Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Will Your Children Homeschool Their Children?

by Beverley Paine
The yardstick for success as a home educating parent used to be if your kids grew up 'okay' or made it into university: now people want to know if my adult home educated children are going to home educate their children... The pressure to perform never ends! In the last year or two it is a question I am being asked more often. At first it seemed innocent enough but then I began to think, what is driving this need to ask? Is it yet another expression of the insecurity we home educators all experience? 
It is hard not to feel the pressure or to put pressure on our kids, especially for those of us who continue to be strident home education activists...
I've moved beyond wanting that reality for my grandchildren into accepting that my children will make the decision that suits the needs of their children and their families - just as I hold that space open for everyone I talk to about education. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to walk a different educational path with my children and celebrate what that gave us as a family. But it was my journey much more than it was their journey - they came along for the ride because ultimately the choice to home educate was mine. As it will be theirs... 
A friend commented to me the other day, "To those of us who've read your books and heard you speak, your children are 'characters' from the story of your experiences. We're naturally curious about what comes next for them where education is concerned. Relating it, of course to our own children and wondering how they will reflect on the choices we're making for them."
I don't see my children as 'characters' from the story of my experience and I'm sure they don't either.
As a reader I rarely want to know what happens next to characters - if the story was good enough it would satisfy me. As a writer I find it intrusive for people to want me to write sequels - for me, and for the characters in my stories, the story finishes on the last page. If the characters have something else to learn or do they demand I write more - the reader doesn't come into the equation.
For me the point of home education was to launch our children into adult life as capable people who can confidently determine their own paths. Being asked the question if my children will home educate their children steps beyond this: it does put pressure on me to validate home education as an option, particularly as my chosen role in life is to publicly promote and support the idea and option of home education. It may be an innocent question born of mere curiosity by some people (and I am being asked this question so often now I doubt that mere curiosity is the main reason) but it falls into the same uncomfortable area as 'what do your children do' (as in employment, tertiary aspirations, etc). Never felt comfortable about talking about my children's futures - that's for them to talk about not me. And I invariably get it wrong any way!
We shouldn't need grown-up home educated children home educating their children to validate the effectiveness of home education or to feel reassured about own choices: putting the question out there does raise this spectre of doubt and does evoke subtle pressure to perform (if not by me, then perhaps by others whose children are not yet adults listening to the question) even if it is not the conscious desire of the person asking the question.
I tell people that the decision to home educate is made by both parents and that beyond being the wonderful support I am for whatever decision is made I have no role in that decision.

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