Homeschooling starts the day your child is born

I live in rural America, so it’s easy for me to find pictures of animals that would appall you. Because you are not used to seeing how people really treat their animals. You’d think people would hide their animals when they treat them poorly, but in fact, people convince themselves that what they are doing is ethically and morally fine. So it’s all out in the open.

This photo, in fact, is from our County Fair. The local kids work really hard all year to raise animals to show at the fair. But the way the animals are treated at the fair would blow your mind. These rabbits, for example, can’t move. And it’s a really hot day. When four pigs died from heat exhaustion during the fair I forgot to take photos. I was in shock.

People who live near me would think what I’m writing is controversial. They would tell you I don’t see the whole picture, I’m a black-and-white thinker. How there is no evidence that bunnies don’t like cages. Really.

My point here is that it’s easy to see when someone is violating your ethics as long as it’s convenient. As soon as it become inconvenient, cognitive dissonance kicks in. We have this mental defense mechanimsm for how we take care of animals and we have this for how we take care of children.

And we start adjusting our thinking to accommodate what we want to accept even for our own children soon after their birth.

Here’s how: 80% of babies spend time with an adult who is not their parent. Yet childcare is a largely unregulated industry.

We know a lot about early childhood through incredible amounts of data. Learning how to calm down after a setback or how to focus on a problem long enough to solve it is learned behavior that requires individual attention. Kids who grow up without that kind of attention tend to lack impulse control and have more emotional outbursts–it’s a big disadvantage.

We also know that according to a survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development only 10% of day care centers are providing good care.

It’s extremely unlikely that your day care center is providing good care. But we handle that just like we do for schools: Everyone tells themselves that their situation is the exception to the rule. Of course, it’s statistically impossible that everyone has a good day care provider. And also, it’s likely that most of the top 10% of day cares are extremely expensive, and if you are paying that much for day care you know it.

So face it: you need to start taking care of your kid on your own from the day your kid is born. You either take care of the kid yourself, in your home, or you pay someone to do it in your home. Or you can lie to yourself like most other people do.

And then you continue when they get older. You either take care of your school-age child in your home yourself. Or you pay someone else to do it in your home. Or you lie to yourself like most other people do.

It’s all about being inconvenienced. Taking care of a kid is not convenient. If we got in our heads that sending kids to crappy child care as babies is not okay, then we would think much harder about sending school-aged kids to crappy child care.

But what happens is that before we can bond with kids, they are off to daycare, and then we practice, every day, justifying our decision. And we end up with school, no matter how wasteful of a child’s time, seeming acceptable, even normal.

42 replies
  1. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Another great post, PT. I’ve been thinking this for years. It always shocks me that seemingly loving parents (who are well-educated) admit their toddler is in daycare from 6am until 6pm. Sometimes this is said while the parent is playing golf on a Wednesday with my husband. Seriously.

    But I think parents who choose this route know better and feel extremely guilty. Many are quick to ditch the word daycare and instead claim that their 16-month-old or 2-year-old or 3-year-old is in “school.” Because, you know, “school” doesn’t have the negative connotation that daycare has.

    I wonder how this plays out in countries like France though, where parents send their young children to “crèches.” Apparently, most are considered higher quality than American daycares and the practice is widely accepted, even among stay-at-home mothers. Is the data similar in there (only top 10 percent being high quality)?

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      I’m an American in England. What Europeans vs american’s have is a huge cultural difference. It’s less about individualism and more about collective good (or bad depending on your view). Government is not looked at as a huge inconvenience. Schools are much much different here, more consistent, more nurturing (cultural thing) and more age appropriate. Kids are treated like they are ‘new to the world’ by most People I come across. My son attended school in manhattan (public and private) and went to school in England (now home with me). He thrived beyond belief in his English public school. If a student is falling ‘behind’ provide you with a tutor during school. They don’t have big playgrounds, the kids play together on a field during recess, no contraptions. No bells or behavior cards or threats. Schools are a lot smaller and you go from year to year in the same class with the same kids, which helps with sustained relationships. It’s still babysitting, but done more with care and consistency and a lot more simplicity.

      • Vanessa
        Vanessa says:

        Jenn, that’s definitely the impression I get from reading up on early childhood education in France. Thanks for sharing about England as well.

      • Angela in Germany
        Angela in Germany says:

        I would say the same about the school and day care situation in Germany, as Jenn mentions for the case of France. First, one can bring babies over 6 months old to a creche, or Krippe, as we call it here, but most parents prefer to have one parent staying home, making a Krippe unnecessary. If you do have to use a Krippe you won’t lose sleep over the quality of care.

        Second, Kindergarten starts at age 3 and ends at age 6. One can choose full day (ending at 4 pm) kindergarten or half day (most of them are in for the half day only). The order, cleanliness, and environment of kindergarten is impeccable and strictly regulated.

        As far as grade school is concerned, it is not legal to take your child out of school here and home school. Grade school lasts from 8:30 in the morning and ends at 1 p.m. and focuses on the basics but again, here in Bavaria especially, the quality of grade school is quite high (kids learn to spell, read, write, and do math better than even other parts of Germany). Parents who work full time can arrange for a “Hort”, where the children can go after 1 p.m. to work on their homework for a few hours. The “Hort” usually closes by 6 p.m.

        School is only for school. No sport teams, band, debate club, etc. Those are all after-school activities and have no affiliation with the schools. Such activities fill the 1-5 pm time frame.

        As a mother, I know that if I want my child to have the benefit of music lessons, dance lessons, etc., then I will never be able to work more than part time outside of our home. Someone has to organize and take her to these things. I could also use the 1-5 time period for homeschooling and other enriching activities.

        In sum, even in Germany, quality of life is not as good for children who must spend the full day away from home (as opposed to those who come home at 1 pm), but it certainly beats what I would have to do with my kid if I worked full time in the States!!

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Thought I would give you a small idea of what’s it’s like in France, as some people seem interested !
      Kids are usually put from 3 month old into “créche” (2 or 3 adults for 20 to 30 kids) or “nourrice” (4 or 5 kids looked after by a private carer in her/his home), If it’s your second child then you can take a year off work, you still get part of your wage – yet people are not making the Professional “sacrifice”…
      People seem to put their kids at the daycare or at school as “maternelle” (translate as maternal… as if)takes kids from 2 years old (until they’re about 6, which is official schooling age here).
      Our 4 year old is at home, and we expect her to be as long as possible ! We have mixed feelings here : people over 50 seem to think it’s a good idea, that kids should stay with their parents when they’re that young etc. but others think that we should get them prepared “for the real world/school” asap. Wait until we tell them we homeschool (or, to be exact, unschool) !
      Every year from age 6 the homeschoolers have an inspector checking that he/she is doing well compared to national standards. It is quite a subjective opinion on part of the inspector, and it is a battle until his/hers 16th birthday as some families have seen their children forced into school or even taken away from them, brothers and sisters separated into different Foster families…
      Thanks Penelope for the great post (and blog); leaving in countryside France, making material sacrifices for the sake of quality of life and family elationship, I can relate to you and to so many of the families leaving comments

  2. Sheela Clary
    Sheela Clary says:

    It is a very mixed bag. I do feel like I won the child care jack pot, but that’s because it was a means of keeping a flexible, part-time job, and we didn’t depend on it for 8 or 10 hour a day care. My day care provider works out of her calm, simply-furnished home, she’s open 4 days a week from 8-2:15, she is the most conscientious person I know, her home schooled 11 year old son helps out at lunch time and with diapers (he’s getting the BEST education around…hoping my 7 year old will marry him), and she is essentially like a second mother. She is godmother to my youngest child. On the other side of the spectrum is my dear friend, a woman I admire more than anyone. She had to go back to her full time teaching job three months after her son was born. She couldn’t afford the well-regarded in-town care center, so she went with a (licensed) home provider whose only other charge was her own 4 year old. My friend’s son died in that woman’s care two weeks shy of his first birthday. Although the details are in dispute (since she plead the 5th and has refused to speak to my friend and her husband) the evidence points to her leaving him alone in a bathtub while she was on the phone in another room. I did some investigating into these types of accidents. While they are thankfully rare, they mostly occur where lower income people’s children are cared for, no surprise. In terms of high quality, ‘second home’ scenarios, I am guessing that they are indeed in a small minority.

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      This is really sad . I’m sorry that happened to your friend. My cousins son was beat by a home care provider too. It’s probably more prevalent than we hear about. It’s just sad.

      But, Why is an 11 year old changing diapers? Unless he’s just carrying out the diapers to the trash, they’re not his kids. I never understood older siblings taking care of younger siblings (they didn’t chose to have them!). So what’s his role with these kids there?

  3. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    “80% of babies spend time with an adult who is not their parent. Yet childcare is a largely unregulated industry.” Wow.. What a sobering thought……It shouldn’t blow my mind, but it does. So many families I know have some sort of day care for their young children, but it really struck a chord when I read it….

    • mh
      mh says:

      Some of those “not their parents” are the children’s grandparents. I’m just saying.

      But yes, it is mindblowing.

    • E. Jean
      E. Jean says:

      80% of babies spend time with an adult who is not their parent.” This seems like an incomplete statistic. Taken as written, isn’t it actually 100%? All babies spend time with an adult who is not their parent: meaning there are non-parent adults – neighbor, doctor, aunt, family friend – near or interacting with the baby at some point. So let’s qualify: Is that time without their parents present? How much time is the average? 1 hour a month? 1 hour a day? 8 hours a day? I’m not trying to be a smart-ass, I want to know.
      I never once – never – left either of my children with a babysitter, let alone a daycare, until they were in 4th grade. We took those kids everywhere, or we just didn’t go. Lawsy mercy did I take a raft of crap from everyone over that policy . . .

  4. Megan
    Megan says:

    Agree completely with most of the post. I am lucky to get to stay home with my daughter and am on the fence about home schooling, we have a very small, very good local school.
    As a farm wife I have to comment though on your view of animal treatment. I agree that the rabbits may not like their cages, and dead pigs is atrocious mismanagement. I am sure that cattle don’t want to be ran through a chute for vaccines definitely not for preg checking. I didn’t like getting up every morning and going to work. It was uncomfortable and not what I wanted to be doing every day, I had to do it though if I wanted food, clothing and shelter.
    Most of the time farm animals spend happily hanging out in a pasture or barn, where ever, with their friends eating happily. If in order to earn their feed and shelter they occasionally have to do something or be somewhere they don’t like well it’s them going to work.
    I realize this is not the point of this post merely getting your point across but I am always amazed by your view of animal treatment and wonder what you guys are doing to them up there in Wisconsin :) ? I just had to get that off my chest, love the blog.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      We live on a cattle and pig farm! My husband’s family has been farming for a gazillion generations, so he has acclimated himself to lots of types of animal management that would make a city person scream.

      A lot of our marriage is a cultural exchange. We learn about how we each see the world and try to understand it instead of judging.

      That said, we have what most people would call inhumane treatment of animals on our farm every day. For example, it’s literally impossible to let a pig be a pig and still make money selling pork. So pretty much every pig farmer is treating pigs horribly if they are turning a profit enough to support a family.

      I’m on a tirade now, so I’ll just keep going: I used to think that it’s the job of the public to pay more for pork, and whatever other stuff they want to buy. But increasingly I’m thinking that people who raise animals for slaughter should refuse to raise the animals if the market price is not high enough to treat them humanely. And for pork I think that means, a 200 or 300 percent increase in price.


      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        More on this topic, please!
        Think of all the children’s book, songs, and games about animal noises and farm life.
        Of course, they are not presenting a realistic depiction of farms. And most kids will never grow up to spend time on a farm anyway.
        It makes me wonder why our society is so invested in selling this “farm myth”.

        • Megan
          Megan says:

          Wow, what farm myth? You never say what it is that is so awful? What would a pig being a pig entail?
          We run cattle, no pigs fortunately, they seldom see a person. We check water tanks and put out salt and minerals in the summer. In winter we feed them everyday and keep a close eye on them during calving. We are cruel to them by giving them shots and worming, basic care that they don’t enjoy. From all I have seen the things we do to them that they don’t like are for their own good, children don’t like to go to the doctor and we make them. If we didn’t we would be bad parents so why are we bad animal owners if we do the same with them?
          The greatest cruelty I see in my own life is from my father-in-law. As he ages he has a hard time letting go of his equally aged cattle, he loves them, though I doubt he would admit to it. So instead of going off and dieing a quick painless death they stay here and linger. How many pet owners are equally unable to let go? Is it any kinder to keep a dog in an apartment with limited time to go out side and be a dog than to fence a cow into a pasture?
          The usual saying amongst farmers is that you can’t make money by mistreating the animals. Far more animals die when people attempt to let them live wild and natural, as I believe you discovered when the farmer tried it with his pigs. Animals in the wild live harsh, brutal lives, we attempt to soften their lives and, mostly, to keep them alive.
          I to am from the big city, Chicago in this case, it was quite a culture shock when I moved out into the wild west. I spent my time out working the cattle and helping farm though and gained a much greater and closer understanding of the animals and farm life than I would have if I had stayed in the house and raised children from the beginning.

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            Yeah, we have cattle on pasture, too. It’s a nice life. Most farmers don’t have cattle on pasture – they have them on a grain lot.

            And pigs on pasture don’t work. That’s why you see pictures of pigs with rings on their noses – to prevent them from doing the only thing they want to do all day, which is root in the ground looking for stuff. Free-range pigs are so hard on the land that we can have one pig grazing in the space we can have 30 cattle grazing.

            That’s why farmers can’t afford to let pigs be pigs. This is not a controversial statement. The European Union has banned pig farmers from using common practices still permeating US family farms.


  5. Suzy
    Suzy says:

    We are an unschooling family, living off of my husband’s self-employment income in a small town, because I have a low tolerance for cognitive dissonance. Before kids I worked in both a corporate environment and education, and came to see that I could not place my future babies/children in nearly any of the daycare settings I had seen. I also met some homeschooling/unschooling families in the few years leading up to kids, and that opened my mind about alternatives to schools.

    As a result of being completely honest about how unacceptable nearly all daycare situations are, we spent the two years leading up to our first child making very difficult decisions and applying one entire salary to paying off our debt and saving for a down payment. People thought we were crazy; as two professionals with advanced degrees, we “deserved” to buy a big house and to take the kinds of trips our co-workers were taking. Instead, we were renting a tiny house in a working-class neighborhood.

    Once the baby came and we moved to a small town and my husband started his business, people began to understand that we had planned everything out.

    We have enough money to travel frequently to one of the cities that is two or three hours away, so we have regular binges on the cultural life we cannot get here. That is the big tradeoff, and for me it is worth it. Everyone in our family has fewer local friends than we might have in a larger area, with a more educated and diverse population, but we do have friends, and we have the money to visit friends who live in those more exciting places.

    I really encourage people, before planning a life based on two incomes and daycare, to visit both a variety of daycare settings and schools, and to be really honest about what they can stand for their children. It’s much harder to make changes once a baby arrives. Two years of really focused, realistic planning and preparation made a world of difference for our family.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Suzy, I love this comment so much. I love it when people talk about how much they gave up. It’s so easy for us to talk about how great homeschooling is. Time with kids. Blah blah. It’s so difficult to talk about that people tell us they’d never want our life. People tell us we’re missing out on cultural stuff. People tell us our kids miss out because of the choices we had to make in order to be home with our kids.

      Everyone, no matter what they choose, gives up so much. The most interesting people are those who can talk about how much they give up to get what they want. If you’re honest about what you had to give up, no one but you would want your life, and that’s how it should be. We each get to choose our own life. If we are brave enough.


    • Ann R
      Ann R says:


      We did something similar and I am so happy we did! We live in a house half the size of most of our friends, don’t binge on buying expensive gadgets, don’t go on fancy vacations anymore, and paid down our debt. We now live on one income since kids came into the picture. Do I miss some of the old life? Maybe. But the kids are only going to be in our house for a relatively short time and I want to make the most of it. It took a lot of self control though. And I don’t think most people want to face the music and scale back before they start having kids–or ever–so they can live the life they REALLY want.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        You hit the nail on the head. Our society has somehow evolved into this uber materialistic have to have everything mentality. The thought of scaling back and giving up an income is not only inconceivable to most but outright lunacy to them. They want the BMW, the large house etc….keeping up with the Jones’. Our children are the ones who will suffer the most.

        • Kimberly
          Kimberly says:

          Great point. I’m one of those kids who suffered because my parents had to have it all. Trust me, these kids will grow up to see what’s more important to their parents and treat their children the same way.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        Are you able to save for retirement? Are you able to pay for your children’s college? Just some things to consider.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      You’re very wise, Suzy. You and your husband did it the right way and it should be a lesson to us all to not get trapped into the two income trap that you may not be able to get out of so easily, in the event that you want to stay home and raise your children.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      I wish we had started things 2 years earlier here just like you did ! But I suppose until we held our newborn baby we had no ideas what it would feel like to be a parent. Suddenly we had a child we could not trust anyone to look after her but us, and our priorities changed.
      Now life is not always easy (can’t be when leaving in a small house, working on the house with 2 children 1 and 4 years old and not much back-up money when the car breaks down), but we’re aiming at something both my wife and I hoped we had when we were kids.
      We leave in a 350 years old farmhouse in the French countryside, have 2.5 acres with fruit trees and chickens, eat fresh organic veg from our garden, we have time to learn new homesteading skills (one of us staying at home and I work part time) and have lots of projects : more diy on the house, pigs, alpagas, permaculture and bee keeping…
      My friends’ household make twice as much, yet can’t stop complaining about their small houses, not enough time spent together (and no time to enjoy the cultural highlights of the cities they live in), no garden space and no time to grow and eat good produce…
      They are quick to show off about their plasma TV and new car though… I wish I could feign interest !
      All I feel is missing in our life is more people thinking/living like us (I have felt a shift in mentalities though in the last 2 years) and other homeschooling families (the nearest one is 1 hour drive away…)

  6. Michelle Straka
    Michelle Straka says:

    Love this post Penelope. It is reflecting what our family is experiencing now.

    We kept our daughter home with us until JK and are doing the same with our son. While we don’t yet have the guts to dive into homeschooling full time, now that our daughter is in JK we are resorting to teaching her so much at home, that homeschooling is exactly what we are doing even though she is in school alternating week days.

    The teacher has not bonded with our daughter at all, so our daughter is shy and reclusive with her – making it hard for the teacher to determine how much of the material she is learning.

    Lessons and exercises are administered by parent volunteers – none of us who have formal training in delivering educational materials. Most of us are overwhelmed parents who are just trying to help out a bit at school so as to make our children’s experiences there a bit better.

    I help file the children’s work into their folders every second Friday, and see the JKs work is atrocious…the SK’s work is great, but I wonder how many of them have had different JK teachers the prior year?

    We are very fearful that our daughter is being cheated of a fun, enjoyable and educational first year of school. So more than a few times during the week my husband and I are teaching her numbers, etc. with her at the kitchen table. We also are trying not to be frustrated with our daughter for fear of making her hate school.

    Teachers seem to dislike kids who have not spent time in non-parental child care situations because they are usually used to being with strangers, and used to strict scheduling and processes. It makes it easier for the teacher. Since our daughter has not had that, the teacher has made it a point to criticize her ability to follow the schedule, make friends, etc. After 5 months, she has yet to say one nice thing.

    So if all of these things are no longer the responsibility of the JK/SK programs, and we have to teach our own kids the material every night…I guess we are all really homeschoolers after all.

    Thanks again from this frustrated Canadian Mom!

    • mh
      mh says:

      Michelle, you are showing a very high level of commitment to this teacher and this classroom. I admire your tenacity, but as a complete outsider, I am shocked by your report of the teacher’s feedback and class practices.

      Is there no opportunity to switch/ withdraw, for the benefit of your child and family?

      • Michelle Straka
        Michelle Straka says:

        Hi mh,

        Thanks for confirming what I am beginning to think. We are newbies to the school system and navigating it has been a learning experience. We have never tested her in a school environment before now because of our aversion to daycare/preschool so this has all come as a shock that we are just starting to get over. It’s been recommended to me by a family member that come April I meet with the school principal to ask that she be placed with another teacher next year. I have considered switching her part way through the year, but we are starting to make some progress, as such I am worried about causing more trouble by moving her to another class now.

        We are thankful that she is still excited to go to school and seems happy; I don’t get the sense that she is being mistreated at school aside from the usual kids poking and proding other kids. That is all we are really concerned about now, since we are able to teach her basic reading and math concepts.

        Most publicly-funded teachers in Canada are very suspicious of kids who are not put in daycare/preschool prior to kindergarten. They view them as being socially backward and frustrating to teach because they take time to get the hang of the school day and being away from parents. My tenacity has been in managing the teacher’s expectations for my daughter assimilation into the education system, but it is wearing thin ;)

        Not to justify daycare/preschool parents…but I believe that many parents are not raising their own kids prior to the school years to avoid the work and resulting heartache of getting them accustomed to school at 4 or 5 years. Much easier to drop a baby or toddler who can’t articulate their horror being dropped of with strangers, than a 4 year old who has more autonomy. It is also tempting to avoid the ire of the public school teacher who is annoyed at being slowed down because your child is uncomfortable using a classroom washroom. I know this because I too have had momentary doubts since September about having kept my kids at home up to this point.

  7. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Thank you, Penelope. I find it so refreshing to hear your blunt answers to the problem.

    Simple, kids are an inconvenience and most people like the idea of having kids rather than actually having them.
    So they justify sending them off to daycare and school. Most people like being a “mom” rather than actually practicing being a parent. So it’s not a surprise when they send their kids off to school every day, even if their kids are getting stifled, bullied, abused or developing bad behavior. Because at the end of the day, they still get to keep their title. They’re still mom.

    For most people, if they were paid to homeschool and realize that they actually have to parent throughout the day, they’d probably go to work for free. Which, with daycare costs, some are doing anyways. All as long as they can keep the title without actually having to do anything to maintain it.

  8. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    It’s possible that I am part of the 10% whose day care center provides good care. It is also possible that I am part of the 90% who think they’re in the 10% but aren’t. Either way, my daughter is in daycare, and I think they take good care of her.

    My daughter started lobbying to go to daycare / preschool when she was 2. When she turned 3, we hooked her up two days a week, 11 hours a day. She goes into work with Mom, to the daycare her employer built on its new campus, and comes home with Mom after work. She can look out the window and see Mom’s office (she calls it “Mom’s Preschool” across the street). She loves it.

    The biggest problem we have had so far is her asking to go to daycare on home days. Like this Sunday, when she hung all over Mom and pestered her for hours saying she wanted to go to preschool. Today. Now. Love you too!

    When she goes she tells us afterwards about all her friends and how many fun things she did. She knows everybody’s name and can talk about what they did that day. She is not a rabbit in a cage. She is a butterfly in a field of flowers. She is making friends with the children of my wife’s colleagues. She is enjoying a social situation of her own choosing. This is the opposite of suffering.

    We love having her home, and we have her home on our busiest days so she’ll best be able to exercise her predilection to be a social butterfly. We don’t need to have her in daycare at all, and hadn’t planned on it. But she told us and tells us she wants it and that it is better for her and we believe her.

    It’s a perfectly nice place, brand new, full of toys, climbing wall, garden, tricycle track, art. I’d love to spend my day there, honestly. I can’t blame her. I’m old, boring, and grumpy; why would she want to spend all day with me?

    Maybe she’ll tell me she wants to go to school in a few years. I don’t know. That’s something that worries me more, because I think the daycares we get to choose (my son went to one too) are better than the schools we get to choose. I wish the schools were more like the daycares, not less. So we try to keep one of her feet in the homeschooling world as well. We’d all be very sad if she said she wanted to go to school.

    What worries me most is that she’ll ask to go to boarding school. And I won’t be able to say no.

  9. mh
    mh says:

    Animals aren’t people. The way animals are treated doesn’t really shock me.

    People are people. The way people treat other people does shock me.

  10. Kmomma
    Kmomma says:

    Cognitive dissonance is what my mother did to us growing up. In my case it was, what was easiest for a single mother to do while demanding we work hard. She kept saying how we had to do well in our studies then work hard to be promoted to a great paying job. She on the other hand did only what was easiest for her. A college dropped out who has the same entry level job to this day, never wanted to work any harder to be promoted even turned down paid training to be promoted to manager not her thing. Even if that meant and she still is living off credit cards and borrowing money from family.

    Before any bashing about how hard it must have been for her and yes it could have been worse just the same we could have a had much easier life. We lived with my grandma (mother’s mom) who took care of most of the bills, grandma owned her house in a big tourist city so yup cost of living was & will always be outrageous (a gal of milk today is about $7-$10) she also watched us as tots then after school.

    Grandma urged my mother we should move to a different state so that as her health worsened mother’s siblings would be there to help out. Of course grandma’s house would have been turned into a rental so there would have been some money coming in while mother look for another job. Grandma and other relatives would cover the cost. To most it’s a well thought out and reasonable plan, it never happened always some lame excuse every year (she never dated by the way) so when grandma passed suddenly everything was our fault why her job sucked or she had no money.

    The end result is my siblings are repeating my mothers mistakes with their kids. Even now it seems like she and my siblings always want some kind of pity handout. They believe that they got a bad deal in life and I just got lucky. When hit with realty that a lot of it is their fault they blank out for a few seconds then start screaming that I know nothing about real life.

    Just like what Ann R posted above we did something similar. So far it works for us. We’re doing school at home through a charter but add anything bunny wants to learn about for as long as she’s interested. I did place bunny in a great home based daycare for a few hours a few days a week to get things done plus a little me time after age 2. We don’t live near any relatives no big surprise why and other big name daycare centers nearby was just over priced with questionable babysitting practices. Same with school in our district bunny had a over stressed about to snap teacher and a class of mostly spoiled kids who acted like they never had a adult follow through with no or stop.

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      I don’t know. The fact that you spent most of your post talking about your extended family issues instead of talking about your personal education situation says a lot more about you than them.

      Sounds like your mom and siblings are completely overwhelmed with life and they can’t get control of the basics (this is not new to only your family). Instead of being angry why not try some compassion? It doesn’t have to bother you, you obviously made your life work for you so let their stuff go.

      • Kmomma
        Kmomma says:

        I thought I had linked this to what Suzy and Ann R posted above since we did somethings very similar. As to why I didn’t post that much on my education was because it wasn’t much I took training courses while I was a bank teller and became a file clerk, I quit to raise a family after we saved enough to cover expenses raising a child, moving to different state and down payment on a small house. We always live within our means and remind bunny to do the same. If it works keep it if not then we upgrade.

        You’re right I’m very bitter and some days full blown angry about my childhood and towards my family. I’m constantly reminded of it with every phone call I get from any of them. Therapy hasn’t helped so if you know of way to forgive and move on let me know. No sarcasm at all I know one day bunny will notice the bitterness.

        What I meant to say which in deeply buried and jumbled in my rant was the “do as I say not as I do” attitude messed up my family. Yes I know and seen ours isn’t the only one but it’s accepted by everyone as that’s life or just the way things are. Why is it just accepted? Thing I seem to notice is It’s a touchy subject because it’s not neglect or abuse and tends to be brushed off. Our daily life throughout childhood gets imprinted on us and we often mimic it as we become adults. I grew up in a house that ignored reality and took easy ways out. Some of us had home based daycare rest didn’t was raised by grandma and it didn’t seem to have that much of an impact on us compared to what we saw going on at home up until we left.

        • Jenn
          Jenn says:

          “Yes I know and seen ours isn’t the only one but it’s accepted by everyone as that’s life or just the way things are. Why is it just accepted?”

          But here is the thing, you haven’t accepted it. You have taken actions to change your home for yourself and your daughter. You should focus on that! Good for you!! That’s tough. What everyone else does, thinks, believes is up to them. It’s frustrating and lonely to feel like you are the only one who ‘sees through the woods’ so to speak. You want your family to be who they aren’t at the moment. If they change and improve their lives then great. But that’s wishful thinking and your relationships with them are causing you a lot of turmoil.

          I don’t have a magic answer for you. I think you shouldn’t speak to your extended family and keep your focus on yours and your kiddo. They can’t give you what you want, so you need to find that in other healthy relationships. Get out and meet some new families. You have to focus on your present life. Easier said than done. Therapy is about improving your inner turmoil. A therapist can guide you but only you can make the changes.

          So first I would stop speaking to them. (You will deal with feelings of guilt and grief from this- so be aware)

          Second I would try to find a therapist that really listens to you and helps you listen to yourself so you can work through your emotions in a safe place.

          Third, meditate to raise awareness of your pain and what triggers it.

          And fourth, try to be grateful for the things you do have when things are upsetting.

          Being grateful has a lot of payoffs as a quick fix. For example- Denmark is ranked as the happiest overall nation. Americans are asked how things are and they always say good or great, in Denmark they commonly say ‘well it could be worse’.

          Anyway I hope this helps in some way. Good for you for trying to find answers and leading your life. Keep doing that and I’m sure you’ll be ok.

  11. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “Here’s how: 80% of babies spend time with an adult who is not their parent.”
    This percentage of babies seems very high and doesn’t seem correct to me. I went to your link at The New Republic which says – “About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five—spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent.”
    In any case, the increasing trend of sending very young children to day care is distressing. My sister did it and it didn’t really sit well with me at the time as my Mom stayed at home with us. My niece who is now in high school seems to be doing fine with her academics and outside activities so I ask myself who am I to judge. There are so many factors involved in parenting that it’s difficult to know what contributes to what in a child’s development. Every child is such an individual as well as their family and that’s what makes choice so important in my opinion. And whatever choice is made comes with it personal responsibility.

    • victoria
      victoria says:

      If that statistic is indeed correct, it would include everything from full-day institutional day care from six weeks, to a two-morning-a-week co-op preschool, to a public pre-K program, to a babysitter that provides respite care for a SAHM, to one evening a week at a grandparent’s house — such a huge range of non-parent situations that it seems like it’d be fruitless to draw conclusions….

  12. The Homicidal Housewife
    The Homicidal Housewife says:

    Our homeschool situation happened by being completely ignorant, then having to hit hyper speed to educate ourselves as parents as to what our options were. We were underwhelmed. We never did daycare. We couldn’t afford it and even if we could, my husband and I both believed that it would be best for our family if I stayed home and raised our son. I never went back to work.
    We lived off of about $30,000 a year, before taxes. We also care for my mother, who has Schizophrenia, eh,hem I mean Alzheimer’s, (that way we don’t scare the neighbors). My husband has worked smart and now earns not what he is worth but a decent living wage. We have lived “close to the bone” for years. It hasn’t been unicorns and flowers, but isn’t life in the grit and grime, blood and guts anyway?
    We drank the Kool-aid that our neighborhood public school was, ” diverse and really, great”. Diversity is great, but it doesn’t make up for the telephone book of other issues that we saw. So, we pulled him out.
    I’m pretty f-ing stressed sometimes. My mother is very high functioning but, well, try living with your mother, then add a disorder. I cry and I freak out, eat something salty, then maybe something chocolate-y, sleep then pull myself back together. Sometimes it takes an hour sometimes a couple of days. I remind myself that I made a choice, a commitment, so suck it up.
    I have a good life, and I am giving my son a good life, as well as my mother. Good, no frills, but he doesn’t care. My mother on the other hand…
    My son is worth it, his education is worth it, his happiness and health are worth it. I really like the title, that homeschooling begins the day your kid is born. I see that now and didn’t realize my husband and I have been living that the whole time. (Even in our unplanned, unorganized way).

  13. Suzy
    Suzy says:

    Gretchen, we are able to save for retirement, and we plan to contribute at least partially to our children’s college educations, should they go that route. For the record, I went to a small private college on a scholarship, and had an assistantship that paid for graduate school. I was unwilling to rack up debt for these, and chose schools accordingly. Given the unconventionality of my children’s experiences as unschoolers, it wouldn’t surprise me if they take unconventional routes into higher education and/or jobs. It is fairly common these days for unschoolers to start community college as fifteen- or sixteen-year-olds, then transfer to a four-year college later with numerous credits already under their belts.

    Again, though, the tradeoff has been living in a fairly rural, low cost-of-living area chosen specifically because it was an excellent place to launch my husband’s business. We drive an hour for music lessons and the good grocery store, and increasingly have to do things like travel several hours so one of the kids can participate in a camp or experience that isn’t available closer to home. I have become an excellent cook because it’s an hour to a really good restaurant, so eating out mostly isn’t worth it.

    My kids are so amazingly happy, and developing the kind of specialized interests that Penelope talks about in other posts, and there is simply no way they would have the time and energy to pursue those at this level if they were in school.

  14. Amber
    Amber says:

    My mom calls daycare “Kid Kennels” and she worked for a top-rated daycare here in town for years.

    Interesting enough, she had three daughters and not one of us ever considered letting someone else raise our kids. I always tell people I would rather have “Wonderful Mother, Wife, and Daughter” on my gravestone than “Successful Businesswoman, Scientist, and Lawyer”. I find it odd that any woman would find a job and money more important than her child.

    Sorry if this is not politically correct, but I am so sick of telling lies to make working moms who could stay-at-home feel better. Does anyone really think a daycare worker or some nanny will love and care for their child as much as they do? I can’t imagine anyone is that stupid…

    If you are going through all of the trouble to have your own kids, doesn’t it make sense to raise them yourself? When I was a kid we would listen to Harry Chapin’s “Cats in a Cradle” and for some reason that song has always stuck with me. I have so many friends kids who are going to grow up to be just like their parents, workaholics who miss their entire child’s childhood. They are going to wake up with a fat retirement account, nice car, and kids who won’t visit them in their expensive retirement community.

  15. Vela
    Vela says:

    I live in Brooklyn Heights, the second most expensive place in the country to live. I have a 4.5 year old daughter who has been with me since birth. I am in such a small minority as a SAHM in my area. Over these last 4.5 years I’ve watched so many nannies interacting with their charges in the library and at playgrounds. The things I’ve seen in public, make me cringe at what must be going on in private.

    I am so grateful that I figured out a way to be home for my daughter. She is such a social creature that this past year I did put her in three half days of preschool. She loves being with her friends. She’s an only child, so part of me worries how to feed her need for constant socialization without some form of school.

    But with NY kindergarten application looming I have a feeling of dread. I don’t want to institutionalize my daughter. She is so little. I am having nightmares and I’m not sure how to solve needing to make some sort of income while wanting to keep her with me. I did have my own business which I received royalties from and I had sort of paid myself ahead for the first few years of her life. But now those checks are dried up and I need to come up with something else so I can keep her home with me.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Hi Vela,

      Your worries sound similar to mine two years ago. The worries over socialization stem from an incorrect stereotype about homeschooling. When children go from pre-school to regular school the opportunities for “socialization” diminish as the teachers require students to be silent during class time. The only opportunities to “socialize” exist on the playground around children they are forced to associate with based on their zipcode and their age.

      Homeschooling provides children the opportunity to socialize with many children of all ages and with people they actually enjoy being around.

      I have several acquaintances who live in NYC and homeschool their children. I believe there might be a co-op or two. You should check it out and start making connections, they are really friendly.

      That’s so great that you’ve been able to stay with her for so long and I hope an opportunity comes up that homeschooling can continue for you.

  16. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I have every reason to believe that my son received excellent part time care with a nanny in my home (with me working upstairs) and later in a small daycare. But still it was evident he preferred to be with me and was not happy with the arrangement of someone else looking after him. He would scream as a baby when the nanny came, as a toddler he’d try to come find me. Yes it haunts me. At the time my husband was in a major career transition and I saw no other way and I guess I thought, of course he should be able to adjust like every other kid seems to. At 4 my son started refusing to go to his school, only because he preferred to be home. He loved his friends in K-2 but the complex expectations and the shifting of gears every 20 minutes didn’t work for him. Now he is home with me and I can see he thrives in a calm environment where he can pursue his own interests. Yes I wish I could go back in time, now that I know him and his needs better. I hope this time is healing for him, all I have to work with is the present. We all do the best we can. I wish I’d received at 20 much of the advice you are giving women.

  17. Karen Loethen
    Karen Loethen says:

    When I had just one child, I got myself back into the work force and put her into daycare. Although everyone and every resource told me that she was FINE, my body was not convinced. I was anxious and physically stressed from the whole drop-off-child-in-the-early-morning, have-another-person-raise-her, pick-her-up-after-dark-THING. It was probably the hardest period of parenting that I had because I just KNEW it wasn’t right.

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