Your kid is not a mini version of you

How many parents do you hear saying this: “I love all the choices my adult children make, they are leading exactly the life I hoped for them.”

Zero, right?

So I’m starting to think that homeschooling is just parents accepting this much sooner.

I love museums. I could be in art museums for the rest of my life, and I’d be fine. I love eating in art museums. I love shopping in the gift shop. I buy memberships just so I can spend a day in the member’s lounge. My kids’ idea of going to a museum is The Pacific Science Center’s Led Zeppelin laser light show. It’s like the new millennium version of Woodstock. Indoors (for comfort), high tech, and I think we were the only people not using some sort of hipster 0ff-label pharmaceutical.

I hated it so much that I sat on a bench outside the museum until it was over.

I bet you’re not surprised. Because the reality of life is that kids don’t want to lead the life their parents blazed before them. It would be boring, for one thing, because kids have already seen how their parents life turns out. But also, choosing our own path is really the only guarantee that we will make decisions about our life. And live with the consequences.

If your kids choose to go into the same profession you chose, this doesn’t mean that they choose your life. It just means there’s a little longer delay until you realize your kids don’t want the life you chose for yourself.

Homeschooling is saying to your kids that even though you can control what they choose when they are younger, you are open-minded enough to know it’s unrealistic to control children. You don’t know the best way for your kids to spend their time because you don’t know what life they will choose.

If you have very strong opinions about what’s important, do that for your life. Not to your kids.

Try this thought experiment:

What if your kid doesn’t like to read? Can you let that go? Many successful, happy people, don’t like to read.

What if your kid can’t stand to be alone? There are healthy people who can’t stand to be alone. It’s how they’re born.

If you imagine enough kinds of parental disappointment, sooner or later you’ll realize that the unconditional love of a parent is most visible when a parent is disappointed. Similarly, homeschooling really starts happening when kids are free to choose paths their parents can’t imagine.


9 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    My older two sons have made life direction choices that I wouldn’t have made if I were them. They weren’t illegal or immoral (or even fattening) but I wasn’t entirely happy about those choices just the same.

    It has worked out completely for the oldest one, and it looks like it’s going to work out for the next older one. It was super hard to just shut the hell up and let them.

    My youngest son just declared he wants to study mathematics and computer science in college. Just like his ol’ dad! Whew! A direction I can fully understand! :-)

  2. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    I’m always fond of a post that affirms my lifestyle, my choices and my family. What’s not to like? My kid doesn’t much like to read, whereas I was (still am) a bookworm. My kid can’t stand to be alone, whereas it’s all I wanted at his age, and I still need it. As you say, he’s not me, and the better we both understand that, the better we get along. The kid he is (far different from the kid I was) is pretty awesome.

    I disagree with the absolutist statements about homeschooling, though. I think there’s a fair amount of overlap between schooling vs. not schooling and pushing your kid down one road vs. letting your kid figure out what he likes. Some homeschoolers are far stricter than any school, and even choose to homeschool to limit their children’s exposure to other ways of life than theirs. Some school parents are very hands-off when it comes to controlling their kids. It borders on hubris to imagine otherwise.

    I will say I think it’s much easier to help your kids develop an understanding of who they are and what they like and hope to do in a homeschool setting. I’m very happy with my kid’s level of self-understanding and drive after five years of homeschooling. It’s not a given that will happen in every homeschooling family or not happen in any school family, though.

  3. Gena
    Gena says:

    When you homeschool, it is much more likely that you’ll know your child much better just from sheer hours of observation. So possibly you can better see them for who they are sooner. Parents of school children may be delusional for much longer simply because they see them less.

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This back and forth, give and take dance that occurs between the parent and the homeschooler reminds of this dialogue between Neo and Morpheus in a scene in the movie ‘The Matrix’ –

    Neo: I know what you’re trying to do.
    Morpheus: I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.

    It’s a favorite of mind as Morpheus is acknowledging to Neo that he can’t control his actions. However Morpheus will use his wisdom, guidance, and teaching ability to influence Neo. It’s the student who has to do the heavy lifting and assume responsibility for themselves.

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      Well, this happens in the case of abusive households where children are enmeshed with their parents. It makes it much harder for the child to develop their own sense of identity separate from their parents. (In the case of chronic projecting, no boundaries, neglect, etc) they are their own person but are not able to make their own choices without unexplained consequences, judgment, and lack of support (emotionally, mentally, physically) creating a chaotic environment. This is where personality disorders derive from.

  5. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Other than my kids looking like my mini-me’s there really isn’t that similar between us. Ok, well we all LOVE Star Wars, so there is that…totally a genetic thing by the way ;)

    Truthfully, I only want for them to be happy, well-adjusted adults.

  6. Anne Marie
    Anne Marie says:

    I remember the exact moment I realized #1 (turning 30 this year) was truly going to be “herself” and not Little Anne Marie.

    She was about 8 years old. Her RE teacher at our parish chose her to do a reading at mass; #1, all 40 pounds of her, strode up to the lectern and read with expression, delight, and as though she had not a care in the world. I, on the other hand, would have collapsed into a sobbing heap not only at that age but even now.

    With #2 (my 15 year homeschooled daughter), it came when she turned a cartwheel at age 6. Yup, can’t do that either. Never could get the hang of it, mainly because I always was afraid my glasses would fly off.

    The woman #1 has become just leaves me in awe. She is a jewel and far, far more sensible and accomplished than I was at her age. (I do wish she and her husband wanted children, but it’s their decision and I stay out of it.)

    The woman #2 is becoming fills me with exasperation and awe in equal measure, which is par for the course with the middle-adolescence stage. On the one hand, it practically takes an act of Congress to get her to empty the blasted dishwasher; on the other, she’ll crawl under a parked car in a snowstorm to rescue an injured, bleeding housecat, wrap the cat in her coat, and run like hell to get the animal home.

    It’s very humbling, very instructive, and yet very gratifying when your children can and will do things you can’t.

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