Homeschool has been my life for the last 12 plus years. I was homeschooled when I was in middle school and told myself I would never do it. But, when my child had some learning difficulties in school, I researched it out and decided to try it. I did homeschool much differently than my Mom did. I was very hands-on for the most part and tried to always direct my kids to be self-learners. I think overall I accomplished that goal. They have dabbled in everything from anime to zoology and I feel satisfied with the attempts I’ve made (and continue to make) as a homeschooling parent.
Most people hear “homeschool” and think of the Duggar Family drama or of the latest news of the family of 13 who locked their kids up in the basement and starved them. These stories just make me cringe. Because as a Mom, my goal has always been to help my children thrive and be successful adults. I know many wonderful homeschool moms who have children who are soaring. Their kids have gone on to be great people. The news only tells you the bad stuff. I’ve seen the really good outcomes. I’m thankful I have had the opportunity to homeschool, despite the picture the media paints about it.
My Homeschool Ideas
Still, when I went into this thing called “Home Education” I just never fit the mold. I do believe in God and some of my reasons to educate my kids at home were because of my faith. The other portion of it was that I believe that kids are able to learn better one-on-one. They can explore their options, take classes wherever they want, learn online, and be independent thinkers. The stigma attached to kids not being socialized is simply unfounded. Homeschool kids have more opportunities to socialize than public school kids do, who are stuck inside classrooms all day. If done right, homeschool can help a child be apart of the community and learn to talk to anyone from bank tellers to cashiers to doctors to the garbage man. Socialization doesn’t happen in a building, but in real life scenarios which they become a part of.
However, I’m learning that every school and opportunity has it’s advantages.
Homeschool “Support” Groups
When I started out, I just wasn’t “one of them”. I thought I’d fit in if I joined a support group for homeschoolers, but became anxious as I listened to how great all their children were, while I struggled in my first year with a child that didn’t seem to get how to read. I went on the school outings, but when we went to the history learning day and the presenter wanted the kids to pretend to be a doctor, wearing a historical outfit with an apron of fake blood, my daughter cried and we left for home. We tried to join in with the other kids and my daughter would have melt downs from the pressure of having to be in new settings. This was before I knew she had autism, before I had any solutions. In those days, I felt like a failure mom and when I’d voice my frustrations to other moms, they could only give me a Bible pep talk and cheer me on to keep going. To me, they had “perfect” kids with normal problems. I was dealing with something else. I felt isolated.
I continued to be apart of these groups, against my personality and better judgment. After attending a Christian homeschool conference in my state, I decided to blow that Popsicle stand. Much of what was said and taught at these conferences was BS. Everything from “vaccines are poison” to “it’s your duty to have a quiver full” to “don’t medicate your kids with ADHD”. Of course intermingled in all of that was some good too, like picking up a curriculum for Math that I’ve stuck with ever since and being able to peruse the writing curriculum before I bought it. But, these “conferences” just irritated me more than they helped so I dropped out of those, even though all my homeschooling friends at the time said “you have to go”. Uh, no I don’t. And I stood on my own island as I always had done.
Exploring Public School
While they were out gallivanting all the Christian homeschooling classes taught by only Christians (because they were very much enthralled into that movement), I was contacting the public school to test my daughter for a problem. She was struggling in math. She couldn’t read at grade level. I was feeling like an absolute failure. Yet no one seemed to understand what my problem was. Why didn’t anyone tell me to go get her tested? Why did homeschoolers not care? They always had some pat answer taken from scripture. It was a cardinal sin to accept help from the public school, or at least that’s what they seemed to believe.
When I put my daughter in the middle school part time, I felt guilty. I wondered if she’d be stained by the kids there. Would they change her sweet personality? Would she be swept away by sin? These were fears which had been conveyed to me by other homeschooling parents and they were wrong.
The Homeschool Effect
Yes, I realize this is just plain silly now, but this is what the homeschool effect is. This term has been used to describe how homeschoolers tend to score high in academics, but I’m using the term homeschool effect to describe the way homeschool families see their duty as a protective action against evil. The homeschool effect says that your child will be ruined by outside influences so the best way to combat that is to keep them from those evil influences. There are really 3 problems with the homeschool effect that most don’t consider when they homeschool their kids:
- Your child’s natural curiosity and bents
- Your own home life which isn’t perfect and is definitely sinful
- The Christian community is sometimes damaging, even destructive
My middle child especially has always been curious about what is “out there”. She’s a born seeker, wanting to test the boundaries that I set; wanting to see what the big fuss is all about. If I didn’t have her as a child, I would continue to believe that what is “out there” was evil or wrong while I was right. With all the struggles we’ve had with her, she’s the reason I’ve grown up and changed my mind and matured with a much more open mind. She’s schooled me and freed me from the homeschool effect and I love her for that. But, she’s also used that curiosity to do things she shouldn’t, such as perusing social media, caring too much what so and so is doing, and being influenced by what she sees in the media (and hating herself because of it).
In our home, we are not perfect parents. Obviously, I’ve had a lot to learn through all of this as I just mentioned. Sin is not in a place–if you must use that as a weapon to deter kids from going to public school. It is in our own hearts. Every person walking has a sin problem. Just because you claim Christianity doesn’t mean you aren’t a sinner too. I know there have been things in my life that have affected my kids and how they’ve developed. I won’t say I’ve ruined them because I ask them straight up about it and they tell me I haven’t. But still, we all have a tendency to harm the people we love. It’s not always “out there” influences that can hurt your child.
Church & Christian Circles
There is a lot of fear mongering in homeschool circles, just as their is in Christian & church circles. The idea goes something like this: if your child goes to that evil public school system, they’ll become heathens. Stories are told of how some kid got caught up into drugs. Never mind all the stories of people who are in the church abusing women, committing crimes, and living a double life. No, it’s those public schoolers we have to watch out for.
But I still had many fears about all of this over the years. Every time my child begged me to go to school, I just couldn’t do it. So at one point, we put our middle child, at her request, in a private school. This proved devastating. The principal was one of those patriarchal lunatics who thought it was his way or the highway and would never listen to anything I said because I had a vagina. And he didn’t care for my daughter either. To him, we were silly little girls with no brains. When my husband appeared on the scene, that guy changed his demeanor. He was nice as pie.
Abuse in Christian Circles
At one point in the Christian school, my daughter was being bullied every day. My daughter was one of the few white kids that attended that school, so all the kids who weren’t white would tease the kids that were. They harassed them. Another boy there was teased and would come out of class crying. The principal did absolutely nothing. And when I asked him to do something, he made excuses. This from a school that claimed “academic excellence” and “Christian values”.
Christians, by and large, prefer to cover up their evil with their image control and hushing up anyone who calls out their bull shit. Two years ago, I just said to hell with all of it and walked away.
The only thing I’ve kept going is classes at the homeschool co-op my kids attend. Overall, they are ok. The teachers are kind, loving people and I’ve had mostly good experiences with them. However, my daughter says she can’t stand most of the kids there. She says they act self-righteous and snobby. And honestly, I’ve noticed this as well. I think it’s easy to become self-righteous when you grow up being told you have the answers to life and are the only person who can give those answers to someone else. Those people on the “outside”, they don’t get it. Therefore, you better go save them from slippery slope they are on that leads to hell. I think it really messes up a kid when they are told to be missionaries or “lights in the world” and then expected to give sermons and preach at people. Not only do they seem to think they are better, but they have to appear perfect in front of everyone. Image control is very important in these settings. So again, we don’t fit in, but I try to make the best of it.
Being Out There is OK
I signed my daughter up for public school yesterday. I was nervous and anxious wondering if she’d do OK there. I walked out feeling a huge sense of peace after. My kids have taken part-time classes there and I’ve had good experiences with the school. They’ve never been bullied, shamed, or manipulated. The teachers, although human and prone to error, communicate and take responsibility when they mess up. It’s not perfect, but at least there is no psychological damage I have to worry about.
The lesson I’ve taken away from all of this is that most of these fears are unwarranted. It’s too easy for people to just label things as evil: computers and tech, a group of people, or a government system. People fail and therefore, the sin really resides anywhere people are–Christian or not. If a person homeschools their kids, it shouldn’t be to protect them from the evil school system (especially since most are sending them to evil church systems anyway). Homeschool affords many opportunities to be apart of the community, to know other people, to go “out there” and learn through living life. Homeschool is not an opportunity to shelter your kids and keep them from other people because they might be evil.
I feel like my children have had a well-rounded education because they’ve grown up being homeschooled, but also because they get to experience life in a public school setting. I feel pretty blessed that they weren’t confined to one situation or setting. Even while homeschooled, I didn’t limit who taught their classes, or defined what was good by the “Christian” label. They’ve taken classes and learned from Christian and non-Christian alike. Now as they grow up and have a more structured setting to adapt to, I’m hoping that experience will help them in life.
We can’t protect our kids from every evil “out there” but we can teach them how to deal with the destructive and damaging ideas that reside in our own heads and hearts. The idea that certain things are “evil” and certain things are “good” is a black and white view that I feel does more harm than good. Instead, my focus will always be on accepting our imperfect human natures, growing in wisdom and kindness, and dealing with pure evil, like abusive systems and people, head on. Sadly, it’s been my experience that more evil exists in places labeled “Christian” than it does outside of it, but time will tell if I am wrong.
What we call evil, it seems to me, is simply ignorance bumping its head in the dark.
HENRY FORD, Theosophist Magazine, Feb. 1930