I’ve got an itch I need to scratch

Recently, my 11 year old has been giving me fits. I don’t think it’s anything real unusual for a kid his age and it is particularly understandable considering the challenges and changes our family has had to face in the past year or so. Basically he’s been lazy, selfish and somewhat surly as of late. Of course we’re dealing with these things and I think we’re making some progress. I suppose it’s only natural to think that we must be doing something wrong or are failing as parents when your child starts displaying such traits. However, the fact of the matter is that sometimes kids do go through difficult stages and it’s part of being a parent to help push them past those periods of difficulty. Also he’s changing a lot. He’s getting more competitive, more sophisticated in his thinking about relationships and more aware of his own place in the world. (This would be the upside of the self-centered times a kid goes through.) As he’s changing, we need to change what we do for and with him as well and of course, that can be a challenge for me as well.
What has been both frustrating and unhelpful as we move through this process, however, is the fact that whenever I talk with someone who either doesn’t homeschool or isn’t 100% behind the idea of homeschooling, they inevitably suggest that the solution is to put him in school. Because we all know that 11 year olds who go to school are nothing but industrious, courteous and giving. And of course, there’s just no reason to think that I won’t get the same wonderful results if I hand my difficult kid over to the state for 5 days a week, because we all know that the state is much better at parenting than actual parents are! And maybe I should just put him on Ritalin while I’m at it! Now there’s a plan without a flaw.
OK, sorry for descending into sarcasm and please forgive me if you’re one of the well-meaning people who have proffered such advice lately. It’s just that there are so many unexamined assumptions about the role of schools and how children are raised out there and this issue wraps them all so neatly together that it can become overwhelming to even begin to respond, especially if one doesn’t wish to foster ill-will with those who think school has the potential to be helpful for a kid like mine. I will, however, share two general responses to the idea:
1. From another homeschooling mom I know: “when you have a difficult kid, people tend to think it’s because you homeschool when, in fact, it’s usually why you homeschool.”
2. “When peers replace the parents, children remain stuck in their development. Peer orientation produces a mass of immature, conformist and problem-afflicted young adults, who are incapable of integrating into society.” – Gordon Neufeld, in the introduction to his book, Hold onto your Kids – translated from German by scatty at Green Fields and Open Horizons
I know there are kids who make it through school without problems and even learn positive things in the process. Even if I could be assured that my kid would be one of those kids, I just don’t think he can’t do as well or better through homeschooling. And I don’t see any reason to forgo all the advantages of homeschooling in order to allow the school systm to (supposedly) do something I’m quite confident his dad and I are capable of doing ourselves. As for the people who think the answer to every problem my kids have ever or will ever have is to put them in school, I wonder what they tell parents whose kids are already in school to do when their kids are less than perfect – that they should homeschool them? Somehow I doubt it.

2 thoughts on “I’ve got an itch I need to scratch

  1. Update – In the last 6 weeks or so since I wrote this, we have finally begun to see some progress with my son. He’s not perfect, of course, but he’s also not being so maddenly selfish and even helps with his sisters without being asked. Hooray! And to think, somehow we managed to help throug this process without handing him off to the government for proper socialization.

  2. Hooray!

    Now, when you start to feel overwhelmed again, realize that he’s 11, and it is simply that he’s becoming a teenager-albeit a bit early, but that all parents, govt school, homeschool, no school, face this. Teens are selfish, grumpy, and difficult. They need our guidance and patience to become decent adults–around 22 or so 🙂

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