Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Talking endlessly along the ride home about what she learned, about the "neat" classroom rules, about playing her first game of checkers with another girl, it was clear Gianna had a wonderful first day of class. She was beaming. I wish I was.

I was disappointed. The situation just wasn't what I'd expected. It certainly wasn't terrible, but I think for me the drawbacks outweigh the benefits at this time. Funny, I honestly wasn't expecting any and my optimism....I always see things as much better than they actually are.

I'm just going to be blunt here. I hope I don't offend anyone - I thought about leaving this out, but I knew many of you would ask. The other children give me hesitation. In my short five minutes at drop-off and another five at pick-up time, I saw attitudes (mostly in the older boys from the upper classes) and personal appearance, though acceptable in many schools today, demoralizing and unsuitable for good example and truly educating the whole child.

The learning was great. Gianna came home captivated by her wealth of new and exciting knowledge. I am very pleased with what she learned, but as a mother I know this aspect of the experience is only a small part of the overall learning.

I am going to have to tell Gianna sometime in the next few days that she will not be returning. She is a very good girl, and I know she will respect her parents' decision. But I know she will be tremendously disappointed. And I'll make it clear that I am too.


Kristen Laurence said...

And absolutely, she gets to keep the lunch bag. I'll make sure we use it!

Nikkadmus said...

You are a wise mommy. I am praying for your conversation with Gianna. Nikki

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

You know, as we consider homeschooling vs. private schooling for our oldest, this is one of the things that gives me the most hesitation. If it weren't for all the other children (with different home rules, different expectations, different attitudes, etc.) I think that school would probably be best for him. But I'm also afraid of what he'll pick up and bring home.

Maybe that is too protective, but isn't "protective" what parents are supposed to be?? :)

Jamie said...

My husband was not for homeschooling at all until our son went to preschool! For the same reasons you listed! (he's now in 4th grade, homeschooled)

You made the right decision and I'm sure will find something else to do even better!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
baltimoremom said...

Hi Kristen, I've enjoyed your blog for a long while and admire you very much. This is the first time for me to comment because your post and the comment by Anonymous threw me for such a loop. I totally support your decision to homeschool and think it's great. However, please don't judge the other children and families based on your superficial experience of them at drop off and pick up. Please give yourself and your daughter some time getting to know the others and sharing yourselves with them. I'm sure they'll adore your family as all your readers do. And please don't take this the wrong way, but I speak from my own experience. Boys REALLY are different from girls. So many times, I looked disapprovingly at boys because of their behavior and felt they were not good company for my innocent daughter. And then I had a son and my attitude is so different now. That's not to excuse bad behavior from boys, but an attempt from a former mother of only females to try to explain that sometimes normal boy behavior may be a turn off if one is used to sweet little girls. Anyways, you must do as your heart tells you, of course, but perhaps give yourselves a few more months of experience? I only decided to comment because it saddens me so much to see WONDERFUL Catholic families pull themselves out of various communities/groups when we so desperately need their influence and involvement and help in this day and age. Well, I'm sure you'll get lots of comments on this one :)

Ellie said...

I am sorry to hear that it wasn't what you'd hoped for. That said, good for you for sticking to your values and maintaining the boundaries you feel are best for your daughter at this time. I understand completely. We all have to forge our own paths, and make the best decisions possible for our children: they are so tender-hearted, so impressionable, during these years.

Elizabeth Foss said...

Hmmm...I find myself nodding with Baltimoremom here. Of course, I didn't see what you saw. But, looking up from my computer just now, I see two teenaged boys with earrings in one ear each. One of them has hair curling over that ear. Both of them have hearts of gold. Both of them are fine, morally upright young men.Both of them are tender and darling with their little sisters. And both of them struggle every day as they seek to be salt and light in their own worlds while not being so odd that they are marginalized. We are raising children to be in the world, but not of it. Sometimes, homeschoolers forget the "in the world" part. And when you are an older homeschooled child, I think you intuitively know that sometimes appearing to be the same as everyone else (within the bounds of modesty) is not only OK, but necessary, as you move from sheltered homeschool child to a young adult navigating the real world. I'd like to believe that my boys would never scandalize the mother of two young girls or, God forbid, the girls themselves. And I do think that's true. And I don't think their behavior in that situation would be unsuitable (it's hard to know what you saw those boys doing). But my boys can *look* just as mischievous and worldly as the boy next door (who's actually a pretty good public school kid, though fully immersed in the culture).

talklesssaymore said...

I think the issue is that while, yes, the school and community environments must have good examples they are greatly outnumbered. Which is a hard thing for small children (especially girls to grasp). It's just too easy for them to latch onto behaviors (aka mean girls, gossiping, thinking certain things are okay when they aren't) just to fit in.

I think Gianna is too young to hold true to what she learns at home and be that example without being at risk of absorbing the other behaviors. I think you are making a good decision.

Is it possible to organize a homeschooling group of other kids (maybe even within your parrish) so she can get the same socialization benefits without the pitfalls?

Anonymous said...

The reality and real world is like that.

jordin said...

I wonder if you expressed this concern to the group how they would respond. Maybe it would help guide a dress code for the group. Also i read this great quote from a book the other week:

'It's a wonder, i thought, that girls ever got married, because you had to forgive your fiance for once being a rotten boy.'
-Hadley Dyer.

I do understand, i pulled my kids out of groups, but for fundamental reasons. They actually compromised on many things for me.

Stephanie Johnson said...

Be very careful. Is this about you or Gianna? If Gianna is doing well and only "sees" these boys at pick-up time, I wonder if the influence is truly as great as you think. I struggle with these issues, too so do not mean to wag a finger...but I know from my experience that whenever I get frustrated with the other kids, it's usually my issue not theirs and I have to ask myself what is really going on? Am I being stretched out of my comfort zone and being asked to grow or is it really, truly unacceptable and non-negotiable behavior? Disengagement from the world will take away the opportunity to teach Gianna many valuable lessons and for her to practice what you are instilling in her at home. Certainly not all the children are bad apples...focus on the good. There will always be bad wherever you go, learn to see the good.

sarah haliwell said...

I am sorry for your disappointment and, respecting your beautiful spirit as I do (I don't know you of course, but some things can't help but shine through the computer screen!) I am sure you always make the best decision for your girls.

I am on the fence about this one. I protect my daughter and I think because I have always done so she now has the personal integrity to be gracious, modest, and polite even when her peers laugh at her for being that way.

On the other hand, my experience over the years of "other children" is that is hard to find children who meet my standards exactly. My dd has only had one friend who was completely trustworthy. The rest were rudely spoken or rough or silly or they indulged in social bullying. (And these were Catholic homeschooled children.) But in all cases I taught my dd that they were acting from inner troubles of their own, and being with them (for short periods!) gave her the chance to shine God's light of love. Sometimes it helped. Sometimes not. When it helped, we cheered to see God at work. When it didn't help, we tried again, and then we left the situation.

Having said that, I would not put my dd into a public school setting.

Kris said...

Sometimes you just get that "feeling" that something isn't right for you. I think you are making an educated decision for one of the most important people in your life. GOOD JOB!

Kristen Laurence said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. Know that the charity behind each and every one of them is much appreciated. (I only had one hostile posting to delete!)

I know I don't need to explain our decision in detail, defend it, or seek anyone's approval but God. None of us does. I do assure that we made our choice with an eye towards our daughter's age and temperament, what is good for our own family, and what we feel called to do at this time.
Thank you!

A few responses which hopefully will answer most questions:

-Talklesssaymore, you really hit the nail on the head in regard to our consideration! And yes, we're involved with a huge (as in, over 70 families), active Catholic hschooling group. Socialization is never a problem. I merely elected the class so she could have a taste of "going to school". She doesn't need it by any means.

-Jordin, a written dress code is in place at the learning center. It is not enforced however. (picture sagging pants with most of one's underwear showing)

-Stephanie, I agree with you...

"Disengagement from the world will take away the opportunity to teach Gianna many valuable lessons and for her to practice what you are instilling in her at home."

But just not in this particular situation, considering her temperament and youth, and not yet. She's not fortified enough.

Thanks again, everyone!

Margaret said...

Kristen, your honesty is great!

Aren't we blessed as homeschoolers? There is no perfect class, group or co-op. Each opportunity has benefits and potential risks. But as parents we can decide if it meets our child's educational/socialization goals and if the risks are acceptable. We have control! I think it's fantastic. With this blessing comes great responsibility to our children and to others. Of course you already know this, but it sounds like you found this out in a very real way yesterday.

Our family had to make a change this week as well. An activity that we had signed up for turned out to have some unexpected elements. After discussion, my husband and I determined that it was not the right time for our daughter. We'll reevaluate when she is a bit older.

I think that there is no right answer; every child and situation is different. All I can say is pray (I'm sure you already are) and you will know. A prayerfully guided mother's intuition is a wonderful thing. You will know what is right. It sounds like you already do.

Bravo for sticking your neck out here!

Anonymous said...

My two cents, as a public school teacher, and the parent of two boys who attend public school. Boys will be boys....they are simply wired differently! There will always be children whom you do not approve of, no matter what the environment. Isn't is better that she learn to make wise choices in terms of her companions, while she has you to guide her? Do you think that she may see your decision as controlling? Do you think that she might become resentful? The children of overly controlling parents often become very rebellious when they are teenagers. Just my two cents.....

jordin said...

Kristen, I know you are making the right decision!

Good for you! And my the Lord bless you and your family because of your devoteness.

Faith said...

I will pray for your talk with your daughter. Our family has done the same (pulled back from a group setting)in many instances. Ironically, a major reason is that we have three boys, and I want them to grow up without others giving them excuses! ;)
As a result, we do a lot of field trips as a family, visit cousins and a few friends; but mostly stay at home learning together. We love it!

sarah haliwell said...

I love your gracious response Kristen. And I applaud you for waiting for your daughter to be fortified enough within herself before you expose her to influences that you consider unhealthy. After all, you would not let her swim in the ocean before she was ready enough to be safe.

Every young adult I know who was a "sheltered" child is grateful to their parents for that protection.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, I admire you immensely in what I've come to know of you in your writing. I have been inspired by your words so very much! This is a topic that I have thought of frequently in regards to my daughter. I have a little Gianna, too...though she's not even quite one year old. We're some time away from school days yet; my concerns are of how to protect her innocence and guide her in holiness amidst a "worldly" family...her uncles, I am sure, could bring more scandal than any of the boys you put eyes on this week...and the brokeness of her grandparents' marriage is spirit-breaking to say the least. I'd love to hear your thoughts (and those of your readers!) on how to navigate those is not an elective course!

Kerry said...

You know best...bottom line! I love reading Pioneer Woman and her homeschooling section. Attached is a great post by a seasoned homeschooler that I thought might interest girls are only 17months and we have not made a decision about how we will educate but it never fails, people who choose to use public or private schools take issue with the "socialization" aspect of homeschoolers and making sure they are aware of "reality" or the "real world." She answers this issue so well in her post.

Jeannine said...

For the Anonymous concerned about her extended family~ I just want you to know that you are not alone. It will take a great deal of communication with your husband. While it is true that family is not elective, we try to always supervise and have the family members we're concerned about to our home where we can better manage the exposure. If you are a reserved, nonconfrontational person, you might need to ask the Holy Spirit to give you a voice. A holy friend shared that being forced to deal with issues of sin early, entirely under our Godly guidance, can be seen as a gift. If the outside world provided their first exposure to these sins, we might have been caught unawares. It is a difficult road, but it will be easier if there is absolute unity between you and your husband. God bless you.

Momof2boyz said...

Two more cents from me, the teacher with two boys. When my younger son was in pre school, I had some "issues" with what I perceived as an overly structured environment. Every day, he was happy to be dropped off. I spoke with his teachers, and with him. (He has always been vocal, even as a preschooler. I wonder where he gets that from!) I ended up keeping him at that school, because he was happy. He had- and still has- a strong need for structure. I went with my "gut" and kept him there. That being said, after reading your post, and some of the responses, I remembered times when my "gut" (ok, maternal instinct sounds better) told me that certain situations were not healthy for my boys, and I removed them from those influences. Anyway, I know you make the best decision for your daughter.

Kristen Laurence said...

Anonymous, honestly I'm not entirely sure how I would handle such family issues - it would depend on different factors in different situations. Jeannine's response makes a lot of sense to me. I'd be sure to be present during get-togethers with questionable family members... courteous, charitable, but always present. If a family member's tone, language, conversation or behavior becomes undesirable, I would simply remove my child from the room (say, to go off and play a game or read a book), or leave the house if necessary. I imagine I'd be subtle about it and not call said family member to task in front of everyone. That said, if a sister or brother of mine was good-natured enough and good willed but just happened to possess a lot of bad habits, I might approach him/her in private, to ask kindly if he/she would try to avoid such behaviors around my children. I think most people see children as innocent and DO see value in protecting them, but some just don't know how - they don't innately grasp how this guarding plays out in the particular (e.g. one might deem cursing in front of the little ones acceptable, therefore doesn't think to guard his tongue.) Such a person - not malicious, just ignorant - might need or respond well to a kind and loving request.

Jeannine's response about being united with your husband is also essential.

Anyone else? With or without experience?

Kristen Laurence said...

Momof2boyz, I'm so glad you commented. I think many non-homeschoolers have similar perceptions - especially about being controlling. It's a very good question.

I know the type of controlling you're talking about. I've seen the rebellion of children raised in such home environments too. We're not like that, and we pray always to guide and raise our children only the way God wants, not us.

Not to mention, where we live makes it nearly impossible to "shelter" in the way described. :) I figure, the world isn't going anywhere. My kids are and will be exposed. But along the way my husband and I, as their parents, have a duty to approach each and every situation with an eye toward the good of our girls. Sometimes, we'll be more lenient. Sometimes more protective. Hopefully guided all the while by the Real Father of us all to make good decisions.

momof2boyz said...

Kristin, your girls are so lucky to have such loving parents. In my profession, I have worked with many, many children and families.....let's just day that I have seen a lot. I have found that the most important factor in the education of a child- whether that setting is a school, or the home- is the family. One more unrelated item- When son #2 is older, I think that he might enjoy the TAC summer program for high school students. Have a good weekend-
momof 2boyz

Michelle said...

Regarding family members with bad habits or who are bad influences: my husband's brother smokes, but he hides it from my kids. Neither he nor his sister attend Mass regularly, but if they are visiting us they do. My own brother is lacking in a strong moral code, but he lives in another state, so we don't see him often. When we do visit, we are always present. Parents are a greater influence on their children than anybody else.

Kristen, I think you made a wise decision. Your daughter is too young to know what is best for her, and she is too young to be thrown to the wolves, so to speak. You are not an isolationist, and the outside influences will come regardless (but you know this).

Next week, my son begins speech therapy at the local middle school once a week. I am confident that this one class with 4 other students will not cause him to adopt poor dress styles or a bad attitude, but I am happy that it is only one class once a week. And he is older. My very sensitive 6 year old would not do well in such an environment (nor would this son of mine when he was 6). We've been doing baseball, scouts, and other activities for years with others. We have dealt with neighbor children. Unless you live in a rural area and keep to yourself, it is impossible to shelter your children completely.

I was amused recently when my boys happened to be with me when I had a hair appointment. They had just gotten their own self-chosen military hair buzzes, and I was getting a trim at a civilian salon. A male hairdresser was talking to them and suggested hair coloring: red, purple, etc. They laughed at the thought. It is funny that they are who they are because I have let them become it - and not, as many people think, because I have dictated it. It is peers who do more dictating than parents.

I have to recommend the book "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Dr. Meg Meeker. I'll do a review on my blog soon, but I think the book's themes apply to your situation.

Kyra said...

I think you show a brave example of parenting to go with your gut instinct on this one, even though it may mean facing (hopefully temporary) disappointment from your daughter.

I also wanted to point out that this is such a relevant topic for all parents of school-age children, and it isn't just a "home schooling vs. outside schooling" issue. As a product of sixteen years of private Catholic school I know that parents often have to wrestle with choosing the best environment for their children, and that those environments vary greatly, with the class make-up certainly being one of the factors. It can be a question of private vs. public, religious vs. secular, single sex vs. co-ed, or one town vs. the next town over.

I hope that you do a future post letting us know how things went with your daughter and how you approached the subject with her.