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Preventing Rudeness in Homeschooled Children
by Barbara Frank
My family has gotten to know a lot of great kids over the course of our 14 years of homeschooling. Weíve found homeschooled kids to be generally pleasant, smart, and independent. But homeschooling does not create the perfect child. While I am opposed to formal schooling on many levels, I do think being exposed to a herd of kids on a daily basis does one thing for a child that cannot be replicated in the home, unless the child comes from a huge family.

Before I define that solitary benefit of classroom life, let me take you back in time to the days of vaudeville. Back then, if the singer on the stage was not very talented, or if the magician made too many mistakes, the audience responded by booing, hollering, and sometimes even throwing vegetables. If the act was lame enough, the management brought out the Hook, an actual giant hook that stagehands used to reach out from the wings and pull the offending performers offstage.

How does this relate to homeschooling? To put it simply, some homeschooling parents need to use the Hook. In our efforts to allow our children to be heard, to relate information they have learned, and to become conversant with others, we neglect to set limits on their talking. Sometimes, the result is a child who acts like a ďknow-it-allĒ (even to adults), disrupts activities because of the need to be the center of attention all the time, or monopolizes conversations until they become monologues.

If such a child were in school, these behaviors would result in his classmates cutting him down to size verbally, the equivalent of the vaudevillian audience booing and throwing vegetables. If need be, the teacher would tell the child to sit down and be quiet (the Hook).

In a large family, something similar would happen. Such a child would be verbally castigated by his siblings, who also want a chance to talk. The parents, dealing with 8 or 12 children requiring attention, would have already taught their large brood to share the spotlight, if for no other reason than to keep their own sanity when dealing with so many children day and night.

But most homeschooling families are not that large, and combined with the homeschooling parentís natural desire to make sure each child gets individual attention, the result is that there are some homeschooled children out there who are running amuck, verbally.

Thanks to some recent experiences, I can provide examples. Letís start with the Know-It-All. A lifelong homeschooler, she is well-versed in many areas, especially science. She can talk about molecular theory, astronomy, and biological warfare in as much detail as other teenagers discuss their favorite movies.

But if she hears someone say something that may not be 100% accurate, she will quickly and loudly disagree, even if that person is an adult. Respect goes out the window as she corrects the offender in great detail. Should that person be her parent, she will not moderate her tone, and the parent, while looking annoyed, wonít do anything in response to her behavior.

How will this habit affect her when she is an adult? If she loudly corrects a client who has said something inaccurate, she will probably lose that client. Nobody likes to be humiliated.

Then there is the Star. He is so accustomed to being the center of attention at home that he expects it in public, too. I recently chaperoned a homeschool group field trip to a hands-on history museum, and had a Star in the group of children (age 11-14) I took through the museum. Though old enough to know better, he cut in front of people in line when things were handed out to be examined. He often joked with others while the docent was talking, causing her to repeat herself more than once. When some of the hands-on activities were being demonstrated, he distracted others with his antics, so that when it was their turn to do the activity, the docent had to repeat the demonstration.

Since the Starís mother was not with us, as chaperone I reprimanded him more than once (receiving several thank-youís from the frustrated docent). But the Star continued his behavior until the field trip was over, then told one of my children that I was mean. I donít think he understood why his behavior was inappropriate.

Imagine his behavior on the job once heís old enough to work, just a few years from now. If he starts his clowning during a staff meeting while his boss is talking, he will jeopardize his job. (On the other hand, he will be perfectly suited for a career in Hollywood, where his rude, demanding behavior is a prerequisite for todayís stars).

Finally, there is the Drone. Iíve found her type to be the most common among homeschooled kids. The drone will go on at length about anything and nothing. She will ignore others who are trying to get in a word edgewise. For her, there are no conversations, only soliloquies.

This behavior is common among most small children, homeschooled or not. But it must be nipped in the bud, before the nonstop chatter becomes a lifelong habit. Have you ever called someone who canít bear to set limits on their tiny talker? Often, Mommy gives in to the little Droneís demands to talk to the caller, but never comes back to rescue the person on the other end. In another scenario, the Drone interrupts Mommy on the phone, and Mommy then enters into a long, drawn-out conversation with the child, leaving the caller out completely.

This behavior will eventually be cured at school, where there is not enough time for the Drone to monopolize discussions. But homeschoolers donít have that experience, and so often the homeschooled Drone will continue her conversation-monopolizing habits into adulthood. Her future career may be hampered by this behavior; it certainly wonít make her very popular in business meetings.

How should we, as homeschooling parents, react to the discovery of a budding Know-It-All, Star or Drone in our own families? While sending the child to school might solve the problem, it would be like burning down the garage to kill the mice in it. There are simpler, less objectionable ways to deal with this issue.

Start at the dinner table. Parents should be the moderators of meal-time conversation. They can make sure everyone gets a turn to talk, thus preventing monopolizers from taking over. They can correct improper behavior, and eject from the meal those who are disrespectful to their parents: in other words, they can bring out the Hook.

Beyond mealtime, parents should teach their children that interrupting is rude. If a parent is on the phone, the children should not interrupt without a very good reason. During school-time, whether sitting around a table, or under a tree in the backyard, children should be taught to respect each otherís viewpoints, and to take turns talking. If necessary, parents can give children time limits, so that they think about what they really want to say before they start. Knowing they have a time limit helps them get to the point faster.

Most of all, parents need to keep in mind that while self-expression is necessary to a childís development, it is not the only opportunity we need to provide to our children. They also need to learn self-control, which will serve them well throughout their lives. Just because theyíre homeschooled does not give them the right to be rude.


Barbara Frank and her husband, Tim, have four homeschooled-from-birth children, ages 10-19. Barbara is a freelance writer/editor, and is currently writing a book about homeschooling teenagers. You can reach her by email at
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