Friday, August 30, 2013

10 Reasons not to Home School #7

10 Reasons not to Home School #7 
To build strong family relationships.

  This is one of the first points in my series that I feel is more of a conditional, than absolute item.

   This has always been and remains high on the list of reasons or benefits parents give for the choice to home school. They often point out the sheer number of hours a day the typical family is separated, and the fact that peer based segregation can encourage children to lose appreciation for those who are older and younger. Many parents cite their own childhood as an example, and parents or siblings with whom they have strained, or just distant relationships and little interaction with as proof of family disintegration.

   It is true that by nature most forms of home school does mean in most cases that family members spend enormous amounts of time together. Many home school families do almost everything together, some even avoiding any functions that separate their family into peer based, age segregated groups, meaning that even their church and social activities are family affairs.

    However a dangerous underlying assumption in this thought is that ‘more time’ automatically means ‘healthy relationships’.  
After all, - I have heard other’s quip, - ‘when you spend this much time together you have to learn to get along.” Many parents talk about wanting their children to be best friends, and seem to think that by eliminating competition for outside or peer based friendships, this will naturally occur.

       Unfortunately this is just not the case. Being in a confined space with anyone for any period of time will certainly allow you to know them deeply. It can result in bonds of friendship that last, but can just as easily result in bitterness, hurt, isolation or damage.

   Sibling rivalry, lack of boundaries, abusive tendencies, anger issues, neglect, manipulation, unrealistically high expectations, parental control, co- dependence or other unhealthy relationship dynamics are not resolved by simply spending every waking moment together. In fact, unrelenting daily interaction coupled with any kind of isolation will make any of these issues far worse.

    It is true that children who are constantly around each other and parents where these and other issues are present will learn to adapt to their surroundings. They will probably learn their own strategies to cope with parts of their life where they have no control.

  However this does not mean that these relationships are healthy or will last once a child is able to leave home.  It also does not mean they haven’t been damaged or have little basis for knowing how to recognize healthy family dynamics and have healthy interpersonal relations.

  MORE of unhealthy is still unhealthy. More time spent as a family where there is damage is just more damage.  

  Home schooling can no more give you healthy family relationships than a car can give you a great  family vacation…. Both can be tools used to accomplish something precious and enjoyable, or  be a nightmare where someone is crying and everyone wants it to be over.

    At this point I think it is important to clarify something. I do not think that home schooling automatically means a family is isolated, co dependent and has unhealthy or damaging family dynamics.

  However, here are a few thoughts.

 Home school will reveal your family’s weak areas.

 Home School will make isolation much easier.

Home School will accentuate personality and character traits, good or bad.

Home School will be highly attractive to parents with control and/or dependency issues.

 Home School is sometimes used as cover for abuse and neglect.

With great power comes great responsibility.

    Independence and self reliance are qualities not only valued by, but really, necessary for those who choose to educate their child. Often these self sufficient families hesitate to involve themselves in other’s affairs. There is great distrust in most home school families for government intrusion.  As home school parents we have chosen to accept FULL daily responsibility for our children in many cases with little to no input from others on a day to day basis.

  I believe this is all the more reason home school parents should be highly equipped to recognize signs of family dysfunction in their own homes, and in others.

   Anyone who has climbed the world’s highest mountains; who participates in extreme sports or any other high risk activity will tell you that THE number one key to success is to know your limits, or the conditions around you that will not only certainly prevent successfully completing your goals but very possibly destroy you and those with you.

   I can’t really think of anything more important or high risk than being the primary nurturing spirit, loving security and educating force for another human soul.

  Some of the reasons I have listed in my series 10 Reasons not to Home School  I believe have no logical place in a family’s decision to home, private or public school their children. (Such as Avoiding sex Ed; because it is an area all parents need to address regardless of where their child learns to read, etc.)
    Some reasons, like this one, I believe have tremendous significance and actually should be a key factor in determining if home schooling is right for your family. With one exception from what most advocates of home school will tell you; that homeschooling is the best choice you can make for your family relationships.

   NO family is perfect.  Each family has areas in which they can improve. Parenting is a process of learning and growing, and just as you will never feel like you have ‘arrived’ as a parent and have everything figured out, - you will never feel perfectly ready for home school.

   However, it is important to know the difference between a family atmosphere that at it’s core is loving, stable and healthy, and allows for children’s learning and growth, and one in which there is chaos, dysfunction, and damage.

 Here are some questions that may help you determine if your family relationships will benefit or be further strained by the home school lifestyle. Regardless, they are crucial topics to discuss.
(These questions assume there is a two parent home, single parents face even more challenges)
   * Do you and your spouse have a stable, healthy relationship?
   * Do you and your spouse communicate clearly and know how to work well together?
   * Do you and your spouse know how to support each other effectively?  (Have you previously successfully set goals together and accomplished them?)
    * Are you and or your spouse disciplined and able to complete projects?
    * Do either of you have hesitations or concerns about home schooling?
    * Do you or your spouse tend to have control/ anger issues?

    * Do you or your spouse tend to over react to issues and pull the whole family in an extreme direction?

  * Do you and your spouse both feel comfortable with the financial implications of home school?(Living off one income so one parent can teach / sharing teaching and income producing activities etc.)
* Do you or your spouse have priorities that supersede necessary time/effort/expense for home school?
*  Do you have a supportive network of people around you who can offer balance and give you an unbiased perspective when needed?
* Do you and your spouse agree on methods of discipline for your children?

 * How does conflict with your children affect you and your spouse?
 * Do you and your spouse currently know how to motivate your children to do what they don’t like to do?
  *Are your children opposed to the idea of home school?

     Home school is not easy. Parts of home schooling do not come naturally. Every Mom finds her areas quickly!! It requires tremendous team work, good communication, sacrifice, and endless self discipline.
   The questions I asked above are critical to honestly answer because these issues will not be resolved with more time together, a flexible schedule, and less  outside structure, input, or accountability.

   If you and your spouse struggle in the areas above, home school and it’s challenges are likely to strain your relationship, and those with your children. In general, one of two things will happen.

  A)Either home school will become the focus and relationships may suffer.
  B)Both will suffer and your original goals for home school will be entirely lost as you struggle to maintain some level of stability in your relationship(s) with your spouse and children.

    In a very real practical sense, - home schooling is to education what a private or home based business is to the workplace.  Many people dream of being their own boss, - setting their own (relaxed) schedule, free from the pressures and irritations of their current job.

  However many people who jump into their own business find themselves woefully unequipped to face the very real demands that a home business requires. Instead of less work, it requires more. Instead of fewer pressures, now they face every conceivable pressure of the business they are trying to build.
   Instead of having to face an annoying boss when mistakes are made, the small business owner finds any and every mistake costs him personally and directly. Not only does a small business owner need many skills, determination and drive, but most important the ability to prioritize on a moment by moment basis.

    The same qualities needed to successfully run your own business are needed to run your own school.

  The rewards of home school, or home business can be great; but the truth is, for some families it is just not a good fit.

   I know some of you are wondering if I am suggesting that putting your children in public or private school somehow manages to miraculously ‘fix’ relationship problems, and my answer is no. A family or couple whose relationship are strained and face the challenges l mentioned above will have to work hard to resolve them no matter where they educate their children.
However I DO believe the home school lifestyle can add tremendous and unnecessary pressure.

*I believe the health of relationships are far more important than the idea of home school.

*I believe that you can educate your children well at home and loose every part of your family that matters.
*I also believe that you can try to home school in the midst of unhealthy family dynamics and be forced to choose sanity and relationships over any real solid education.

I have personally seen both happen.

 Nothing is more heart breaking to me than for parents to sacrifice their children’s well being for an idea.

   This goes back to the core issue of goals. What ARE your goals for your children? For their education?  What DO you hope to give them as a foundation for life?
Are you committed to home school no matter what the cost?
        What if it costs you your marriage?
       What if it costs your child a solid education?

 In a perfect world, you could do it all. You can balance it all, you can pull it all off. 
 In a perfect world you would never have to choose between a healthy marriage and being the person that teaches your child to read. In a perfect world you would never have to choose between a school system you dislike and your personal health. In a perfect world you would never face financial difficulties or pressures that severely limit your parenting options.  In a perfect world you would never have to face that you or your spouse simply doesn’t handle conflict or discipline in an appropriate way that provides a peaceful, stable environment for your child.
  In the real world, - we are usually forced to make realistic choices based on very real limitations.
   I think one of the MOST important things a couple can do when deciding to home school is to write a list of things that they are unwilling to sacrifice.   My husband and I have already discussed these things at length.  They are our bench mark, - our way of knowing each year if home school will continue to serve our family well, or if we need to change direction.
Our list has sentences that begin with:
If home school means that we  _________ , we will  quit home schooling.
If we cannot find a way to provide ___________ for our children through home school, we will quit homeschooling.
-If we see ______________ in our lives, we will quit home schooling.

    These protect our safe place. They ensure that our ultimate goals for our relationships, our family health, our marriage, our children’s development and education are not lost in the hard work, the urgent and necessary daily demands of our life style. They also ensure that even though right now while we enjoy how home school fits our family, that we don't become lazy or slack in pursuing our real goals.
   Putting your children in school does not mean that other problems will automatically disappear. In fact it will likely come with its own set of challenges. But here is the truth. Home school puts tremendous pressure and stress on Mom’s and marriages. Home school requires HUGE amounts of time. Home school usually means living off of one income. Sometimes the time, money and energy required to 'do it your self' is just not worth it.

     Home school is only as successful as the teacher and environment in your home. 

    There are many, many reasons why home school may not fit every family well.  
But does this mean that raising children who love to learn, - does it mean that your role as your child’s teacher, - does it mean that your ability to impart your religious beliefs, does it mean that your ability to have a tight knit family is gone?

   I believe it does not.  Part of my goal in writing is to expose the faulty thinking that says that certain parental goals can only be achieved in one way, - through home school.  This kind of all or nothing thinking forces deep dedication and fails to recognize when something no longer works.

   If our goal is to home school no matter what, - then we will have to be willing to sacrifice everything for that idea.

  If our goal is to raise confident, capable, religiously, morally, and academically educated children, - then we will pursue every, and all options to achieve that goal.
What are your goals?
What relationships, family priorities, health priorities or other things are you unwilling to sacrifice?

This is #7 in a series called 10 Reasons not to Home School and the rest can be found here.

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  1. Very good thoughts, Rebecca!

    Lots of truth in what you say.

    It is not an idea that we follow, but a living Lord, Who every day says anew, "Follow Me." That means being flexible, and loving the Truth (Jesus) more than the systems we create to try to hold on to truth. I like the way you present how you and your husband set boundaries and how to see the indicators that means change becomes necessary.

    The Lord showed me that we are supposed to fit 'the shoe' to the child's foot - rather than trying to fit our child's precious foot (the important thing)into the shoe we like. That revelation changes the way I see things.

    Keep up with the writing; you do it well.
    Hanna Farwell

  2. Thanks so much Hanna, -
    Love that concept of foot and shoe... Isn't that what we want to do as parents? Capitalize on the unique amazing person that is each child and help them find the right 'fit' in life!? great!
    Thanks so much for the kind words!