September 12, 2011

Homeschool Chic

Never fully dressed without a smile!
One day while visiting the science museum I came upon a large group of kids crowded around the space exhibit. These kids had no official group identification, but I could tell immediately- this was a homeschool group. The dress of this hodge-podge herd made an unapologetic statement- "Outfit, shmoutfit. I'm here for the science." 

I’ve never been a fashionista myself. (I shop at Target when I’m feeling fancy.) But I try to keep up on mainstream fashions enough to fly under the radar of the fashion police (AKA my husband). So it was immediately apparent to me that the kids at the museum were NOT tres chic. I chuckled at these walking stereotypes, smugly vowing that my offspring would never dress like that

Well, that was years ago and since becoming a homeschooler, my kids and I have become fashion law repeat offenders.

Our crimes: Color UNcoordinated. Tennis shoes with dresses. Backwards T's. Bedhead. Mismatched socks. Swimsuits just because. Holey knees. High-water pants. Dress-ups at the grocery store. Pants with skirts. Pajamas past noon. Bare feet. Wrinkled clothes. Diaper-only baby. Inside-out. Out of season. And the rap sheet continues.

My children are victims of fashion neglect and I am completely to blame!

But, I wonder- Is it such a crime, really? If I am diligent about teaching hygiene, modesty, and appropriateness, is it so bad if my kids dress like "homelyschoolers”? Would I prefer my kids to have the comfortable fashion oblivion of the kids I met at the museum? Or would I rather they look photo-shoot ready?

I know, as LDS parents, we have counsel from the prophets on modesty and appearance. And we have the Holy Spirit to give us revelation in our individual homes and situations. But in situations where personal preference rules lets hear from you, the jury:
  • Do you have a homeschool dress code?
  • How important is self expression?
  • Does the link between dress and behavior apply at home?
  • Does your dress code apply on and off campus?
  • When do you begin enforcing modesty and missionary haircuts?
  • How do you teach fashion without teaching materialism?
  • Do your kids look ‘homelyschooled’? (Please, tell me I'm not the only one.)

I want to know what you think. Maybe frump-fashion isn't an issue for your family and the red carpet is calling. Or maybe your family will be the inspiration for “What Not to Wear- Family Edition”... But, whatever your homeschool dress code- bedazzled or bedraggled- take comfort that the “Lord seeth not as a man seeth; For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”. (1 Samuel 16:17)

If you are interested in a homeschool fashion project try this: Create your own ‘homeschool’ logos. You can print shirts through a local t-shirt shop, with DIY silkscreen machines, with iron-on transfers and an inkjet printer, fabric markers, or even good ol’ puff paints. Although it was a little more pricey to purchase the finished product, we used to design and print our shirts. It made the process super easy. Through Cafepress we can also SELL our designs to friends and family with the free online store front. This would make a fun hands-on business lesson that could also be useful for creating original school, team, family reunion, girl’s camp, etc. shirts. To see how it works you can visit the store we set up: Homeschool Cool.

30 comments - Add a comment below -:

Rebecca said...

I started out worrying about that with my firstborn and would often make him change if the clothes he picked out were not enough to keep us "under the radar". I think it was a mistake and now with my youngest, I let a lot more slide and honestly......I am usually just happy he found some shoes, even if they don't really "go" with the outfit. I think there are too many people concerned with outward appearance. I know a family that wears mismatched clothes all the time but they are good and kind. I would prefer to hang out with them any day than someone that was trendy but mean-spirited. Of course, you can be trendy and good and kind and that would be okay too, if they could look past my appearance and hang out with me =0) I LOVE bedhead. It's my signature look......LOL! I think as long as you are clean and good, that is more important, especially for children. Childhood is too short and if wearing rain boots with shorts and an army dress-up top makes my little boy happy then I'm okay with that. Of course, church or some special occasion would be different, but if it's just a quick run to the grocery store ...... where's the harm?

Marmee said...

In our family we had a standard, until we moved abroad. That was, "dressed down to your shoes." It usually meant a t-shirt, jeans and tennis. Now that we live abroad we've had to change a couple of things. We knew that as members of the church we would be "watched" and so we dressed it up a little. Everyone now has button down shirts, and jean skirts (unless it is cold and then it is nice jeans.) The shoe standard has had to go out the window though because tradition here is that shoes ALWAYS come off before you enter a house. The maintenance man even took off his shoes today to unclog a drain! When we are out we usually wear hiking boots. ;o)

Laura@livingabigstory said...

What an interesting question! I am not a home-schooler (so I don't know if my thoughts are useful), but I wonder if it might be useful to have a "uniform" of learning. I tell my son he needs to wear a button-down shirt, etc. to school -- not because I care what the other people think (most kids wear t-shirts) -- but I want him to remember he is at school for a reason. I'm definitely not a mom that goes crazy with my kids clothes, hair, etc. though.

If I get dressed to the lace up shoes (a FlyLady expression, which means I shower, fix my hair and face), then I tend to look at my responsibility as a SAHM with more seriousness. I say this as I sit on the couch in my pjs and no shower though -- I definitely am not ideal at this.

Of course, this is just me though.

Laura@livingabigstory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anaise said...

When I had 4 babies under 4, our standard was simply to get dressed sometime during the day--combing hair and finding shoes was completly dependent on if we were going out in public.

Now that I have 6 (and a half) children under 12, the standard is completely different. I don't have to do all of the dressing and combing and shoe finding myself. Each child over the age of 4 is expected to wash herself (we have all girls), dress herself, brush her own teeth, and comb her own hair (or come to mom for help) every day before school/play time begins. I follow the same rule, and I'm responsible for helping the little ones get completely dressed/combed/cleaned daily, too.

We only wear shoes when we're going out.

Dress-up clothing is only allowed in the play room (this is to keep me from going insane at dress-up clothes all over the house).

We shop almost exclusively at thrift stores, so fashion has very little to do with what we wear. We aim for modesty, comfort, and basic color-coordination. I'm finding that girls pick up on fashion all on their own just by watching the world around us.

I don't know if we look "homelyschooled" or not. I've found that people respond better to large families when those families look nice. I think we are neat, clean, and good representatives of the homeschooling community in general.

exmish said...

We are very casual around here when it comes to clothing. I have two children who have sensory issues (very sensitive to how different fabrics and shoes feel, etc.) and even getting them to dress appropriately for church is a weekly tug-o-war - so I pick my battles.

We also have to actively campaign against what I call the "Hannah Montana attitude" in our home (i.e. the kinds of behaviors and values often espoused in the live-action Disney programs) - and so I would much rather my kids be casual, comfortable, mismatched than trying to keep up with the Middle-School Joneses.

It helps to have a husband that tells me I'm beautiful even in a burlap sack. *grin*

As for modesty, we teach that from Day One. No tank tops, no revealing swimsuits, etc. When my oldest daughter was still in public school she fought me on that for awhile, but being out of that environment she no longer feels the need to wear what everyone else is wearing and better understands the blessings of modesty.

Just my two cents! :)

Jen said...

I just wanted to comment on one of the questions- when do you start enforcing modesty. I remember as a child wearing short shorts and my mom telling me that by the time I was 12 I needed to be wearing knee length shorts.

Now I have a daughter (5 years old) of my own and we receive hand me downs from her cousin so I've had a lot of opportunity to consider what she does and doesn't get to wear. I considered doing as my mom did, but then thought 'why?'. Why are sleeveless shirts ok at 11, but not 12? Why are short shorts ok at 5, but not 12? What message am I trying to teach her? My conclusion was that we should be consistent in what she's allowed to wear. So she wears knee length shorts (bermudas) when she's not wearing knee length skirts (her favorite option). If she wears a shirt or dress with straps instead of sleeves, she knows she has to wear a shirt under it. Yes, there's plenty of cute strappy tops and sundresses out there, but we don't want her to get in the habit of wearing them.

The time will come that she will go through the temple and we don't want her to have to buy a whole new wardrobe or feel uncomfortable wearing more modest clothing- we would much rather have it ingrained from a young age, even if it's not the most cool or popular thing to do.

JRoberts said...

I find it so interesting to watch people and what they deem acceptable public wear. :)

I am one of those mom's who would like my children to at least match. My boys are learning how to look nice on their own, but when they are not matching, they go try again. :) I want my kids to look well dressed and clean. This was even when we PS'ed. I want them to wear socks with shoes and not sandals, I want them to DO their hair or it gets shaved off (obviously I don't have girls). I want them to dress as missionaries when we go to church. Each of my boys (except the 6yo) can tie his own tie and iron a shirt.

I realize that this may be nit picky but I do want my boys to be an example, in a good way not a bad way.

Michelle said...

The only dress code rule we have is, no PJ's when we sit down to the table to start our lesson plan. I use to try and make sure my kids matched and were wearing something I saw as suitable, but after fighting every morning with my 3 year old drama queen, I gave up for the sake of my sanity and started letting her pick out her own clothes. We are all much happier now and I don't care that she doesn't match most of the time. (actually, now that I'm potty training said 3 year old drama queen, I usually only require her to have a shirt on with her undies. No pants required unless we are leaving the house. :-D) Whether they match or not, we all seem to be more focused when we are dressed and ready to go for the day. We get weird looks (and comments)from people everywhere we go anyways, just because of the number of children in tow. (We only have 3 and one on the way, but the way people act around here you'd think we were the Duggars.) So, I don't think it would matter what we all wore out in public. lol. I am all for letting kids express their own sense of style and creativity within modest boundaries.

Chocolate Drool and Kisses said...

I am pretty relaxed most of the time but I do have some things I am picky about, for church the boys do have to dress up, every sunday I have to explain to Sam why he can't wear his rain boots to church, during the week day I am not to picky unless we are going to go do something or spend time with friends, then I make sure they are at least not in Pjs anymore (we tend to be in pjs a lot at home) but many time Sam (he is learning to dress himself) still gets away with backwords or inside out pants, I figure why discourage him, he is trying. I have thought about when the boys are older having them have matching nice shirts for when we do field trips but its more to make sure I can easily keep an eye on them. But I have a few years before I have to decided.

Ann said...

Ha! Ha! I have never heard of or noticed these homeschool stereotypes before - so funny. I, myself, don't pick out my kids' outfits, but I do make sure that they are neat and comely, bathed and modest. They come up with some interesting combinations from time to time, of course, but in my opinion, it's not worth a power struggle if they don't take my fashion recommendations. As for homeschool t-shirts, I made my boys shirts this year, but they don't have to wear them every day. You can see mine here:
I used the Avery-brand sheets of paper you can put in your printer and iron on the clothes, but next year I will not do this for after just a few washings, the image is already starting to tear. They definitely don't seem like they'll last the whole school year.

mishalee said...

We are not exactly homeschoolers yet, my oldest attends a Montessori school and I stay home with the youngest and tend other people's children. I find that when I am up and dressed, my day goes a lot better, so I tend to think that the same goes for the children. I really wanted to address the issue of modesty though. I think we, as LDS people, get hung up on the clothing aspect of modesty and that is only one part of it. We should be teaching our children modesty, as in respect for our bodies, minds and others and what Heavenly Father has given us from the very beginning. I wont buy clothing that doesn't support a modest attitude, so it's a non-issue as far as dress in our house. In the end, we all do what is right for our circumstance. If throwing on whatever doesn't interfere with your learning/teaching, then who am I to say it isn't right for you?

Tristan said...

I love the variety in the comments here.

At our house here is what happens:
The general expectation is that you get dressed right before or right after breakfast. We do not wear shoes in the house. My children pick out their own outfits for everything but church. Church is the one day where we are expected to wear our "best" and my four boys often need reminded what that means (ahem), though my 2 girls do better. On a general day I don't care if they wear stripes with plaid, or purple with orange.

If a child is really sick they can stay in PJs that day, but they will also be staying in bed.

Modesty is a huge one - we never ever allow a child to wear sleeveless/strappy tops/dresses without a shirt with sleeves underneath. Dresses/skirts must hit your knee or lower, and shorts too (we do capris often for this). If it is immodest for an adult it is immodest for a child or baby. We don't allow the boys to play or work outside with no shirt on, or in the house. We've found swim shirts this year for them as we've had time at the pool.

Hair - Boys don't get hair below the ears ever (long enough to cover ears completely). Girls can have chin length or longer, though if you don't brush your hair (or get mom to do it) we reserve the right to cut it to your chin so we don't deal with tangles. If a girl wanted her hair shorter we would probably allow it, (I've had mine really short before), but it doesn't feel feminine and I would hope my girls would notice that and not ask to have it done again.

Fashion - We teach about how to choose colors that look nice together, but we do not encourage "fashion". We also shop at thrift stores for our clothing, so I look for things that wear well, but I ignore brands/the latest fashion.

Dress up clothes are for play, we don't wear them out of the house.

Jennifer said...

How nice to hear other Moms say "if it's not appropriate for an adult, it's not appropriate for a baby or child" !! I only have boys, but if we have a daughter, we have decided she will not be wearing anything that wouldn't cover garments - no matter her age. We were talking about this in RS a few weeks ago, and a Mom said she bought her daughter an outfit that her daughter said "Mom, I don't feel modest in this" and the Mom actually said "No, it's fine you can wear it" What!?! I just don't understand. Anyway, I just want to restate that I am so grateful for other Moms who have the same views on modesty!

Plain and Precious said...

I am LDS. This is what I believe:

Your body is God's sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. THE WAY YOU DRESS IS A REFLECTION OF WHAT YOU ARE IN THE INSIDE. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you can invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.

Never lower your dress standards for any occasion....

...Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming and manners. ...

Taken from For the Strength of Youth pamphlet published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Emphasis mine.

Homeschooling or not, I am first and foremost an LDS Mother.

KMDuff said...

Hmm, I have always asked my kids to change if their clothing don't match. I sometimes forget to clean faces on toddlers and we don't worry about having the "right" shoes as long as they have shoes. I don't think we stand out as "homelyschoolers" except for maybe not knowing what the current trend is.

Diane said...

Our family always followed the three "C's". Clean, comfortable and covered. Anything else, like coordination or fashion savvy, was a bonus!

Sherral said...

I love this topic and I love hearing everyone's opinions! I could probably write a whole book here, but I'll keep it simple-

At home, we get dressed in play clothes for the day.{Nothin' fancy, but NOT PAJAMAS.... most days anyway.} This applies to running errands too.

Going out we try to dress appropriately for the occasion, in dress clothes or nice casual clothes.

I try to remember that our dress reflects our attitude about the event we are attending, and also respect for the people we're with. We'd never be mistaken for fashionistas, but we do *try* to look nice. {Emphasis on try, lol!}

I'm not a Nazi about it, but it is a guidline in our home.

And I've always wondered- do homeschool associations usually have a dress code? I've been thinking of starting one, so if anyone wants to give me some feedback on this I'll keep my eye on this thread. Thanks!

Swinging On Small Hinges said...

I saved myself a battle with my daughter when she learned to dress herself by buying one of those "shoe organizers" that hang in your closet. When I put away laundry, I'd put clothes in there as whole outfits. I'd roll up a tshirt with shorts, or leggings with a knit top, or whatever. Then, she could go to the closet and still PICK what she wanted to wear..and I had the comfort of knowing it was going to match. Worked like a charm at my house... I guess that might not work for everybody?

Dana ♥ said...

What a fun post. I've enjoyed reading the comments.

I agree with previous comments in regards to modesty, this is a value taught from birth for both girls and boys. If modesty is not expected until they are a teen or preteen even, you are truly doing yourself and your child a disservice.

When we head out among the public I prefer the kids look clean, without bedhead (which can be a challenge some days), with teeth brushed and clean clothes on.

I find the older I get personally, the more I wear skirts during the week. Of course if I have a big workday in the coop or something, it's jeans totally. I do love wearing jeans and capris though.

I like the comment on the 3 C's being clean, comfortable, and covered.

Have you ever answered the door for a package in your grungys? Ughh! I have and regretted it ever time. ;)

Rebecca said...

I think of what my "trendy" friends wear and allow their kids to wear. Then I look at what actually passes for "fashion" on the runway and such, and realize that my mis-matched, weirdly dressed kids are much more "fashion"-oriented than my "cool" friends. LOL. Fashion is so weird. I just focus on comfort and modesty and let the kids develop their own style. It's just clothes.

Gina said...

I have NEVER worried about what my kids look like. Even before I decided to homeschool. I have taken Batman, Buzz Lightyear, Tigger, Yoda and cowboys to the grocery store. One day, my then-four-year-old got up, brushed his teeth, made his bed, and then got dressed in a pair of racecar-printed-jammies. On purpose. With tennis shoes. I shrugged, put him in the car, packed a set of "real" clothes and went about our day.

I have one rule: You Have To Get Dressed Every Day. Shirt, shorts/ pants. Since my oldest is on the autism spectrum, he has sensory issues with clothes, so everything has always been a bit baggy, elastic waisted, etc.

If I were sending my child to school, I would enforce a more stringent dress code. But because our classroom is our kitchen table or our couch, I don't see the need. *I* enforce the rules, *I* encourage focus... not how he is dressed.

Jana said...

Thanks all for your tips and opinions. I agree with the modesty bit. Its just easier to start it out that way. And thanks Michelle for the comment, "letting kids express their own sense of style and creativity within modest boundaries." I really like that.

I am impressed with all of you who really keep your kids lookin' sharp. You are an inspiration to us all. Thanks for making us all look good. ;)

With a few independent minded kids who can be ridiculously stubborn about random things I have to choose my battles carefully. Coordinating is not a battle I am willing to fight. Modesty is.

I like to think my kids are just so darn adorable it doesn't matter what they have on, right?! ;)

Jana said...

Gina. Love it!! Not everyone gets to go to the grocery store with celebrities. You are so lucky! :)

You were the validation I needed!

Gina said...

Glad I could help :)

After reading all the other comments, I do feel it necessary to say that I agree that we need to be dressed appropriately for whatever we are doing. My boys wear dress shirts, slacks, ties and dress shoes for church every week (I never send them in a polo or shorts or sneakers), and I don't let them leave the house barefooted or without a shirt or something.

But, yes, I let them dress themselves. My 3 year old spent the entire day at Disney last week in yellow soccer shorts, an orange Shrek t-shirt on backwards (no matter how many times I offered to turn it around, "No, I want it backwards!"), blue & yellow striped socks and Lightning McQueen sneakers.

I probably got judged a lot that day. But my kid was happy and proud of dressing himself. *shrug*

Frankie said...

You are not alone. We are a very homely bunch. I have looked at my 6 yo in church and noticed that his pants are on backwards, and bed hair abounds in my house! My second child (who was beyond old enough to take care of himself) ended up at church without shoes - twice! Both on slushy spring Sundays. I am trying to do better by my daughter, who doesn't understand that pink pants and a red shirt are not the best idea. We had quite a morning yesterday trying to get her dressed: summer dress + black tights = no; winter dress + white tights = no; back to summer dress + white tights = yes; summer dress + white tights + black shoes = um, no. We finally made it to summer dress + no tights + black shoes = ok. :D She is 11. But I have to say, my 16 yo son usually looks sharp.

Jennifer said...

Here's an excerpt from the May Friend Magazine, that gives us an idea of proper dress for going out:

"When you get dressed to go to school, church, or just be with your friends, look over this checklist to make sure your appearance reflects what you believe. Ask yourself, “If I were with Jesus Christ, would I feel comfortable with my appearance?”

• My shoulders are covered.

• My shirt covers my stomach.

• My shorts or skirt go to my knees.

• My shirt is not low-cut.

• My clothes are not tight.

• I don’t look sloppy.

• My hair is combed.

• My clothes are not saggy, torn, or holey to fit in with a style.

• Labels or words on my clothes are respectful, not rude or offensive."

I'd say we do all this these really well with the exception of my youngest, (who just turned 3). She does have several hand me down shorts from her big sisters that don't reach the knees. They are more like mid thigh to 3/4 length of thigh, so it's probably something we need to weed out, but I just haven't got around to it and by the time her sisters were 5ish, all the shorts I bought definitely were knee length. I do have to admit we are pretty relaxed around our home, though. We will stay in our pajamas until noonish probably once a week on average. I can't say I've noticed any difference, though. The learning and behaviors are the same either way, so I don't stress about it. We like to be comfy and snuggly while we learn. ;) Also, I think we've been the most lax with modesty in the 3 and under crowd in our home. We've had babies/toddlers with nothing more than a diaper on every once in a while on summer days for short periods of time and we have never thought anything about it, since it was just in our home with no one else around. We also tend to dress them in just onsies around the house when they are newborns/infants in summer or when they are starting to crawl since they seem to be able to get around easier. And when we potty train, they wear nothing but a shirt and panties for a few days until they get the hang of it. But all of these are only done in our home and for short periods of time, so I've never thought much about it. However, the article did say, "when you get dressed to go out", so maybe we're OK with a few immodest babies at home every now and then, LOL. ;)

classicalhouseoflearning said...

I do my best to make sure my kids' clothes match and I buy cute and modest things of higher quality that can be passed down (I have five girls). My failing is with hair. :-P It gets brushed, but it's a rare day that I get around to styling all five heads. When I do style their hair, it's simple things like pony tails and basic braids. When we go out in public, I do feel conscious about how we look and I want us to be positive ambassadors for the groups we represent (large families, homeschoolers, LDS, etc.). :-) I appreciate fashion and I have a better day when I take 5-10 min. to put together a cute outfit and apply a bit of mascara.

WRT clothing lengths, I do my best to make sure shorts and skirts go to the knee, but my dh's family is super tall (everyone over 6'--including the girls--and FIL is 6'10"), so my babies are all leg. It gets easier once they are in size 3+ because that's when you generally can find adjustable waists. My 4yo has sensory processing issues, so clothing can be tricky. She does best in cute, loose dresses with soft leggings.

Anyway, I do try to avoid "homelyschool" and I think we do pretty well most days. But there is definitely room for improvement. :-)

Diane said...

Most of my kids elected to have school uniforms. Others jeans. I am pretty easy about it as long as it is modest and neat and they actually get dressed.

Deila said...

I loved your post and thoughts -- well written too. I am guilty true. I have let my young kids choose their daily clothes because it is not worth having any fights on that, as long as it is clean and modest. Once a shirt is dirty, my rule is it has to come off and replaced. My teen went through a year of doing his school work in his PJ bottoms with a T shirt, but after he started seminary that changed. I am surprised how easy it is to leave the house without even my own hair brushed!