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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Homeschooling - Who's in the Driver's Seat? Parent or Child?

I will admit that, just like any other mom, I care whether or not my children are happy. I want them to look back on their years at home with fond memories, and I welcome their thoughts and opinions about things we do in our home.

However, it has never occurred to me that my children should be able to decide whether or not we continue homeschooling. As parents, that decision and its related consequences, belong to myself and my husband. That's why it baffles me to read about experiences like the one shared in this article.

In it, the author states,
"The first day of school came without having a structured social network in place. While everyone still expressed commitment to the homeschooling arrangement, I secretly experienced pangs of guilt as we watched other children walk the streets with their new lunch bags and backpacks. Were we depriving Isabel of an important cultural experience?

Since Izzy maintained homeschooling was what she wanted, we proceeded as planned."
I can relate to the author's feelings of doubt when everyone else was leaving for kindergarten and her child was still at home. I had similar feelings as a new homeschooler. However, I would never place the weight of the decision to proceed with homeschooling on a 5-year-old. As a parent, that's my burden to bear.

The author goes on to say,
"Two weeks into the school year, Izzy, being 5, naturally lost some of her gusto and began protesting. One particular day, I said, "If you were in regular school, you'd have to listen to your teacher. If you won't do the work for me, you're going to have to go to school."
I don't believe it's wise to use public school as a bargaining tool. If you've decided to homeschool, committ to stay the course for a pre-determined time period. Focus on working through the challenges you are facing instead of holding public school up as a threat or bribe, or worse, using it as an out.

More from the article,
"Perhaps if we were truly committed, we would have pulled rank and kept Isabel home. Over the course of a year, odds are we would have ironed things out. But because we desperately wanted Izzy's experience to be enjoyable, it seemed foolish to fight what she wanted, especially when it was the less complicated, traditional way." (emphasis added)
For me, this statement displays the author's true motives. I have unfortunately encountered this mindset on more than one occasion. This parent did not want to deal with the inherent challenges and doubts that come with homeschooling, and instead of owning up to those feelings, she blamed her decision to change course on her child's wants.

I have absolutely no problem when parents decide public school is best for their children. However, I think it's unfair to burden young children with adult decisions because we as parents are afraid to make them.

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Stassja said...

I agree that's alot to put on a child. And they're not going to see the whole big picture like we will. My mom homeschooled me from second grade until I graduated high school. Lord only knows how many times I begged and pleaded to go to public school, mostly from being lonely. There were a few periods over the years, like after a move or a friend moved when I didn't have many friends and I was just miserable.

All the reminding in the world of how much more busy work there would be, homework, getting up early and in the end not really having all the friend time that I really wanted did not convince me.

Eventually the phase would pass, and long before I was done with high school I was happy to not be going to public school. Being in a weekly co-op and having good close friends in our house of worship was probably the best thing for me.

So yeah, while I do very much care about my childs happiness, I know that this day will likely come for us eventually and we, the parents, will evaluate the situation. The childs feelings will be considered, but we have the ability to see the big picture and in this case, that still leaves us the decision makers!

Musings of a Housewife said...

Well said. And besides, I hate to hear homeschooling parents threaten their child with school as if it's a punishment. I have homeschooling friends who have said these things IN FRONT OF ME, and I'm like HULLO. My kids are in school. It's not a punishment. It's best for our family right now.

I think parents definitely put too much on the kids at times. In fact, sometimes I find myself doing this with smaller issues, letting them choose something when it shouldn't be their decision and it's too weighty a choice to put on them.

Anyway, excellent and well articulated thoughts on this issue!

And now I'm back to iStock to look for graphics! :-)

Anonymous said...

I understand your irritation. I see this type of switched role-play a lot at my church with regard to anything - not just school. Many parents are so afraid of making their child "angry", they just go along with what they want. Lately, it has become clear to me that many parents choose to be their child's friend and not the parent. -Karen