frozen

Is our culture too overprotective of children?

Grandparents in West El Paso, Texas left their five grandchildren home alone while they ran into town to “take care of some business.”  The eldest was thirteen, the youngest four.  They never expected to receive a call there at the IRS from the fire department telling them they had to come home.

They never expected their house to catch on fire.  Fortunately, all five children were rescued, with the eldest being taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.  She was upstairs, where the fire began, but is expected to recover fully.

Hopefully we can all agree that the fact that this couple was homeschooling these children is fully irrelevant, but it does bring up the question of supervision.  At least to the local news channel reporting on the story.

But some may say that 13 years old is too young to be a babysitter for four other kids.

According to Texas law, there is no specific age said to be too young to be left home, and each child and situation should be taken into consideration.There is a law, however, that defines something called neglectful supervision. A law that states a child should not be put in a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires better judgment and maturity than the child has. KFOX14

I’ll play that “reasonable person,” but there are too many other questions in my mind that would need to be answered before I could definitively say that this thirteen year old lacked the judgment and maturity to be put into this situation.

  1. How long were the adults intending on being away? An hour or two?  Most of the day?
  2. How old were the other children? We know the youngest was four, but a twelve year old could help and a ten year old could be responsible more or less for him or herself.  Just knowing the age of the eldest and the youngest leaves me a tad suspicious that the reporter is trying to stir controversy where perhaps none need be.  But I’m just suspicious that way.
  3. How mature is the thirteen year old? I’ve known thirteen year olds who were quite capable and responsible and full grown adults I wouldn’t trust with my puppy.  I would hope that the grandparents would be better judges of her maturity level than any arbitrary age level.
  4. What are the relationships between the children like? I wouldn’t leave my ten year old with any of them just yet, but I’d sooner leave her alone with her two sisters and baby brother than with just her six year old brother.  He is “active” and they do not get along very well.
  5. What about the neighbors? If you know your neighbors and your children have some place to go in an emergency, the situation looks a lot different.  Especially if those neighbors know the children are home alone and are keeping an eye out on the house.

Here in Nebraska, you can send your eleven year old to the Y or to the American Red Cross to earn their babysitter’s certificate, even though I have a hard time imagining leaving my daughter responsible for another child at that age.  But just because I wouldn’t do it doesn’t mean it constitutes neglect.  It reminds me a bit of the discussion last spring surrounding the columnist who allowed her nine year old son to navigate the Subway system to get home.  Alone.  In New York City!  My first reaction to that story was a resounding “She did what?!”  But I was born and raised in the Midwest and I would be uncomfortable navigating the NYC Subway system alone.  This child, on the other hand, has grown up with it.

There was a time when a thirteen year old girl could expect to marry soon, have children and raise her own family.  This, in fact, still happens in parts of the world.  And young Sarah Noble was but eight when she left with her father to explore the wilderness and cook for him.  Granted, these children had/have a far different upbringing than most of our suburban youth.  Today, they would probably be placed in protective custody.

But I still wonder.  Was this couple neglectful in leaving their grandchildren home alone?  Or has our culture artificially extended childhood by becoming too overprotective of children?

frozen

Is it a parent’s duty to do the best for their children?

I don’t really know what “good enough” parenting is.  Maybe it is a British thing, but apparently it is something of enough concern to the UK that the government funded some research which concluded that better parenting leads to better adjusted children.

‘The notion of “good enough” parenting may seem ideal in today’s hectic world, yet the reality is that “good enough” parents will most likely produce “good enough” children at best.  MailOnline

There really are no startling revelations in this study, at least as it was reported.  Except maybe that you can get government money for this kind of thing, but that is hardly a surprise, either.  One little part caught my attention, however.

The Good Childhood Inquiry recently claimed a culture of ‘excessive individualism’ among adults was to blame for many of children’s problems.

It said 30 per cent of adults in the UK disagreed with the statement that ‘parents’ duty is to do their best for their children even at the expense of their own well-being’.  (Ibid. emphasis mine)

Thirty percent?  Forgive me, but if you are not ready for making some sacrifices for the well-being of your children, you are not ready for the responsibility associated with caring for another human being who will be wholly dependent on you.  I’m sorry, but if you want to get a dog, you need to be ready to make some sacrifices or you should get a stuffed one.

Here, I’ve only heard the discussion framed in terms of how much is too much.  Like, at what point have you sacrificed so much for the well-being of your children that you are actually doing them harm?  An instructor I had in college, for example, argued that while staying at home with children is a good and noble thing, a mother doing so who was unhappy in this role would do her and her children a favor to put them in daycare and get a job.

Are we really that distant from our own children that almost one third don’t seem to agree that we should put the best interests of our children before our own?  And if true, what does that say for our future?

Hat Tip: Are We There Yet?

frozen

Homeschooling causes eating disorders

So Much Straw recently addressed one of my deepest fears as a homeschooling parent, and one I have heard echoed in many conversations with other homeschoolers.

What if it doesn’t work?

We all want what is best for our children.  We’ve made the sacrifice to educate them at home.  Others make the financial sacrifice to send their children to private school.  And many live in houses well beyond their means with scarcely any furniture in order to live in the right district.  Wrapped up in the decisions we make regarding education are all of our hopes for our children’s futures, from knowledge to careers, from income to character.  We want what is best for them and routinely make genuine sacrifices to give them the best start possible.  But still…

What if it isn’t enough?

There are no guarantees in parenting.  But to have a child turn around and blame you, your best intentions and your hardest work for their problems?

My dear daughter is obsessed with getting back to her social life. Her social life, and all the anxiety and obsession that come with being a “modern” teen in a non-Christian setting, was one of the things that launched her into an eating disorder. Yet just a few short months ago, she was so THANKFUL I had homeschooled her, and she hadn’t had to deal with the hell of middle school.

The problem is, what child does not blame their parents for their problems?  And what parent doesn’t hear the accusations of “It’s not fair!” and “But her parents…” and think of all the mistakes he or she made?

What about all the times:

  • I lost my temper?
  • Didn’t have time?
  • Was distracted by other things?
  • Didn’t take the “little” problems of the day seriously enough?

Of course, no parent is perfect, but it is easy to think of our own shortcomings and blame ourselves when our children are confronted by obstacles, make wrong choices or otherwise struggles in ways we would prefer them not to.

I used to think this was a peculiarity of the homeschool movement.  There are so many promises out there that if you follow this curriculum, this program, this philosophy, your children will not turn away.  But then I heard an advertisement for “The Total Transformation” and realized this message is everywhere.

Because in our hearts, we want to believe it.  We want to believe that if we just tried a little harder, did things a little differently and followed just the right program our children would have the better life we would like to lay out for them.

Sometimes I remind myself that even in the Garden, with a perfect parent and a perfect environment, Adam and Eve still chose the wrong path.  Even with God himself warning that sin was knocking at his door, Cain committed a horrific crime.  Even after walking with Jesus for three years, the disciples fled the evening Christ was taken.

This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t strive to be a better parent, or that we don’t have a definite positive (and negative) effect on the lives our children will one day lead.  But it reminds me of just that…I am preparing them to lead their life.  They cannot lead the life I choose for them, even if all sense and reason would show that my way is better.  I cannot force them to make good choices or create a safety net so strong that they never feel the pain of being pushed back or held down from their goals.

I can only help them build a foundation to stand upon, and hope that helps them to weather the storms of life.

________________________________________

The Homeschool Blog Awards are open for voting.  When I checked the Current Events, Opinion or Politics category, I was so far ahead in the polling I’m not sure why everyone else hadn’t already conceded.  Maybe they were hoping more than four people would vote?  Happy voting!

frozen

What’s the matter with kids today?

What’s the matter with kids today?  Well, Chris Erskine of the LA Times shares some thoughts, anyway.  I think we are supposed to relate…hopefully you don’t, really, but I did struggle to not spew forth my mouthful of Assam over Erskine’s observation that perhaps there might be a better way.

“Maybe we should home-school him,” I tell Posh after the first week.

“Spl-WHATTTTT?!!!” Posh says, doing a spit-take with her first mimosa of the day.

And that was hilarious.  For those of you who are new here, or have perhaps forgotten, I’ll share my favorite homeschool criticism of all time.

You people don’t know like you know how to have fun. How sad? No mamoosas with the other moms while the kids are out at school.  Structure and Learning in the Homeschool Environment (comment #27)

‘Cause moms just wanna have fun.  And you can’t do that without a Mimosa or two, I guess.  Maybe that is why Crimson Wife went ahead and made us one.

And for those of you who seriously are looking for a “better way,” I’ll be interviewing Kelly Curtis about her book Empowering Youth today on Home School Talk.  Tune in a 1PM CST, or listen to the archive which will be available shortly after the broadcast from the same link.