Those homeschooled kids who can’t deal with life because they’re so protected – yeah, them.

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?


15 thoughts on “Those homeschooled kids who can’t deal with life because they’re so protected – yeah, them.

  1. I try to assume that all those voices that yell that school teaches you valuable life skills are so sure about that because that was their experience in school. And I take that as a hopeful sign.
    Here’s to hope!

    1. That’s optimistic of you, Naomi. When I’ve had one on one conversations with people, I don’t remember anyone (other than two 21 year olds) who ever said that their life skills came from school.

      I don’t think that schools aim or claim to teach life skills – have you noticed the increasing number of (out of school) classes and groups geared toward teaching social skills? That’s why if there’s a problem in this area, the responsibility is always placed on the parents, whereas if there’s an academic concern the school addresses it.

  2. Hi Avivah thanks for talking about this. It really hit a raw nerve and saddened me– I’ve found that people will pin just about anything on homeschooling. Someone I was chatting to at the park told me “wow your kids just shared their chalk so nicely with my kids – must be because they are homeschooled!” And while I appreciated the compliment it made my heart sink- because my kids don’t always share their chalk so nicely, and would people then say ” must be because they are homeschooled”–?! A friend of mine said “I know a homeschooled girl who went off the derech, I’m sure it’s because she didn’t go to school”. I’m terrified knowing that whatever imperfections and problems my kids have, it will be blamed on HS. I believe these comments come from either ignorance or insecurity but I don’t feel strong enough to deflect them.

    1. Shuli, I understand your feeling and fears. Homeschoolers do face a lot of judgment and prejudice, and it’s unfortunately true that if there aren’t positive results in some way, it will be pinned on homeschooling. Which is kind of funny – kids who go to school don’t go off the derech??

  3. Hi Aviva. Thank you for this keen post. How often people have dissuaded me from homeschooling because of how it will negatively affect my children.
    I am not a homeschooler and may or may not ever get the privilege to homeschool my kids, but I admire homeschoolers and often dream of how things might be different if I DID homeschool them. This post helps me see that homeschooled or plain old building-schooled (not sure what the correct term is) parenting my kids is always the most important aspect in which I can effect strong values and creating their strong inner core so that they can have a fighting chance against the adversary life will bring to their future.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Hatzlacha always.

    1. Yes, Mikki, you’re hitting the nail on the head when you’re talk about the importance of actively building relationships with our kids regardless of where they are schooled!

  4. Hi Avivah,

    Thank you for an encouraging post!

    I’m wondering — what is your opinion on homeschooling just one child? My youngest daughter wants to go to school next year, and that would leave only my son at home, who will be seven next year. On the one hand, I love how homeschooling allows him to grow at his own pace, make his own discoveries, and explore the world around him. I’m worried that putting him in school would stifle his love of learning. On the other hand, would it really work to keep just one child home, especially given that he’s my only boy? He’s just getting into playing with other boys — he used to just follow his sisters around — and I’m wondering if being around other boys would be of greater benefit to him than homeschooling. Or if I should continue homeschooling, and sign him up for as many classes as possible, and then do freelance work while he’s in class so we can actually pay for them…

    What’s your opinion? Thanks!

  5. I not only agree with you, Avivah, BUT I’ve seen people criticize hsing for just about everything. (Note: my kids are grown – I hsed a long time ago)
    So if a hsing child is shy, the anti hser will say a shy child needs to be in school with other kids. If a hsing child
    Is social, the same anti hser will say the child needs to be in school with other kids. If a child is gifted, the anti hser will say how can YOU the parents possibly teach a gifted child — they need to be in school. If a child learns slowly, the same anti hser will say professionals need to teach the child.
    This is the same sort of thing–as if siblings can’t possibly ‘count’ as friends.

    1. LOL, Mellie, this is so exactly true! (Welcome, by the way!)

      I had a family member tell me a long list of good things that were unusual about my kids that he didn’t see in other kids around – and then follow that by saying if they were in school they would have been even better.

      It really stems from a different paradigm of what education is – to me schooling and education are very different.

  6. Avivah! This post couldn’t have come at a better time! My husband and I are exhausting all our energies on our kids getting along- to no end. I feel like a complete failure at the end of the day- if only they’d get along and cooperate, and speak nicely to each other we’d be able to get so much more done, have more fun outings, etc.

    In response to one of your last posts about feedback about your blog- yours is the ONLY blog I follow and I don’t know where I’d be without you. I call you my cyber mashpia. Even though many aspects of our lives are very different, there is a strong synchronicity with your posts and something that I’m going through. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    1. I think a big part of the reaaon people think hsed kids fight less and share better is bwcause that is what pro home school articles try to hype. The distinct impression I got from years of reading Mothering magazine is that homeschooled kids are kinder, more creative, more self confident, love learning more than schol schooled kids. It also comes from comments on attachment parenting boards about the difference btwn hsed kids and regular kids. In fact when I get together with friends wjo hs, i wonder if they are thinking that my kuds are x or y b.c. they go to school.

      1. Hi, Ali, welcome and thank you for your comment!

        You’re much more educated than most people making presumptions about homeschooling, so I don’t think their comments are based on the kind of reading that you’ve done. And I wouldn’t call it hype to say that overall, homeschooled kids are kinder, etc – that’s pretty accurate as to what I’ve seen over the last 15 years and there are a lot of reasons for that.

        My point in this post is that just because they’re at home doesn’t mean that their lives are conflict-free!

        I personally don’t compare my kids to kids in school, but sometimes do mentally compare to what they would be like if they were in school. (Once they went to school, I no longer theorized but had a baseline based on experience to go by.) Your last statement was very interesting and I never thought about this from the perspective you’re sharing. I don’t know about others, but I don’t sit around when I spend time with friends and think about their kids behaving in a certain way because they go to school.

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