17 October 2007

Reason 713 Why I Will Not Be Home-schooling My Hypothetical Children

I've mentioned before that I teach the Young Women in my ward, specifically the 14-15 year-olds, who are referred to in the Church as Mia Maids. I have no idea why. But I teach them and I have loads of fun with them, especially since I've known most of them since they were born. It is fun to watch them turn into people. But I digress. A new family recently moved into the ward boundaries and their 15 ("but I'll be 16 in four months") year-old daughter has been attending class activities on Wednesday (but, oddly enough not Church on Sundays. Maybe they home-school Church too). Last Wednesday the activity was painting pumpkins (marginally less messy than carving them) and theNewGirl arrived a bit early because her parents had to be somewhere else with another one of their daughters at 7pm. So I tried to get to know her a little better. Here is our conversation:

Scully: So what do you like to do in your spare time?

theNewGirl: Read

Scully (thinking Yay! A Reader!): What do you like to read?

theNewGirl: Romances

Scully (trying to keep from grimacing): Like paperback romance or Jane Austen romance?

theNewGirl: Like romances from Deseret Book.

Scully (trying desperately to keep the bile from rising): Like Anita Stansfield books?

theNewGirl: Yeah, her or (insert some 3-named woman who apparently writes LDS romance novels). My aunt buys them and then sends them to me.

Mercifully the doorbell rang and other girls started to arrive. Sadly, theNewGirl didn't have much to say to the rest of the girls, as they were full of stories from school and comparing teachers etc. Our class president, M, tried to make conversation and even told theNewGirl she looked for her at school, which was when theNewGirl announced she was home-schooled. And then said very, very little else all night long. M tried a couple of more times to include her, but I could tell she was in no way prepared to participate in their conversation. Especially the part of their conversation in which they discussed how uncomfortable the already out-and-proud lesbian that played on a couple of their sports teams made them. As I watched during the whole evening, it became painfully clear how unprepared for the world she is. Even though she is nearly a year older than the next girl in the class, she dresses as if she were still in grade school, in novelty t-shirts with smiling pumpkins. She couldn't carry on a simple conversation with any of the other four girls about anything. The only moment she seemed to enjoy the evening was when she was about to tell me all about the romance novels from Deseret Book. Which makes me wonder exactly what the curriculum is at home. I understand not wanting worldly influences in your home and I understand wanting your children to be safe, to be free from the dangers of this world, but there is a point at which protecting becomes imprisoning in a false Garden of Eden. If one is never presented with the many alternatives, good and evil, that exist in this world, especially when one is able to reside in the sheltered environment of the home, what happens when one runs smack dab into them when one has left that environment? What if one has a roommate with an eating disorder, one who swears like a sailor, one who openly flaunts the rules, or one who simply lives by different rules from those with which one is familiar? Especially if one is going to any incarnation of BYU, where one expects everything to be the way it was at home. I may be totally off, but I just see this poor girl floundering when presented with the real world. She and her parents have created such an environment in which she has very little contact with the world outside and which is reinforced by her reading novels that are little more than LDS fairytales. I can tell she has her life planned out, that she firmly believes that she will follow the Mormon culture's Happily Ever After of BYU, meet-and-marry a returned missionary, multiple children by the age of 30, and a settled life with a house and a minivan. And that doesn't always happen. In fact, it doesn't often happen. And I've seen some people thrown off the rails because what they thought would happen didn't and they were lost and started to question the really important things like testimony and the Atonement and all the other things that matter. And even if it does happen, what if she finds that it isn't all the happily-ever-after unicorns, rainbows and sunshine that she imagines it to be? Do you think, dear readers, that I'm overly-judgemental and need to stop jumping to conclusions or is there something really dangerous about such a sheltered life?

15 comments:

Panini said...

wow - yes - sad
and beautifully written, I might add - poetic prose my dear :)
Most (although not all - and I can think of at least 5 very notable exceptions) of the homeschooled kids I've known have just really really struggled socially and emotionally (as they happen to be tied)- and, unfortunately, they stay weird. (bless their poor little weird hearts and well meaning parents.)
I, on the other hand, read books that swear and have sex and other dirty things - so they probably wouldn't want to be me either. ;)
I guess life is hard however you go about it - maybe it's easier in some ways down that route . . . but then we always think our own version of hard is the preferable one . . .

esperanza said...

No, I agree. Or at least they should put their kids in regular high school. I know what is "bad" out there becuase I teach in it everyday, but even "bad" kids are still "good" kids, and the good Mormon kids learn a lot about life from dealing with other people who do not have their own standards. A few years ago one of the general Primary presidents talked in conference about how we have to teach our kids the light in our homes and then send them out there in the world!

Heather said...

Are there only 713 reasons? :) I whole-heartedly agree with you Scully. This is such a scary way to go in my opinion. That poor child will struggle. Then she may find someone who shares their views.. and raise their own family of children who struggle. It's a vicious cycle. But maybe they don't know they struggle and who are we to tell them they are? Who really knows.

I will definitely not be home-schooling my kids either, or even putting them in private school. a LOT of kids in my ward are in private schools and it makes me sad to see what all they miss out on. Moses Lake is a very sheltered place.. not even close to Utah.. but still very sheltered in my opinion. It is safe and small and and a great place to be raised. Why not just go to public school? Why must we re-invent the wheel?

But I'm so proud of your girls for trying to include her. That seems so rare these days for kids to really reach out to other kids who are different. It is sad, but true.

anyway.. this is too long.

two forks said...

i agree! i was also in charge of the mia maids and you learn A LOT about the families in your ward! while sheltering your kids to the extent of having a 100% celestial environment would be nice... it is not the real world and i'd rather have street smart kids than naive ones!

cherbear said...

I agree with you. It's really sad to see girls get filled with this typical Mormon ideal/fairy tale of which you described. I always expected that to happen to me and it didn't. These girls need to be taught that sometimes things don't work out the way you plan or like the fairy tales. Sadly, even some temple marriages don't work out. Anyway, as for homeschooling, I'd rather teach my own kids since there are such crappy teachers here. Most teachers have an ego trip that they are right all the time even when they are wrong. Some kids I tutored told me their teachers corrected them even though the student was right and teacher was wrong. I would want my kids to go to high school at least. You can home school kids and still involve them in social activities. At least that poor little girl is going to YW on Wednesdays. That's some interaction even if she doesn't know how to interact, she'll learn. As for not attending Sundays, I knew girls who would do that here. Sunday must be too boring I guess.

Scully said...

I'm glad you guys agree and get that I'm not saying all home-schooling is bad. I have friends who kill themselves doing it right, but they still have young kids, so I don't really know what plans they have for the future. I would think that at some point the curriculum would out strip your knowledge. I mean, how many of us understand algebra enough to teach the concepts? Not I.

Katie said...

AMEN TO THAT, SISTER! I am so, COMPLETELY, utterly opposed to home school it is not even funny! Even if the curriculum IS intense enough, kids miss out on TOO much socially by being confined to home. AND I do not buy the argument that if you involve your children in plenty of activities with social interaction it makes up for it. It simply does not. That is a LIE! I have students who are now trying to transition into high school after being home schooled. They struggle to fit in, to manage juggling the class load, and to carry on a normal conversation. It just makes the already complicated adolescent experience an absolute nightmare. Plus, if you move on into adulthood, how are you ever supposed to function in society if you've never been exposed to reality? I'm sorry that I am being so negative, but I do not have very many positive feelings on the subject. I really hope I have not offended anyone. I agree that there are exceptions...but for the most part, it's just not a bright way to go!

Heather said...

Happy Birthday!!!

ZB said...

I don't know how many of your readers are married...but I can tell you from first hand experience that marriage SUCKS & I have a pretty good marriage. Okay, with that said...let me splain...It doesn't suck all the time. It's just a pain in the patutie. And sadly, it's harder than anyone ever tells you it's going to be. But, it has some it's good moments that make you realize that it's either worth it or ...there's not a whole lot you can do about it now so just live with it.

As for theNewGirl: I was homeschooled...kind of ...for a short time. And, in my opinion, there are few people who can do that & turn out to be "Well-Balanced". Sadly, not only Homeschooled individuals are faced with this "sheltered" life. I too was a sheltered girl (thank goodness, there are plenty of things that you don't need to know or see or DO in life)...but you do need to understand that your life is NOT typical. For me...Traveling, serving a mission, going to school...all these things helped me understand the bigger world around me without having to "experience" it 1st hand.

As for public schools...they are garbage! At least the ones I'm familiar with. I would avoid sending my child to a public school because I've SEEN the crap that goes on there. So, my suggestion...(other than not having children...hehehe)...is something in the middle. PRIVATE or Charter schools. AND BE INVOLVED! and no, I'm not qualified to teach Algebra!

cherbear said...

Well I have to say that public school does not necessary make one socially able. I was very shy and anti-social and going to public school didn't help. The Church really makes gaining social skills easier by having so many activities for young people. I think that being home schooled and going to Church activities is a good balance. It was Church activities that helped me gain more social skills. And I AM qualified to teach Algebra! Thank goodness or I wouldn't have a second job to fall back on if need be! I agree with ZB, private school would be a good way to go. My son will probably end up in public schools though but at least I'll be here to help him through it.

esperanza said...

I wanted to add to what Katie said, I have had a student who used to be home schooled, and she couldn't understand basic instructions I gave her unless her mom then gave her the instructions all over again. Her mom came in and worked with me a few times and assignments that I had given her that she had totally failed at, before my eyes her mom re-explained and then she got it. The thing is, her mom is not going to be there every where with her to explain things to her. I don't think this is probably the case with all home school kids, but it was with her.

blackjazz said...

I have very little to say about home-schooling because I have little experience of it, but I enjoyed reading all your comments.

I believe it was Aristotle (384 BC to 322 BC) who claimed that schooling should be compulsory because it was too important a matter to be left in the hands of parents.

Anonymous said...

Wow, do you judge everyone as quickly as you judged this poor girl? No wonder she backed off and you never had a chance to get to know the "real person" inside. Who cares what she reads--does it have to be from your private reading list for it to be enjoyable? I guess she comes off looking pretty awful if you are the one who gets to set up the criteria of what is good and what is not. I think you have very strong biases and are extremely intolerant of other people's differences. Too bad you can't live in a world where everyone is exactly like you.

chosha said...

Is your blog supposed to have a dark shade of cornflower blue for the background? Because that's what I'm getting, with black type, and jolly hard to read it is, too.

chosha said...

I think some kids do well in home-schooling, but NOT when the goal of homeschooling is to shelter them from the rest of the world. There are good reasons to home school - that just isn't one of them.