Merry - posted on 06/13/2011 ( 138 moms have responded )
I didn't write this, but I feel quite similarly to this mom.
Now this article touches on Christianity a bit, but if possible, could we not turn this into religion debate? Please? :) I know most here are not Christians, so if possible let's just debate homeschooling, not religion.......
Recently, I watched Disney's "Tangled" with my family. Mother Gothel, the movie's villain, keeps Rapunzel locked in a tower, supposedly to protect her from people who would steal her precious gift -- her hair. In one song, Mother Gothel assures Rapunzel that danger lurks outside the tower and that she must stay in the tower forever to avoid the hurt and drama of a world too frightening for her to handle. As I watched the movie, I jokingly said, "Isn't this why we homeschool?"
Although my husband chuckled at my comment, I did consider whether my reasons for homeschooling bore any resemblance to the self-serving motives of the movie's villain. Many people stereotype homeschooling parents as overprotective and controlling, and indeed, in some cases, this accusation may be true. However, as I discovered when I first researched homeschooling as an option for our family, people who homeschool vary as greatly as people who send their children to private or public schools. As one of the diverse group of parents who chooses to homeschool, how do my motives measure up? Am I doing what is best for my children, or am I tiptoeing closer to the Mother Gothel method of child-rearing?
On one hand, all healthy parents protect their children. To some extent, I do desire to shelter my kids from anything that might harm their developing identities and faith, such as bullies, inappropriate conversations and labels. I want to influence them at their most moldable age, cultivating a strong faith and value system that will enable them to withstand peer pressure and make right choices when they grow older.
However, my children are still quite young. They still need to hold my hand when they cross the street. If they reach adulthood without me ever allowing them the freedom to test their beliefs or permitting them to move beyond my arm's reach, then the healthy shelter of our home would become no better than Rapunzel's imprisoning tower. I do want to build a strong faith in my kids, but I want them to test that faith and make it their own long before they leave home. For this reason, even though I homeschool partly out of a desire to minimize negative influences, my protection will decrease, and their freedom will increase, as my children grow up.
In fact, as I consider my motives, I realize that my main reasons for homeschooling come from freedom and not overprotection.
First, I want to free my children from labels. In order to accommodate a variety of kids, schools dispense many labels. Fidgety little boys become known as troublemakers. Intelligent students are "gifted," which seems positive, but as a former "gifted" student, I felt pressured to only pursue academics and not the art degree I desired, even though I now do more art than academics. As an "advanced" student, I believed that art should remain a hobby, while my intellect should become my identity. Moreover, peers label each other, often in harmful ways: geek, klutz, clown, different, unpopular. I want my children to cultivate their own interests and abilities, without having to fit into a predetermined mold created by the school or their classmates.
Similarly, I appreciate that homeschooling allows my children to work at an individual pace, regardless of age or grade. My daughter completed two full math books this year, because she grasped the concepts quickly and enjoyed her work. My son barely finished one. He understood addition well, but I realized, halfway through, that he was counting the numbers in his head instead of memorizing the facts. I stopped working through the book to practice the facts until he could solve them quickly, without counting. With individual instruction, the kids can work quickly or pursue in-depth projects in their strengths and spend extra time mastering their weaknesses.
Additionally, my children have the freedom to learn outside of a school building. This year, we studied at a cabin in the woods, Malabar Farm, the zoo, the theater, museums and more. The kids attended a homeschool co-op, took ballet classes, and used math to double a recipe from China, which we cooked as part of a geography unit on Asia. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to learn creatively, outside of the classroom.
After much thought, I concluded that, unlike Mother Gothel, I desire to help my children leave their protective tower. Through creative instruction and exploration, I hope to help them become wise adults, capable of taking on a sometimes scary world, of thinking critically and making their own choices. I do not homeschool in order to hoard these precious gifts for myself. Instead, I desire to nurture them and release them, so they can use their gifts to make a difference in the world.
Karen Pryor, a homeschooling mother with three children, has a degree in history from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She is a part-time photographer and graphic designer. You can comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.