Tales from the Bonny Blue House

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Do You Teach Courtesy or Live it?

I often get compliments on how my children answer the telephone. This is nice but honestly the credit goes to them. I never made a conscious effort to teach them phone manners but they seemed to absorb it from our life here. Just as they have absorbed things like holding doors open for people and giving up their seats in waiting rooms. Dave is unfailingly courteous (still opening the car door for me after all of these years..) and I make a special effort to be a good example. It is one of the many and huge benefits of homeschooling is that our children learn their manners from their parents exclusively. They are not inflicted with an overworked school teacher's idea of courtesy or playground adversaries to muddy the waters. I also believe that a school bus full of children is the seventh circle of hell in terms of manners. We behave with courtesy to them and they, eventually, respond in kind. We speak softly and distinctly and expect the same from them. We address each other with respect and even when upset never resort to name calling. Mostly. Usually. Infractions are disciplined immediately and are rarely repeated. Discipline reflects our desire for the children to reach our ultimate goal for them, heaven. Not the "in crowd". There is no "in crowd" in homeschooling circles. We are all "in" this together and the children seem to reflect those values. In my two years of homeschooling and attending group functions on a very regular basis (not a vast experience - I know) I have yet to see any pettiness or selfishness exhibited in the children. The children all treat each other and their elders with respect and courtesy. They live this day in and day out in their homes. It is obvious and beautiful. In the nice weather our wonderful homeschool group spends Wednesday afternoons at the grounds of an old Long Island Mansion that is now a beautiful museum. The grounds are gorgeous with many beautiful gardens and ponds and tree lined walkways. This St. Francis Nature Club is a wonderful respite in the middle of the week. When I was discerning the homeschooling call a friend who had already taken the plunge asked me to come to one of these Wednesday outings to meet some of the other moms. It was a great surprise to meet an old college friend and a dear friend of my sister-in-law. You all know her as Cottage Blessings. I had not seen her or her lovely children in a very long time. I was so blown away by their manners, their poise and how articulate and interesting they were to talk to that I came home telling Dave, "we have to do this, I want this for our children." Homeschooling is like a beautiful island of peace and devotion in the midst of this rude and rancorous world. Alas, the world intrudes.... I had a series of incredibly annoying phone calls over the course of the last two days. Yesterday afternoon I called the radiology group that my doctor referred me to in order to have a Stage II Sonogram. I have never been to this practice before so I was a little shocked at the rudeness of the woman answering the phone. She abruptly asked for some basic information and then informed me she was too busy to give me an appointment so she would call me back. Of course she didn't. I called back at 9:00 a.m. today to try again and, unfortunately, got hold of the same cranky woman. With a sigh that began at her toenails she agreed to take my information and make me an appointment. I tried to tell her that my doctor wanted me seen the week of March 20th. She interrupted me three times and refused to hear me. I ended up with an appointment for April 4th. I am sure everyone has these experiences. I often have this kind of trouble when calling the pediatric neurologist to make appointments or request a prescription renewal for Ryan. They seem to think I sit up all night trying to think of a way to annoy them and this is what I could come up with. I mean, who says to themselves "I have some time to kill so let me call a busy neurology practice and annoy some people." Who does that? Do they think I want to be in touch with them? It's maddening. I understand that dealing with the public it can be overwhelming and frustrating but I am of the opinion that if you just slap a smile on your face and spit out a lot of please and thank you's you will eventually feel better about your job. I hope that when their time comes and my children enter the world in their vocations that they continue, through their manners, to reflect the love and gentility I have tried to instill.


  • Mary Ellen, coming from someone with children as well mannered and loveable as yours, this is especially meaningful to me. You are beyond kind, and I love you for it.

    Many thanks for this beautiful post.

    By Blogger Alice, at March 02, 2006 4:13 PM  

  • Boy did I need to read this post this morning, thank you Mary Ellen, you stated all this with such wonderful poise and beauty, I'm printing this one out! I love your quote about there is no "in crowd" in the homeschooling world, it's so true, and I think our blog world here is such a wonderful place for our own expression. Thanks again. P.S. I wish I belonged to your home school group, you are lucky to have each other!

    By Blogger meredith, at March 03, 2006 8:24 AM  

  • Thank you Alice. I think we both lucked out in the terrific kid department.

    By Blogger Mary Ellen Barrett, at March 04, 2006 2:23 PM  

  • Meredith, your blog is now one of my favorite "have to check everyday" sites. That makes your kind words even more meaningful.

    I would love for you to move hear and join our group! Since that may not happen consider a visit, kind of a homeschool tour of Long Island - the beaches are beautiful in the summer!

    By Blogger Mary Ellen Barrett, at March 04, 2006 2:25 PM  

  • A lovely and right on post! I have noticed the difference in manners between homeschooled children and public children many times and even more telling so have my children.

    We went to a birthday party where my daughter was mostly excluded as we were the only homeschoolers there, the other girls had their tight little clique and ignored my daughter. We have also been to museums and had a bus load of kids come rushing through and my son can't understand what they are getting out of it as they rush from exhibit to exhibit and dislikes it when he is stuyding an exhibit and several other kids push up to him and take over.

    On our park days I have seen 16 year olds helping 5 year olds and 8 year olds looking after 2 year olds and rarely if ever do we have squabbles or fights. Thanks for the reinforcing post!

    By Blogger Melissa O. Markham, at March 07, 2006 7:28 AM  

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