Humility and the Homeschool Mom

by Chloe Jeffreys · 24 comments

in Adult Kids, Sandwich Generation, Sonlight Forums

This was first published on September 10, 2008.

Since I’m on a scenic tour of the great State of Humility right now I thought I would share some of the sights I’m encountering along the way.

Deciding to homeschool is one of the most rebellious, terrifying (it damn well should terrify you), and prideful decisions a parent can make.

Deciding to homeschool your child is very rebellious. Most of us homeschool parents came out of the system. We got up in the morning and were shuttled off to classrooms where we experienced snacktime and recess and maybe some bullying and being picked first (or last) for the dodgeball team. Whatever our experiences there, good and bad, most of us never gave a thought as children that it could be any other way.

It is deeply ironic then that within the homeschooling community obedience is held at such a high premium. It is deeply ironic that we–who are really doing something quite rebellious, like eschewing the deeply ingrained American tradition of institutionalized schooling–set our eyes and our hearts upon raising compliant, obedient children.

Well, we want them compliant to our ideals anyway. We expect them to rebel against the world like we’re doing.

And sometimes they don’t.

Homeschooling is the ultimate control-freak parenting decision, and still you really don’t have control. You just have the illusion of control.

The problem with philosophies like “tomato-staking” is that we aren’t raising tomatoes here, godly or not.

We’re raising human beings.

And human beings have this nasty way of being autonomous and bursting out of even the most well-built cage and thinking for themselves. Just like you thought for yourself when you decided to homeschool (even though your own mother thought you were crazy and your Aunt Sally is now convinced of it) that’s what will happen one day with your child….they will think for themselves.

Homeschooling offers this alluring promise that you, the loving parent, will have the lion’s share of the influence over your child. And there is truth in that. You’ll have the influence. But you won’t have control. Not really.

Deciding that you can do a better job than a billion dollar industry complete with basketball courts, and science labs, and a multitude of trained professionals takes Pride with a capital P.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve read John Taylor Gatto’s book on Dumbing Us Down.  I’ve attended dozens of homeschooling pep rallies, ummmmm, I mean homeschooling conferences, so I know how homeschooled kids get better test scores and get into Harvard and all that stuff. But I’m not talking about results because when you decide to homeschool your children you got no results, all you got is your kid and a dream.

Yesterday, we spent our one hour talking with out son’s counselor about homeschooling. The counselor was homeschooled (that’s a rare find) and homeschools his own children, so it was a friendly discussion. I’ve definitely had some unfriendly discussions with professionals who want to blame everything on homeschooling as though institutionally educated children never do drugs or go astray or forget to turn in their homework or walk away from their faith. I don’t have to tell you that’s hogwash, but when professionals (or even mom and Aunt Sally) start questioning and bringing up homeschooling’s weaknesses (which it has) that can sure put the homeschooling parent on the defensive.

We’re defensive because deep down we don’t know how it’ll turn out. This is a serious decision that will affect you and your child for the rest of their lives in postive AND negative ways. And in the end you will have no one to blame but yourself.

The investment of time and energy and money (in lost wages if nothing else) on the part of the mother is so huge that it is nearly impossible to disengage our ego from the venture. Shoot!  This is a decades-long project here raising up these kids and us homeschooling moms are giving it our all! It hurts the pride when it just doesn’t work out the way we imagined.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:18 that, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

I thought if I did everything perfectly, of course it would turn out perfectly.

And that’s my lesson for today. Not my lesson for any one of you…that’s my lesson.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Forest Trail Academy September 5, 2015 at 3:01 am

Yes, you’re absolutely right!!! author.
Many of us gone through the public schools and faced the tedious efforts we have undergone to attend the classes in a physical class room and in a pressurized environment. We use to get up in the morning and rush to the schools which are far away from our stay place. But today homeschooling is giving you flexibility of attending the school from any place around the world. The points you have discussed are true and awesome.
Forest Trail Academy recently posted..Going Up on Main Street with Your High School DiplomaMy Profile

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Lisa December 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Just finding your website and this post. It is so true. As a veteran homeschool mom of 18 years, I have learned the hard way that we don’t have as much of control as we think and trying to do so too much can back fire. I wore myself out trying to control so much that now I have most of my children in school. Homeschooling is a tough job.
Lisa recently posted..Getting a handle on homeschool burnout: Emotional/mental needsMy Profile

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Ismary August 1, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Loooovveee your blog Chloe! Funny thing is, I found it while researching Sonlight as a curriculum option for my 4 kidos. I’m a young homeschooling mother of four trying to keep things in the right perspective. I would love to pick your brain on Homeschooling since you have so much more experience than I do. Any advice for me as far as curriculum choices and keeping all the hair on my head while I keep on learning Math and Grammar skills while they forget it every year??

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Chloe Jeffreys August 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi! Nice to meet you.

I loved homeschooling my kids. I’m not sure what is new on the market today, but I know plenty of homeschoolers that I’d be happy to connect you with if you’d like. Email me at Chloe@chloeofthemountain.com if you’re interested.

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Della October 20, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Wow. We’ve decided, this past season, that I’m going to homeschool our two little ones (still 2 and 3.5) through kindergarten. This was very timely for me, and very relevant to my life. I’m definitely bookmarking this one.
Della recently posted..Adelas: @notperfect I say that because the PL is never going to fess up and I don’t want to have the "I can prove you’re wrong" fight.My Profile

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Chloe Jeffreys October 20, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Hey Della, nice to meet you. Raising my children was a glorious time and all I got to say to you now is, “Enjoy them when they are young.”

In all the homeschool conferences I attended I don’t remember ever hearing that there is no such thing as perfect parenting. And it’s was crazy that I thought there was. But I did.

I’m certainly not against homeschooling, but we should look at it with open eyes and not through rose-colored glasses. I know many homeschooled children from very conservative Christian families who have utterly lost their faith in God. I’ve learned that there is no magic salvation in homeschooling.

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Jack@TheJackB October 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I don’t think that I could home school my kids for a variety of reasons. I worked as a teacher for a while and I really liked it, but I also liked leaving the kids in the classroom and having time away.

This is a brave post- I liked it.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Thank Jack.

If I wrote it today I’d change some of it. For one, I’d punctuate it better. But I wrote this when my son was in drug treatment. I’m loathe to edit it now for fear I’d edit out the pain. Ever bad comma is a tear upon the page.

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Angie October 20, 2011 at 6:15 am

I love that you write things we all think but don’t always have a chance to actually say.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I wish there was more honesty about how things really are. Like the fact that homeschool moms are terribly lonely.

We’re so busy rah-rahing about how great homeschooling is for our kids. But is it really good for moms? I don’t know.

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T H September 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Ding Ding! I am very lonely. I’m emotionally exhausted by the afternoon trying to be everything to my 2 kids who are so different in so many ways. They are good kids, but a challenge, my husband works long hours and it’s painfully lonely doing it all.
I sometimes wonder if homeschooling is the right thing to do…

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Chloe Jeffreys September 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

TH, it is OKAY to wonder that! And you would still be a fantastic mother if you decide homeschooling isn’t for you. Millions of wonderful children graduate from public and private schools every year and go on to make something terrific out of their lives. And I think now we have enough evidence from the two decades of homeschooling to know that homeschooled children are not any more likely to embrace Jesus as their Savior than kids who went to public school. TH, I really wanted to find a statistic to support my last sentence, but I couldn’t in just a few minutes. I’m basing that statement on my observations and being part of a homeschooling community of thousands (online, of course). I myself ended up with a 50% “success” rate. My daughter walked into adulthood as a Christian, and is as devout as ever. My son is in a season of doubt and disenfranchisement. And to my toes, I know in my heart that the odds of their choices would be exactly the same had I put them in public school.

I am most certainly NOT encouraging you either way. Only you know what is best for YOU. What I want to tell you is that YOU matter in this decision. If you feel that homeschooling is not working then you can make another choice, and don’t let anyone else make you feel badly about it. You are still a good mother. Maybe you’re even a better mother than the mother who insists on homeschooling to make herself feel and look better to the other homeschool moms by continuing doing something that she knows she doesn’t want to do, or isn’t really the best choice for her kids.

While the homeschooling community eschews this argument, there is a reason some people go to school for a very long time to be teachers. Just because you are their mother does not mean you are meant to be their teacher. And it is perfectly reasonable to want to carve out a boundary between those roles and enjoy being a mother once again.

God bless you as you wrestle with your decision. I have your back either way.

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Linda September 24, 2008 at 12:57 am

>Have come to some of these conclusions on my own lately but to see them down on paper (or computer as the case may be) just gives me even more to think about. A friend of mine got a small dose of this reality when she couldn’t control her daughter getting married against their wishes. Lot of other things going on too that sent up big warning flags for me. Hope I can learn from those that have been there and are now looking back.Thanks!mompotter

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Leslie September 11, 2008 at 11:05 am

>Thank you for sharing this, Chloe. I’m still coming to terms with my control issues, and learning to let go (and not pass on my issues to my dc!).Hugs, my friend!Leslie/NUOY

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Mrs. B. September 11, 2008 at 8:17 am

>Chloe -I think this blog post is RIGHT ON. I was home-schooled from kindergarten through high school by parents who were MUCH stricter and more “sheltering” than you and the Tick have been with your own children. When I turned 18, I moved in with my 24-year-old boyfriend who I had been seeing behind my parents’ backs. My mother’s response? “How can you do this to me? I didn’t raise you to do this!” She then had a total and complete nervous breakdown, to the point where her old college roommate had to come stay for a week and make sure that she did things like bathe and eat and not pull her hair out in clumps.My mother honestly believed that she could “help” achieve my salvation and sanctification if she created the perfect environment for me… and when it turned out that I was STILL sinful and willful in spite of it all, she literally collapsed.Reading your blog posts over the past few of weeks has felt like such deja vu. I think that this post is really transparent and very, very true. So many of us who have chosen to home school really do think that we can entirely control the outcome, whether we admit that to ourselves or not. And when we find out that we can’t, it’s like everything that we’ve clung to and believed in has betrayed us, when really we built the sandcastle all by ourselves, deluding ourselves that the tide would stay away for ever if we just worked hard enough.Thank you for being so willing to share your pain and your thoughts and the things that you are learning.- RenadaJoy on SL

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Sam September 11, 2008 at 5:18 am

>Wow Chloe, it is almost like you just read my journal this past week. My husband and I have been talking about my “control issues” and I have been trying my best to let go, and recognize my kids are just that, kids, and not me. They have minds of their own, after all isn’t that why I wanted to homeschool? So they could grow up to be the people God wants them to be? Thank you for the reminder. I am so sorry you are going through so much right now. Thank you for your honesty. It is what drew me to your posts when I was on SL.

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Magnolia September 11, 2008 at 4:17 am

>Chloe,I don’t know what’s in your heart. But I *do* think you’re slamming yourself way too hard.Now, that’s calling the kettle black coming from me. I’m the queen of condemnation and I like to trick myself into calling it humility………pride you say? I’ll give you pride……..Try this one on: God says in His word that you are holy and acceptable in the beloved. He says in His word that nothing shall separate you from the love of God. He says in His word that there is therefore now, no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus.If we allow ourselves to hold any other opinion of ourselves other than what God holds, THAT my dear is pride.So, though you may think you are doing yourself a favor by this public flogging, you are not.You are still “holy and acceptable” in the eyes of God and if you confess otherwise, well, dare I say, you have a pride issue.What, thinking your opinion of yourself is higher than God’s?Try that one on for size.Oh, and I love you.Mags

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Anonymous September 10, 2008 at 9:38 pm

>Hi—I am on the SL forums and enjoy your blog. I just wanted to comment on your “tomato staking” comments. As a person who loves to garden, there is something about that phrase applied to children that rubs me the wrong way. Tomatoes are staked for life. Once tied up, they stay tied up forever. Untie the vine, and it will immediately flop over and die. Maybe I’m over thinking things, but it just strikes me as a terrible metaphor for what we as parents are trying to accomplish. The only way the metaphor works for me is to think of God as the one we should be staking ourselves to, but that is a voluntary process and not something forced on us.On a more relevant note, please know you are in my prayers.

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