Be your child’s safety net
Remember our discussion about the “prophecies of doom” we sometimes inadvertently declare over our kids?
Sometimes we have to deal with prophecies of doom from others outside our families.
Today I had a message from a mother worried about her daughter who is in school, suffering from clinical anxiety, and struggling to complete a 15 page paper, which will be the difference between passing and failing the class. The instructor predicted dire consequences if her daughter failed to complete the paper and the class.
My friend’s message reminded me of another conversation—one I had with Johannah and Liam as he prepared to travel to Europe. At the apex of Liam’s nervousness about being 18 years old, alone on another continent, not knowing the languages of the countries on his itinerary, worried about making a mistake, his sister told him, “Liam, you’ll make it. After all, what are you going to do? Curl up in a ball and lie in the middle of the road and die? Of course not. If you encounter a problem, you will simply hack away at it until you solve it—because you have to, because that’s what people do when faced with big problems.”
It was a “morbidly comforting thought,” as Liam put it.
And it is. And should be to us too.
When someone else makes a dire prediction about your child and your child believes it (or fears it, or takes it in as likely), it’s your job to neutralize the impact of that negative assertion.
For instance, it’s not true that without a high school diploma, you can’t get into college. Homeschoolers have been proving otherwise for decades.
It’s not true that failure to complete the requirements for a specific class today bars you from making it as an adult tomorrow.
It’s not true that the discipline you show in high school is an indication of how well you will function in a job later. People change, mature, grow, and develop at different rates.
It’s possible to finish high school in your 20s. It’s possible to take the GED and get it over with at 15, without taking all the classes a diploma requires. It’s possible to return to homeschool after going to public school and hating it. It’s possible to delay college until your late 20s or 30s, or to not go at all.
It’s okay to stop schooling (at any stage) all together if your child’s mental and emotional well-being are at stake.
We are much more comfortable taking a child-centered, faith-filled stance with our kids in elementary school and junior high. We trust that there’s time to “catch up.” High school hits, and all of us surge forward into a “pass/fail” mentality—a zero-sum game. The culture would have us believe that all that it needs to know about our children is determined between 14-18 years of age. But that’s simply not true.
Some kids need all of their 20s to figure out what benefit could be gained from a college degree. Some discover not much benefit at all!
What we can do for our kids is to keep opening up the possibilities. We can lay out all the options—how things will look if your child comes home from high school instead of gutting it out, how things will be if he or she decides to wait to go to college, what ideas there are for being a high schooler who takes six years to finish instead of four. We can suggest alternatives like travel, work-study, outdoor education, internships, working and watching television and having friends while recovering from whatever it is that is emotionally disabling.
We can focus on our child’s person, rather than the child’s performance.
Home education is about customizing learning to your child—the human being, not coercing a fragile person through an oppressive system (if that’s what the system feels like—public, private, or home education models).
- Remind your child of his or her unique gifts.
- Identify with that child’s struggles.
- Offer an optimistic outlook for the future.
- Take pressure off.
- Give/get help (because help helps).
- Find alternatives to the traditional paths.
Above all, trust that not one of you (not your child, not yourself, not your spouse) is going to lie down and curl into a ball and die. You’ll all keep hacking away at the problems together, and you’ll find your way because you love each other so deeply. Even with mistakes. Even with miscalculations. Even with your own fears and memories of setbacks in the mix.
Your kids are young (anyone under 20 is). They have their entire lives ahead. They have a couple decades to figure stuff out… and then a couple more decades to figure more stuff out. Like me. Like you.
You might need to create a little safety net for your own ego, too, as you re-think what tells you you’ve been successful with your kids. You are as successful as you are compassionate, resourceful, strong, and kind.
Be good to you, too. You’re doing the best you can too, and can change how you parent and home educate any time you’d like. You are not trapped either.
Cross-posted on facebook.