Putting Children First: Karen Loethen’s Thoughts
The following piece was originally published by Karen Loethen on her blog Homeschool Atheist Momma with the title, “Still Looking for Disadvantages of Homeschool?” It is reprinted with her permission. Karen describes herself as “a homeschooling mum of two children (ages 15 and 12) and the wife of an amazing man.” She and her family “are Midwestern Americans, currently living in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.”
I’ve been wondering, do I write pro homeschool stuff because I am simply reinforcing my insecurities about homeschooling?
I write it so that others can find pro-homeschooling stuff easily.
But today I am motivated to explore the truth behind negative homeschool experiences. I have been reading websites of homeschool alum who are very unhappy with their homeschool experiences and blogs of suspect homeschoolers. I’ve been reading stories by homeschool alum, adults who feel “weird” and “odd” and in pain and who have serious difficulties relating to the world at large, who report abuse, neglect, serious emotional damage, and hugely poor parenting. I am overwhelmed, today, with the negative homeschooling experiences for some children and adults out there.
While we can not reparent any of these wounded people who are trying so hard to heal themselves, we can offer them our love and seek to understand their claims. We, as homeschooling parents, should never attempt to discredit someone’s story (as I have seen on some of these sites). No, instead, we must learn from these experiences and offer these people our love and compassion. And offer them our thanks for being willing to share their stories. It takes courage in this world to stand up and disprove the majority. And, besides, they are people who are courageously, fearfully offering their life stories, hoping for healing.
If you go there, write nothing, or write only messages of love and support. It is homeschooling parents who are insecure and fearful themselves who do not allow these voices to be heard without confrontation. I understand that fear, but these boards are not the place to put one’s own issues out there.
As one woman at the Homeschoolers Anonymous website said, today, homeschooling is often portrayed in the media as some great and noble cause or as a quaint, folksy version of the Great American Dream. I’m grateful for the “improvement,” as homeschool has had a fairly dreadful rep for a long time. Sadly, some of that rep is well-deserved. I must also add that most of the stories (all the I have read today, in fact) share a fundamental Christian motivation or Evangelical basis for their isolationist and authoritarian approaches to their homeschooling and parenting. This is not the point of my post, but it is an essential piece of the puzzle.
I think of homeschooling as an extension of, as a part of, parenting.
In my mind there is no way to separate the two.
I think we should all have the right to freely educate our children without state involvement. But this presupposes that all adults are capable of making healthy and wise choices for their families and we know that this is not the case. But whose job is it to decide who should and who should not homeschool? No one is sitting in an office making lists of people who can and should become parents. Anyone can become a parent regardless of maturity, ability, mental issues, all other issues, etc. Parents of all ability levels have always existed in the world.
Maybe we can all agree that not all people who are parents should have been parents.
Similarly, not all people who homeschool should homeschool.
To homeschool, to parent, to the best advantage of one’s children, a parent needs to be mature enough to put the needs of themselves Last on the List and the needs of their children First on the List. A person suited to homeschool and parent children must have no philosophy, culture, or creed that puts anything, anything ahead of the good of the children. A person well-suited to parenting and homeschooling children is a person who is willing and able and apt to reflect upon new information and evidence and use that evidence and make changes, improvements, adjustments when necessary. The person adequately suited to parenting and homeschooling is a person who takes the time to learn about a variety of educational and parenting options and looks at those options carefully, making decisions based on what makes a better human being from each child.
And more, I believe that the best approach to parenting, in my opinion, is a person who manages to believe in their children, who even believes in the human race! I believe the more successful parent and homeschooling parent is one who finds humor in life and looks for fun. I believe it essential to think well of people. I think it necessary to put Love at the center of family life. I think it necessary to be a self-aware adult. And I think it necessary that I spend time locating my own issues, growth areas, and limitations. And seek to improve myself.
Yes, I can be a bit serious about this.
I believe that adults owe it to themselves and to their progeny to become the best people they can be.
Because when they don’t, it’s the kids who suffer.
I don’t think you meant to say anything wrong by “needs to be mature enough to put themselves last on the list,” but I have to respectfully disagree. Mental health professionals will tell you that healthy people put themselves first, and from experience I know this to be true, because if you are not taking care of yourself, you can by no means take good care of anyone else. You can maybe half-ass your way through, but it will not be good for you or the people you try to take care of. Like I said, I don’t think you mean to say anything wrong, and I hope you don’t think I am arguing with you. I think your post was well thought out, and those things needed to be said. Thank you for your insights! Respectfully,
You are absolutely right, Grace. I guess I meant it in the sense of knowing WHEN to put the needs of ourselves aside for the needs of someone else.
Thanks fir seeking clarity.
Thanks for your article – I agree with Grace and with you. I am a Christian homeschool mom that reads this blog for insight, in the ways I homeschool:-) I think that the people who post here are wonderfully brave. I am so thankful that they will speak out, so home school parents can have another place of true research and things to consider. I think the whole parenting experience is one in figuring out when and where to place whom first. Before I had kids I had it figured out:-) Now – well lets just say that love and laughter get one through most days!