Power of Words

Ashley Longnecker Ashley Longnecker / August 12, 2016
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Well, its been a few days that I’ve been trying to process something that happened to me. You’ve heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Well, I’m hear to tell you that’s just stupid. I’m guessing that we can all relive exact words spoken to us that just broke our souls. I know I can. I can remember the smells, the sounds, how I felt and the exact words that were spoken to me that crushed my spirit. I’m going to try to explain what happened the other day without using the language that’s currently running through my mind.

I was working in the office at our campground. It was a beautiful day. I was in an exceptionally good mood until it happened. A couple came into the office to check in. I made small talk like I do with all the guests. “How are you? Did you have a long drive today?” They proceeded to tell me that they’ve been traveling for weeks and couldn’t wait to get home to Canada. “Oh, I can’t wait to visit Canada,” I said. She proceeded to ask if we travel full time and I told her yes! She looked at me confused. “You don’t have a home?” I tell her about how we sold our home and we travel full time now with our 4 kids. Her confused look turned to complete horror and said, “Well, why are the kids not in school?” I told her that I homeschool the kids. Then the bombardment of questions took place. 

What curriculum do you use? Who published it? Where was it published? How do you know how well they’re doing? Did you go to college? Do you have a degree? What kind of an education is that for kids? What does your husband do? How do you homeschool them if you’re working?

I am still shaking with anger and frustration at the way she spoke to me. It was so degrading. So mean how she just tore into me, especially when I couldn't tell her who and where our curriculum was published. And you should have seen the look on her face when she found out I don’t have a college degree. The questions just kept coming.

What is your plan for them for education past high school? How will colleges look at what you’re doing?

I told her, I could care less if they went to college! You would have thought I shot her in the head. She was appalled at my response. I wasn’t even allowed to finish what I wanted to say. I would have liked to tell her how we hope to inspire our kids to be entrepreneurs and think creatively and make a living doing something they love. If they choose to go to college that’s fine but it is definitely not a requirement for our kids.

Finally, her husband got her to stop with all the questions and they were off to find their campsite. I was shaking and sweating so bad. Mostly because I was mad and partly because...‘what if she’s right.’ 

I know, I don’t have a college degree. Sometimes I really do feel like I’m not qualified to teach our kids. But you know what? We didn’t choose to homeschool because we thought we knew more than others, or could teach better than the teachers at traditional school. There are so many reasons why we chose this for our kids. Reasons like...

We want to spend as much time as we can with our kids. We want them to be able to learn about things that interest them. If they’re stuck on something, we can spend more time helping them figure it out. We want the options to travel more. We don’t believe in the way the school system works. The list goes on, and on, and on. 

But my point is, her words were so degrading and spoken with such hatred that I still get shaken up when I relive that moment in my head. I couldn’t even sleep that night. I woke up so much with her words ringing in my head. It really got to me. 

It made me question EVERYTHING. Am I doing enough? Are they on track? Am I messing them up? Are they going to grow up and resent their childhood? 

The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not sure any homeschool mom feels like they got it all under control. But you know what? This is what works for us right now. Our kids are happy. They’re learning about the places we are. They’re doing great with their school work. They love to read and learn new things. Adali can identify so many birds and tell you all about them. They love to go to the library and get new books. I can’t keep up with all the books they’ve been reading. We’d have to be at the library every 3 days to keep up with Jett these days.

Right now, my main goal is to teach them how to learn and how fun is is to learn something new. My plan is to not make school work stressful. I hear so often of kids having anxiety about going to school for different reasons. Maybe the bullies in their class, maybe they don’t understand what’s being taught but there’s no time to have it explained differently. Maybe they’re worried about their grades. Maybe they’re tired of being yelled at because they hate to sit in a chair for 8 hours a day. Maybe it’s because they are away from home all day and they have to come home and do more school work. Maybe they miss their family.

Guys, I know it’s not for everyone. But homeschool is something that works for us. We love having our kids with us all day every day. We love watching them discover new things and come up with creative ideas on their own. We get to experience so many things with them while we’re traveling. They get to see things that most kids will never get to see. They get to sled down sand dunes, and swim in different oceans. They get to hike mountains and learn how to adjust to new environments. How can you say that what we’re teaching our kids isn’t good? An education isn’t just learning what’s written in books. It’s learning how to do life, and I think they’re doing pretty well.

One of the most important things we should teach our kids is respect. I want them to know that when they say mean things to someone, it can really hurt. I want them to think about what they are going to say before they blurt it out. Can we all agree that teaching our kids to be decent, respectful human beings is top on our list? Can we teach them that being kind to others, despite our differences, is what this world needs? I want them to understand the powerful effect their words have on others, and even on themselves. 

Recently Jett has been struggling in math. He would just give up and say he’s stupid and can’t memorize things. We started a little tradition with him that seems to be helping. We have him repeat after us... “My name is Jett. I am smart. I am funny. I can memorize things. I can do hard things. I will not give up because I am awesome.” It’s a little different every time we have him say it, but we can see his spirit light up again. Words are powerful. 

I’m trying really hard to learn to not take in every negative word spoken to me. Some things people say are not worth holding on to. I won’t let them get me down. I won’t let them ruin my week again. I won’t let her words define who I am as a mother, a teacher and as a human being. I may not have a degree but I know how to treat others with respect and that may be worth more than a piece of paper.

I walked home after work, still shaken. I had my hands full and was carrying home 2 of my homemade muffins that were left over from the day. And guess who was walking along my path. The same lady. I wanted to turn around and pretend I left something at the office and wait until she was gone. But I kept walking. Our eyes met and I smiled and asked her if she would like the left over banana muffins. She politely declined. I said, “Are you sure? I just made them this morning.” Her face changed from sour to curious as if she didn’t believe that I could make muffins. She then said, “Okay, that’s very sweet of you.” I started to walk off and she said, “Can I give you a hug?” I agreed, and at that moment (though I wasn’t ready to forgive her for how she made me feel) I knew that maybe, just maybe she knew she had really offended me and that she was sorry. That, or maybe she was just hungry for muffins.

Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of BareNeckers. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

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