I live in a conservative area of the country and an even more conservative community within our area. I grew up in a conservative, Christian home–you know, the kind where Bill Clinton was considered an immoral, unfit leader. My parents’ views and beliefs were not, however, shoved down my throat. I know you will probably disagree with that last statement as you continue to read this paragraph, but wait for the next paragraph. My mother homeschooled me and two of my brothers until we each reached a level of math that was too advanced for her skill set. For my brothers that translated to high school. For me it was slightly different because I began going to school (because of financial circumstances, not math) in junior high. When I say school, I mean a local, very conservative, Christian school that taught all the basics and educated and immersed students in the Bible. We wore skirts and dresses that were below the knee that did not cling and were not flattering. If your skirt was hugging your body, then you were gently (and quietly) informed by a female teacher that you would not be allowed to wear that skirt to school again.
As ridiculous as this school sounds, I chose to go there. My parents gave me a choice between this school and the local public school, and I chose this school. It was small, safe, familiar (most of my siblings had graduated from this school), and most of all, I was the cool kid at this school. I knew public school would be more difficult socially for me, because let’s face it, being the homeschool kid is not cool. My parents’ choices in my education were just that–their choices. My mother also taught us more than just adding, subtracting, and proper grammar usage. She taught us right and wrong. She taught me that I was loved and valuable as an individual. She taught us how to serve others, and she taught us how to be kind and loving. Most of all, she taught us to be good members of society. The emphasis was on a strong foundation of right and wrong, not on Christianity specifically.
Common core is obviously a hot-button issue right now, as it has been for a while now. People everywhere are taking issue with common core practices and curriculum, while others are vehemently defending all things common core. As a result, for the last couple years there hasn’t been a week go by that I haven’t seen something about common core on my Facebook news feed. I have friends that are teachers, and friends that are parents, and others still that don’t have children yet. I enjoy listening to each perspective on my news feed and the ensuing comments that always follow any post concerning common core. I have learned quite a bit from the teachers in my community about common core that has put it into perspective quite nicely for me. Recently (like the last few months preceding the most recent election), however, the common core items on my news feed began to take a turn for a more zealous approach from both sides. I suddenly had friends from my conservative background warning parents that they shouldn’t be sending their children to public school anymore, while my more liberal friends were bashing conservatives for their narrow-minded views on education, which would trigger retaliatory comments from conservatives about liberal agenda and blah blah blah. Teachers were trying to bridge the gap and explain exactly what common core means in this school district specifically. This discussion further devolved quickly to a conversation about the morality of sending a child to public school. Suddenly, there were articles and blog posts appearing on my news feed touting the moral corruptness of public schools, that most schools are directly attacking Christianity and its core values. There was a post today about a Freshman in high school in North Carolina that brought home a worksheet that was a fill in the blank worksheet comparing Islam to Christianity. It did not paint Christianity in a favorable light, obviously, hence the controversy. Soon after, there was another article posted by a friend about a child in New England that was pulled out of school because his father found the history lesson on Islam (it was very favorable toward Mohammed and Islam) offensive. When is it going to end?!
I suppose I didn’t have the wanted reaction. I have a child currently attending public school, and it is strange for me since I never went to a public elementary or secondary school. I do get annoyed with things that only occur in a school setting that wouldn’t occur if I were to homeschool my child. Like, every Monday my first grader draws a picture on a pre-made template and then has to write two sentences about what she did over the weekend. It sounds harmless and I usually greatly enjoy my child’s version of events, but I do know that this is also a way for teachers to get a sense of the child’s home life (which in my view isn’t any of their business unless they think there is some abuse happening). I also took issue with my daughter’s teacher because she told Eva (my daughter) that she has to go to the bathroom faster because once my baby is here, Eva will need to be ready to help me with the baby. This was a trick used to get my child to quit dawdling at bathroom time, I realize this. But now Eva thinks that she will be responsible for helping me care for her new baby brother, that it is her job and a normal expectation that she won’t be able to leave my side long enough to pee without me potentially needing her help. Obviously, this is not the case. This is skewing her view of what it means to be a big sister. Are these things damaging to my child’s moral foundation, though? No, absolutely not, just annoying to her mother.
Is it potentially damaging to the moral foundation of a Freshman in High School to complete a worksheet (and most likely a curriculum packet that was taught over the course of a week or so) that is contrary to what he has been taught at home? I suppose, but if this is all the teen needed to stray from the desired path, then I wouldn’t call his foundation very strong. I started this post with a long paragraph about how I was raised. I did that because of this point right here–my parents taught me right and wrong, not my school. The same goes for my daughter–I am teaching her life lessons about right and wrong, while her school is teaching her math and reading and spelling and a set of rules that only applies at school. I am teaching her a set of rules for life. It isn’t the same thing. I am also encouraging her to challenge these principles of right and wrong. I want her to know the why behind the things we choose! I don’t want her to blindly follow some set of rules I imparted to her because my set of rules can’t possibly account for every single situation she will ever encounter throughout her entire life! She has to develop a moral intelligence.
I was speaking to a newly married young woman the other day, and the subject of children came up. She has many siblings and most of them were homeschooled from kindergarten to graduation. She said something to me that had me instantly writing scathing blog posts mentally. She said she would have to homeschool her children or she would have to listen to her family over and over again as they proclaimed she is ruining her children for life. She said it with a laugh, as if it were a joke. I didn’t laugh. I asked her if she really thought that her family would interfere in how her and her husband chose to raise their children, and she looked amazed that I was implying they wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Her response started with an “of course” and ended with something along the lines of she wouldn’t want to disappoint her family.
After this conversation, I had to think for a moment to try to recall any instance in which my family had informed me I wasn’t raising my child correctly, or that I was destroying her, or some such nonsense. I got nothing. My family isn’t interfering crazies, thank God. But, then it did occur to me all the things other people have tried to impose upon me disguised as parenting advice. I can distinctly remember, when Eva was about two, being at the grocery store and an acquaintance stopping to say hello. She instantly reached over and pulled Eva’s pacifier out of her mouth and then held it out of sight. She had said something about pacifiers being bad for teeth and that Eva was too old for one, all of which she said in a baby voice as if talking to my two-year-old child. What she didn’t know nor did I care to explain is that Eva’s father had left about six months prior and Eva now held to that binky (pacifier) as if it were her life line. I have had people surreptitiously hand my child a piece of candy (as in, a paid for piece of candy) at stores and gas stations after I very clearly told her no that we wouldn’t be purchasing candy. Strangers, not just people I have met a time or two, but complete strangers have done this! I have received a scolding from an older lady when I made my child sit in time out in the middle of a grocery store (out of the way, though) for throwing a colossal fit after she had been told no. My own godmother (who I love so dearly, but who I have told to mind her own business on more than one occasion) tried to convince me that my child needed to be homeschooled (by my retired father, because she knew I was a single parent) because public school was not the right fit for my daughter.
Another example that comes to mind comes from Facebook (maybe it’s time to delete that account) from a group I’m in that is composed of people from all across the globe engaged in setting and meeting goals. A nanny posted something, stating that her employers (the parents) were following an attachment parenting style of parenting complete with co-sleeping. This nanny (who had only been a nanny with these children for a short time) was calling this style of parenting damaging and was especially concerned for one of the three children, the oldest. She wanted to know if it was out of line to call in child protective services because the oldest son wasn’t doing well with this style of parenting and went on the describe his behavior at age six of being very regressive (sucking his thumb, wetting his pants, speaking like a baby) and combative (uncooperative, hitting). Some people asked her if there were signs of abuse or neglect, while most immediately gave their assent that child protective services should be called right away. Scarily enough, very few people weighed in stating that she needed to butt out.
Sadly, I could go on and on about the many times other people, people not even related to me, have somehow interfered with my choices as a parent, or give other examples like the nanny above. Even my own father has repeatedly interfered in my brother’s parenting role. My godmother used to try to talk me out of requiring my daughter to behave (she was always pro-spoil, and she used to send Eva “candy money” in the form of $2.00 via the mail). Most of these scenarios are mild, for sure, but they are still there, and they have been constant in my life as a parent. My daughter is one of those kids that likes to get as much interaction from as many people as possible at each opportunity. She was the kid in the cart that waved and said hi to every passerby throughout the grocery store even when she was so little that hi was all she could coherently say. She was the charming little girl that prompted a husband and wife to sell me their car for $400 less than what we had negotiated because they said,”Go buy her some toys, she deserves them”. I wonder if people have felt that her outgoing, inviting personality has somehow given them license or permission to interfere with me, the parent, as I set boundaries and stick to them. But I just have to open up Facebook to know that this problem isn’t unique to me.
There’s nothing wrong with having views and opinions. Where would we be if no one had an opinion? Our society would be similar to that guy I used to date a long time ago (we have all dated one like him, I’m sure) that never had an opinion on where we should go eat, or what we should do, or anything else I ever asked him. I just wonder, though, what would life be like if people didn’t feel it their duty, or within their rights, to butt in to other people’s life? How would it be to raise my child as I see fit with zero interference from others? A novel thought, for sure, but one I would love to see become a reality.
So, next time you start to give that piece of unsolicited parenting advice, maybe think twice. That parent has probably already heard it.