Before I begin this article I would like to make a couple of statements clear, as to avoid accidentally offending the few people who actually read this blog.
First, I am not a homeschool parent, or a parent of any kind. I do not pretend to understand the struggles and balance of parenting, or the emotional battles that parents fight with in themselves. However, I have been a homeschool child my entire life. I have been parented by the people who birthed me, and I have observed the different parenting styles found among my friends, fellow students and even my enemies. I trust that if you are a parent reading this you will understand that because of these things, I don't know exactly what I am talking about. But, I do have years of experience being an objective observer. That is all this is. Some observations. And some song opinions, but we will get to those.
Secondly, this is not an incredibly generally targeted article. I fully acknowledge that not all homeschool families parent this way. By no means do I mean to generalize or stereotype the demographic and make it seem like EVERY HOMESCHOOLER PARENT IS LIKE THIS. I know that each of you are unique, beautifully formed snowflakes in a diverse storm of parenting methods. By no means do I intend to offend you, or unintentionally point out the flaws in your parenting. However, I am a teenage homeschooler, thus I assume you can avoid being offended for the duration of this article. If you do get offended stop reading. Or reread what has become an insanely long intro to make sure you don't get offended.
Thirdly, this is not directed at specific people. I mean, yes it is. I can think of several families I have encountered over the course of the past couples years who were inspirational to the writing of this article. But none of those specific people, are you. You are perfect, and intelligent and beautiful. (I only say that because I know the only two people who might read this are Caleb and Mrs. Yarbrough. and maybe not even them).
Now that I am done disclaiming, I feel like I should be done. Except, that I have essentially said nothing. Back to to the point.
Let's start with my parents.
I was parented by my mother and father (as most people are). I think they have for the most part excelled at the balance between providing boundaries and independence. As a child, I would say they were on stricter side of parenting. My parents were gods. If Dad says "No", then the answer is no. By speaking, my parents could establish laws and punishments and boundaries. It didn't take me long to figure out the way it worked. Simply put, it was to much work to argue with them, so I just did what I was told. I say this to establish that my parents did raise me on concrete boundaries, and I from them I learned respect, obedience, common sense and a sense of right and wrong.
However, as I got older and began to drift into my teenage years, things began to shift. I started having friends who could listen to secular music, wear brand name clothes and watch PG-13 movies unsupervised. I began to want to want to do more interesting things; gain a little bit of independence from my parents. And through a long and arduous process my parents evolved to the new set parents I now have.
In the past four years, my parents have been incredibly chill. Instead of holding me back from doing things they aren't comfortable with they walked me through how deal with issues independently instead of relying on the crutch of an adult supervisor. For example, the first dance I ever organized was my junior year of high school. My mother was involved enough to assist with covering the logistics and issues that come up when you try to throw a Formal dance from scratch. But for my next two dances, now equipped with the sills I needed, I was able to succeed independently.
I bring all this up to highlight the issue I see with Homeschool parenting. Parents don't allow their children enough freedom to conquer issues on their own, therefore they never get the opportunity to build their own set of principles. Let me explain.
Most homeschool students are born among parents who immediately impress upon them the importance of the Bible on their lives. They want to instill in their child good, godly principles that create well rounded, God-serving human beings. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that. Having grounded principles is the first step to understanding yourself and the world around you. However, most parents fail to recognize the difference between a Concrete and Choice principle.
A concrete principle is one that is universally acknowledged, grounded unarguably by scripture and vital to the emotional, physical or spiritual well being of your child. Things like "Do Not Murder", "Do Not Lie", "Do Not Light Your Friend on Fire". These are things that should be established in your child early on and continue to be enforced until they leave the home.
On the other hand we have choice principles. These principles are things that can only be really believed and achieved through personal understanding and discussion making. I see so many homeschool parents, and even homeschool co-ops who try to make stands for modesty. Modesty, is of course an important things, but not a concrete one. By measuring shorts, pointing out "immodest clothing" and shaming girls for what they wear, parents and school boards accomplish little to nothing. Telling a girl she should be modest isn't effective. Telling a teenage they shouldn't drink alcohol, date, or do drugs.
In my extensive research, I have found that while all homeschool parents vary, there is a very consistent trend. By impressing both choice and concrete principles on their children, they rob their students of a very important skill set: independent thinking. When parents choose not to let their children make their own moral decision in the house, they pretty much ensure that their children won't know how to make moral decisions outside of the house.
The logic behind this parenting is that it is important to install in your children a "moral compass". By depriving them of moral decisions, you are essentially handing them a moral compass and then not allowing them to navigate. Here is my beautiful analogy.
You give birth to a child on a canoe, because you live in a tribe of native americans who live strictly on Canoes. At a young age, you instill in your child the important, unarguable elements of canoeing: which side to paddle on, how not to flip the canoe, how to avoid alligators and various hazards. These are the concrete principles. Then you let them know the more arguable tips, such as "Usually I avoid this part of the river because their are alligators, but if you do go into that creek, beware of the alligators." These are the choice principles, such as instead of saying "If you are alone with a boy bad things will happen" you say "When you're alone with a boy there are more opportunities to screw up, but I trust that if you choose to be alone with a boy you an be smart about it." See?
Finally, this Native American Canoe child is old enough to try to navigate the river and operate the canoe using the tools you have given him. Common sense dictates that you would allow the child to try and "drive" the canoe while you are still in the canoe. Then when they wonder up creeks and encounter alligators you can assist them and guide them through dealing with alligators. It doesn't seem right to send them out into the river having never dealt with an alligator before.
If you want to guide your children instead of stunting their adulthood, then you should choose to walk with them without holding their hands. Let Bob Jr. go on a date. It won't kill him, and then when his girlfriend ends up being crazy and tries to force Bob Jr. to join her cult, you can say "No Bob Junior" and he will learn a lesson. Also, he will learn basic skills for dating in the future.
If Bob Jr. goes on his first date when his is twenty-five, he will have no skills. He won't know how to treat a girl in a way that is neither creepy nor awkward, he won't know how to tell if a girl is just committed or crazy, he won't know when to or how to kiss her (And if you are 25 and don;t know how to do these things then that is very sad." At this point, the parents are old and actually want their children o have love so they can have grandchildren, so by guiding your children through this earlier, you are making an investment in your future grandchildren.
Thus, I end my rant. I hope you learned something.