I’m sorry, but this “Homsechooler’s Wish List” rubs me the wrong way

Deborah Markus, the woman who wrote this, may be a very nice lady, a fantastic writer,  and a joy to be around in person. I don’t know, as I’ve never heard of her before I saw her “wish list” posted today on the New Advent super site. But speaking as a parent who has home schooled 11 children for 20 years now (actually, it is my lovely wife Nancy who has done all the work in that department, but since the Bible says that in marriage “the two become one,” I guess I can qualify for  some double-billing on this), I found her wish list  list of demands tiresome and mildly irritating.

It appears that she was aiming to capture all the standard hangups, misconceptions, and prejudices that many non-homeschooling people have toward homeschooling (I get satire, I really do), but I’m afraid it comes off as simply querulous and captious, rather than clever and funny. Who knows? It’s possible that she didn’t intend it to be humorous, in which case she succeeded. The title, after all, is “A Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List.”

But, come on. What’s to be bitter about? Who cares if some people don’t understand and ask lame questions? I don’t. Over the last 30 years or so of raising children, I’ve heard plenty of awkward and even disparaging comments from people who don’t understand why anyone would have more than two children, much less 11. But so what? True, their silly comments have at times astonished me and even made me laugh at the absurdity of what was being said, but they never angered me or made me bitter. The reason is that I just don’t care if they don’t like large families. I just don’t care. And practically all the couples we know who have large families don’t care either.

Similarly, Nancy and I and the many homeschooling couples we’ve known over the years aren’t a bit bothered by (much less bitter about) the various deprecatory comments and attitudes which Mrs. Markus complains about in her list.

Maybe someone should write a “wish list” for the things homeschooling parents should and shouldn’t do so as not to give the world the impression that homeschoolers are bunch of defensive, cranky, complainers. Most of us aren’t.


  1. Michel

    I like it, and it doesn't look at all like she meant to be funny. She meant to be bitter, and she nailed it! 🙂

  2. Veritas Prayer Team

    Wow! I am speechless… poor soul that she is. Oh, and I love how you so kindly included Nancy, now the one question I have for you do you feel her pain when she has a headache from a long day of homeschooling? lol.. just kidding Patrick. Your loving lil sister in Christ,Therese

  3. Christina @ Faith for Fertility

    I think she is really just annoyed with all the "stupid" questions & assumptions made by people who do not homeschool. She definitely meant it to be bitter – and nailed it. I don't think she is bitter that she is homeschooling, however.

  4. Martin

    I like the list it accurately summarizes all the usual stupid remarks from otherwise smart friends and family.

  5. johnkgibson

    To be honest Patrick, give her a break. I have encountered more than those question and it drives me up the wall too. The other one that drives me up the wall is the people who come up to me and my wife and ask us if we know how children are made… and I only have five.

  6. The Dual Role Grandma

    Christina, I think you are right on the money. I think she LOVES to homeschool, just not put up with the often obnoxious behavior of others. I don't have the patience after 25+ years of homeschooling/ alternatively educating our second set of kids (God likes surprises)to explain to strangers the advantages, the misconceptions, etc. It was that list that I handed to my mother, a woman who does not *want* to understand homeschooling or any form of alternative education. If it is not in a Catholic school in a building on the site of a Catholic parish or a campus designated as Catholic, at the right age to correspond to the grade level, or within the public school system, to her, it is not education. Frankly, she is hypercritical and a bit of bully. She managed to intimidate my siblings on various occasions more than once. But she is my mother and raised 7 kids. After I gave her a copy of Ms. Markus' talking points, we changed parishes- with our pastor's blessing- after she tried to meddle with my younger kids at rel. ed and youth group.

  7. Sarah Harkins

    Christina is right- she likes to home school and is not bitter about that- just annoyed with all the people who make wrong assumptions about homeschooling. As a tongue in cheek article, I thought it was a good list!

  8. doanli aka "orange blossom"

    I could see myself writing something like this, not because I homeschool, but because I get very annoyed with nosy busybodies.She's just venting; we're not all born with thick skin (And I am working on mine thanks to God's grace.)

  9. catholicfamilyvignettes.com

    Dear Patrick:I think the key word in this diatribe is to be found just below the title: "secular." Mrs. Markus is truly taking on the world, expressing her frustration with as much bitterness and sarcasm as she can. She may or may not be a "bitter homeschooler" for all her angst and anger, just frustrated because she's living on the defensive. She's not alone. For those of us who are homeschooling for "Heaven, not Harvard," well…we, too, have faced persecution, goofy questions and judgment. But it doesn't disturb or disquiet us…because we aren't living to please the world, but to please God. Therein lies the key to true peace. Like you, my dear husband and I have been parenting for nearly 30 years and homeschooling for more than half that time. Without our faith and an active prayer life, it would be pretty easy to pen a "bitter wish list". Instead, I think I'll focus on the blessings. The way our family has grown, not just in size, but in faith and love. Bless you for your astute observations…and for the reminder that living our life as Catholic and not secular homeschoolers, is a blessing beyond compare!

  10. Martha

    Patrick (11 kids- you're my hero! And your wife, of course.),I LOVE your blog, and pretty much think you nail everything, but I liked the list. Maybe it's because you've risen above general annoyances and complaints. Others of us, not as perfected perhaps, vent. Rant, even. I can get soooooo worked up by people sometimes, and I shouldn't. I'm petty. It's one of my faults, so this looked like something I would've written. Just like when I read that someone named their beautiful daughter 'Sutter' or 'Braxton' or something. I brew about it for hours! Why should I care? I don't know… I'm working on it. I should pray for them, right?Of course, I wouldn't say any of those things to anyone, but I think we've all heard most of them!

  11. Martina

    I dunno…I cracked up when I read it. I shared it far and wide with other homeschooling mommas I know and they got a laugh out of it too. I think the use of the word 'bitter' might have just been her way of venting. 🙂

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