Homeschooling pep talk – to myself

Part of taking responsibility for my kids’ education means I’m always reading research to figure out what I should do. I’ve become an expert in teaching reading, playing video games, and learning an instrument. Now I’m becoming an expert on getting into college.

But I get distracted. Because to tell you the truth, I hate having to learn more. Everything I learn challenges everything I know.

I thought teaching reading is good. But it’s a waste of time because kids learn to read by themselves.

I thought having a kid play an instrument is good. But I think music is like a language and you should only do it if you have proven aptitude or play an instrument yourself.  (Unless you are Chinese.)

I thought video games were for kids who were bored. But they are actually for the highest performers.

I thought college was a lame goal.  But

But what? I don’t know. I hate that I have a kid gunning for a great college career. I wanted a kid who wanted to play professional volleyball, or launch a company, or do anything that I am good at. Instead I am doing music and math and I suck at both and I’m grouchy.

I entertain myself by leveraging my ADD and finding links that surprise me in fun unchallenging ways:

Education works best when the setting is like home: kids who are barefoot sitting on couches learn better. 

Classroom skills are irrelevant in a computer age: teachers should just pass out the notes before class. 

Intuitive learning works best for young kids: let kids count on their fingers.

What if I ended the post here? What if I said, that’s it. I can’t handle any more challenges to my world view. I’m tired.

I can’t be the only homeschooler who feels this way. The lies we tell ourselves in order to justify sending kids to school are not like a house of cards – when one falls everything falls. It’s more like an onion that you peel and peel and each layer makes things sting more.

I watched Stephen Colbert with my son today. At lunch. Yeah, we watch TV at lunch. And we talked about the prospects of impeachment after the meeting with Putin. If you asked me ten years ago, I’d have told you that we would be a family that had lunch with no TV and homemade chili and we’d be talking about the checks and balance system and democracy.

But I’m so disgusted with US politics right now I can’t bear to discuss it with my son even in the face of AP Gov. I’m tired of managing the kids’ education. I have an article in my to-read pile about why teens are more depressed and anxious than ever and I don’t even want to read it because I’m scared to find out I have to change more of what I’m doing. Actually, Bostonian is always better at reading my links than I am. So maybe he’ll leave us a summary in the comments.

Meanwhile here is a picture of the boys that I took during a moment when I remembered to feel happy about homeschooling. That’s something, right?

15 replies
  1. Sam
    Sam says:

    You should read the article. It’s what you’ve been saying for years now. It will make you feel better, not worse :)

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    But you have to have a world view, one that lines up well enough to how you think the world works. It’s how you navigate your life. It’s why we resist things that change our world view, and why we only allow our world view to be challenged a little bit at a time. If we let outside evidence undermine our world view entirely we feel like life is chaos and we cease to function.

  3. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    I don’t think the article adequately addresses the question of what’s going wrong with teens today to cause the massive increase in stress they are under. It veers into the author’s pet fascination with adolescence being contrived, which fails to answer the question at all because if it’s contrived it was contrived long before teens starting filling up the emergency rooms.

    I think the answer is different: the degree of pressure kids are under in high school today is something older generations couldn’t possibly understand.

  4. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Oh! It’s my dream come true! A book club where I get to hang out with fun people and I get to find out about the reading without having to read! Thanks you guys.


  5. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I agree with Bostonian’s conclusions about the article.

    However, here is a brief summary for those who don’t have time to read the article:

    Teenagers are suffering from anxiety and depression because they are cooped up in schools and told what to do, when what they need to do is have independence, autonomy, respect and immersion in the real world. In other words, if teenagers have to be in a collective environment to learn (because not everyone can homeschool), then make it as free as college and they’ll be happier.

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        Oh thank you! That means a lot.

        I’ve been a long time lurker and occasional commenter, and I don’t always agree with you, but I love your writing, your honesty about your life and your passion for everything you do.

  6. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I can see where the other views points come from, but I sit in the world of over protective homeschooling christian parents, who control their kids. We are talking 18 year olds who can’t read Harry Potter. Or date. I can easily see how controlling teens causes strife and anxiety. I am watching them struggle and fight to grow up. I know one boy who hides his lap top, because having one is forbidden. I listen to these parents complain about how hard teens are and I think, if they weren’t so busy squashing them it would be fine. And sitting 8 hours a day in a school that encourages you to only do what they say, and only follow one path in life, is depressing. I think, the question of where anxiety for teens comes from depends on what culture they live in.

    It would be interesting to poll teens from several different cultures in America, and compare the base.

  7. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I’ve read probably six different articles on the rise in teenage anxiety and depression. All of those indicated a correlation with social media use.

    Something to think about.

  8. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Hm. Interesting. I spent so much time worrying about video games… Maybe social media is the girl corollary to video games.


        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          I read that article when it came out. I found it compelling.

          -a rise in teenage depression and suicide coincides with the growing ubiquity of smart phones among teenagers
          -teenagers see each other in person far less than they used to
          -teenagers become obsessed with social media on smart phones as a substitute for a real social life
          -teenagers take their phones to bed and don’t sleep well; sleep deprivation exacerbates mental problems

          I find the argument convincing. Some of it is common-sensical: staring at bluish screens at bedtime doesn’t help anybody sleep. Facebook makes people crazy, not just kids.

          We try to apply rules across the board. If it’s bad for them, it’s bad for us. Nobody in this house brings portable electronic devices to their bedroom. Nobody facebooks. We eat dinner as a family, and we talk face to face.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I think it was really well written. The author is a generational expert and did her best not to judge what teenagers are doing, and was just reporting the way that things are.

            But- the correlation is compelling, I agree. The data is convincing, it’s enough to have me delay smartphones and switch to flip-phones for my tween.

            I think this explains a lot of current anxiety/depression/suicides in teens. Not from being cooped up in school as was mentioned above.

          • Bostonian
            Bostonian says:

            I think it’s got more to do with being cooped up outside of school. That’s where the difference is.

            I know that when I was in middle and high school I would leave school on my bike with few books and no phone and be who knows where for the hours before dinner: seeing friends, hanging out with college kids, reading at the library, playing in the woods, etc. My son found it rare when any of his friends could actually spend time with him after school – they have after-school stuff almost every day.

            If today’s kids leave school only to continue in adult-scheduled activities or remain at home, alone, fiddling with their smartphones, then the stresses of school may themselves be harder to bear.

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