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?