Sunday, January 5, 2014

Homeschooling & Parental Authority
Why French Parents Are Superior by Pamela Druckerman

I have spent a lot of time on homeschooling forums and have noticed a recurrent theme. Mothers are exhausted from fighting their children about doing lessons, so they decide to give up and try unschooling. Some unschoolers report more peaceful homes as a result, while others do not. Many times I have read about unschooling parents whose children say they hate them. Is unschooling, in the long run, truly a good antidote for rebellion in children?

Unschooling can mean different things to different people, and there is a wide spectrum regarding how much freedom children are given to make their own choices and decisions. Whether this method of homeschooling works or not depends upon who you ask. But let's just look at this question of educational lessons and children who don't wish to do them. Is it because the curriculum is boring or too easy? Is it because the child is having difficulty understanding the material? Is it because the mother herself is stressed out about it, so it isn't any fun?

Whatever the details of the resistance, there is a common denominator, which is the root of the resistance itself. Human beings are born with different temperaments, and certainly some kids are more naturally compliant than others. But as I've been saying in the last couple of posts, the core issue is the general abdication of parental authority that has seized Americans. Can you imagine the Ingalls children arguing with Ma about doing their lessons? If you read the Little House on the Prairie series, you know that Ma was kind, loving, and generous with her children. She was also strict by today's standards. Children respected their parents. And Ma and Pa respected their children as persons while at the same time expecting obedience to their authority. Was Laura Ingalls lacking in joy, creativity, or originality as a result? Was her spirit crushed? I think not.

In Chosen and Cherished, Catholic homeschooling mother Kimberly Hahn tells us this:

"How are we to fear the Lord? Psalm 112 gives us the answer: 'Praise the Lord! / Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, / who greatly delights in his commandments!' (Psalm 112:1) Like the psalmist, we worship in reverence and joy: The fear of the Lord links joy to obedience. Our children's obedience gives us a paradigm for our response to our heavenly father. At first they obey from fear of consequences. That is an acceptable motivator for a young child, especially with safety issues involved. However, we look for the mature love of a child who obeys from the heart--to please us, to honor us. This obedience flows from proper respect for us." (emphasis mine)

What a difference this is from the "partnership paradigm" of unschooling! The fear of the Lord is being linked to joy, respect, and obedience. Think about this. Even if in the short term you have a more peaceful relationship with your children because you don't "force" them to do lessons (or brush their teeth, or eat meals with their family at the table, etc...), in the long run you have created an insecure relationship. You have given up the authority given to you by God. We are supposed to role model the Christian fear of the Lord to our children. By learning to obey us, they learn to obey God.

Instead, what we have in America are parents who live in fear of the anger, disappointment, and negative behavior of their children. The bottom line is that however you are teaching your homeschooling lessons, the lessons themselves are ultimately not the problem. The problem is that you have given up your authority, or you never had any in the first place, and your child knows it. The solution is not to stop teaching lessons. If we are going to homeschool, we must be willing to try different approaches and materials until we figure out what will click best, and we have to work at the art of teaching with wisdom, faith, and patience. As Charlotte Mason advocated, develop the habit of obedience in your children and set out a bountiful feast of ideas.

If you read the article Why French Parents Are Superior linked above, you'll get some good ideas on how you can begin to establish your parental authority. It is our responsibility to do so. I am alarmed that many Catholic unschoolers have told me that unschooling is so very Catholic! How? When I hear Christian homeschoolers gushing over the likes of radical unschooling guru Sandra Dodd, it makes me cringe. It's a subtle deception that is simply not in line with the Christian parental vocation. Words like freedom, peace, and joy are being used to tempt parents away from doing the right thing. In fact, it bears a disturbing resemblance to the New Age deception that I have also been writing about.