Friday, September 20, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #8

10 Reasons Not to Home School #8 ; To focus on Character over Academic Achievement

  Of all reasons this one I understand the least.

  If it weren’t for the fact that it is brought up so often in conversation, (proven by being specifically mentioned twice in comments on my blog to posts in this series thus far) I probably would not have included it on the list.

    This sentiment may be phrased like this; ‘One of the best parts of home schooling my child is that I am able to focus on character development over academic achievement.”

    There are three reasons why this statement is flawed, illogical, and this kind of thinking is dangerous.   

First of all, obviously implied is the idea that you must choose.

Honesty OR the honor roll. 
Generosity OR geography.  
Sincerity and sweetness OR Science.

    To follow through with this line of reasoning suggests we all have to choose between being kind, OR smart.  (Don’t ask me which I’d choose, folks. Please just don’t.)

     The truth? Both are vital to a child’s growth and development. 

Character is the development of a child’s moral strength, and education is development of a child’s mental strength.

 To neglect any of your child’s being is harmful. Saying that you are choosing to focus on your child’s character over his academics is like saying that you are choosing to focus on feeding your child over developing his character.

     Trying to nurture one part of your child’s growth by sacrificing another just doesn’t make sense. Frankly, it simply cannot be done.

 Your child’s mind, body and soul are interconnected, and are all three developing every day. All three need direction, challenge and focused effort.  Are you a refining force to help them develop in harmony?

      Second, not only do these parents imply that they have chosen to focus on ONE aspect of personal growth over another, they also seem to lack a basic understanding of what education really means.

      Education by definition requires significant practice and development of character.

 Becoming educated in simplest terms, is enduring the discipline of study.

    It requires effort, focus, concentration, diligence, perseverance and follow-through.

    Expecting your child to acquire an education is no little thing. It is something for which you and your child will have to work very hard. It will require DAILY use and exercise of reason, research and will at times require your child to apply themselves to what is the unnatural but learned discipline of sitting quietly, listening, internalizing information and then determining how best to apply it.

    Does this mean a child must sit for long continuous hours a day, simply memorizing facts? No. But sitting still, memorizing facts, and seemly useless repetition; while hugely unpopular, are not only effective and necessary, but are in practice tremendously rewarding both in character AND knowledge.

    I see my goal of successful parenting as requiring a multi-faceted approach.

    It takes into consideration that faith, morals and character help our child make emotionally and physically healthy choices, which in turn, provide a body and heart fit and ready to accomplish great things.  The knowledge, wisdom and solid education they’ve gained allow them to envision and accomplish these great things.

    In other words, our faith forms the basis for healthy choices, the practice of which, give us sound bodies and spirits able to do great things, which our knowledge and education will allow us to envision, pursue, and achieve.

    We are multifaceted beings. When each part of our bodies, souls and spirits are working in harmony, we find peace, success, and are able to live the best life possible.

    As an adult, some of my greatest challenges come from trying to establish healthy balance and to limit how much time and attention one area of my life receives. Obsession or neglect in any specific area of life (health and exercise, ministry, eating, relationships, etc.) brings stress and friction to my daily schedule and to relationships.

    Just as it is harmful for a child to feel that their worth and value was only as high as their score on a test; it is equally damaging for your child to believe that what they know doesn’t really matter as long as they are sweet, kind, and hard working.

       Which brings us to our third point, priorities.

  When parents talk about a focus on developing character,  they seem to suggest that they have no time to spend studying because they are so busy……… hmmmm…… What on earth is it that you do to build character?

    In my experience when parents talk about focusing on building character in their children, they are usually talking about requiring their children to work. Household chores, responsibility for other siblings, participation in the family business or helping out on the family farm, making yogurt and kefir and homemade pizza dough, and sewing their own clothes (and for younger siblings) …. these are usually the character builders to which these parents are referring.

    I think we all desire to raise children who are productive, responsible members first of a family, and later for society.

   However, I do not believe neglecting to give a child the greatest education they can achieve in favor of manual labor is the way to accomplish it.

   It is not a child’s responsibility to clean your house, care for your children, or make your business successful. It is not a child’s responsibility to pay their way in life - that is yours. You are the parent. You brought a life into the world, and with it came your inherent promise to provide for that child until they are ready and able to do so, on their own.

Your child’s role is not to make your life better than it was; your role is to make theirs the best it can be.

   Whoa! I hear the protests now. – Wait, what about chores, what about teaching them responsibility? What’s wrong with good old fashioned ‘rolling up your sleeves’ and working? - Nothing. But there is nothing that great about it either.

     There is no shame in hard work, - as long as it is voluntary and the means for reaching a specific goal. If it is not voluntary and rewarded, it is slavery. And just for the record, - having food to eat and a roof over your head doesn’t count. Even slaves are given those.

    I can the shocked silence; and the looming, all important question. What about chores?

    Well, let me put it like this. Requiring a child to clean up after themselves, to keep their bed and room and clothes neat, clean, and in order; having them help some with meal time preparation and cleanup, and perhaps a small portion of house or yard maintenance, all completely in age appropriate amounts (of course), are to the benefit of the child. They teach him or her basic skills they need to be on their own. They teach him responsibility and ownership of what is his and how to care for his possessions. And some contribution toward generally shared areas help ensure he appreciates the work and benefits offered by others.

    So here’s the thing. By the time your child can do his own laundry, keep his room clean, pick up after himself around the house, clean the bathroom he uses, pitch in with a few dishes, can make a basic meal, or contribute to other general household chores, your child should be too busy pursuing his interests and things that advance his future to help constantly cook, clean, care for kids, or maintain your yard.

   A toddler’s contribution may be simply carrying things to the dinner table (oh so proudly), a child’s contribution while more substantial still needs your supervision or at least inspection (and certainly does not equal the work he creates), and by the time a child nears their teens, they are certainly capable of the tasks needed to live on their own.

    Of course, - the last two paragraphs are no surprise to you. Talking about children and chores to any home school kid or parent is like talking to a NFL player about the importance of team mates.

   Let’s get real. Home school families don’t have trouble teaching their kids to work. They have trouble letting go of the efficient work force they’ve created,  perfected usually by age 13.

   In large families especially, by the time a child reaches the age where they are able to start contributing more than taking, many parents are not just ready, but actually desperate for help. 

     So I am going to be blunt.

    Your daughter doesn’t need to do dishes for a family of 8 day in and day out to ‘prepare’ her for being a housewife. She knows how to do dishes. The same goes for cooking, cleaning, gardening, canning, sewing, rocking babies, or any other domestic chore.

   Your son doesn’t need to mow and maintain your yard, your cars, your livestock, or your business to ‘know’ how. The fact that you’ve given the task over to him means you KNOW he knows how and is capable.

     At this point you are taking advantage.
 If you are not offering them the same compensation that you would to anyone else, you are not “offering them the opportunity to help”, you are directly teaching them that their time is not worth anything.

    Your teen’s time is priceless. It is the only time in life where they are free of the major life choices and accompanying responsibilities you have already made. They have not yet chosen their spouse, their house, their career, the number of children they will have, and their life should reflect it. It is their chance to work hard and get ahead pursuing their dreams, their future, their goals; not just making yours possible. It is also theirs to waste, to risk, and to make mistakes. 

    Very likely your conservative home school teen will not complain. They will not argue much; they recognize the hard work and sacrifice you have given, and feel compelled to help in any way they can. Some will willingly sacrifice their own priorities for family needs, while others may find themselves so busy or afraid to unsettle the status quo they take little time to contemplate their own future. Some may find the expectations and responsibility oppressive and leave as soon as possible.

      There are few home school grads I know who have come to the work force OR to home making who have a healthy perspective of what their time is worth. We tend to struggle promoting ourselves, establishing boundaries, or knowing what things to pursue, in business, in ministry, in relationships; or in any significant way, really, because in our past, we’ve always competently handled every responsibility and expectation (which were freely doled out), and received little or nothing for it.

    What is the point of building in your child the vehicle of hard work, honesty, and reliability without the engine of self reliance, confidence, and promotion seeking necessary to move forward? Without these abilities your child is destined to remain in the shadows, helping others fulfill their dreams, achieve their goals, and attain prosperity.
   That hunger for more, and confidence to try; is yours to build by constant challenge and pushes forward, or to hinder through passivity, even restraint, harnessing that potential for your own benefit.

    I began by challenging a harmless sounding little word called character. I am not questioning its importance, but I am challenging its presence in our lives.  As parents are we raising children to have the tools they need to leave, fully equipped as soon as possible? Or, are our motives selfish and our grip too tight? Are we truly offering our child what THEY need for success or using them to make our own life (or lifestyle) more successful, or even possible?

    Wise parenting recognizes that a child’s character development does NOT require academic sacrifice, but is actually only further developed by the discipline of study. A child’s faith and morals are not hampered by learning and education, but strengthened through logic and understanding. Finally, hard work and responsibility do play an important role in your child’s life; in so much as they adequately prepare them for building their independence, confidence and future success.
 For more in this series, please go here.
 What unexpected challenges have you faced while trying to give your child what they need to succeed?
 Do you feel your parents truly had your best interests in mind in parenting?
If you could change one priority of your parents a it related to you, what would it be?
Linking up


  1. I will admit that this post shocked me. I am at a loss as to see how exactly you got to this point. Your suggestion that by sending your child to someone else to be educated gives them a better opportunity to learn academics AND character is lost on me. What does sending your child to someone else 8 hours a day tell them as they grow and build character? It says listen to other people instead of your parents they don’t know anything. Your parents are only there to hold you back restricting you.
    You mention chores should not be slave labor and that teenagers should be free to do as they please and trust that they have the vision to see the needs right in front of them and will do things out of gratitude for the sacrifice that parents have made. I can guarantee you that that is a very rare gift to find in teenagers. In my family there were numerous years where none of the teenagers helped around the house because we didn’t think about it because our parents never asked. Part of the character that you are talking about is that when you are part of a family there are thankless tasks that you DON’T get paid for. The chores have to get done and a 15 year old boy is going to play video games 100 times out of 100 instead of vacuuming the house, or dusting, or cutting the grass, or anything. You don’t build a child’s character by releasing them to their own devices. You work to help guide their passions into venues that will benefit them.
    You mention that homeschoolers that you know struggle with “promoting ourselves, establishing boundaries, or knowing what things to pursue, in business, in ministry, in relationships; or in any significant way, really, because in our past, we’ve always competently handled every responsibility and expectation (which were freely doled out), and received little or nothing for it.” Welcome to life. Most people struggle with their valuation in the workforce and being their own advocate.
    If you were taking issue with excesses that would be one thing but you don’t qualify your reflections. Your idea of harm to the child is lack of an education, which is important, but I would argue that lack of character in the long term harms the child much more than the level of education received. If a child has character and the ability to work hard and reason through things they can be educating themselves for the rest of their life. If they have no character they will end up worse off because of lack of moral foundations in their life regardless of the education they receive. This is why you see drug dealers in the best public schools and outstanding students in the worst. One has character, one doesn’t.
    Your question of who is able to best develop character is a good one. However, looking to defend an idealized version of education where a good education will bring everyone into paradise is unhelpful. Education will never be equal because you can't provide the same access to educational material for everyone. Not to mention that not all people value education on the same level. Between character and education, character wins every time. Education alone cannot produce better people. And the kind character a child learns is dependent on who is able to speak into and mold the child the most. Be that school, culture, media, or parents. Each of those produce vastly different results, and as parents we should choose wisely.

  2. Nathaniel,
    Thanks so much for your comments.
    First of all, - from your comments it would seem that you are not from a conservative Christian home school (CCHS) background. You mention that you and your siblings spent your teen years playing video games and that it was not required, nor did it occur to you to help out around the house in even basic ways. This type of parenting is rare in the home school community. Of course there are always exceptions in any group, - but I can assure you this is not the experience of most home school teens.
    I only bring this up because I feel that some of my comments may seem extreme or just plain weird to those who have not come from my specific cultural background. While there are of course exceptions, the things I address often apply to the culture as a whole. I actually touched on a healthy perspective to teaching your child work, giving them skills, and knowing what to require; and then contrasted it with what IS an issue of imbalance in practice. The only reason work is an mentioned in a post on character is that in my experience, it is part of the ‘lingo’ of this culture; ‘teaching character’ and work have become interchangeable.

  3. Finally, - in reading your comments, I feel you seem to suggest that character, morals, and faith cannot come from a public or private school education. This wrong assumption means that you would rather choose ‘character’ over any sacrifice of academics; which results in the very issues this post was written to address. It is that false choice that has resulted in damage to children raised in the home school movement.
    Children and adults come through public and private school with fantastic character, strong morals, and they also come through with poor character, no faith, or no morals. Doesn’t this OBVIOUSLY indicate that there is a bigger factor at play? (I suggest it is the parents)
    There is no choice. There is no sacrifice needed. Either you are giving your child the best, or not. You can help them develop a strong mind, AND a strong heart. You can do both using whatever education method you choose, - neither has the corner on honesty or any other quality.
    No. Not all education is equal, or fair.
    There are families who are in truly disadvantaged circumstances. There are families who are dealing with daily survival and life and death issues. Those are not the families I am addressing.
    I am talking to families in the richest country in the world. I am talking to families, who despite having access to a (yes, flawed) school system that a huge percent of the world’s population would give anything to access, have decided for various reasons to do it on their own.
    I am addressing a first world, pious group of us who have the luxury to sit and quibble over which learning style, method or particular setting is our favorite for our child to learn to read and write.
    I am trying to destroy the fancy, righteous sounding excuses that parents have chosen for giving their child anything less than the absolute best education possible. Or the reasons used as pillars of pride in suggesting parents who do things differently are any less wonderful.
    If we decide to do it on our own, it better be the best damned job that can be done.
    You finish your comments on the choice between education and character, (a mythical choice).
    My whole point is that a nice stupid person is no better than a smart evil one. In fact, a whole lot of nice, sweet, hard working, poorly educated people are the only way for a smart evil person to rise to power.
    Character is just a means to an end. An evil man has very strong character, - but he uses it for the wrong purpose. Trying to shape your child’s character over any other part(as I already addressed) is fool hardy and futile.
    IT IS NOT A CHOICE!!!!!!
    As long as you and others believe there is a necessary choice to make between raising a child to have character, and to be the best educated person in the room, - we will continue to destroy our country and raise sheep ready for slaughter.
    No. Education is not the path to utopia. But just as character is the only solution to a society that is just, honest, and productive, education is the only solution to a society that is able to rise above and beyond the limitations of today, and is the only chance we have of advances that took us out of mud huts and can keep us out of them.

    I refuse to sacrifice either.

    As always, - I love your comments and the chance to debate. Thanks for your thoughts!!! :)

  4. My first thoughts in response to your comments were wide ranging but I will try to keep my response focused to the main issue. I respect the fact that you are critiquing a specific culture with issues that you have seen firsthand.
    However, you mention that you think that it is the involvement of parents that makes the difference for the building of moral/character. If that is the case why are you arguing so viciously against that being a reason to homeschool? Many of your posts on these issues seem to try and say “Don’t you dare have this be a reason to homeschool because you have no idea the damage you do to your kids by doing things different.” Yet you also are a parent that homeschools? Also many of these reasons are a MAJOR concern in schools across this country. Perhaps by itself character it is not a strong enough reason to homeschool yet no one ever has one reason to homeschool. (I would also say that a good name / character is better and more valuable than an Ivy League education every day of the week. How many Ivy League Lawyer/Politicians/Businesspeople have committed terrible injustices because they have no character?) The fact is that character is “caught much more than taught” and “bad friends corrupt good morals”.
    You rail against homeschooling that focuses on character but do you also rail against public schools / private schools that don’t emphasis character or worse focus on teaching vice? You do not even hint at that possibility in your post. You are railing in frustration against something that is proving to be good and beneficial in many many instances.
    You say that you are writing to destroy the fancy, righteous sounding excuses for giving a child anything but the best education. This assumes that home schooling is not the best, when in fact the statistics would argue against you. I am not opposed to warning about pitfalls but to destroy something that is doing good can't really be done in a good motive can it? Change it, Reform it, Help it, but Destroy it? I wish that you posts were in the spirit of helping to build up parents who see these issues as not being dealt with correctly with the status quo, instead of trying to rip down things that are real concerns for parents who want to deal with the issues.
    Your statement about nice stupid people is more relevant to the public school population that can’t read when they graduate, who make much better sheep than those people who know the value of hard work, honesty, and integrity. Someone with character can see an evil person for what they are without having an Ivy League education.
    At the end it matters who are the examples that children gain their character from. A God fearing couple is going to have better character than confused teenagers or teachers who can’t mention God without getting fired.
    Lastly, to not believe that we can have some impact on our children’s development is way to fatalistic for me. I can’t believe that my actions and example carry no weight in the development of my children like your statement regarding shaping a child's character seems to indicate.
    As one loving Wizard once said," I have not found that Great power (read education, as well) is what holds evil at bay, but the small things, the everyday things done by good hearted people."

  5. Nathaniel,
    I wish to remind you that this is my blog, and I am allowed to rail on whatever issues I wish. I do not have to address every ill in the world.
    I have mentioned many times that I come from a specific slice of American Culture, - the conservative Christian home school culture, (the 'Dugger' culture) - and I know first hand the good, bad and ugly that has resulted in families as a result.
    I am a Christian, and a home school Mom.
    In part because of that, I hope to draw attention to the flaws in the very method of home school, so that it can be a good thing in families lives, and not destructive as it has for some.
    If you wish to hear all the negative things about private or public schools, - please feel free to go to the many other blogs or books written specifically on those topics.
    That is not the purpose of my blog.
    Truth is truth no matter how uncomfortable.
    I would encourage you to check out my posts on the Controversial Mom Tab on 'Why I Write', and 'What Is Successful Home School'.
    Above all, - I hope that if nothing else, I can continue to challenge honest thinking and debate.
    Stay tuned for the release of the Home School Grad Survey, - I think you'll find the results interesting.
    I love reader's that are passionate and persuasive and am glad you are part of the conversation.

  6. By all means rail as you see fit on your blog. And I applaud your desire to address issues that you have seen and are aware of. You state that one of your purposes is to” draw attention to the flaws in the very method of home school, so that it can be a good thing in families lives, and not destructive as it has for some.” Yet I do not read any hope for the home schooling family in your posts. You destroy the common reasons to homeschool in your post because you have seen the negative side, great! What are the good sides of these issues that you have torn apart? I understand that this is not the site to rail on public/private schools, yet you equate a broken system you have seen to another broken system in great distress. I have no issue with Truth. I find it very helpful and love to find it when it reveals itself. Your stated purpose is to try and evaluate these issues. This post is ripping apart focusing on character in a homeschool, which then has to be contrasted with character building efforts in the other settings. Otherwise there is no true evaluation/comparison. I look forward to the results of the survey that you are compiling. I pray in the end that there is some hope in it.

  7. ouch. ouch. ouch. I've agreed on some level with all of your points, but this one down right just hurts. Probably because I lived a lot of what you describe in this didn't handicap me, or ruin my life by any means, but I do look back and think "holy freaking crap, look where I could be if I had been encouraged to pursue my own individual goals and interests, instead of busily about promoting the agenda of one or both of my parents." However.........I find it interesting that many of my character qualities that I am the most proud of today stem almost directly from those exact experiences, my consequent emotions/perspective and decisions thereafter.
    but yeah, kinda still hurts, because as an adult, you can't help but feel robbed/taken advantage of. In the big picture of life, really not that big of an issue.........but issue.