Let me begin by telling you upfront that we are a homeschooling family. Before we had children – in fact, before we were married – Amanda and I decided that we would homeschool our children. We’ve been at it for a while now with four kids, the oldest of which is 13.
We had several motives for making this decision, but our primary reason was that we wanted to have maximum influence on shaping the character of our children. We wanted to have more of an influence over the shaping of their hearts and character than their peers would have.
Our concern here was not that we were afraid of teachers or of the other kids (a defensive posture of protectionism), but that we simply wanted to be the primary influencers over their hearts and minds. We felt very keenly the responsibility to personally train our children in the ways of Christ.
So, our primary concern has always been about shaping our children’s hearts. Yet, we’ve tried to be careful not to overprotect our children in an anti-social bubble, something we think many homeschool families tend to do. I am a pastor, so it is easy for our kids to have a lot of interaction with other people, and we have frequently discussed how thankful we are for that for our children. We are grateful for the opportunities that they have to associate and befriend others who are not exactly like us in every detailed belief and practice – although, admittedly, some might consider our congregation to be fairly homogeneous.
The truth is, though, with their involvement with extracurricular activities like band, orchestra and baseball, our children have experienced plenty of non-homogeneous people (they even get this within our extended family!). We honestly believe that this is good for them, as we have had a good number of discussions about how to love and graciously treat others who are not exactly like us, which are precisely the kind of character-shaping moments in life that we are glad the Lord provides for both our kids and us.
It seems as if homeschooling itself is a breeding-ground for pride. Parents have such a vested interest in the outcome of their children, have invested so much time, money, and effort to try to give their children the best educational experience they can possibly give, and often the effect is to begin thinking you’re doing an exceptional job.One reason this effect takes root is that homeschooling parents have a terrible time resisting the temptation to constantly compare their children with everyone else’s. This is because some homeschool parents think that their kids are a direct reflection on themselves – the ones who have trained them. So, if your kids appear to be behind the others, it reflects badly on you. This in turn would make you feel inferior, as if you are not doing a good job. Yet it is never difficult for parents to find someone else’s kids that they deem inferior than their own, at least in some way or another. So, in reality, this comparison game actually breeds a sense of superiority.
This is how pride begins. The pride over how highly you think of your own kids, and at a deeper level, at how proud you are of yourself for having done such a superior job with your kids than those other parents.
One of the ways that this manifests itself is in how often homeschool parents expect special treatment of their children by others. As a pastor, I cannot tell you how many times either my wife or I have had to deal with a homeschool parent that thinks their child is advanced beyond their peers, so much so that they want their child placed in the Sunday School class or AWANA club above what their age would normally dictate. They believe that their child is smarter or more mature, or possess some other sort of subjective qualitative measurement that the parent believes is clearly obvious to everyone.
When in fact, what is often most obvious is the unabashed arrogance of these parents expecting favored treatment of their apparently normal child, sometimes coupled with the haughty attitude of their child, which is often produced by the parent’s frequent pride-fostering comments to the child in the name of encouragement.
Another way I’ve seen this overestimation of children coupled with expectation for special treatment manifest itself is in settings where these same homeschool parents place their children in a class or on a team or in a band/orchestra. Often, these parents who already have an overinflated view of their child’s abilities and capabilities perceive that the teacher or coach is not progressing their child along fast enough or isn’t teaching the material well enough, so they threaten to pull out of the group if the teacher or coach continues to lead the group. This amounts to just one more way of seeking to manipulate others so as to ensure that their own estimation of their child remains a high one. If their child isn’t doing as well as the parent thinks they should, it must be the teacher’s or coach’s fault. In reality, it is just one more way these parents act out their pride.
In addition, these parents rarely listen to any criticism or blame regarding their children. Even when given news that their children have misbehaved, these parents are more quick to try to find out how another person might be to blame than they are to believe the report (even when coming from a trustworthy source like an adult), and in the process are not quick to correct or discipline their own child. Their estimation of their own child is so high, that they have difficulty believing that they could have actually done something intentionally wrong. This is the pride of refusing to believe that their child really is a depraved sinner, and who falls short of perfection, or even near-perfection.
In my experience, parents like these rarely take self-doubt or self-criticism as the first step. Instead, they seek out others to blame and expect special treatment, because somehow they struggle believing that their child is capable of performing badly due to their own faults or natural limitations.
All of this boils down to character issues with the parents. In fact, the tendency toward a critical spirit, the foolish comparing of oneself and one’s kids with others, the demanding of special treatment, etc. all boil down to pride.
Homeschoolers are a group that needs to learn humility better, to question themselves first, to stop comparing themselves and their kids with the performance of others, to esteem others better than themselves, to stop expecting preferential treatment, and to be more quick to believe that their child is not so above average after all. Even if they are, in fact, prodigies, parents of prodigies should still seek humility in this, both in themselves and in their child. This is basic Christianity in action. This is to bear the image of Christ. Too much of homeschooling is terribly un-Christ like in this way.