It’s a funny thing. Out of the many, many people who have asked my advice about parenting, no one has ever told me that their kids get along so peacefully that there’s never any conflict to navigate. Sibling relationships can be some of the most complex and multi-faceted there are, with much more potential for explosiveness than with friends. After all, you can choose your friends but you don’t choose your siblings.
And yet this week I once again fielded a common misconception: how will homeschooled kids be able to cope with life? Because, the questioners continued, they won’t know how to deal with difficulties if they aren’t in school. School is clearly what prepares kids to deal with life’s challenges, right?
It seems to me there’s a kind of selective amnesia that every person who asks this question experiences, as they momentarily forget what their own home life is like. I’m grateful to have a pretty peaceful home life, and I can tell you that every single day I’m actively guiding various children in how to respond in a better and more effective way to situations that come up. (Understand this careful phrasing to mean that there are regularly choices being made that aren’t synonymous with quiet and gentle ).
It’s fair to assume that in every home with more than one family member in it, there are going to be some interpersonal issues to work through on a daily basis. There are frustrations and irritations, things that don’t go your way and people and events you don’t have control over. Are the people asking about homeschoolers’ capacity to cope truly presuming that homeschooling parents and children have a unique DNA and experience a blissful life unmarred by the difficulties that any other child in the world has to face?
There are plenty of opportunities to be challenged and grow even in the most loving of homes. I firmly believe that it’s the lessons we learn at home about how to get along with one another that are the hardest to learn and at the same time, prepare us better for life and future relationships than any other social opportunities.
When my kids reached the pre-teen and teen ages and complained about their siblings, I would occasionally tell them that this will prepare them for future roommates and spouses better than anything else could. Since then, several of our older children have told me that I was right about this. It’s always nice to hear your kids say you were right all along!
I’m a person who has done a lot of research on a lot of things, but I’ve never come across a way to avoid life’s rough patches. If anyone had that recipe, they could sell it and make millions. It’s simply not possible to avoid difficulties, regardless of where you’re educated. Life will be turbulent for us all at times.
Going through difficulties isn’t the same as growing through difficulties.
The question shouldn’t be if kids at home are so protected that they won’t face challenges – this argument is a straw man. The stronger a child’s autonomous self and inner emotional core is, the better prepared he’ll be to face challenges. A better question for those sincerely concerned about a child’s ability to successfully face adversity should be, what builds a strong emotional core in a child, and is that development more supported in an institution or in a family?