Today, I am reading a PDF I downloaded from who knows where about preparing for a new school year (for homeschoolers). It is apparently a collection of essays and articles from The Old Schoolhouse. The first article, I really liked – it encourages parents to plan to use only half or less of the school time they think they have available. That leaves cushion for interruption, and then also leaves you time for “God directed learning.”

The second article is actually titled “Managing a Multi-Level Classroom” or something like that. It’s about teaching 7 year olds when you also have a 3 year old running around.

The second page reads, in part:

In your home, it is important to determine who
makes the decisions for your family’s day. From
toddlers to college-aged students, it is important
to establish very early who the authority in the
home is. Who decides what assignments and
chores will be completed and in what manner? In
a healthy home, this will be the parents, and in a
homeschool, it will be the primary home educator.

OK, though I would not phrase it this harshly, I do agree that there needs to be clear lines of authority in a home. It’s not a democracy. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. I absolutely seek Wally’s input, not only in planning for schoolwork, but in planning for housework, chores, menu, etc. Ultimately, however, it is my decision. I am the parent, and I am the one with 34 years of experience and my adult perspective.

It goes on:

There are some simple ways to see if you are
truly the authority in your home. On Monday
morning when you wake up, you tell the children
that they may have oatmeal for breakfast. If you
are the authority in your home, the children will
carry on and prepare their oatmeal cheerfully,
eat, clean up, and move on with their day. If you
are not the authority, you will be met with
questions, comments, and complaints. Then, you
tell your children the plan for the day by letting
them know their assigned school work and the
chores expected of them. If you are in charge of
the home, the children may require some
guidance and encouragement, but for the most
part, they will simply do as you have told them. If
you are not the authority in your home, you will
be met with blank stares, blatant disobedience,
arguing, or passive aggressive behaviors like
agreeing but never following through on the work
to be done.

What? Seriously? If I told my children they could have oatmeal for breakfast, there’s a 50% chance they’d just eat oatmeal (but only because oatmeal is one of the Genna Approved Foods). There’s an equal chance that Wally, at least, would nicely ask if he could have cereal instead, or eggs, or leftovers from last night, or a sandwich. Um… like I care. Seriously, what they eat for breakfast, as long as it’s a decently balanced meal and it’s healthy, is not something I’m going to make a big deal about. And it is HARDLY indicative of whether or not I have authority in the house.

I mean, really?

I’d say my kids’ reactions would be more indicative of the fact that they have a strong sense of self-worth, they know their ideas are important, and they expect others to listen to them and take them seriously. All better qualities than “blind obedience to others.”

Let me also discuss the “passive aggressive behaviors like agreeing but never following through on the work to be done.” She has just finished talking about teaching YOUNG kids. Maybe my definition of young is different from hers, but in MY world, young kids who agree to do something and then don’t are usually not passive aggressive. They’re usually age-appropriately easily distracted and with not too well developed short term memories.

Now, if the child in question were 10 and I had no reason to suspect that he had actually, in fact, forgotten, THEN I could call that passive aggressive. But this article was, until this point, talking about young kids.

This is why I don’t subscribe to Old Schoolhouse. Man, I need a magazine for Homeschooling Moms Who Are Christians But Also AP. Like “Brain, Child,” but without all the liberal and socialist agenda.

She goes on to discuss the one-room schoolhouse:

They did not whine and
complain that work was not their favorite, or too
hard, nor did they argue. That would have been
very destructive in the school environment, yet
many homeschool mothers deal with these exact
behaviors every day. In order to have a
successful multi-level school, you must establish
that you have the authority and you will decide
the plan for the day.

Now, again, I don’t disagree. I don’t tolerate whining, arguing, or complaining when we’re doing school. I do tolerate respectful questions about what we’re doing, and I welcome at any time Wally’s input about what he does and does not like. Now, if he decides he doesn’t like addition, that doesn’t mean we won’t ever do addition again, but we might take a break from it for a while, or we might do sneaky addition where he doesn’t even realize he’s adding until it’s too late. (which is what we did when he decided addition was too hard.)

But here’s the thing. I don’t typically have whining, arguing, or complaining. Why? Because I seek his input at the beginning, and I work to encourage his natural enthusiasm about learning things. “Now, Wally, today we’re going to learn about prepositions.” vs “Hey, guess what you get to learn today? We’re going to learn about those words that tell us where something is. You know my favorite thing is SchoolHouse Rock, want to watch another SHR video? It’ll tell us more about those words!”

Geez, who WOULDN’T want to learn about prepositions after that?

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3 responses to “

  1. I agree that there needs to be an AP but conservative Christian homeschool outlet. I find that even a lot of the blogs I like tend to be very much conservative, to the point of doing things in a strict regimental fashion, or they tend to be really crunchy to the point of making me sick with all the agenda based undertones. Not that there aren’t those outlets there, they just are a lot harder to come by. I know even locally we are a fairly small group. Lots of great Christian homeschooling families that just parent really differently, or parents who approach with a gentle hand but disagree with what I may teach the kids about where they came from and where they’ll go when it all comes to an end. I think even a local group that is more devoted to that outlook would be nice. Maybe just a chat area to discuss dealing with having a foot in both doors-it can be hard to balance. I know we are already starting to seek each other and use each other for support, but often the arenas we have to discuss in are also open to those who or strictly on one side or another, and I hate to alienate those who mean well, but don’t really fit in a conversation, so I often do not even bring up certain topics knowing they’ll be difficult to talk about in a really open, honest manner. Maybe that is small of me? I guess it is a project now I might have to look into…

  2. I don’t understand why parents would want to micromanage decisions like what the child eats for breakfast as a way to show authority. That is very weird. Of course you are going to set limits on their breakfast (not potato chips or ice cream), but trying to over-control your child’s diet can only lead to power struggles over food. Not healthy.

    How does she know there was no whining or complaining in the one-room schoolhouses? What, kids never got bored in the good old days? Probably there was some complaining, which was “solved” by a paddle or cane.

    I am not a homeschooler, but I would think the big advantage of homeschooling would be the flexibility–you can follow your child’s lead when he is especially interested in one or two subjects. It’s not going to kill anyone to take a week or two off from math if your child seems especially focused on reading skills. If you impose your will/schedule on the learner all the time, that seems to defeat the purpose of homeschooling.

    • It depends on why you are homeschooling. A lot of families do school at home, where they do pretty much a full regular school schedule without much flexibility. The Old Schoolhouse’s main audience is that type of schooler.

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