A momentary pause in my homeschool tirades for a bit of empathy

I went to New York to pitch to investors, and I took my oldest son with me so that I didn’t feel like a bad mom.

I’d like to tell you that my boys love going to NY, but they don’t. They do like Broadway shows, so I took my son to see Annie. I saw it as a kid and remembered most of it, but one thing I didn’t remember is the moment when Daddy Warbucks puts the orphanage keeper in jail and then, of course, is responsible for all the orphans.

He has no wife and no structure in place to take care of six girls. So what will he do? Everything wraps up quickly with this phrase: “You’ll all leave the orphanage and live here and we’ll set you up in classrooms with desks and books!”

Of course, the only way to take care of kids and not really take care of kids is to put them away in school for most of the day. And if you have no resources, you use an orphanage. This is no longer politically acceptable, so now everyone puts their kids into schools, moneyed or not. Our schools today have replaced the orphanages.

But no one wants to think about this. I get it. No one loves the truth. Not at first.

In an interview with Time magazine, Rick Warren is promoting his book The Daniel Plan. The best question is, “A new year is coming up. If you could get people to change one thing, what would it be?”

His answer: “I’d get them to stop believing everything they think. We lie to ourselves more than anybody else. Jesus said the truth will set you free–but first it makes you miserable.”

Did Jesus say that? I always wonder about people quoting Jesus. But it sounds true to me.

It’s so easy to put people down for not seeing what I see. Because what I see is so clear to me. But I know that I’m lying to myself about other stuff so that I won’t feel the pain.

After all, it’s painful enough that I’m home with my kids all day – I had to give up a million visions of my life that required sending kids to school all day.

I tell myself that I should risk the pain of facing lies because children of risk-averse parents are lower achievers.

So I’m thinking today about what lies I tell myself. For one thing, while I was thinking about the indictment of school in Annie, I was also popping Xanax. I told myself it was for claustrophobia, which it might be, but I only got insanely sensitive to feeling trapped after I had kids. Probably Xanax is trying to make up for how I’d rather write a blog post than talk to my husband. Or anyone. Really, I just don’t want to talk with anyone. And maybe I need something else beside narcotics to deal with that feeling.

So I am popping Xanax in Annie like people are protesting test scores in schools. We all know it’s wrong but it’s easier to complain about it than change it.

Sometimes I feel high and mighty and the truth is easy to face. But today I understand why parents who know school is stupid still send their kids to school.




11 replies
  1. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    So I’ve read your blog for a few years. I like your blog, I like being exposed to your ideas but I’m not sold on homeschooling. Sometimes I think you feel too strongly about it, and your arguments become irrational. It’s like you can’t look at it logically because you can’t really see both sides of it. Maybe it’s because such a huge life change is required change your decision on the matter.

    What if you feel so strongly about homeschooling because you hated your school experience and you want it to be true that school is wrong for your kids.

    I know I would hate to believe that school is wrong because I would hate to quit my job that I love and reorganize my lifestyle that I love. So I know I’m stuck on that side of the fence. But I have a hard time convincing myself homeschooling is right for everyone, because I really enjoyed school. I know that has to do with my personality type. And if my kids turn out to be action oriented learners or some other type that doesn’t fit the system I will think more seriously about pulling them out.

    But maybe instead of the doomsday message: ‘schools are modern day orphanages’, the message should be, ‘school works for some people, homeschooling works for some people.’ It depends on the kid, the family, and the school.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I loved school when I was in grade school. My parents were gone from 7am to 8pm. School was by far the best part of each day. I asked to stay after school.

      I tell you this because seriously: I don’t write this stuff about homeschool because I hated school. I write this because I was absolutely blown away by the research about school when I started investigating. And I’m shocked by our collective choice to ignore research and keep sending kids to school.


      • Vanessa
        Vanessa says:

        Fair enough, that was just a thought that crossed my mind.

        So then my other question is always, ‘If the research shows that homeschooling is overwhelmingly better, how would my life have been different if I had been homeschooled?’

        I don’t have any complaints about my current step-up.

        I have all the things I would want for my children. I did spend a few years testing out different options trying to find the right fit, but by 29 I’ve settled. Married for 5 years, 2 kids, and in a dream job for 2 years.

        How would my life be different if I had been homeschooled? Would I have gotten here sooner? Or is there somewhere else I should be?

        I agree with a lot of your content, but I can never make the connection that homeschooling is the only way to get there.

        I don’t mean to push this for no reason, but you always seem frustrated that you haven’t convinced everyone and I wanted to let you know the leading arguments that keep me from taking action.

        • Vanessa
          Vanessa says:

          This is awesome, I like the post you wrote about the delay of emerging adulthood and I hope it was inspired by this discussion.

          The next question I would have after reading your links is, “is reaching the adult stage sooner better, or if our brains are still developing up until 25, is it good that the current school system delays our ‘adult’ decisions?”

          I really don’t know. I was just reading a resume I wrote at 17 and I was not impressed. At first it made me glad that I delayed getting my dream job until I was closer to 25 and less of an idiot, but maybe an unschooling environment would have made me develop faster. Or maybe my brain needed the time to mature. I don’t know.

          I do distinctly remember that I couldn’t take work seriously until I had decided to leave school. Although I had various summer and part time jobs starting at 16. I didn’t really learn at work until I made the decision that the school track wasn’t leading my life anymore (1 semester into grad school). So I could see how that realization coming earlier would have increased my ability to learn on the job. And it wasn’t possible while I still thought school was the more important thing that was going to determine my success/career.

        • Crimson Wife
          Crimson Wife says:

          Homeschooling today is WAAAAAAY different than it was back when we were all growing up. I don’t think I would’ve liked to have been homeschooled in the ’80’s because there weren’t remotely the same kind of resources available to today’s home educators. Today there is a vibrant and diverse homeschool community and all sorts of classes & activities that did not exist 25 years ago. Back then homeschooling was pretty much just for the superfundamentalists and the hippies. The curricular choices were extremely limited (basically Calvert, Seton, and a few of the Protestant publishers). No internet available in most places.

          I think I would’ve liked being homeschooled if today’s resources and community had been available back then, but no way would I have wanted to be homeschooled given the way things actually were.

  2. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    My son homeschooled (unschooled) his first year of being school aged and it was SO tough. I told myself this was because his younger sisters are both under 3, and that eventually things would balance out, I’d get the hang of having 3 kids, and meeting each of their unique needs all at the same time. After a full year I still hadn’t managed to get into the swing of it.

    Then, for reasons against my choosing, my son ended up in public school this year. And I think the whole thing is bullshit. And I want to tell him that, and just keep him home (even though I can’t) and it fires me up just thinking about him being there every single time I have to drop him off or hear about a nonsensical punishment he received for something I’d probably have done too if I’d been in class that day. And I feel guilt at not being able to give him what I believe to be best, and then I want to fight and make it happen so he doesn’t have to be there.

    …But then comes winter break, and long stretches with him home all day, and I remember how nearly insane we all felt every moment when he was not in school last year. And I wonder if, even if being in school is such complete crap, perhaps being home with me all day is worse.

    So the guilt seems inescapable. And I am sometimes able to remember when I’m feeling particularly like a bad mother that we’re all just trying to figure out which life path creates the least amount of regret.

    • P Flooers
      P Flooers says:

      Crystal, you may be describing a parenting issue more than a homeschooling issue. If you really want your son home, and believe home is best for him, but y’all are driving each other crazy (or you are going crazy) perhaps you need new skills or boundaries with each other?

      For instance, I’ve always expected my unschooled kids to entertain themselves. I’ve always insisted on my own personal quiet time, daily. And the kids have always been required to behave kindly and fairly to each other. Also, no whining tolerated.

      One of the biggest shocks of our unschooling life for me, was learning that I’d been taught to dislike and feel trapped by little children. Turns out, that’s just cultural baggage. My kids are wonderful company. Our life together is great. And my dissatisfaction at home has always been about me learning to entertain myself. You see, I wasn’t homeschooled and never learned that lesson.

    • C T
      C T says:

      Perhaps part-time homeschooling would work for you both? Our school day doesn’t need to be 7 hours long, and occasionally you can come across schools that actually realize that and provide other options.

  3. Editormum
    Editormum says:

    No, Jesus did not say “The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

    Jesus said, as recorded in the Gospel of St. John, chapter 8, verses 31 and 32: “To those Jews who believed in him, Jesus said, ‘If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    The context (and context is SO important!) is a discussion Jesus has with a number of people about following him, and about bondage to sin. How people, even “good” people, continue to do bad things. It has nothing to do with lying to ourselves, unless, I suppose, you stretch it to mean that we lie to ourselves if we think we are not prone to sinning (sinning = doing things that are morally or ethically wrong and/or that hurt others).

    It isn’t clear who first said “The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable.” I’ve seen it attributed to James Garfield, Mark Twain, Jim Davis, and James Buckingham, among others.

  4. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Yay! A post from Penelope!

    I always wonder why people who have never homeschooled have such a bad view of it when they haven’t even tried it so they know what they are talking about. You can’t even have a rational discussion with someone when they aren’t even open to it and have such a negative opinion of homeschool that is largely unfounded. Then they get offended at the research and arguments for homeschool and try to reframe the arguments.

    All I can offer to someone checking out this blog because they are considering homeschool as an alternative to traditional school is to just try it for a year and go from there. Check out the homeschool laws in your state because they are different everywhere. And to the others, don’t knock homeschool if you haven’t tried it yourself, but you should try it just to know what we’ve discovered here.

  5. Lisa M. Smith
    Lisa M. Smith says:

    All I can offer to someone considering homeschool as an alternative to traditional school is to just try it for a year and go from there.
    You can’t even have a rational discussion with someone when they aren’t even open to it and have such a negative opinion of homeschool that is largely unfounded.
    Then they get offended at the research and arguments for homeschool and try to reframe the arguments.

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