what about sports and all that stuff?”
We would respond with grace. Hopefully.
“Well, they do swimming and tennis and golf and softball and baseball with community rec, and they are part of a homeschool soccer team and basketball team and a homeschool choir and a homeschool art class.”
“Oh. That’s all right then. But what about socialization?”

Eventually I graduated all of three boys. Now people say,
“So you homeschooled all the way through? Hmmm. Brave woman. What are they doing now?”
“Well, I have one mechanical engineer and one contractor/businessman and one finishing a degree in secondary ed.” I hasten to add, “and they are all very socialized.”
Polite smiles and a little relief greet this. “Well then. That’s OK.”
I have not raised sawed-off shotgun toting social misfits after all. More importantly, they are doing jobs that MATTER. Engineering? Impressive. Entrepreneur? Admirable. English teacher-to-be? Noble.

Sometimes, just occasionally, my grace is edged out by pugnaciousness. I speculate what would happen if I answered the ‘What are they doing now?’ question as follows:
Well, I raised a ditch digger and a garbage collector and a janitor and I am so proud of them! The ditch digger digs the best ditches because someone has to dig ditches. The garbage collector is a prince among garbage collectors and considers his work a service to his fellow man. The janitor rejoices that he has control over one little section of creation and can make it shine and function as it was meant to.”

My puzzled imaginary questioner says:
“But I’ve met your boys. They seem more…gifted than that.”
“Oh, they are! They are gifted with grace. With godliness. With humility. They have the gift of caring about their coworkers and neighbors and family and friends and complete strangers.”

The hypothetical interrogator continues, slowly now, because I am apparently a bit dim:
“Yes, of course. But I meant talents that can be used to make society better. To be productive.”

“You mean”— (my internal combatant is getting snotty here)— “talent is only measured by its monetary compensation? One’s talent must be bartered for a fat paycheck? A prestigious job? Both? Who says our gifts are given to make us wealthy, or even to change the world? Can’t our gifts just enrich our little sphere and whoever is in it? Can’t our talents help us do any job better, no matter how menial our culture considers it?
“My boys aren’t defined as only a ditch digger and a garbage collector and a janitor. They know that every shovel they lift and every trash bag they grab and every toilet they clean is part of Kingdom work because they do it to honor their King and serve their fellow man.”

Of course, God doesn’t allow me to remain contrary and truculent, even in my imagination, for long. We don’t live in a society that completely grasps homeschooling.
That is OK.
It isn’t OK that homeschooling parents—any parents—believe they are only successful if they raise ‘successful’ children.

In the end it isn’t the power or prestige or the paycheck that imbues any profession with nobility.
A truly successful job is the one that serves others and honors God and is done with all one’s might.

And it never hurts to throw in a smidgen of socialization.

25 thoughts on “But is the ditch digger socialized?

  1. Might I guess that this post was a long time coming? brewing? simmering? 🙂 One thing I’ve noticed with my children, and maybe it’s a positive, but they are sort of …. different, a little more unique — so shoot me?! 🙂

  2. thanks for putting words to a decades-long speech I’ve been preparing in my head!!! More steaming later over coffee. 🙂

  3. As the mother of a homeschooled janitor, thank you. He was never academically inclined, but he is a hard worker, and enjoys his job. Thank you for seeing validation in someone who isn’t the star pupil or next CEO or brain surgeon, just a good young man who works hard and loves God.

  4. Prude, my inner sarcast perks up its ears and recounts the horrified aunt who said, “But how will they learn to stand in line???” (um, I’m remembering lines at grocery stores, movie theaters, museums, ball games, recitals, concerts and Christmas shopping) Few were ever concerned about academics. Most worried and stewed over socialization. To one of them I said, “Oh, I know. We are hermits. Never see a soul.” And then laid out our schedule for her, in which we scarcely had a few hours to ourselves, always with others. Doing stuff like… socializing. Another I recall asked how my sons would develop immunities if they weren’t exposed to sicknesses at school. Ha!!!! Seriously!!!! I miss the days of homeschool. Not so much those comments. 🙂

  5. Well said! Oddly, I’ve never had a negative thing said to me about homeschooling. Now it could be that my children are so perfect that bystanders never raised an eyebrow. But it’s more likely that I’m trying so hard to get my kids in the car or keep them from climbing the walls in the stores that I’m totally oblivious to the snarks. Whatever!

    I do get the “Are they all yours?” comments and the “Do they have the same daddy?” (WHAT IS THAT? Who discusses that with total strangers in Walmart?”)

    I’ll be so proud if my children grow up to be God’s women and a man of God. Whatever they do.

    However, I have this secret fantasy of proudly announcing that my son is a farmer!

    • ‘Do they have the same daddy’ HAHA! I guess no topic is off limits at WalMart!
      I am so thankful for children who profess the name of God and honor Him with their lives.
      But I would have SO loved to have a farmer in the family too!

  6. Just seeing this now. John and I joke about some career advice he got once upon a time. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a ditch digger, just be the best.” Our children are our best testimony and people need to stop with the socialization remark. My children were able to converse with all ages, were popular, and accomplished. I’ll stand by home schooling.

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