You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Help me out here

I need to talk, to work something out in my own mind, so this post may not make much sense, and I may have to ramble through several posts before I reach a conclusion.

We have been a Home-school family for several years now. We started when Rachel, my oldest was in Middle school, and Jason our oldest son was going into second grade. Zachary, the youngest is to begin Middle School next year and has never been in the public school system. We have done this while working full time jobs. In addition for five or six years we were “unpaid” full time youth pastors.

Home-schooling comes in many flavors. While identified with the Conservative Christian movement there are versions for every faith as well as atheist and secular varieties. While we are Christian, Christian education was not our driving concern in pulling our kids out of the system. Instead, it was the other kinds of education we were concerned they might pick up. We considered Home-schooling with Rachel and had given up on the idea as being impractical, but one night she told Bev, “Mom you would not believe what I have seen and what people have tried to get me to do this year in school”. We took that as a cry for help, hoped we were making the right decision, and just did it.

Rachel has turned out well; she is in college now and had a 3.9 something average last semester. Of course, she has always been a gifted child and so it probably has more to do with her intelligence than our teaching skills. Let me say right here though that if any credit is to be given, it has to go 110% to my wife who is superhuman, and the source of all the intelligence in this family. She has taken almost all the responsibility of teaching the kids her self, as well as a full time job, being a homemaker, and putting up with me. My wife is a Saint. She is the Proverbs 31 woman in the flesh. She does not “do” computers though, so she will never read this. Therefore, I can talk about her however I want ;)

My problem is this. The boys think they want to enter public school. Zack is the one who brought it up, but now Jason says he wants to also. This has more to do with hanging out with friends between classes than scholastics, but I take the “hanging out” very seriously.

When I was a youth pastor, I sang lead in a praise band. One night we were performing at the local Middle school for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. After our portion of the evening, the gym was opened up for free time. Basketball and volleyball erupted and the kids were running, jumping and laughing. I found Zack, who was about seven at the time sitting in the stands crying his heart out. I sat him in my lap and asked what was wrong and he said he wanted to play with the kids but couldn’t. He was little, and no one wanted a seven-year-old on his or her team. Sitting there holding him I had a sudden realization. I had been raised in a neighborhood of elderly people and was the only kid in the area. I remembered what it was like to be alone and how it has shaped who I have become. That was not what I wanted for him. There we set, alone in row after row of empty bleachers, while just out of reach a hundred or more kids were playing and I thought “Am I doing this to him? What is he going to think of the choices that I have made for him when he is grown? Will he blame me for same loneliness I had as a child?”

Zack told me he does not remember the above episode, but it is still very clear in my mind. It haunts and depresses me whenever I dwell on it. How do I choose what is right when both choices seem to have negative drawbacks. If I discipline my children it is not because I am angry with them, in fact I walk away if I do get angry, wait until I calm down and then decide how to handle the problem. I discipline to condition them to modify their own behavior. It is always easier to clean their room than to get them too, but that teaches them the wrong skill set. This is different. I do not want to cause them discomfort to modify their behavior, I want to protect them from something that will harm them in the long term and in so doing I will cause them discomfort. No good parent wants to make their children unhappy, but sometimes we understand the depth of circumstances better, we look at the long view and not the short term and that’s okay. My problem is weighing the lesser of two evils while not being sure which evil will have the least long-term impact on my sons.

Socialization is always a major concern for anyone thinking about Home-schooling. How do you bring social interaction into such a small home unit? The answer given is that Home-schooled kids are more mature than their age group socially and intellectually. In every case but one, I have found this true. In fact, it was the Home-schooled kids I had in our Youth Group that made me consider Home-schooling in the first place. They were polite, respectful of others and not afraid to hang out with any age group. I realized even today, twenty plus years out of high school classes I still think of people I meet as in my “class”, under my “class”, or above my “class”. Home-school kids are not segregated from any social group so they are just as happy to interact with small kids as adults, because the social stigma of cool and uncool is a learned behavior not an ingrained social pattern. My daughter and her Youth Group friends were equally at home with us “old folks” as they were with “little” Zack.

What I remember of school, especially middle and high school, was being bullied and picked on. It did not always happened to me, but I saw others who went through daily harassment and verbal abuse. This is something that I do not feel is necessary for the social development of my children. I have had some say to me that it would be good for them that they should learn to “stand up for themselves”. “What are you going to do wait until they are grown up then throw them to the wolves?” My thought on this has always been that; yes, the world can be cruel, and we try to educate our children in its dangers, but I do not teach my children to be careful with fire by burning them. I want to show them how to not be burned.

Zack told me he would like to have six or seven good friends. I want to do everything I can to make this happen, but I also want to make sure that his friends do not destroy the “sunshine” of his smile.

“For I would wander weary miles

And suffer ridicule my child

Just to see the sunrise of your smile

To see the light behind your eyes

The happy thought that makes you fly

Yes, I would wander weary miles

Just to see the sunrise of your smile”*

* Michael Card: The Sunrise of Your Smile


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