I have edited this a small amount; breaking up paragraphs, for instance, and a few spelling errors or typos. But this is entirely 'Atara Phoenix' (as she goes by on the internet). If you are horrified, or have an argument, or perhaps want to congratulate her opinions, you are welcome to comment at her blog: http://muse-of-the-phoenix.blogspot.com/
I just watched an episode of The Tyra Show that has settled into my stomach like a rock. There is a controversial topic that upsets me more deeply even than nutrition, though nutrition plays a large role in my beliefs in this other topic. That topic is child-raising, and whether you should be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. And that was what this episode of The Tyra Banks Show was about.
I felt that the stay-at-home moms were poorly represented to begin with. There was one European woman on the show who was the only logical supporter of staying home with the kids. For the working moms they had two specialists who had written books about how women ought to work. I felt that these two very intelligent women were not faced with an argument worth hearing except by the European woman, but no one would credit her because this same woman also feels it’s right to breast-feed her children as long as the child deems it of benefit, and in her case, it was to about seven years old in both of her daughters. They had video footage of the older daughter talking about how breast milk was “better than mangos.”
In the debate that went on through the show no one really talked about home-schooling which is the deeper point to me. I feel so strongly about it because of my own experience growing up. (They claim) Children, universally, shouldn’t be home-schooled because their parents may not have the knowledge those children may receive from school; but the school doesn’t have the knowledge they need either nine out of ten times (or more.)
I say this with conviction because of all the different schools I went to, both public and private. I’ve attended a city-acclaimed public school for half of kindergarten through second grade, was home schooled for third grade, went to a private school for fourth and fifth grade, transferred to a private catholic school but dropped it after only two months in favor of another year of home schooling and then went directly into eighth grade in a public school, transferred to a different public school for freshmen year and yet another for sophomore year and then ended with Junior year and Senior year at Grover, the international public school. With that much experience of the local schools and even one more distant school which was private I’ve had a good taste of the local teachers and students both.
My conclusions? My parents taught me to add and subtract at home before I was taught at school. I didn’t like to read despite all my parents attempts to get me to read and refused all reading assignments at school flat-out until pretty much high school. I learned algebra from my mom starting in third grade and didn’t get to the most basic of it in public school until eighth grade by taking the high-school algebra class alongside the eighth grade math class. (Incidently I did better in the high school math class because I thought it was more fun and interesting.)
At the private school I learned some things about Norse and Greek mythology that I had not previously learned from my parents, but my parents doubled what school taught me once the topics had been brought up. My father taught me out of an eighth grade science book shortly after I dropped the private catholic school and I had no trouble with the assignments. Turns out that was the standard book and I had to repeat the same things in eighth grade the following year.
My parents taught me more on the subjects covered in school while we did homework together or while watching the History channel or while reading me books or even just talking to me. My mom did flash cards to help me learn the capitals of different states. Not once did any school teacher ever tell me that Albany was the capital of New York. Before my mother taught me this in seventh grade I hadn’t even realized states had capitals or that the city of Albany existed.
I found that the vacations my parents took with me were more educational than the school field trips that I went on. My parents took me to Texas as a child where I saw a different life-style though I was too young to absorb anything other than the different life-style’s feel. At fourteen we went to Myrtle Beach where I saw the ocean for the first time, saw a red moon for the first time (which I’d never seen before) and dealt with a particularly bad yeast infection (which is something never covered in school). My Dad took me on a road trip shortly after I graduated high school where I learned about inter-state highways, the things you need for travel and the things you don’t need. I learned about different parts of the country, how they differ and how they are alike, and about different types of people. There were other trips and conventions and locations, but those were some of the most life-changing. School field-trips took me to Darien Lake (the local amusement park) and fed us ice cream and let us ride a total of two rides all in one huge group. Oh-so-fun. My parents took me to the local museums regularly as a child, as well as Darien Lake, the renaissance festival and other such activities.
I learned so much more from my parents that this is only the tip of the ice-berg. From my mother’s own personal experiences and from her day to day life I learned more about health while I was growing up in just a few weeks with my mother than Health Class ever taught me in high school. In fact, by the time I took health my senior year I already knew more than my teacher about nutrition and found the class to be and on-going debate between her and me about a number of topics. I admit it was fun to debate the numerous health-related topics with her, but in general I found it more educational to debate the same topics with my mom or her friends.
This aspect of stay-at-home mothering was never covered at all on The Tyra Show which made me rather upset. However, that’s just the beginning of my argument for mothering at home. In fact, that’s like the preamble.
I’d like to combat the socializing myth next. I’ll start off by saying that in a “natural society” with no city, and no electricity and all of that, before we had all of the resources we had today, that a social-unit was a family unit. Children learned from their siblings and parents, or in other words, they learned from their elders. In a small community they would also learn from their grandparents, the head of the village, the village elders, and when they were not busy with their family or working they would get some time to socialize with other children their age.
Some contact with other children allows for play-time, but this is by no means a way of learning to socialize in the real world. What is appropriate to say when you’re nine to another nine year old is not what an adult should say to an adult or what a nine year old should say to an adult. This is not preparation for being an adult, it’s just a healthy dose of having fun with other children who are at a similar stage in life.
Another important thing to consider when debating “how much child to child socializing should occur?” is that every child is unique. How much socializing one child wants or needs is going to vary a lot from child to child, and it’s going to vary with their age as well. Clearly babies of four months don’t play with babies of four months. Why not? This may sound like a stupid question, but just answer this question for yourself. Why can’t two babies of four months old play together? They have not learned to talk yet, or to walk yet, or to eat for themselves yet. They need adults to survive and to learn. How has that really changed by the time they are four years old? They still have a lot to learn about growing up, about what to eat, what to wear, what to say, what not to say, not to wear, not to eat. They have to learn about manners, hygiene and getting themselves up and ready by themselves in the mornings. Yes, playing with other four-year-olds will be fun for the child, but to better motivate them to grow, a playmate of five years old or perhaps as old as six may be better, especially an older sibling. The older sibling will be protective, caring, understanding, willing to teach and willing to play all at once. How is that of less value than socializing with other like-age children in a school?
Socializing with other children of the same age from seven in the morning until two o’clock in the afternoon is seven hours of time learning about being your own age. What is really educational about that? The only things they can learn from this is how to enjoy themselves (not to diminish the importance of self-enjoyment) and that other children are different not just because of their age but because of their personality. Yet both of these things can be learned outside of the school environment and neither of them has to be introduced in such a way at such a young age in order for good development of the child.
Many mothers report that the child in a public school and the child who is being home schooled have different levels of social capacity and use this as evidence that being in public school is of the utmost importance for their socialization. For this notion I have three things to say, the first of which being that adult interaction is clearly different than child interaction, ultimately more important, and barely experienced in school. Second, any parent home-schooling their child should not isolate them, especially if they are an only-child, and if they do, then shame on them, not shame on home-schooling. Third, a lot of social learning can be caught up in a short period of time. I made up for fourteen years of not being able to socialize in the last four quite well and decided for myself that I prefer to socialize with my family, but I have no problems socializing with the Mary Kay women, or the people of the Unitarian Church, or Asa and his gaming friends and so forth. I find that learning how to socialize with adults is actually less complicated than socializing with other children.
Another point I want to combat (that no stay-at-home mom took issue with on the show) is the confidence. Several working moms claimed that their child was learning confidence by spending some time alone and by spending most of their time with other children. Why on earth would that be true? And even if that’s true for a lot of kids, it certainly was the complete opposite with me. Public schools tore my confidence down to zero. The other children were harsh and cruel and silly and stupid. They didn’t give me any drive to better myself, and the teachers gave me no motivation either. All I felt was singled out, cast aside and alone. I classified myself as an outcast by first grade. Don’t you think that is a bit early to feel like you’re on the outside? I believe public schools did that to me. I was interested in learning while the other children wanted to play. I liked math and mustard whereas they liked talking and chocolate milk and that made me a nobody in the classroom.
I didn’t learn to socialize until I was fourteen, about the same time I started my online blog and fell in love for the first time, and had a house-fire and a bunch of other life-changing events. I gained confidence through a number of things all unrelated to socializing at school. I gained confidence my freshmen year through improving my grades and becoming student of the month and being called “teacher’s pet” and through becoming an artist. None of this was acclaimed by my peers and as of then I had no friends at all, but the praise of my parents and teachers was enough to start building the confidence that the cruel children had striped from me.
Oddly I gained a lot of my social confidence through sex. Having a steady partner to sleep with made me feel grown up. I couldn’t get a job though I put in a zillion applications. (Because they just don't hire under 16 around here, working papers or no. - Mom) I couldn’t take advanced courses in school. I couldn’t be respected for my creative clothing ideas. I couldn’t find friends who liked to play board games with me or to do crafts with. And because I couldn’t relate to my peers on any of those levels and because I would not compromise my morals to behave like them I found my social confidence through having a partner. (The raging hormones was the reason I started having sex in the first place, don’t mistake me there. I didn’t say, “this will make me feel better about myself” and then start having sex. I said to myself, “sex will probably feel really good and scratch this itch that I can’t seem to scratch on my own.” More confidence just happened to be a benefit that I was unaware of at the time.)(Don't get me wrong, I was dead-set against this at first. Until I saw the drastic improvement in her outlook on life, and her renewed interest in doing her school work.)
Having a boyfrined and having an intimate relationship both physically and emotionally gave me something that outsiders couldn’t take away. Friends came and went as fast as the dandelions pop up their heads in the sunlight, and soon I just called everyone an associate or a peer so that I wouldn’t be upset when they decided to dislike me. Boyfriends however tend to be a bit more loyal to you through the closer bond that intimacy brings, bringing a lasting feeling of worth that I could not derive from school.
My point on the confidence is that it can be found in a zillion different ways, and “having friends” is not the only way to gain confidence, and school isn’t even the only way to make friends, making the connection between home-schooling, stay-at-home mothering, schooling, friends and confidence all moot.
So now that we’ve established that schools don’t always teach more than parents and that confidence doesn’t have to come from socializing at school I’d like to move on to the limitations that school actually imposes on the child.
For one thing, it limits their diet considerably. They may have a school lunch or a packed lunch. I bet you most working moms don’t pack a lunch, and if they do, I’d like to point out that lunchables do not count. School lunches offer chocolate milk alongside real milk which is a disaster in itself, as if kids are not spoon-fed enough sugar without it. (Sugar leads to candida, ADD and juvenile diabetes, all of which lead to misinformed treatments which lead back into the same conditions which caused the problems in the first place. Look up Dr. Mark Hyman via google for more information on this topic.)
If those limp things called “nuggets” have any nutritional value I’ll be damned, and ketchup (4 g sugar) is not a vegetable. Nobody actually eats the half-cooked broccoli or string-beans (which come in portions rightly-sized for a tadpole). They don’t offer butter for the cooked vegetables which are served cold half the time. Pasta and white breads dominate the main courses which is almost as bad as the sugar. All of this leading to empty-calories with no nutritional value and this is what we’re feeding our growing children!
There isn’t enough calcium in one of those little milk cartons for a new born baby and it is expected to be big enough for high school students. For my own part I always grabbed two while making sure that nobody was looking and often I was still thirsty. And, also as another insight to the terrible food conditions of students - the weight I lost and the improved health I experienced after I graduated high school and educated myself (by myself) about eating organic whole foods. School never taught me a damn thing worth knowing about health.
When a mother is home-schooling their children they can cook breakfast, lunch and dinner together. School never taught me to cook and I didn’t end up learning to cook until very recently. I only learned how to make rice last month. My Dad works, my mom has worked on and off and I was busy with school, and when I wasn’t busy with school or boys, my parents were teaching me more important things than cooking. If I had been home more of those years instead of in school I could have learned to cook while simultaneously receiving a better balanced diet.
You can’t honestly tell me you’d rather feed your kids a school-lunch or pack them some snacks then teach them to cook, bond with them and feed them a fully balanced meal.
This alone would be enough to rest my case, but actually, I do not rest my case here at all. Yet again, another uncovered topic on this episode of The Tyra Show that was supposedly all about working moms vs. stay-at-home moms was the passing down of family values and traditions. For a country that often claims our kids are growing up without values we sure aren’t doing much about it.
Public schools supposedly give an unbiased view of religion and morals. What’s funny is that the only reason it’s unbiased is because the information about different religions and about moral logic is scarce. I remember that my freshmen year history teacher covered all the different religions of the world rather hurriedly and crammed them onto one test in a block of about one week. One measly little week of thirty-minute classes a day. I was fascinated, but they never cover anything in depth in public schools because the slowest kid in the class is always still not grasping (either purposely or ignorantly) the basic concept of what’s being taught.
I learned absolutely everything I know about morals and religion from my parents. They gave me a truly unbiased look by taking me to three different churches (Christian, Baha’i and Unitarian) and also talked to me about a handful of other religions. My mother once took up a one-night gig as a Tarot Reader as entertainment at a bar mitzvah which served as more education on Judaism than I ever got in school. (There was also a great-deal of dancing which served as entertaining exercise which was more than I ever got at school as well.)
My mother insisted I go into Girl Scouts and with them I once toured a Synagogue. My parents also had me watch religious movies such as “Jesus Christ Super Star” so that I could have an illustrated view of these beliefs. And as many of my readers know, my parents also taught me the lore of Zacharia Sitchin which puts a different slant on all religions. (Google Zacharia Sitchin for some stunning information you really won’t believe, even though I believe his work to be truthful and enlightening.)
And my point here is that schools do not give an unbiased religious standpoint at all because they don’t teach us enough about any of it for the kids to make heads or tails for themselves. Not that I care either way on people’s religious beliefs of lack thereof, but this could be a large part of why atheism is growing so rapidly.
In terms of morals and family values, nobody out there can teach that to a child except the parents. If the parents are not at home then they are teaching the child that the values of the family are to put school, work and friends before family which I disagree with whole-heartedly. Work and school are terifically important, but neither should ever, ever, ever come before family. And friends can just be forgotten and left out cold for all I care, your family should always come first because your family care about you on a deeper level than your friends can. In amendment to that, some friends are family. When a friend is not just your friend but the friend of your parents, children and spouse, they are like a brother or sister to you and the entire family and that is fine, especially in the cases for people who either don’t have families or don’t have loving families. However, in the case of spouses I believe that hands-down your spouses needs should come before everything in your life and their wants should always be considered with high priority as well.
In the case of children, I’d say their needs should come before everything and their wants should come after the wants and needs of both parents. Kids don’t always want what is best for them or know what they need anyhow, but after all, that is what I’m talking about in the first place. Children will want for themselves whatever you show them in the most glorified manor. If you covet your ice cream they will want some, if you covet your lima beans, they will want some. It doesn’t matter what it is that you hold highly, because as a small child all they see is that it’s most important to you and therefor most important to them.
Seriously, missing-father syndrom is enough of a psycological issue for children today, why should they have missing mothers too? Just because the mother is home at six o’clock and sees her kids for a couple hours a day and perhaps one day on the weekend does not mean the child won’t be hurt by her absence. That child will latch on to someone, and if it’s not the mom, then it lies outside the control of the mother what values the child adopts. The real issue here is that many children adopt the values of other children and then bring these nonsensical values into adulthood, such as an incurable selfishness.
But never mind the psycology of it, because everyone wants to combat that with the social bull shit, and I suppose no one is going to give a damn about their health or their children’s health no matter what I say. So lets get back to my own personal experience which may hold more weight with those who do understand that an individual is, well, individual.
As I’ve already stated I spent two years home schooling, third grade and sixth grade (which ended-up doubling as seventh grade at the same time). During those two years I learned a lot about my parents and their personal ambitions. I learned a lot about my family and by learning about them I learned about me. Some of the women on The Tyra Show expressed that they felt like they were losing themselves by staying at home and that’s why they went back to work. I feel that on that point it is completely up to the individual where their “self” lies. My self will never and can never be found in a job. I find myself in my family and in my crafts and I feel like going to work is constricting my character, not enhancing it. To my bitter disappointment, nobody countered that point on the show either.
Starting to wonder what the stay-at-home moms had to say? They said that they needed to bond with their children and that leaving them off at school sometimes made them cry and that they felt uncomfortable in work situations and that staying at home was where they belonged and that they took pride in cleaning and cooking. Yippy-shit guys, you didn’t say anything that these working mothers couldn’t tear you apart for. I was completely let-down by their side of the story entirely.
Bonding, while very important, is all I ever hear as a reason for home-schooling and for moms staying at home, and the working mothers just love to counter that with how this is limiting the child and making them dependant. I can hear the weight of this argument, but children are meant to grow up and good parenting will make them do so while bad parenting won’t. If the parents don’t give the children chores to do then they learn no responsibility and become coddled. If the parents shelter their children too much they may shy from the cold hard world. I believe that a good dose of the real world and appropriate responsibility for their age and encouraging them to get a part time job as a teenager and allowing them space, time to themselves and enough social time to serve it’s purpose, will allow them to separate naturally and not miserably.
I remember my first day in Olmstead, school 64, (kindergarten) as a traumatic experience. I was lost, confused, upset and I felt abandoned. I remember feeling deeply hurt. I have no idea what I said or did when I got home that day, but I remember the intensity of that feeling like it was yesterday. Going off to Summer camps I found to be fun, educating and a natural way to separate from parents for a week. The trick here is asking the child if they want to go, so they are committed when you send them packing. Public school, being required, is not something the children are asked if they want to do or not, and I think that while a number of imposed things are important for discipline that a natural dose of freedom helps the child to develop as well. After all, we may know a lot about what’s good for children from our own experience and from that of others, but no one can tell you what your child feels, except for your child.
I dropped the private catholic school and turned to home schooling as a desperate plea to my parents for help. I hated the school with a passion and I’m positive that spending an entire year there would have hurt my confidence to the point where I might not be the person I am today at all, but rather a timid girl still thinking herself unbelievably ugly.
That brings me to yet another point. No child should ever be called ugly because they are too young to understand “beauty is within” or that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and so forth. Children feel ugly when they are called ugly and that’s just the fact of the matter. Telling them that they are beautiful over and over is not going to spoil them (but coddling them because they are beautiful most likely will spoil them).
Who do you think is going to tell your child that they’re beautiful at school? Probably no one. School made me believe I was ugly because I was called ugly so many times. Kids are awkward creatures that will do all sorts of things that will make them appear “ugly” to other children, or do things that encourage name-calling which will include all sorts of hurtful slights to their appearance and other merits as well. The natural protective instincts of parents lead them to telling their children how wonderful they are so they can build a good self image. Timid children are not as motivated and are not going to do well in the world if they mature into timid adults.
Yet as I’ve already said, much of this has to do with the individual. Some kids grow a tough skin and get over it while others just feel worse and worse about themselves over the years. I didn’t grow tough skin until my relationship with Tre, and that was unrelated to school and wasn’t until I was seventeen years old. At that point the damage had been done and school was almost over and I had continued hating it to the last day. I look back on school with the utmost disdain. I was miserable and I wasn’t learning more then than I am now in the least.
In fact, all that pressure to be social made me believe I had to be social all the time, it made me believe I needed to be social to enjoy life, and now I know that I can be happy with very little socialization outside of my family. In fact, I prefer seeing my family and spending time with my family to anybody out there. (I consider Crusifer family of course even though he’s not yet my spouse. After all, he is living with us.)
In conclusion, I plan to home-school my kids until high-school so they can build their confidence at home first and then go meet the cold-hard kids of today’s world. I want to be a stay-at-home mother and wife because a family needs a lot of love and a working father is often drained after a long day’s work and he needs the vital energy of his wife to praise him and coddle him so that he can build up his strength for another hard day, and the children need her vital energy to grow and learn. If she’s giving out a lot of, or most of, that vital energy at work then she is putting her family at a disadvantage.
You probably can’t change my mind, but I invite you to leave a comment about your feelings and experiences if they are similar or if they are different. I’ll be happy to respond in my next entry.