The Duggars: When Homeschool Idols Have Clay Feet

Though I’ve never watched the Duggars on television, only a hermit would have to be unaware of them, because they’re all over the Internet too. And we’ll be inundated with Duggar reports now that the media has discovered an unreported scandal in the Duggar family some years ago.

This large Christian homeschooling family became idols for some people, who were stunned by their ability to raise children who were so different from the rest of the world. But now we’ve learned that they’re not so different after all; they have clay feet like everyone else, and the specific incident that has caused all the commotion was actually criminal in nature.

I have strong opinions about what went on with their eldest son, but my purpose here is not to air them. I’m more concerned about what this revelation will do to the average person’s conception of homeschooling, and the average Christian homeschooler’s perception of what a homeschooling family can really be. I hate that this news casts a negative shadow on homeschooling. But many in the homeschooling community have asked for this by putting these people on a pedestal.

Indeed, since homeschooling began getting major attention 20+ years ago, some Christian homeschooling families have put themselves up on pedestals, just as the Duggars did, and in every case I know of, they eventually came crashing down, leaving disillusioned homeschoolers in their wake. Without naming names, I’m thinking of a Christian homeschooling mom who was a gifted public speaker with a hidden dark personal life, a Christian homeschooling dad who ran a successful business but let his weaknesses take over and destroy his business and hurt his family, a man who ran an empire that mesmerized many homeschool families while he took advantage of young women volunteering for his organization…..so you see, the Duggars are just the latest in a series of people in the homeschooling sphere who become idols, gain tremendous popularity and then disillusion those who admire them by crashing and burning in a spectacular way.

If you’re one of the disillusioned, please don’t let it sway your good opinion of homeschooling. For every one of these people who give homeschooling a black eye, there are hundreds of hardworking parents who are giving their kids a healthy, happy home life along with a solid education. They don’t go about trumpeting themselves, and they avoid pedestals, but their families are living proof that homeschooling works. Maybe you’re one of them.  :)

My hope is that more and more homeschoolers will learn to trust their own instincts instead of looking for high-profile homeschoolers to imitate. Maybe this latest episode of “Crash and Burn Homeschoolers” will convince them to change the channel.

Ridiculous Parenting Expectations

OK, Buzzfeed, I’m calling you out. At first I thought your post “31 Things You Can Do With Peeps That Will Blow Your Kids’ Minds” was a joke, but no, here it is, subtitled “Make Easter Unforgettable,” and it looks to me like you’re completely serious.

Are you kidding me? After I read it, I tweeted: Impress ur kids w/Peeps? Seriously? Just relax and let the kids eat the dang things out of the pkg instead.

And I meant it. Who on earth has time to do those things? Besides, if your kids’ Easter will be forgettable without Peeps, they’re pretty spoiled, don’t you think?

What really concerns me about that post is that it’s just one more example of the tremendous amount of pressure on parents these days to make everything perfect for their children. To make matters worse, many parents have been sucked into the competitive world of Facebook, so they won’t just waste precious hours of their lives dipping Peeps into more sugar (and doing the sticky cleanup afterwards), but will also stay up into the wee hours taking photos of their “amazing” creations and putting them on Facebook so that their many “friends” will applaud them with “likes” (and secretly feel guilty that they didn’t do that for their children.)

Sigh.

I wish there weren’t so many voices out there telling parents that they must do this or that amazing thing for their children, because children’s needs are actually pretty simple:

  • They need consistent parenting with secure boundaries they can live safely within.
  • They need regular one-on-one time with their parents: time spent reading together, singing together, working together or playing on the floor together…with no phones or iPads to interrupt the fun.
  • They need hugs and kisses (especially after they’ve been disciplined).

Bottom line? They need love, attention, and security from their parents. That’s a big enough job without adding 31 ways to make Peeps mind-blowing.

Giving Your Children the Gift of Silence

Matthew Crawford had a wonderful piece in the New York Times last week, where he discussed the lack of silence in our lives and how much we suffer for it.

His focus was on the pervasive advertising that surrounds us, but that’s just one facet of our loss of silence. We live in an increasingly noisy world, and that’s bad because we need silence to think.

It’s especially important for children to have periods of silence in their lives. How can they think if they’re being bombarded by sound all the time? How can they develop a rich thought life, and learn who they are?

Parents who are blessed to be home with their children most of the time can and should control the amount of sound (and silence) their children are exposed to. I was one of those parents, and I tried to include silence in my children’s lives.

When they were babies, I didn’t always pick them up the moment they awoke. I still remember standing in the hall listening to them coo, and babble, and later on, chatter, as they woke up on their own; those are great memories. By the time they were toddlers, they liked being alone in their beds in the quiet, so they rarely fussed about having a daily nap time. As they got older, they still had naptime, but they didn’t have to sleep. Instead, they could lay quietly on their beds and read or daydream.

I often sat with them in the backyard and watched them play, or took them to the park where they could hear the birds. Fortunately there were no cell phones then to chirp or play music incessantly, even in public parks, as there are now.

In the house, quiet times were common. The children had limited television time, so the rest of the day, the television was off. Sometimes I’d have music playing on a radio or tape player, but most of the time the only noise was our chatter amongst ourselves, and the children’s laughter.

I’ve written before about how parents need to be careful not to spend all their valuable time with their children chatting on the phone; that came from my childhood experience of having a mother who was on the phone for hours at a time. The background noise of hours’ long adult phone conversations isn’t really good for children, especially if they hear things they’re too young to hear.

Today, there are blaring television screens in children’s restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese’s (as if there weren’t enough to do there already) and stationed at public swimming pools. Even the silence of the public library is polluted by people chatting on their cell phones. There are few places children can go to be in silence so they can think about their world.

If parents don’t purposely give their children chances to experience silence, where else will they find it?

Happy New Year!

OK, so I’m a little late. I’ve got a good reason for that: I’ve been busy!

I’ve been quilting, writing, and reading for pleasure most of the time. Yes, I do still cook and clean and spend time with my family, but now that I’m not homeschooling, I can embrace my freedom, and I do!

So if you’re tired after a long day of working with your children, and you still have all your other tasks waiting for you, please know that your day will come: lesson plans will be just a good memory, and you’ll be able to pursue your interests. There really is light at the end of the tunnel!

P.S. Guess what? My Stages of Homeschooling eBook series can now be read for free at Amazon.com! Learn more HERE.

Jelly Roll Race Quilt and Ripple Effect Table Runner

A while back, I emailed a friend a link to this video, saying “This looks like fun!” And the next time I saw her, she had already made the quilt! So of course I had to try it, and discovered that you really can make a quilt top in a little over an hour, and have fun doing so. Here’s my version post-quilting:

Another project I made was a Secret Santa gift for someone at church. This name of this table runner is “Ripple Effect,” and it comes from Gudrun Erla’s book, “Fast and Furious Family.” It was easy and fun to make, and now I want to make one for myself!

101_7227-1