I had an article pop up on my Facebook feed this morning that I had shared last year on this day. It was about children giving up their childhood so that they could get into the best college. About joining groups and sports and taking the highest level high school classes to guarantee their admittance into the best college. About how all of this robs these children of their childhoods. You can read the article here.
I grew up in typical America. Go to school, get good grades, be in the highest classes you can take, pack your schedule with as many extracurricular activities as you can, and then carry it with you to college—and do the same thing all over again.
You can say I’m a rebel of sorts, but I started bucking this system in high school. I bailed out of chemistry because it ruined my grade point average. I didn’t do sports of any kind my senior year because I elected to get a job that didn’t allow for a sports schedule. I skipped my senior trip because my boyfriend (later husband) couldn’t go. I was engaged at 17, married at 18, and had my 1st baby at 19. I had 1 semester of college, much to the dismay of my parents. I’ve just always done things my own way. Again, much to the dismay of my parents.
I’m not even trying to suggest that this way of living isn’t hard. I’m not suggesting that college is the devil, not even close. I’m just convinced that college isn’t the way to success for everyone.
Fast forward to my own children. When we first started homeschooling 5-6 years ago, many thought we were crazy. I come from a long line of public school teachers and public school was just what you did. I struggled when we first started because I was trying to replicate public school at home. The very thing I was trying to get away from was what was happening. I felt guilty when my kids didn’t start school at 7 or 8am. I felt guilty when they were done with school at noon. I felt like we couldn’t take a day off because it was a “school day”. I felt like they might fall behind because they weren’t doing things like public school. Yet I totally felt like we were doing what God’s will for us was.
While we still followed a curriculum, I began to be drawn to the concept of unschooling, aka student led schooling. Basically, you follow the child’s interests and wrap your education around that. You incorporate all math, reading, science, etc into a subject that the child is naturally excited about.
As I began to relax about my effectiveness as a homeschooling mom, learning became fun for all of us. It was automatically built into our everyday. Everything became a lesson. Cooking, caring for animals, working outside, being in the woods, reading books (they LOVED the library), building things, caring for others’ children, running a business…….school happened 24/7 (well, probably not overnight 😉 )
When my husband passed away, I needed some routine again. I needed a reason for everyone to get up and get dressed. I needed a schedule, a time to be somewhere and a time to look forward to at night. I put my children back in school.
While I have many reasons why my girls (minus 1) are back at public school, I still very much hold onto the unschooling way of thought.
- I despise homework. I figure that they are in school enough hours daily to not have to come home at night and work. Most of the time, we can’t even help them with their homework because it is so complicated…..Yep, I am that mom. I try to keep my disgust to myself and remind them that turning in their work is of utmost importance, but only to try and teach responsibility, not because I think they need more work outside of the classroom. My husband is a stickler for homework being done immediately after school, but I feel like they worked all day and deserve a break to be a kid. As adults, we are ready to relax when the work day is over, why do we expect more out of our kids?
- I struggle pushing my kids to do things that no adult I know ever uses in everyday life. All of the high-level classes? Unless you are going into a very specific career, why do you need calculus? And if you are going into that sort of field, you probably enjoy it, so at that point, take it…..but for the majority of kids, it’s just wasting their nights away doing, in my opinion, wasted work. Yet, it’s still pushed in our high schools…..
- I hate that the absolute goal in life is to get into college. Yes, college is great. College is needed for many vocations. However, making our kids feel like the only way they will ever make it is to go to college is so wrong. Why can’t we be encouraging them to find out what they were made for, what excites them, what keeps them up at night with excitement, and push them to learn that? Why is entrepreneurialism not encouraged?
- Pushing our kids into continuous sports or clubs for the sake of being the next best thing? News flash, MOST kids aren’t going to turn out to be superstar athletes. MOST kids aren’t going to make a living playing their favorite sports. Yet, we push them into year-round clinics, travel teams, personal coaching, etc in the name of “being committed and bettering themselves for the future”. Many kids on my girls’ sports teams have made comments to my daughters that they’re tired of their parents hounding them about what they are doing wrong. They are tired of spending every waking moment being forced to be better. They are tired of spending every free minute at a clinic, weekend tournament, or multi-week practice. Their time to just be a kid is taken in the hustle to keep up and be the best (which is never achieved). Playing for the love of the sport is a thing of the past…..many are forced to try and be the prodigy, at the cost of being a child. (For those that are truly enjoying it and the CHILD desires this for themselves and not because they are being pushed by parents – more power to you)
I struggle sometimes that I am not doing enough. That my kids aren’t involved enough. That we spend too much down time. But reading the article like the one above (and also some recent events that made me really think about our position) has cemented in my mind that we are doing the best for our children.
No, our children don’t play sports year ’round. That will likely cost them some playing time in the high school space. Sad, yes, that it has been taken to that level, but I want my children to experience life outside of organized sports. In 10 years, what will they have to look back on in their childhood if every waking minute was scheduled around a practice, game, or something of the like?
No, my children don’t always have their homework done. We try, but if it becomes something that we just can’t explain in the way it is being taught, they will have to take it back to the teacher the next day to get further clarification.
I have taken several lessons out of my homeschooled daughter’s curriculum, because if she absolutely hates Spanish, she won’t use it in her life. If she does, I like to think that I’ve taught her how to teach herself and she can and will teach it to herself when she needs to. Same goes with high-level math. It’s not something I’m willing to waste any more time stressing over. I can absolutely see her being self-employed, so she learns about how money relates to business. It comes easy to her because that is where her interest lies. In my opinion, this will benefit her more than forcing her to take math that she won’t ever use because it’s the way to college.
I find every way possible to incorporate lessons into our every day life. I strive for them to figure things out for themselves and to be able to find an answer. I guide them, but my girls are very capable of finding answers that they need because I don’t spoon feed them. If they have a question that I feel they can answer, I answer them with a question that will make them figure out the answer to their own question, instead of just giving them the answer.
We spend much of our time unscheduled, by choice, because I like to be able to follow whatever is striking us at the moment. We spend much of our time outdoors. They are free to roam, play, imagine, get dirty, and follow things that excite them.
At the end of the day, I want my girls to look back on their childhoods and be full of excitement and memories of time well spent. Not time spent trying to be better than someone else, not time spent all wrapped up in one activity or another, not time spent being pushed into being someone that they are not, not time spent on trying to meet any goals that we imposed on them.
Some of the best memories that they share already are times when we are just out and about as a family. Things they learned, funny things that happened, lessons that came in unexpected ways.
Maybe we are lax in the way we parent, but we are attempting to build children that think for themselves and strive for things that make a difference in the light of eternity….not for what this world deems important. I don’t want my kids to feel like they somehow failed because they aren’t conforming to society’s expectations. It’s absolutely ok to not follow the masses, in fact, the majority of the time I don’t agree with the masses.
What about you?
- Do you expect your child to follow the “norm”—-do well in school, excel in everything, go to college, get married, have kids, make a ton of money and live happily every after or do you push them to follow their own path?
- Do you encourage them to follow their own God-given life path or do you feel that the only success is following society’s version of success?
- Do you encourage them to be a child or do you try to fill their every minute with something in the name of “helping them be successful”?
- If I asked your child would they say that they feel that they can’t live up to your expectations or would they feel comfortable in their worth regardless of their performance?
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