Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Never Let Them See You Sweat

Remember that deodorant commercial? "Never let them see you sweat!" It might be good parenting advice, too!

I was born with a calm nature, and I'm pretty laid back. I always thought it took a lot to ruffle MY feathers! But then I gave birth to six expert feather rufflers!

We parents have high expectations of ourselves. We've been entrusted with our children's very lives and we want to do everything perfectly. Failing at the smallest parenting task often elicits the kind of guilt feelings we've never experienced previously. Didn't hear the baby crying right away? Nicked a finger while clipping her nails? Dentist says child should brush more often? Oh, the guilt!

When we make parenting choices that are markedly different than those of our peers, we are subject to even more guilt feelings. It takes a strong conviction to stand up to frequent criticism. Perhaps nothing cuts deeper than criticism directly from our child. "I'll never get to ride a school bus (or go to a prom)!" "I'd have more friends if I weren't homeschooled." "I'm behind in math, and it's all your fault!"

It's like that line in Freaky Friday where the daughter screeches, "You're ruining my LIFE!"

If you are a long-term homeschooler, your kids will probably experience at least a short period when they wish they were in public school. Assailed with self-doubt, many parents will give in to what proves to be temporary discontent and enroll their child in public school. They are often surprised when the student then begins complaining about a teacher, or the principal, or another student. It's the "grass is always greener" syndrome.

I have friends whose kids have spent time in every school situation imaginable: public school, private school, homeschool, and charter schools. Experimentation is sometimes necessary to find just the right school for your child, but make it clear that you in the experimentation phase. If you seem entirely committed to the public schools one day and angrily withdraw your student to homeschool the following month, you send a mixed message . . . especially if you re-enroll your student when your anger dissipates.

Our kids will take advantage of our indecision. I've never wanted my children to think I was perfect, because then they'll think they have to be perfect, too. I share the mistakes I've made, hoping they will be able to learn something through my errors. They don't need to be privy to every agonizing step in the decision process, though.

In our family, we ARE homeschoolers. We are committed to homeschooling and none of our children have ever seriously suggested any other educational option. Oh, they've grumbled on occasion, and I have to admit the complaint from my first grader about his lack of school bus rides cut me to the quick! Reacting emotionally to that or any other mild complaint just invites more, though. Mildly acknowledging their concern usually causes it to fade away. "It WOULD be fun to ride on a bus some day, wouldn't it?"

Our children actually take comfort in feeling that we know what we are doing. An on-again-off-again member of my homeschool co-op lets her daughter decide each year whether she wants to homeschool or not. I can't help thinking that's a huge decision for a little girl to make. Don't our kids count on us to be in charge of the really important things?

Parenting methods are as numerous as the parents who implement them, and nothing works in every situation. I like to provide my children with choices. They need practice making decisions and need to feel some control over their life. But, in our family, the important decisions are completely up to the parents.

Three of my six children are now happy, productive adults. All of them tell me they are glad they were consistently homeschooled, so I don't experience the degree of guilt that I used to have. When the occasional complaint is made, I might even lose sleep over it as I work through the emotions involved and the ensuing decision-making process. But, I never let them see me sweat!

Would you like to discuss parenting issues with other homeschool parents? You can talk about it on the Time4Learning Parent Forum!

1 comment:

  1. You mentioned someone in your homeschool co-op letting their child decide whether to homeschool each year. You didn't say what age the child was, but I agree with you; most children will make decisions on their current feelings and not see the bigger picture, nor all the benefits of homeschooling.

    Being in a homeschool co-op also has many benefits to the child and to the mother. If this co-op member is in one year and out the next, she is losing the continuity of co-op friendships for her daughter and herself. I spend an entire chapter in my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, on the benefots of a homeschool co-op, many which are not realized until years later.

    Carol Topp, CPA


Thank you for joining the discussion!