I don’t know if this is an Oxford phenomena or a British phenomena or a complete figment of my wishful imagination but I feel genuinely respected for my chosen occupation over here. I am a homeschooling mother. When I say that back at home I (almost) never fail to sense the rush of assumptions flying into the mind of my conversation partner. I feel the need to start qualifying what I mean by “homeschooling” almost immediately - trying to perceive which set of misconceptions that other person has. Homeschoolers are all as different from each other as we are from people on a more traditional educational path. The Why, How and What of our particular Homeschool widely varying from family to family. So, most assumptions will be inaccurate to some degree or other.
Here in England, I announce that my husband is writing a book while on sabbatical and I am home-educating my six kids and I always experience this sense of being reverenced, not simply respected. The first couple times it happened I was really surprised but it’s getting positively common now. They treat me like I’m a fascinating specimen from the future and the past simultaneously. They are immediately impressed and genuinely interested and curious. Then they start thanking me for my presence at their event - amazed that I would find the time and energy to attend and would deign to consider their event worthy of me. They give me a tremendous benefit of the doubt by assuming that I know what I’m doing and that my kids are better off for it. I’ve been told, “You homeschoolers really, really love your children.” A coach at my gym practically followed me around the gym in order to ask me questions because he’s so convinced that he will homeschool his own children (at the wise old age of what looked to be 16). And, I haven’t felt judged once.
I have a feeling that my foreignness is actually a help in this instance. The British have their own sets of assumptions about homeschooling because there are so few people here doing it that it’s really a choice to swim against the stream. British homeschoolers have an anti-establishment flavor for sure. But no one assumes that about me because I’m from The States where homeschooling is so much more of a force. It’s like I’m from the land of the vanguard of a movement and they want to hear more from me. It seems that they think of me as an expert in my field.
Like all moms at home, I am not accustomed to receiving a lot of outside praise or acknowledgement and mostly, I’m OK with that. But, I have to admit - it’s kind of nice to be treated like an expert. Even though I know exactly what a bumbling mess I really am…perhaps most experts in their field question their own abilities? I’ve heard many, many, many a college professor share during their first few years at the University that they feel like frauds. Like someone is about find them out and expose the truth. The truth being…that they don’t know it all.
Today was the first time I’ve been downtown when there were large numbers of gowned students and professors in their academic garb, hats and all. Gowns flowing and little clusters of students discussing heady things (I assume). You can tell how far along in their studies the students are by the length of their gowns. Oxford has 23,000 students and only 11,000 undergrads so most of these people are at the end of their academic pursuits and since they are here you can assume that they are pretty top-notch. At night the academic garb comes off and there are no end of groups of young people roaming about in gowns and tuxedos. I don’t know the why or wherefore of the continual black-tie dress but the atmosphere definitely feels rarified. These people are the cream of the crop from all over the world in dozens of different fields.
I think that’s why it’s so surprising and pleasant to feel genuinely respected by them. I am rubbing elbows with academics who are succeeding at the top university in the world and are likely to be leaders in their fields…and they are fascinated and admiring of me. Sincerely and genuinely! So, for all the moms of larger families everywhere who feel like their work is unnoticed, ignored, questioned and frowned upon…there’s a body of scholars over here who would be mouth agape at your accomplishments and would want to know more.
Congratulations on your acceptance by Oxford.