Oct 6, 2006

Knee-jerk homeschooling

Why do people homeschool? The answers range about as widely as homeschooling methods, philosophies, and curriculum do.

I was homeschooled in the 7th grade because I was not doing well academically, and my mom knew I was smart. So she took me out of the system and attempted to give me a better opportunity to succeed. I'm grateful to her for this, but I must admit it was also a challenge-- my mom and I were starting to have issues at that point in my life. I was 12-- you can guess what those issues were, can't you?

Adolescence is not a fun time of life. You're still pretty much a child, but you're beginning to be expected to act more like an adult. At the same time, you're kind of doing a little dance with your parents around the issues of control and autonomy-- what does mom expect me to do? What does she trust me to be able to do? Does she think I'm capable of making wise decisions yet, or is she going to keep controlling certain aspects of my life?

An adolescent begins to desire the relinquishment of some control by parents. It has to be done strategically-- with inspiration and deep consideration of the child in question and his or her desires and capabilities.

First children are the first explorers of this phenomenon. And so they tend to have a more difficult time negotiating these issues with their parents.

My mom was a knee-jerk controller when I was an adolescent, and when I was a teenager. She didn't trust me to not get killed, pregnant, or stoned. Even though I was a very good girl, my curfew was 10:00 on weeknight and 12:00 on weekends-- not a minute later, or else I was in biiig trouble. I wasn't allowed to drive off campus with my friends for lunch, even when I was a senior in high school (I did, anyway. But don't tell her that). I could list all the restrictions, rules, fears, and controls-- but I'm not going to, because it would be counterproductive, and I have long put these issues behind me. The only reason why I bring this up again is my topic-- Knee-Jerk Homeschooling.

I think that a lot of parents homeschool because they don't trust the world, and they don't trust their kids to make good decisions. This is a sentiment that I sympathise with--- I don't think that a 12-year-old is ready to think about having sex, and I don't think that fourth-graders really know what drug addictions mean. At least, not well enough to realize what sorts of consequences are following their decisions. At that age, social life is everything. It is the time when they are scrambling for a hold on the social ladder, or maybe just trying to discover who they are, and who their friends are. To a 4th- grader, quite often the prospect of lung cancer at age 50 is no real deterrent when faced with the reward of friends and acceptance. And to a 12-year-old girl, especially one that is a little insecure, having a boyfriend is worth the risk of pregnancy, because motherhood is such a vague idea for her.

OK, I promise I'm not just saying all of this off the cuff-- I have experience. I've volunteered with troubled children and teenagers, and I have worked extensively with women who have experienced the severe consequences of poor decision-making at a young age.

That having been said, a child needs autonomy, especially as she gets to the point where she's trying to develop an identity that is separate from her parents. It's a delicate balance-- releasing control little by little, as you see that your child is ready for more responsibility. It takes inspiration, like I mentioned before, and a thorough knowledge of your child and his/her desires and capabilities. And it also takes a lot of discussion with the child in question.

I'm homeschooling because I want to give my children a good, individualized education. I don't want them to be stuck with a label in a system that has to modify based on the needs of 30+ children. I don't want to make my children go through what I did. I graduated from high school with a 2.9 GPA. And then at community college, where I was a little more autonomous with my learning and choice of subjects, I got a 3.6. I went to a prestigious university and graduated with a bachelor's degree, and a 3.55 average.

My children will be protected by me when they need protection. And I'm sure I'll mess up, just like any parent, and my poor first child will receive the brunt of that. But hey, I turned out pretty good, didn't I? And I love my mom, and my memories of my childhood are good, for the most part.

But they will also be expected to start finding their way at some point. It may even be different depending on the child in question. I'm not homeschooling to keep my children from the world, I'm doing it to better prepare them for the world.


Jeremy said...

Thank you for this post.

My wife and I have talked about homeschooling our kids before and we both like the idea but don't want our kids to be the weirdos I always thought my homeschooled neighbors were. It is good to hear about others' experiences with homeschooling and their rationals for doing it.

Thankfulmom said...

Thanks for some good thoughts. We made the decision to homeschool based on three things: We wanted to give our children a customized education, we wanted to develop a close knit family of children who were more family-dependent than peer dependent, and we wanted to give our children a distinctly Christian education. Sixteen years and two graduates later, I would say that we are fulfilling those goals. Only eight more to go!

I'll be following your Ethiopian adoption!

texasblu said...

Interesting. For us, it was a matter of prayer.. and we haven't looked back. Our daughter is now 12 (the same age you were talking about), and we are closer than ever... I take her to a commonwealth school once a week, which gives her some freedom, but she likes life the way it is. Guess I'm pretty blessed, huh?