Friday, December 30, 2005

On Sheltering, Also Known as Overprotecting, or, Why I don't send my Kid to Public School

When a mother is carrying a baby outside, and it suddenly grows cold and begins to rain, what does she do? Naturally, she draws the child closer, bundles her in her own coat if necessary, and covers her dear head with any manner of things to keep her dry. The mother will weather the storm cold and wet, but the child will stay warm and dry.  When a thief enters a house and the family is sleeping, what is the first thing the parents do? They will of course run to the children to shield them with their own bodies, giving their own lives to protect their children from harm or death.  No one questions whether or not these actions are the right ones to take. In fact, if a parent did not take these actions to protect their own children, their ability to parent, and perhaps even their sanity would come into question.  However, when a baby turns five years old, the parents are supposed to, without question, walk the child to the front of a cold institution, usher her inside to spend the next four hours with total strangers, then come back and pick her up and expect that she is better for the experience. No one questions whether she is a good mother. No one even thinks that she should be considering another choice.

In the classroom, which is to become the child’s second home for the next nine months, she is one of as many as 20 children, any of whom may carry any manner of viruses and bacteria. Any of these same children may possess any manner of socially offensive behaviors or mannerisms which go uncorrected by parents who are unwilling, unable, or simply ignorant to correct.
The teacher, who is yet another stranger is expected to manage and control the behavior of this clutch of squirming limbs and bodies and even more, to send them home having learned to say their colors and read and write and count and add and how to understand that anyone's lifestyle is okay, no matter how deviant, it's just different.

A five year old is fresh, innocent, and trusting. What he is told, he believes, and what he is taught, he lives. There was a famous book that generated a whole fad of kitschy knock-offs in the eighties called, “All I Ever Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” Perhaps you remember it. I wonder what the title would be called today? “All I Need to Know to Function in a Watered-Down World where Everything is Relative I learned in Kindergarten.”

What happened to sheltering our children from the "rain" and simply teaching them what is right, simple and good? I can’t apologize for being unwilling to send my child into the cold building with the big glass double-doors and the rent-a-cop standing by the door, no matter how fresh the paint or how cute the decorations. I simply don't believe that a child has the capacity to, or even needs to learn to cope with incredible complexities of the world he lives in. That is the job of the parents. A child should be allowed to just be himself and taught how to be the best "himself"that he can.

People would say to me that I am overprotective. Good. If I am to live by the philosophy that I just stated above, I need to shelter my child's life with my own. I need to teach him what it means to be safe, secure, and loved. I need him to believe in something (not just anything) so that he will have an anchor when he is older. Please don’t tell me that I’m doing my child a disservice by loving him at home.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What Have I Done?

The thought came to me the other day, “what on earth have I signed up for?” It was the first, but I’m quite certain won’t be the last time I ever think that with regards to homeschooling. I was having one of those days when the laundry, the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, and oh incidentally, the parenting was just ALL MINE—sitting there, staring me in the face, reminding me that I’d volunteered to take it on.

Just what exactly is this? Christian homeschoolers refer to this undertaking as something we’re called to do. Some would go so far as to say that all parents are called to home educate and if you don’t you’re derelict in your duty to your children (I would not group myself in that class!). I can definitely relate to the “calling” aspect of it, though. I know when I felt that “call.” There was this sense of intense clarity, a convergence of logic with regard to sound parenting, a voice from heaven—well, not quite, but it might as well have been. I very nearly heard harps, saw beams of light shining down upon us in a green valley...okay, again, I’m exagerating, but it really felt that clear to me. What perhaps I’m referring to here, is the extreme relief I felt for having made the decision, (which I firmly believe to be God’s will for our family), to educate my children in our home. What followed was a honeymoon period, a sense of accomplishment at having “joined the ranks” of what I consider to be a quality group of people, a feeling of having the upper hand on my household. But the feeling was to be quickly ravaged by the stark reality that “home educating” means actually being at home with kids quite a lot of the time. The management of healthy meals and snacks, naptimes, storytimes, reading lessons and scripture memory has to somehow flow with sweeping cheerios off of the floor and getting the wet laundry into the dryer before it’s moldy and smelly, changing diapers, giving baths, and cleaning the occasional toilet.
No wonder some women claim to “have to” work outside the home in order to maintain sanity.
The simple fact is that it’s impossible. An old Chinese proverb says, “A thousand mile journey begins with one step.” That is where I am—taking the first step, and the journey that stretches out before me seems endless. Even the end of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons seems years away. But this I know—there is no place I’d rather be. I have a tremendous peace knowing that I am committed to my children and their well-being. I will shelter and guard them in order to protect them from negative influences, and I will open doors and forge pathways in order to open their minds to what is right and good, just and holy in this life and in the life to come. This is what I have signed up for and by God’s grace, and this alone, will the task be accomplished.

Ditching TV

It all began the day my son said to me, "Mom, there's this xxxx that does xxxx and it xxxxx, and you HAVE to buy it for me." It wasn't the first time he'd said things like that, by any means, and perhaps that was just was one of a number of times and the intensity was growing in his demanding tone. It was probably the first time he'd said something like that since I'd read Clay Clarkson's Heartfelt Discipline, in which he discusses the importance of "protective discipline." (more on this later)

PBS Kids and Noggin were great--no ads, simple, positive, and educational themes--and according to my son who was suddenly "big"--they were "for babies." Ever since my son (who is crazy for Transformers) discovered Transformers: Energon which was broadcast on Cartoon Network and Transformers: Cybertron on the WB network, I felt like we were fighting a constant barrage of advertisements and negative input, even though those shows in and of themselves didn't offend us. It wasn't that I minded him watching certain carefully selected and monitored shows--it gave me a break, in a way. It was the in-between stuff, the commercials, that were getting me. So many of the other shows being advertised were just plain ugly, filled with themes of kids with bad attitudes, rebellious undertakings, the occult, violence, and plain old time-wasting nonsense. Just as they were intended to do, they were sucking him in, and that was just the ads for the other shows. There were also the commercials for toys, toys, and more toys--all plastic junk that were somehow designed to reflect, support, and suck even more money up for the above-mentioned TV shows.

I sat down with my husband that night and said, "TV has got to go..." and related to him what our son had said to me, and he agreed. It went. This was culmination of a long-time discussion we'd had about the subject, so don't think that it just dropped out of thin air and the decision was made. Truthfully, my husband and I were not watching fifty dollars' worth of TV every month, and we were clamping down so much what our son was watching that he wasn't either. Frankly, I don't know that any amount of TV is worth paying that much for, but I digress. The first days of not having the service we had a slight case of the DTs. Even though we could never find the time to do so, we had suddenly lost the option of watching TV if we wanted to. That lasted for about a day or two, and now, a few weeks later, no one even notices or misses it. We've played a lot of checkers, built some great legos contraptions, read half of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe out loud as a family (we're reading a chapter a night), and had some interesting "wars" downstairs as a family using nerf guns and light sabers. There is no shortage of Laughter and conversation. Perhaps the best result is that I'm not hearing about all the junk he's seeing on TV and what I need to buy next for him. I haven't witnessed one negative result, so far.

So we have this big satellite dish on top of our house. We have three DirecTV boxes and a TiVo box. The dish is sitting deaf on our rooftop and our boxes are neatly stacked on a shelf in the storage room. We have one small TV downstairs in the rec room, and that is paired with a simple dvd / vcr combo unit. No one is suffering, and so far, we're still pretty well-adjusted socially. Updates on the TV-free home will follow, but my guess is that we'll be just fine.