The problem with sending your kid to school and complaining about school is that you send the message to your kids that you are not the locus of control. That’s positive psychology talk that means you are doomed to despair. Positive psychology is sort of the anti-Freudian psychology. It’s the study of what makes people happy, instead of Freud’s obsession with what makes people sad.
I have approached positive psychology in the past from a workplace perspective—what makes people happy in their work? My understanding comes from Senia Maymim, my favorite positive psychologist (who also just wrote a new book, Profit from the Positive). She taught me that a key part of feeling happy in life is feeling like you can control things.
Ironically, she taught this to me while I was going through a divorce and terrified about what it was doing to my kids. I mostly focused on how I thought my ex-husband was nuts for thinking that divorce is even a possibility when there are kids. But Senia told me to model positive behavior—that I am controlling what I can control. The kids will feel more secure in their lives if they see me doing that and they will learn to believe they can do that.
This is a picture of my son taking his first test ever. He didn’t know what a test would be like, so he asked a lot of question. It turns out that the test was a joy, because his music theory teacher, Sarah Montzka, is a joy. He loves studying with her so he loved taking the test with her. And she let him dance around the room while he was thinking of answers.
At the end of the test he said to me, “I did great. That test was easy.”
I said, “You did great because you and Sarah work hard together to learn about music.” It’s my way of showing him that he can look at the world in terms of him controlling it instead of the world just happening to him. I learned that sort of talk from Senia.
The opposite of this is when parents send their kids to school and then complain about the school as if they have no control over what they do with their kids for eight hours a day.
In Canada, for example, a school banned playing tag and holding hands, and parents are outraged but they don’t take their kids out of school. They just complain. Which means they model the behavior for their children that they are not in control of their kids’ lives and all they can do is complain.
A big reason I took my kids out of school is because I’m very good at feeling like I can control my life, and I have spent the last ten years telling everyone how they should stop whining about their career and thinking it’s out of their control and instead take personal responsibility for where they are and what they are doing. So how could I not do that for my kids and school?
I really like Matt Walsh’s post about why he started homeschooling: basically he doesn’t want to keep complaining about school. He wants to take control of his family life and his kids’ education.
There are a lot of reasons to homeschool. So many parts of my life got better when I started homeschooling. But a big reason many people miss is that parents should model being the locus of control. It’s dangerous for parents to complain about school but continue to tell their kids that school has authority over their days. It’s dangerous for parents to complain about school but still run their family life around it. Parents have lots of ways to retain control. You can’t teach that to kids—you need to model it. And encourage it.