Whether you homeschool or not, when you have multiple children, it is all too easy to fall into comparing the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of one child against another. Sadly, over the years, we have seen one child within a family come out the loser in this comparison game.
Human beings are different.
Well, that’s an obvious statement, but it’s one we quickly forget in a society that extols commercial white bread and processed yellow cheese slices: we like homogeneity, or adherence to a standard of sameness, which is why, at county and state fairs, tomatoes are judged not based upon their taste, but in how similar three of them look to one another on a paper plate.
The Perfect Student
Within a homeschool environment — or actually, within any school environment — the child of choice is generally the quiet, complacent one who fills out workbook pages and doesn’t kick her (the paradigm of perfection is more often a girl than a boy) feet against the chair.
The difficult child, who in families with multiple children is generally not the first, but frequently the second, gets bored with writing between the lines, answering inane questions on topics like, “Talk about your favorite book and why it means so much to you,” and reading mind-numbingly boring textbook paragraphs that the adults in the room, if they are honest, acknowledge as being insipid and unengaging.
If the family doing the homeschooling is religious, the difficult child receives not only the appellation of problematic but the label of “rebellious,” because, for some reason, it’s incredibly important to too many religious people that their children be obedient, in a “Yes, Sir,” “No, Ma’am” sort of way.
More Thought, Less Obedience
This is sad, because our society is producing far too many complacent people, trained to work in cubicles and know just enough to do their job, but not so much that they question why things are done the way they are. Homeschoolers have the unprecedented — and decidedly not guaranteed — right to teach their children in an atmosphere that encourages questioning, analysis, research, study, and dissent, but they will waste this opportunity if they insist that the only good student in the room is the one who sits quietly, works through the flashcards, and methodically gets done with the day’s assignments.
There is much to be said for discipline, organization, and the ability to complete a task, but there is just as much, or more, to be said for someone who asks questions, rocks the boat a bit, and wants to know why things have to be done just this way. The difficult children, the rebellious ones because they don’t shut up and do what they’re told, are just as valuable as the organized ones.
In a perfect world, one learns from the other, because we need discipline with energy, analysis with creativity, the willingness to complete a task along with the boldness to ask why the task needs to be done in the first place.
Each one of your children is uniquely different, and a wise parent sees them not as “good” or “bad,” “disciplined” or “rebellious,” “successful” or (a word that no child ever, ever deserves) a “failure.”
If there is any failure, it is on our part, in our inability to be imaginative and open enough to recognize that differences exist, and we can be part of drawing out the goodness of those differences, encouraging our children to grow into the full potential of what they are capable of being.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. A 20-year veteran homeschooler, I write about homeschooling on Thursdays. My book, Grammar Despair, is designed for people who teach writing, or want to write better themselves, but don’t want to mess with grammar.
Live Happily on Less is a series of essays about how to live well on a modest income which, if you are a homeschooler, you probably know quite a bit about. I’m betting that, if you take a chance on me, you’ll learn something well worth the purchase price. (Digital $5.99; paperback $12.99 or less)
Step by Step Watercolor Success is a digital DVD workshop by my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson, and is designed for beginning and intermediate watercolor students. You can see the promo video here.
If you’re a Christian, or interested in the subject, I write Commonsense Christianity at BeliefNet, focusing on . . . commonsense. As Christians, we’ve pretty much got the “innocent as doves” part down; we really need to work on the “wise as serpents” part. You can see an overview of my Christianity articles on my Contempo Christianity page.
Carolyn, I really, really appreciate this post. As I work along side of families who are choosing to educate their children, I emphasize the the beautiful uniqueness of each child. These nonconformist children are much harder to parent– I have a couple myself– but they are wonderfully creative and make the world a much more beautiful place.
Just like you. I so appreciate your voice.
Have a joy filled christmas!
Alecia — I am glad that you are able to encourage families to love and appreciate their unique, precious children — and as you mention that you “have a couple” yourself, the voice of hard-earned experience carries much weight.
God created each and everyone of us as individuals, and when we let Him, He works with us to shape and mold and form us into the very best that we can be.
Merry Christmas to you and yours! — Carolyn