Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

Diane Flynn Keith has homeschooled her sons for 14 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a home school advocate, writer, and speaker. Diane is the editor of Homefires~The Journal of Homeschooling Online. Her book titled Carschooling® was recently published by Prima Publishing (a division of Random House).

I Am My Kid's Mom: Knowing Your Limitations

By Diane Flynn Keith

At the risk of sounding like Dr. Laura, I would just like to say, "I am my kid's mom."

For those of you who don't know, Dr. Laura is one of the nation's hottest and most controversial radio talk-show hosts. She dispenses conservative advice to callers who generally have a "moral dilemma" involving personal relationships. Regardless of what one thinks about Dr. Laura's opinions, she and her callers do provide riveting radio. One thing that I find commendable about Dr. Laura is that she is an advocate for children. Her advice to parents relentlessly insists that they put the needs of their kids first.

Dr. Laura's signature greeting is, "I am my kid's mom." What is strangely peculiar about her show is that callers don't seem to "get" what she means by it. For example, in a typical call a mom will say, "Dr. Laura, I am my kid's mom. Is it morally wrong for me to cut off all contact with my teenage daughter who misbehaves, skips school, and is totally out of control?" A little probing from Dr. Laura and we discover that "mom" is currently living with her alcoholic boyfriend (recently released from prison) who takes the liberty of disciplining her daughter harshly despite her protests; her daughter was abandoned by her biological father; the "family" has moved five times in 2 years as mom changed jobs or boyfriends; mom is generally too tired at night to help her academically struggling daughter with her homework; and she has no clue why her daughter is acting out. It's at times like these in the program that I want to reach through the radio and slap these people upside the head.

Usually I have to turn the radio off because I just can't believe people could be that stupid. But time and again, parents call in to relay to the world how inept they are when it comes to parenting their children. All too often they reveal that their own selfish needs come first, and that little if any concern is given to what is best for their child.

The really frightening thing to me is that these callers are representative of more and more American households where morally depleted and severely dysfunctional and indifferent people are bearing and (to use the term lightly) raising children. What kind of horrific future are we unleashing on ourselves? I have dubbed the children of these parents members of Generation U ¾ "U" for Unacceptable ¾ because these poor kids are Unwanted, Unloved, Uneducated, Unappreciated, Unacknowledged, Unstable, Unhappy, and Unable to cope with anything that life has to offer them. But I digress…I did have a point originally which was, oh yes….I am my kid's mom.

Not only am I my kid's mom but I have met more moms and dads in the homeschool community who are their kid's parents. They put their kids first. Their children are the priority in their lives. I'm not talking about making their children the center of the universe and spoiling them rotten. I am talking about the fact that homeschool parents typically have their kids' best interests at heart. All decisions are made with consideration for creating the optimum environment for their children to learn and grow.

That willingness to put their kids first, also means that homeschool parents do not selfishly insist on sticking to an agenda when it comes to education. The decision to homeschool doesn't supersede what is in the best interest of their child. And upon periodic reassessment of their child's needs, sometimes a parent may determine that the best course of action is to drop the expensive curriculum they are currently using and try unschooling, or subcontract the homeschooling to a tutor or mentor, or even send their child to school.

In a recent conversation a homeschool mom confided that she had bypassed field trips and co-op classes, because she preferred to stay at home and just teach her kids the basics. She said she didn't have the time, interest, or ability to follow her kids' passions. When she had a revelation that she was selfishly holding them back from pursuing their interests and possibly stunting their intellectual growth, she determined to find learning situations, teachers, and mentors who could provide her kids with the experiences they craved. For this family, recognizing mom's limitations, and turning the facilitation of learning over to someone else, was in the children's best interests. She is now committed to a fast-paced, daily schedule of shuttling the kids from one experience to another in the pursuit of learning - and because of it, her children are happy and getting exactly what they need.

Recently I questioned whether our homeschool was providing my youngest son (age 13, who has never been to school) with the kind of socialization he needed. He petitioned me on-and-off for about a year to go to school. I managed to talk him out of it on several occasions, and simply outlasted his clamoring on others. But in one of his particularly persistent bouts, he clearly made his point, "Mom, you are so prejudice against schools that you just don't get it. I need to talk to lots of kids 24/7, hear what they have to say, and listen to their ideas. I can't do that at home, there aren't enough kids at Park Day, and so I need to go to school." (I taught this child to question authority, and this was my comeuppance.)

So, setting aside my bias and misgivings, we found a school. He visited for a couple of weeks on a trial basis, determined that he liked it, and then caught the germ-of-the-week and became quite ill. After his 2 weeks of convalescing, he decided that he didn't want to go to school full time and to his chagrin, attending part-time wasn't an option. By chance, he met a group of local public school kids while skating at the park, and their friendship (and endless phone conversations) seems to have satisfied his need for social interaction for the time being. (The Moral: Sometimes just being open to alternatives can give fate the opportunity to intervene, presenting new options and solutions.)

Admitting what you are or are not capable of providing for your child is important in homeschooling. Setting aside selfish or self-indulgent behaviors to find what your child needs for their optimum development is critical. Having flexibility, being willing to alter your view, and exploring possibilities to find solutions that suit your child's changing needs is what being your kid's homeschool parent is all about. Do the right thing for your own children, and as Dr. Laura would say, "Now, go take on the day!"