Stability requirements

My husband physically assaulted me last week. For the second time. The first time, my six-year-old saw it. Here’s the post about it.

I’ve been talking about it all week. On my blog (there are 400 comments) in my family (calls from two of three brothers that I should leave) and among my friends (I’m blown away by how many invitations I’ve received to come visit.)

I haven’t said anything here because I know people think you have to have a stable home to homeschool.

But I think that’s crap. I mean, I think you need a stable home for 5000 reasons. But there is no evidence that public school is effective for kids from unstable homes. In fact, based on graduation rates at high-risk schools, it appears that public school is really terrible for kids from messed up homes.

So it’s been hard to hear from people who tell me to put the kids in school while I figure out what I’m doing. Because deep down I know that sending a kid to school doesn’t shield the kid from anything.

I know. I know because I went to public grade school. I came in late, bruised, dirty clothes and bloody noses. And no one said a thing. They just took my note from my dad that said I was sick the day before and school went on and on.

18 replies
  1. Kim
    Kim says:

    Penelope, there have been a lot of mistakes lately. Don’t compound them. I’ve been following your main blog for a long time. People aren’t telling you to put your kids back in school because it will be more stable for them. It will be more stable for them because it will be more stable for you. At this point, anything that is more stable for you will help them. Don’t make the mistake of equating (or even comparing) your experience to theirs. No matter what happened or happens, your boys are having a different experience than what you had. Schools are different. Their makeup and upbringing and entire life experience is different than yours. They’re different people. I re-read your divorce post today. Remember that, in quoting the divorce study book, you said (I’m paraphrasing) that kids to better when the parents stay together *unless there is violence in the home.* But that fact changes everything. Everything.

    You need to get out. All of those successful homeschooling stories are from families who really wanted to do it. Not just because it was better for the kids, but because they really wanted to do it. And everything you’ve written on this blog says you want to do it because you think it will be better for your boys, but *you* don’t really want to do it. And that’s a game changer too. There aren’t a lot of stats or articles on the unsuccessful homeschool experiences. So the comparison you’re making between public and homeschool isn’t correct because you don’t have all the data.

    You and I are roughly the same age and I have a 7-year-old boy and I had shitty parents (though not as shitty as yours.) You can call me. I’ll give you my number. But you need to get your kids out of this situation.

  2. Claire
    Claire says:

    I read both of your blogs. I am a homeschool mom who has no other career for the time being but I think about it a lot and take note of all your good advice. I’ve been homeschooling for a good while (for all the reasons you made the choice) and I am in a HUGE community of diverse homeschoolers in our large city. There is not a lot of stability in any home, IMO. And when you add h/sing to the mix, there is more reality which means less stability. Stability isn’t the only learning environment. I’m treading on thin ground here b/c I will not say that violence is ok ever. EVER. But that doesn’t mean you are wrong right now for staying and for continuing to h/s. For now at least.

    I know you are being totally honest with us and I think you are as well with your kids. That counts for a lot. They won’t necessarily learn to have fucked up relationships because of this. They may very well learn to have excellent ones because of this. We learn a lot about what not to do by watching people have trouble and make mistakes when they are HONEST about it.

    You are amazing and you are learning all the time.

    I am a sympathetic to the real world homeschooling smart mom who fights with her husband on a regular basis. We’ve managed to keep the violence verbal only but, well, I get it, ok? If you want to email me about any of this, you would be welcomed.


  3. Jennifer Soodek
    Jennifer Soodek says:

    Penelope, I have a few thoughts regarding this article:
    (Knowing that you like lists, I will format my thoughts accordingly)

    1. Abandon home schooling. School is more than learning math, english, and science. The most important lessons occur on the playground, in the cafeteria, the bus, the soccer field, the orchestra, the locker room, and in the bathroom. It is in these situations that children have to become strategic problem solvers and critical thinkers. Once they learn the art of negotiation and how to color outside of the lines, they will be prepared for adult life. These kind of lessons cannot be learned in a homeschool environment.

    2. If your schools are bad, find a good one, or start your own (I started my own preschool/childcare facility 20 years ago so I could work, take care of my kids, and know they were getting a good education in the early years.) Without much planning the business grew to more facilities and became my livelihood. I am on two months into career #4 right now.

    3. Don’t think the Farmer is going to change, he isn’t, You can either choose to accept that and stay with him and reject him and leave. Your first priority in making this decision should be about your children, not you.

    4.Children who grow up scared are never able to relax. It is very hard to learn or develop meaningful relationships with peers or adults when children have an underlying level of fear. Children need to feel safe and secure in their home environment. It is their right, it should be our obligation to provide an atmosphere free from fear. The world is scary enough, who needs more stuff to be scared of at home (with the exception of flying bats in your bedroom. This is truly a scary experience I seem to keep having, this kind of fear required a professional batman to bat proof my house. Now that I have spent a few thousand dollars, I am questioning if I can let go of the bat fear and rest assured that the batman did his job and I won’t look up from my bed while reading interesting blogs and watch my cat as he chases the bat with his eyes at it flies across the apex of my vaulted ceiling. Sorry to digress, my point is to clearly indicate what kind of fear in a house might be more acceptable

    5.Ask yourself the question: If my daughter told me this story, what would I tell her to do?
    6. Consider these thoughts and questions over a glass of wine or a bag of m&m’s, or both.

    7. Let me know if you need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen to you.

  4. Karina
    Karina says:

    Penelope, you will get through this. You will make the best decision for you and your kids, because you there is evidence in your life that you have always done so.

    We will keep reading, no matter what you choose. Hell, I don’t even have kids and I still click over to read you homeschooling blog.

  5. redrock
    redrock says:

    I think you are comparing your kids with the wrong group of kids. Inner city kids which have never in their life had the chance to experience learning and many other things middle class parents don’t even realize they give to their kids, have very different needs than your kids. Unfortunately many schools fail to give those kids a fair chance for whatever reason, but this is besides the point. The point I would like to make is the following: you work at home, the farmer works at home… so at any given time of day the situation can escalate, argument can start… a fight might take off. Your kids are hyper-vigilant, ready to bolt at the sign of unrest. If they are always at home they can never rest, never get out of this state of constant attention. That is what school would be able to give them at the moment, they can always catch up academically later on when things have calmed down.

    • LYM
      LYM says:

      I usually just read Penelope’s blog, but today, I’ve got to say something…

      I’m shocked by this comment redrock!!!

      “Inner city kids which have never in their life had the chance to experience learning and many other things middle class parents don’t even realize they give to their kids, have very different needs than your kids.”

      Kids are kids and they have the same needs–to be loved, educated, encouraged etc. Further there are middle class families in the “inner city.”—thousands and thousands of them. New York City–where I live–Brooklyn to be exact. You don’t get more “inner city” than this. There are 1 million New York City public school students.

      And in this inner city parents are arranging for cello, piano and swimming lessons. There are also tutors, SAT prep programs and golf and tennis lessons. There are art classes, museums, Broadway shows and the underfunded libraries are packed everyday. You have to wait weeks for books. And there are even active PTAs.

      Are our schools failing? Yes they are–especially the middle schools in the city. But that does not mean that the parents are clueless about doing right by their children. We’re working our tails off for our kids just like all other parents who live in the suburbs, on farms etc.

      In any case, this is not a class or location issue–I’m sure Penelope would agree. In fact didn’t Penelope mention taking her children to Chicago for their edification? Chicago was a city when last I checked.

      I think providing a child with a good education (whether it’s home school, public, parochial or private school) and a happy home are two completely different things. Personally, I did well in school, was taught to play the clarinet and piano, went to college and did extremely well– academically, but growing up my home life was not happy. Nor was my school life as I was different (ethnically) from the rest of the student body. All of this did not affect me one bit in the classroom.

      BTW, I recently went home (a small, predominately white suburban middle class enclave in Pennsylvania). I was there for 10 days and bullying in the schools was front-page news every single day. So much for these middle class families intuitively giving their children everything they need.

  6. Karen
    Karen says:

    You need to leave the Farmer more than you need to stop homeschooling. More importantly, you need a good therapist to help you find out why you would rather be in a bad relationship than no relationship. On your other blog you state that your main reason for staying is that you do not want to raise the boys alone. That absolutely stunned me. You are willing to risk your own physical well-being along with the mental consequences to the boys that will result from growing up in a completely dysfunctional household so that you don’t have to raise your kids by yourself? Wow.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Would it help you to have more alone time during this difficult time in your relationship with the farmer? Time to sort things out and get your work done. You have written that your duties as Mom, housewife, businesswoman, and now home schooler to your children is a bit overwhelming which is very understandable. You have tried to get outside help but it’s probably difficult due to the location where you live and the expenses involved. I don’t know what the research shows but I think it’s time to get out pen and paper and write down everything that’s applicable to your own situation and go from there. There’s a good chance you’ve already done that but wanted to say it here. Everybody’s situation is different so different solutions are in order. Sending a kid to school may not shield them from anything but it may make you relish even more the time you do have with them when they come home from school. I think what is making this decision so hard for you is that you have this homeschooling blog and now you’re in the spotlight here. Everybody’s watching to see what you’ll do next. Whatever you do, do what’s best for you and your sons. The decision is yours – homeschooling or school – whatever works best.

  8. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    That’s not entirely true. Per your blog, it was a teacher who finally said that you couldn’t just come back with another note and that you needed to call the police. School provided a respite from the chaos of my home, although like you I didn’t understand that it was chaotic until years later.

  9. Lori
    Lori says:

    fwiw, i think you’re right and it’s crap. i imagine the kids would be more anxious being away from home right now. also, you already know that school is really not working for your kids, so that would raise everyone’s tension level just when you need to be putting your energy on this specific problem.

  10. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Yeah, it’s hard when everyone gives you advice and you choose not to take it. But you know you’re the one who has to live with the consequences, and you make your own decisions.

    I think the people saying to put the kids in school are saying the house is too nutty, and the kids should spend as little time there as possible.

  11. Lak
    Lak says:

    Welcome to the backlash.

    When I read your recent post, I was angry that I read that information and then could do nothing about it. Didn’t know the details, didn’t know what to do with the information, couldn’t call you. But the comments might have pissed me off more, because of the advice to send the kids back to school or to leave. Any home where you live will not be stable. (This is meant to be funny). Nutty people have nutty houses, and it can be creative and it can be destructive. For the most part you err on the side of creativity, but when you don’t then you could form contingency plans for the destructive parts. No doubt you’re on the cycle, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be interrupted. Most, however, will say that it can’t.

    Pushing someone’s buttons, including your own, to the point of over-stimulation is a problem that needs to be solved, one way or another, but it has little to do with homeschooling. If the children were in school, the same energy would be present in the home. Plus their added frustration with the school’s work and rules, not to mention yours. If you made the decision to homeschool then do it, no matter what the climate at home. But that being said, find some alternatives when things are stressful at home. The misnomer about homeschooling is that it has to occur at home.

    After reading several other posts around your blog I noticed that who you called told you to leave. But, what if you didn’t and continued to work on changing.

    All of this is so frustrating to me, maybe because there is no answer or one solution, and it seems that everyone outside of a relationship like this think that the only answer is to leave. Which isn’t always the case. In Australia there is a couple who promote themselves as a family who experienced this type of behavior and who survived and now thrive, Steve and Kim Cooper. They work with Mark Joyner, so they are internet based marketing.

    But if you read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans then you will find that most of the people that she interviewed for the book ended up leaving. If you stay, even if it gets better, there will always be more of this type of behavior. You’ve got a lot of decisions to make, and likely you have the money and business savvy to make anything possible. If you’re looking to create a reality show, then you could find someone else in a similar position, move in together, and watch the homeschool hilarity. But finding another aspie, homeschooler who cusses a lot and enjoys blogging who has a relationship on the cycle might be a challenge.

  12. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    With the publicity you are self-generating for a domestic abuse incident, there are two things that could happen that you may not be expecting
    1) Child Services could get involved to protect your children, from both YOU and your husband.
    2) Your husband could be charged with assault, without your agreement or you pressing charges.
    These are possibilities in many states. I am not familiar with Wisconsin family law to know if it is a reality there, but I have to think that both Child Services and the police are monitoring your blog posts. You’re famous, remember? Is that the outcome that you’re seeking? Please get help before the authorities decide that you need help.
    I am sincerely hoping for the best for you and your boys.

    • MichaelG
      MichaelG says:

      I kind of doubt that anyone is monitoring her blog in an official capacity. But if someone who works for the police force or Child Services is a reader, and goes to the trouble of finding her address, then there could be problems. For that matter, any one of her readers who digs up her address could make trouble.

      The downside of living in public is that you are inviting people to meddle.

  13. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    You’re right that public school may not be able to save you if you come from a dysfunctional home. But that doesn’t mean being homeschooled will save you.

    You’re a black and white thinker. Rather than thinking about the pros and cons of school outside the home in different situations, you’re condemning all school. That’s as myopic as saying all homeschool is bad.

    Think about what outside school can provide: friends, temporary escape, other adults to talk to. I wasn’t the most social kid in the world but school allowed me to excel at something on my own, to see friends, to have other adults to talk to besides parents, and a place to stand on my own two feet.

    Homeschooling has myriad benefits. I’ve said here I would consider homeschooling. But I’ve just reread your post about the Farmer assaulting you (your words). It’s even worse than I remembered. Those kids need a break.

  14. karelys
    karelys says:

    I know it’s been said a thousand times by now, but I live in WA State. Very far away from Wisconsin. I have an extra room. And even an extra car. It takes me ten minutes tops to get anywhere cause I live in the center of town. It’s quiet here. And busy enough. And Seattle is 2.5-3 hrs away.

    So if you get to the point where you want to choose to live somewhere else, here’s another option.

  15. nowgirl
    nowgirl says:

    You have tough choices to make. A few weeks ago it was “homeschooling or standard schooling?” That’s not easy on its own. But now you’re throwing in “work on the marriage/family or leave the abuse” and “leave the home I’ve been building for something transient or take risks of me and my kids experiencing violence” and maybe “stay and be able to afford to homeschool or leave and need to work a lot more, therefore needing the childcare school provides.” And even “does the great stuff the Farmer does as a parent outweigh this scary stuff?”

    As I read you lately I am struck by the hardness of these choices. I think people want to make it “easier” for you by taking the economics of homeschooling out of the equation… but nothing will make it easier.

    For what it’s worth, no matter what choices you make, I think your boys will be okay because they have you, and you are an honest, intelligent and loving mom.

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