How Reddit is Educating Me About Homeschooling
new terms, products, and insights into family life
Up until about a week ago, I had avoided Reddit. It was an aspect of pop culture that I had studiously ignored, but now that I’ve self-published a little book on homeschooling, I’ve become part of the Reddit hive mind in an effort to market myself. I’ve joined Reddit’s r/homeschool and r/homeschooling boards, among others, and I do what I can to respond to people’s questions and make a name for myself (on Reddit, this is called “earning karma,” and it’s done by acquiring lots of upvotes for your posts and comments; accrue enough karma, and you gain certain privileges).
Alas, Reddit is, quite frankly, a PC-saturated hellhole, an over-monitored police state where you’re always in danger of being canceled for saying the wrong thing. Every board normally has its own set of rules, which are enforced by “mods,” i.e., moderators who comb the boards in an eternal search for badthink. The place often feels to me like a swimming pool filled with mucus and diarrhea. I don’t enjoy being there.
That said, I’ve been picking through the pile of shit to find various bits of corn and peanuts. It’s not all valueless. In fact, I’m beginning to think I should have joined Reddit a long time ago to get a better idea of the issues facing homeschooling parents these days. Reading the various boards has been enlightening.
There are terms associated with homeschooling, like “manipulables,” i.e., educational props that kids can physically handle (I learned the term realia). The product called Reading Eggs (which uses online software to teach reading) is so popular that some parents de-capitalize it, as if it were a common noun, and just refer to “reading eggs.” These and more terms are now a part of my ever-expanding vocabulary.
What’s really interesting, though, is finding out about specific parental concerns. A lot of parents are dealing with ADHD kids, apparently, as well as kids on the autism spectrum who throw tantrums and have meltdowns. Motivation is a huge issue for some parents (my book deals with that to some extent). One parent recounted a horror story: her young daughter had a three-hour-long hissy fit because of math. The story prompted some commenters to note that a three-hour-long conniption was simply “not normal,” and I’d have to agree, even though I’m not a parent. A lot of the advice I’ve read on these boards strikes me as solid.
All that said, I stand by the book I’ve written, which covers a lot of the fundamentals of teaching in terms of what mindset you should have and what basic pedagogical approaches might work best for your kids. But plunging into Reddit has been enlightening, and it makes me think another book that goes more deeply into the human factor of homeschooling might be in order. I’m not sure I can write such a book, to be honest: I’m not a parent, and I’ve never homeschooled (although I would if I had kids). I interviewed some people about homeschooling and relied on my own experience as a teacher to fill in the details I wanted to include in my book, but I can now see that I lack a lot of “facts on the ground,” so to speak. Even so, I doubt I’ll put out another homeschooling-related book this year. Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, Reddit is a massive armpit, and it makes me feel dirty all over. Right now, I’m treating it as a necessary evil, although I can’t say my efforts have increased book sales any. Maybe I just need more time. It’s been only a week, after all. If you read this, please pray for my soul: there’s a good chance I might get swallowed up by all of Reddit’s ambient maleficence.