While cleaning out some old files I came across this newsletter article I wrote some years ago. (Hence, it may sound familiar to some.) As the school year is kicking off it seemed a good time to revisit this idea.
When Timothy was about 7 years old I was in line in a store with him and the man in line behind us asked Tim what school he went to. Timothy said, “I don’t. I’m homeschooled.” The man sent me a scathing look and snapped at Timothy, “What’s 7 plus 8?” Timothy picked up on the animosity and looked over at me. I told the man, not very politely, that I was sorry he didn’t approve, but I didn’t want him quizzing my son.
Unfortunately that kind of encounter was not all that unusual when I first started homeschooling. I was amazed at the amount of animosity I encountered because Tim wasn’t in traditional school. It seems much better these days. I’m sure many of you have had similar encounters with relatives and friends over homeschooling.
I’ve also had friends and family question other decisions I’ve made over the years as a parent. I was too strict, not strict enough, too protective, to lenient, etc. For the most part none of this has been problematic, but occasionally there would be an instance when someone did an end run around me, like the man in line, and went directly to my kids.
When my kids were little we made an effort to avoid the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. Our goal was to keep our kids from looking for those kind of relationships in Jr. High and High School so why start the conversations at 5,6,7. When comments by other adults were made to me kids like, “Do you have a girlfriend? or “like someone?” I would politely intervene to tell them we choose not to encourage that, they would often ignore me and directly ask the kids, “Come on, you can tell me, who do you like?”
On the surface I suppose it’s not that big a deal, but it negates my rights as a parent to decide what I want for my children. It undermines my authority with them. That is a big deal. Sometimes the situation is one where I’ve allowed the boys to do something like read a book, listen to rock music, or grow their hair out to a horrific length This has caused people to question not just my rights as a parent, but whether or not I’m really a Christian.
Over the years I’ve learned several valuable lessons from these encounters. First, and foremost, I am responsible for my children to God. He is the one I answer to. I’ve learned it’s impossible to live up to everyone else’s constantly changing and shifting standards without making my kids neurotic in the process. Trying to maintain the image of the perfect family is exhausting, and in the end, destructive. Instead of trying to figure out what other people expect, I need to figure out what God expects. I need to look at the heart, see what is truly important, pray, seek wise counsel, and take responsibility for my choices.
Second, I’ve had to learn to stand up to people who want to try to make an end run around me, to take away my authority with my children. With the stranger in line behind me it was easy. I’ll never see him again. With close friends it’s harder. A family member who quizzes your children every time you see them because they don’t like homeschooling needs to be spoken to, perhaps firmly. A friend who knows you only let your children see G movies and thinks it’s silly, and allows them to watch other movies at their house needs to b e confronted. As difficult as these confrontations can be, they need to happen.
Third, I’ve learned to be very careful that I don’t undermine anoher parent’s authority. It’s easy to think the way we do things is right and plow on ahead, without thinking about our words and actions. Because I disagree with the decisions another parent has made doesn’t give me the right to interfere with their children. I’ve known homeschoolers who bristle at having their children quizzed by relatives, yet, they turn around and do the same things to a public school child because they don’t believe the child should be in school. The golden rule about ‘doing unto others’ certainly applies here.