The idea of children working in any way other than by sitting in school strikes a cord of Dickensian moral outrage at child labour. But in normal family life, most of us recognise that children taking part in the everyday chores that keep the home ticking over, is a necessity. It’s not just that the parents in the house want the help (although we do) it is part of children learning to manage every day life and recognising they live in a family, not a hotel.
One of the things that has changed over time is our view of what a “child” is and what an “adult” is and what should be expected of each. Our strange modern culture doesn’t seem to know what to do with children. So while five year olds are to be subjected to “sex education,” twenty year olds (and older) have no idea how to cook good food, what good food is, how to manage a budget or what it means to clean a toilet.
Now, obviously I am not advocating going back to the days of putting children down mines, or into mills and sweatshops. That is no way to treat children (it’s no way to treat anyone). But why have we gone so far in the opposite direction, to the point where many teenaged youngsters have no idea what end of a vacuum cleaner is what and have never worn rubber gloves?
I am reading “See I Told Me So,” the free book download I mentioned last week. it’s a fascinating set of stories from veteran homeschoolers. One story from a mother who uses a wheelchair and antother (I’m reading now) from a mother who nursed her own mother as she died of cancer and then was diagnosed with MS. She has managed to continue to have her children home, and did not cave and send them to school. Part of the reason she has managed is because her family are so close knit and because her children had learned to be capable. So capable that she was able to take two children with her to live with her mother (900 miles away) leaving her husband and two other young children in the care of her 15 yr old daughter. Was it easy? No, of course not, but the girls had grown up in a home environment where they had learned what I suppose should be called “housekeeping” and how to give of themselves within a loving, God centred home.
I have come across young people (usually girls) who were the primary carer for the family, thanks to serious illness or the death of one parent (usually the mother) and the work committments or just absense of the other parent (usually the father). It was not always good for the carer, but often it did allow them to be adults and very capable ones. Instead of the professional pity that was heaped on these young adults, they were deserving of great respect.
My own children have had to deal with some pretty difficult situtions and my dd says she believes it has made her a better person. On one occasion, they had been in the difficult situation of having to call an ambulance for me and take charge of the younger ones. Later that day they came up to the hospital to vist. I was in a room shared with another lady. Duringt he visit we had talked about the plans for what would happen while I was stuck in hospital. This included completing the marmalade making, organise food and see to their learning.
When they had left the lady in the bed opposite confessed that she had overheard the conversation and she was astonished that two teenagers could be so easliy trusted to do all that we had discussed. She had two step children of similar ages who couldn’t boil and egg and would never be able to take over the running of the hosue while she was in hospital. In fact, as she was, it was a very difficult situation, requiring outside help.
Children need to be able to learn from what life throws at them. Constantly hiding them away from reality (in school usually) is denying them a substantial aspect of life skills and coping strategies. I always laugh when I see those comments about how home education is “sheltering children from real life,” LOL! It’s school that does that- and the results can be very damaging indeed.