Mastering Labels

Sometimes the labels I choose for myself surprise people.  I happily and openly describe myself as a nerd, and my husband as a geek (that’s King of the Geeks, thank you very much).  Word Nerd and Computer Geek if you need the sub-categories.

Once a new friend told me, with a bit of concern, that those labels were used in a bad way where he grew up.  I laughed and said that’s how they were used where I grew up, too.  But I’m far enough from the emotional trauma of a public high school to to be hurt by the negative baggage associated with nerddom, and I’m realistic enough to know that certain aspects of nerd label accurately describe me.  Actually, on adult reflection, many of the things that make me a nerd are quite positive and have led to success and happiness in my life as well as meaningful friendships with other so-called nerds and geeks. 

So I’m good with it.  I claim it.  I’m a nerd. 

I’m also realistic enough to know that ALL the aspects of nerdiness don’t describe me.  Well, they couldn’t really, because the label drags so many different (and often conflicting) associations.  Honestly, how many people do you see wearing pocket protectors?  (recommended reading: http://www.amazon.com/Nerds-They-Need-More-Them/dp/B001BCFSF8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217600894&sr=8-1)

So I’m a nerd.  But I’m not JUST a nerd.  I’m so much more.  People are more complex than any single label.  I use labels because they’re a useful communication tool.  I can very quickly communicate to someone a general idea by using a label.  But we have to be careful with them because they can’t communcicate the specifics of any single experience. 

If we define ourelves (or others) entirely by a label, then we confine ourselves with that label.

Homeschoolers label themselves all the time.  Recently, when I was introduced to someone at a Mom’s Night Out, the woman described herself as a classical homeschooler and I responded that I was an eclectic homeschooler.  Others in the group range from unschoolers to unit study homeschoolers and beyond.  We were quickly able to get a general idea of each other’s educational philosophy.  After a longer discussion, I began to realize that our different labels actually overlapped significantly. 

Sometimes I label myself a relaxed homeschooler.  I think Dr. Mary Hood coined that phrase (http://www.homeeducator.com/FamilyTimes/articles/11-4article8.htm).  Lately, I’ve stumbled on the label Organic Homeschooler.  The thought behind this is that learning is a natural extension of being alive, not an artificial ingredient that we must force on our children.  Learning is a natural as breathing.  It’s an apt label of my view, but it smacks a bit of California granola girls and hippies and tree huggers, and those aren’t labels that work for me. 😉 

BTW, I call my own kids nerds, too.  They laugh and accept it.  They are comfortable enough in their own skin (and far enough removed from the daily trial of being forced under peer scrutiny for 8 hours daily) to recognize that some things they do and like are “nerdy” but to value those things anyway.  They all know that they transcend any single pigeon hole.  When I call them nerds (or they call themselves that), it comes from a place of acceptance.  They are firmly founded in a family that doesn’t obsess over what’s cool/what isn’t.  We enjoy the luxury of time of knowing each other fully for all our complexity. 

Go ahead.  Label us.   The labels neither fullly define us, nor confine us.

Power to the nerds! 🙂

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One thought on “Mastering Labels

  1. Great post.

    We’re quite geeky/nerdy in my house as well. We find thinkgeek.com to be an almost endless source of entertainment and joy.

    As for homeschooling, I’d probably take the label “literature-based” as my approach. ‘course, don’t exactly have the kids yet, but they’re coming… [smile]

    ~Luke

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