Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Homeschooling and the Integrated Life of Mom
I recently read Sally Thomas's excellent article about homeschooling not once but twice within a week through two different websites. I thus took it as a sign to write a little about the point that I made me agree, and hurrah the most.
The article is a good one so go read it, but it basically sums up the author's feelings in regards to the general response those who educate their children at home receive. All her answers to the usual array of ignorant questions are spot on, but what I loved the most is how she addresses homeschooling as a perfect training for a rightly ordered life. A life that integrates education and learning into one's life without compartmentalizing. This in turn teaches children to live a life that isn't divided into small increments; prayer, faith, education, leisure all come together in the home. Children develop wholly as opposed to block by separate block. I was educated at home for all but first grade, so I can vouch from personal experience that I've found this to be true and also a skill that seems to have all but disappeared in my generation.
But what really surprised me when I started to think about this idea is the effect of the integrated life upon stay at home moms. I'm sure this principle applies to those in the work force as well, but as my experience as a stay at home mom has now surpassed the time I spent "working" my mind now automatically applies principles I read about to my own life circumstances. (weird, right?)
I've found that those who dislike being a stay at home mom, or feel somehow useless, or feel unchallenged while at home with little children have difficulties precisely because they've never experienced an integrated life. I know this is a broad generalization and that many particulars and many more factors contribute to the societal push against staying home with our very young children, but when I began thinking about the integrated life it stuck out to me that when you become a stay at home mom is when things really start to hit the fan if you don't have an integrated life. Most of your time gets spent on caring for your child, but you soon find out you need more to stay sane and happy while at home. A life that integrates one's interests, faith, responsibilities, and the myriad demands upon life as mom makes for a more fulfilling life as a stay at home mom.
When you become a stay at home mom you're in essence forced to make your world revolve around your home, and for that which interests you to spring out of your life within the home. Since most modern women today are schooled in a public system which creates the idea that learning only happens within sturdy public schooled walls, that home is where you sleep in between extra-curricular activities, which then prepare you for a career that promises to give you fulfillment and which requires you to make your home a refueling station between work days, it must feel like hitting a brick wall or walking into another world when staying home with that first newborn infant. The world for which we are conditioned completely disregards the home, and rejects the idea that a life can be fulfilling within it. I've seen many friends who grew up going to school, who's mom's worked outside the home, and who had the very good intention of staying home with their children only to become completely discouraged and "bored" once their child was born. It was as if the only things that interested them were only accessible through their job. The concept that life can be integrated at home through continued learning, pursuing interests and work at home or around the children's schedule seemed impossible to them.
But homeschooling does train an integrated life. Learning doesn't begin and end at precise times, an attitude that leans towards discovering and learning is there around the clock. Of course one of homeschooling's great selling points is learning about what interests you instead of being held to a generic curriculum, but this idea spreads through to outside interests, hobbies, projects, etc. The pursuit of each person's individual likes and ideals is constantly cultivated. It just creates a lifelong habit of pursuing what interests you and learning all while being rooted in the home. These ideals come naturally through homeschooling, but aren't they perfect skills to have for a stay at home mom trying to build a happy outlook?
We all know staying at home to be a mother to our children is tough a lot of the time. Society isn't too helpful in supporting it either, but how we've grown up does effect our attitude towards it. Maybe its time to start acknowledging that one of the life skills homeschooling gives our children is the ability to live an integrated life not only in the workforce but in the home.