I confess. It’s true. The end.
Well, perhaps I should explain.
If you’re a homeschool mamma or daddy, or know someone who is, you may find this utterly hard to believe. But, there are actually folks out there who think that homeschoolers make bad parents.
Have you ever met a harder working set of parents? Or single parent? Or grandparent? Or family? Give me a break. I mean, I haven’t slept a decent night or had a shower lasting more than 45 seconds in decades — have you? But I am joyful and so are my kids. They’re smart and ready to take on the world.
But, I digress.
The truth is, I really have no idea how it happened. It all started somewhere 20-some years ago. That little face looked up at me, all pimply and blueish and I was in love. Deeply in love with that tightly wound bundle the midwife placed in my arms. I was both alive for the first time and scared to death. Because at that moment, and for the rest of my life, I couldn’t ever imagine passing that little body over to anyone else to care for or bring up. How could anyone possibly love that boy more than me?
So it was around that time that things started going downhill. And I guess that’s how these kinds of rumors start. For me, my story went something like this…
I spent weeks, months even, searching for a pediatrician. One that wouldn’t question my every move but would give me information when I asked and keep my boy healthy in case of emergency. The first one made comments I didn’t like. A second chided me on my extensive list of questions. But the third didn’t mind my ideas and actually, kinda, sorta, at least a little bit, seemed to agree with me on some points. He got the job.
I bought all of the books. Back then, it was Spock, Leach, Brazelton, Sears and people like that. I didn’t agree with them all, no sir. But I read them dutifully cover to cover. And tabbed the important pages. And made a special spot on the shelf so I could grab them often. Which it turned out, I didn’t do very much, except for big stuff like illnesses and the healthy recipes at the back of each book, because they just didn’t know him as well as me.
I breastfed the boy. A long time. I mashed his organic foods. I sewed his clothing. I sang and read, played music and explored, attached him to my front, my hip and my back. I took him everywhere there was to see and filled every one of his waking moments with something loving, useful, valuable. Things that would nurture and expand him. Things that I knew could only compliment what his father and I could offer but important stuff nonetheless. For this was our boy, and nobody knew him more than us. And nobody but nobody could do a better job. He was ours.
I worked, too, by the way. With a cooler permanently affixed to my waist, I pumped in lounges, offices and restrooms. I reorganized my schedule so that his father and I could alternate days away from home. When it was my turn, I called home every hour. I sped home at the end of each day to see my guys. And I blissfully wiled evenings away on the couch in absolute paradise, watching the home videos my super-hero husband had filmed all day long, so that I wouldn’t miss a single moment of my boy’s life.
Some years passed and I received another tightly wound bundle. And then other. And the pattern continued for a while. And at the same time, things got worse and worse.
I stopped working for pay and came home permanently. We were broke and it was all my fault. Lo and behold I began teaching these children, too. I set up a classroom, spent months with tiny scissors and blisters, cutting through felt and yards of clear vinyl. I hung brightly colored posters on every wall to hold their constant attention and subliminally implant things into their tiny little brains. Useful things. Stuff they’d need. And I loved them more and more each day and we spent our time reading, wondering, discussing, drawing, recording, and discovering the world. I become more and more the bad parent as the years went on. And the sad part was that I didn’t even know it.
There was nothing my kids could do to defend themselves from me either. Their smiles and laughter hid what they were thinking. Their healthy bodies and creative minds concealed their unhappiness from me, I guess. I had no idea that blowing bubbles, drawing pictures and building castles wasn’t a good thing. They hadn’t said that in my books. I honestly thought I was doing a great job.
When I broke off our relationship with the family whose child who couldn’t wait to spill the beans about stuff like bad words and where babies came from, my kids were without recourse.
When I switched swimming classes because the teacher in our class didn’t have the patience to answer my kids’ occasional questions, my children had to put up with reorganizing their little schedules.
When I politely excused myself from talking to the museum docent who couldn’t answer my kids’ questions and decided to take a self-guided tour instead, the kids had to deal with my explanations instead of hers.
When I fixed their favorite little finger foods and brought them to parks and beaches to mingle with other homeschoolers, there wasn’t anything they could do about that either.
And when we fashioned little Beatrix Potter-inspired scarecrows and inserted them into our flower boxes, and caught and identified little things from the tidal pools, and made up songs and stories about states and colors and numbers and words that were very hard to spell, my children were defenseless. They were required to accompany me on bird-watching tours and water-sampling excursions, forced to endure hours of discovery at science and history museums, made to sit quietly during art lessons and piano instruction, and run ragged by kicking soccer balls and splashing endlessly in friend’s pools and water parks, too.
Looking back on those days, it really must have been torture.
Adding salt to their wounds, I controlled much of what they learned, which included reading, writing and mathematics each and every year. I decided what they wore, requiring them to share outgrown clothing with younger siblings and even help the littles dress and tie shoelaces, too. I was vigilant about what they saw on television and learned the only satellite TV command I still remember to this day — the block/unblock feature. I forced them to learn to make pizza in our kitchen and stir-fry in our wok instead of ordering out. If they were hungry, they sometimes even had to cook for themselves. I refused to allow them to purchase T(een) and M(ature) video games, and determined if and when they were allowed to interact with the neighborhood brat or the foul-mouth bully two streets over.
Sadly, there were other signs of bad parenting, too. I can hardly believe I required:
– brushing teeth daily and getting regular dental checkups, even an occasional set of braces
– doing daily chores and helping adults with other things they asked, too
– hitting the pillow at a decent hour every night, and rising before the day and all of its possibilities had slipped away
– having physical education every day or some kind of movement activity to stay active and healthy
– eating a healthy diet without a constant stream of sugary or pre-packaged snacks
– making lists of goals and setting limits on the amount of time they goofed off
– living without an allowance and being denied gadgets and electronics like the ones other kids had
– acting like ladies and gentlemen at all times, even when it was hard
and even stuff like:
– taking classes at local schools, colleges and education centers
– redoing papers and assignments if they didn’t really understand
– finishing their work even though they had other things to do
– studying for exams like SATs and applying for scholarships and colleges
– volunteering in the community
– doing things for neighbors and for animals — for free
I was tough. I see it now. And with this list of flaws and faux-pas, is there anyone that wouldn’t agree?
Homeschoolers do make bad parents. But, alas, no amount of wishing can change the past for my kids.
Maybe this post will help you…before it’s too late.
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