Tag Archives: family culture

Home education; Avoiding the do do – go go – get get approach.

victor-hugo-author-doing-nothing-is-happiness-for-children-and-misery-for-oldThere are a great many teachers out there who are fed up with the notion that their job is not so much to offer an education to children, but to offer to entertain them. They will be bored, rude and badly behaved, goes the mantra, unless the teacher performs some kind of circus act before the white board. To this end a number of bright and loud edutainments are sold to schools to keep the children interested, even as their attention spans diminish.

I think this strange cultural virus has infected some home education families as well. Partly because home educators get accused of all sorts of strange behaviour, including keeping our children locked indoors, tied to the kitchen table, some home educators feel the need to be out of the house at all hours, providing lots of stimulating edutainment,  just to prove the opposite. There are even families on a very tight budget who feel, somehow pressured, to go charging off to every home ed event and outing they can possibly squeeze into a week.

It’s an easy temptation to fall into. Those of us who are tied by both financial considerations and, like me, being too ill, are actually let off the hook a bit. Even so, I did go through a silly guilt trip that I wasn’t dashing off to all the outings and that my children were actually at home doing a lot of their learning.  As it happens they do have activities outside the home and home ed activities with other families, some here, some elsewhere. The way their activities work means they have both schooled and home educated friends. I quite like that.

It is the psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi who coined the phrase “do, do, go, go, get, get” to describe the way some parents insist their children are at every and any event, after school club and organised meeting and have every gadget, latest this and that; whatever pours out of the dodgy factories of China.

One of the reasons I don’t like this approach, (and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dr. Ray pick up on this particular bug bear of mine) is that I think it’s bad for children to be perpetually organised. The idea that if their time isn’t coordinated by an adult they will get up to no good is at the root of this I think. The importance of free time and quiet time and simply play time has been subsumed into all day timetables for children as young as 3. It’s inhuman (imho). Some of it seems to be more about adults being afraid of free time with their own children, than about ensuring a child receives all the opportunities that are for their benefit.

The problem with the do-do-go-go-get-get approach is that it is self perpetuating. The children, including home educated children, can become institutionalised in that they can’t be bored. They can’t do nothing for while, and they can’t make their own activities. Someone must give them something to do. The game must be pre-organised.

They become used to never having to just be.

None of our greatest thinkers learned like that. C.S.Lewis talks of having hours P1000113with books in a library. Charlotte Mason walked the moors and woodlands around Ambleside and so on. Even in fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes, there are times of complete inaction where the only thing happening is thought.

While I am sure the children are looking forward to the return to cubs and beavers and ballet, and the coninuation of swimming; And while they have seen friends and will have the weekly small home ed group and monthly big one, I think the holidays have been good for them (and me). They have played, made things, sat around reading, sat around not doing anything at all.

Having organised time, clubs and outings aren’t bad in themselves of course. Children do very well in them, but they shouldn’t take up every hour of a child’s waking life. We know very well that this approach isn’t doing schooled children any favours at all. We know they go to school, go to the afterschool activity, go home and bolt down their tea before homework and screen and bed. That’s a bad way to live. There’s no time for family life or even friends, just doing and doing and then sleeping.

So as we gallop towards term I must remember, they need time to be, and I don’t need to timetable them to within an inch of their lives.

Unto the third and fourth generation; what are we doing to our children and grandchildren?

In the UK now something like 1 in 10 children are dx with a mental illness of some kind. The problem for what is labeled generation Y, is so great some have suggested it has reached beyond crisis to a state of emergency. The figures are pretty stark even if you take into consideration the shocking over dx and overuse of prescription medication for children.  These are the children of my generation. Those of us born in the early to mid sixties are the first of Generation X coming after the baby boomers, who are now in their late 60s and 70s.

There’s a separate but linked issue with the dx of ADHD and ADD which I might look at later but not in this post.

This confessional article on the way love was ditched in the search for so-called free love in the ’60s, tries to shine a spotlight on why love was ditched. Jermann writes;

My generation made a mess of love. We lost its very meaning to an emotionally appealing ersatz replacement based on a self-congratulatory “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality, even as the growing debris of dying human relationships proved otherwise.  We have left our children so deep in the muck that they no longer see a sky blue but accept a dull overcast gray as the normal light of day

The comments expand on the article pointing out that it wasn’t just the hippies seeking “free love” who turned away from real love, plenty of otherwise descent respectable folk did the same. I have been surrounded by so many people of about my age who were either abused, neglected or basically ignored by their parents.  Even in families that on the surface looked in tact and functioning I have heard stories of confusion, distant relationships and deep loneliness from the now adult children.

Most of these people (myself included) never saw a baby, and so when we had our own. we were left to struggle and work out by ourselves how to deal with having children of our own.  For so many of my generation the only guide was “I wont do it like my parents.” But as my generation have bought into the idea that what adults want is way more important than what children need, the lovelessness goes on.

Adults have been so stunted they have no idea how to maintain loving relationships with one another, and can’t face the demands of dependant children. Even otherwise good parents will allow their children to behave in self destructive ways simply because they don’t know how to stop them.

There has to be a solution as we face the curse of the grandparents visiting the third and even fourth generation. And there is.

In the cultural desert, hard working and genuinely loving people have set up little oasis of hope. One comment under the article is from a man who teaches Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to teens. He says they are enthusiastically taking it up. They know they have to shun the sexual example having suffered the results themselves.

The knowledge and willingness of couple,s of many Christian couples – not just Catholics – to embrace an open to life marriage, using NFP when serious reasons require it, is spreading like wild fire.

More and more women in particular are sick of the damage to health, particularly breast cancer, to marriage and the water supply done by contraception and they are turning back to natural methods that respect women’s bodies and the family unit.

There’s a growing number of mothers who are practicing what has been termed “attachment parenting”. Now, the pendulum can, and always does, swing too far the other way. The media doesn’t help. I have rarely seen a TV programme about normal attachment parenting, it’s always the extreme end, with as weird as possible families.

Ignoring the mainstream media, (something I highly recommend), there are plenty of stories out there of families who are finding a better life by conforming to the natural law and especially in treating women as wives and mothers with the respect due their human dignity and role.

The collapse of the Greek economy has strengthened families.

As we would have no internet while on holiday I had downloaded some podcasts to listen to while I made picnics and cleaned the kitchen. One of them was an interview with a man who was well versed in what is happening in Greek politics and economy. He painted a pretty desperate picture as the wealth has almost vanished and more and more people are barely making ends meet. The elderly can’t be cared for by Government systems any more and the health care coverage is seriously compromised by the lack of Government funds.

But in this otherwise bleak picture this observer noted that there are signs that Greek culture is making a come back. Families are pulling together and pooling resources. Elderly parents are living with their adult  children and extended families are living and sharing together. From this he sees some hope for the future of the country.

Families wont have as much “stuff” any more. They will be poorer, and there seems no end in sight for that situation at the moment, but many Greek people are rising to the occasion. They are taking back the rights and responsibilities they had too willingly handed over to bureaucrats and are trying to build things from the family and local community up.

I wonder how things will look once the financial situation improves (presuming it does). Will there be more subsidiarity and less Government for Greece? Could other countries move the same way? Or have our cultures been so broken for so long that we couldn’t do as Greece is doing? Are we too busy, too wrapped up in our own tiny worlds to see what’s beyond the immediate? I hope not. God can make straight with crooked lines, and the history of the Jewish people shows a people who gather together and call on His Name when economic and political matters look likely to crush them. We must surely do the same.

In quiet praise of my parish and our parish priest.

Friends were over today who had been with us on Sunday when we celebrated with Avila her First Holy Communion. They mentioned how lovely our parish priest is – a solid, genuinely holy bloke. He’s about to be given another parish to run alongside ours as the PP from there isn’t well and is being moved (hopefully to lighter duties).  It’s a lot for one man to do.

He has made our Parish a lovely welcoming place where families can feel at home and where those of have little ones or children with various challenges don’t have to feel out of place about being there. It meant that on Sunday friends of ours who have children with Aspergers and ADHD (the real version) and babies could be there and not feel unwanted.

Father even preached against spending so much time looking at how others are behaving that we forget to look at ourselves.

So many parents who are battling the daily challenges of children with disabilities, chronic illness and all the attendant behaviours can feel that they are not allowed to leave the house, let alone enter a church.

As it happened the extra children with all their “stuff” were well behaved and relaxed during Mass and this has to be partly a reflection that their parents could be relaxed in the knowledge they would not be “noticed”.

Then there was me in the corner with my weird movements and STILL I keep saying “And also with your spirit!” When will I learn?

Thank God for my parish.

education for a life – being isolated parents

Friends came over yesterday for our Friday joint history and art lesson day. Having spent some time looking at the 14thCentury Black Death that killed so many people it changed the way the world worked, K and I somehow got on to the subject of children and “stuff”. The plague effected the way people behaved. Our culture effects the way people behave too.

Iona mentioned she thought there were parts of the Sherlock Holmes film she has been to see that would be disturbing for children under the age of 12 or even slightly older than that. The rate is 12A and she has seen much younger children in the cinema and wondered why the adults were not more cautious about it.

Avila has come home from something and told me one of her friends has five TVs in their house and there are only four people. Avila was a bit taken aback that her friend has a TV in her bedroom.

K pointed out that as her children attend lots of groups in her area (which is a pretty wealthy area) that there is pressure on her to provide “stuff” because “everyone else’s children have it.” And this in turn leads to “but everyone else is allowed to do this,” conversations.

Iona mentioned watching a programme about Amish youngsters and how they worked really hard doing labour and housework. There were visiting children from the Uk (I think) who couldn’t even imagine having to do housework every day and actually getting satisfaction from the repetitive work of it.

“We learn patience this way,” one of the Amish children had explained.

I note that it must be much easier for Amish parents to bring their children up with a good understanding of their responsibility and having to work for what they have, as they are all doing it.

The biggest problem parents like K and myself have is we are surrounded by a culture in which parents wouldn’t normally dream of saying “no” to their children for anything. Little ones watch appalling TV programmes because the parents wont say no, and of course, wont turn the machine off.

It is so much harder to parent our children against the prevailing culture.

Even among home educators – especially in the UK I think – there is still the culture of “give ’em what they want when they want it” and don’t expect much from them as far as responsibility and solid moral behaviour. It really makes being a parent so very much harder than it would be if their was more mutual moral support.

In an interesting twist I think the internet actually helps with this. Knowing other families around the world who share the same moral underpinnings as we do can be a support in a difficult time. But also I think home education itself is as massive step forward in helping to keep a good deal of the toxicity of the cultural norms away from our children while they are developing as people.

It’s just a bit ironic sometimes when the “S” question gets asked and we are not really considered polite when we say how poorly socialised schooled children are. There is a bizarre acceptance, even expectation among parents that at certain ages children will behave obnoxiously and that’s all there is to it. In fact I wonder if parents are so convinced that nasty attitudes and behaviour are “normal” that they encourage it as they don’t want their children to stand out as “different”.

One of the major aspects of Amish life that I think the editors of TV programmes probably miss, is that their family centred lives have a purpose. The children might work much harder than the average Western kid, but they are part of a family structure that respects them and values them as people.

We really need to turn our culture around, and I think the first thing we need to do is respect our children and love them enough to say “no” as often as it needs saying – and especially when it’s just so hard to say it.

Children as blessings and how not to starve the elderly to death.

One morning at Mass I admitted to a friend that I was pregnant with what would prove to be my sixth child. She gave me a hug and at that moment another friend came over and we both told her. She put her arms around me and said, “Well, if you are good at something, you may as well keep doing it.” I think that was the loveliest thing anyone has said to me about the fact we have dared to go beyond the culturally acceptable number of children of 1.4.

The fact is we have had children in the teeth of the massive propaganda campaign against the lives of children. We are told they are eating up the planet’s meagre resources which should be preserved for the Al Gore’s of this planet. We are told that disabled children must be killed before they get the chance to be born. The Malthus myth is alive and well and heavily pushed by the media and it’s darlings.

Then there are the frequent children cost far too much so don’t have too many articles. They are often based on the assumption that there will be a huge chunk of a family’s income spent on “child care”.  This in turn must be a reflection of the isolation of so many families, so that there is no one but a paid stranger to help with the children. Families are broken up and scattered and each person looks after themselves.

When talking to a fellow Home ed mum last night, she told me how surprised she had been at Think Tank to see so many large families. Some mothers, she told me, had even more children than me! lol. She is expecting her fourth and I know this hasn’t been joyful news to some.

I told her that one of the joys of HE for me had been that with six children I was just one of the crowd. Home educators over all do seem to have more children, or if they only have one or two they soon end up borrowing some more from somewhere, either as helping a family or fostering. My friend wondered if we home ed partly because we just like our children.

My friend discussed her sadness of so many mums complaining to her about having to be with their children through the six weeks Summer holidays. One mother I met said quite clearly in front of her child that she didn’t think it was right for schools to expect families to cope over six weeks!!

Bare these astonishing attitudes by adults in mind when I tell you the next demographic doomalist projection is we will have too many old people – which they are calling the grey tsunami.

As the answer to “too many children” has been contraception and abortion and a call for infanticide (Singer’s view which is increasingly mainstream) what will be the remedy for “too many old people”?

It’s not a leap to see that many elderly will fall under the increasing calls of “obligation to die”, prettily wrapped in a right to die rhetoric at the moment and the misuse of the words dignity and mercy.

This may seem to have little to do with home education per sey but the near the surface of every call to ban home education throughout the world, to stamp out the inherent rights of parents and children to the freedom and obligation of education is based primarily on hatred of Christian doctrines on life. I don’t think I have heard or read a single arguement against home education that doesn’t warn against “fundamentalist Christians” keeping their children away from the secular (a)moral doctrine. Even here in the UK, where as far as I can tell there is a sizable non-Christian non-deist group, the “fundamentalist” label gets bandied about.

Recently I have heard that more protestant communities are turning away from contraception and abortion, having seen the devestating effect it has had on their communities. They are beginning to see that following Scripture means being completely pro-life in marriage as well as “politics”. I would be interested to know if many of these families and pastors putting aside contraception and letting God back into their marriage are or will home educate. Especially in America where many school options are very expensive, more children will probably lead to more homeschooling.

Turning away from the culture of death means embracing the culture of life, which logically, it seems to me, means welcoming, not just whatever children God sends, but whatever elderly or disabled relatives He might send as well.

When families take back and embrace the culture of life, we can avoid the pit that yawns in front of us from the utilitarian secularists (pushed by the BBC of course) and no one needs to be killedd.

Subsidiarity, J.T.Gatto on the Amish, and my oldest children.

click picture for document

I have some vague memory of Dr. Scott Hahn saying something about his days studying economics when he was a fairly anti-Catholic protestant, that he (for some reason) read Rerum Novarum and had to admit, that while Catholics were terribly wrong – they were right about social teaching and economics in this area.

At the heart of Leo XIII’s encyclical is the idea of subsidiarity; doing it locally. Doing it as a family first and then a community.

From what I’ve read, the whole structure of the philosophy of Distributism is built on the corner stone of Rerum Novarum. The family is the unit of society. A strong family structure equals a strong, economically viable society therefore. Conversely a weak family structure, broken by divorce, contraception and other forms of self centeredness, will mean a poor economy.

Distributism is based on the philosophy that all men are free and that with the family at the root of society, and subsidiarity as the base of running the society which would then (as in days of old) be built on the wealth of little family businesses. Family run businesses would keep a family housed, fed and looked after, but it depended on families sharing their lives and being open to children.

The present reality for our adult children is there is no real work for them. There is only wage slavery and that means being paid as little as possible to work as hard as possible for some faceless boss of a corporate institution. Their friends, if they have work, are doing much the same. Worse still many of them have degrees in law, or biology or architecture with all the debt that goes with that and they too are either working in a shop or not working.

Many adults who are about to finish school are heading straight to University to do whatever they could get onto before the prices rise.

To be honest, I find it heartbreaking for the waste of such talent.

I am encouraging my children to work for money as they must, but to spend time trying to work out how to run a business for themselves. It will take time, and with the lack of investment in young people and the increasing demographic problem of not enough children, they will have a lot to overcome. But they are strong people.

John Taylor Gatto has never said he is a Distributist, but he surely talks like one. He gave a fascinating lecture on how the Amish community works so well. First of all, because they have strong families. They have next to NO DIVORCE at all. They do not contracept, keeping to traditional Biblical understanding of children as a blessing, so they have children as God wills. (Although sadly I have read that some Amish are being led by medics to use contraception). They run their businesses as family enterprises and they have a self-imposed cap of half a million dollars. This means, not only can they have a good standard of living, but by not expanding over the self-imposed limit, they leave room for others to run their business too. None of this shark eating waters view of business for the Amish. As a result of their very pro-family, non-greedy approach to life, they are amazingly successful in the modern world.

Obviously one of the things that must be of enormous help to the Amish is their shared culture. They live together in communities and although, as Gatto tells, they have faced some persecution, in the past, they stood their ground over the education of their children and their rights as parents. Gatto points out that their education ensures the children know their culture and heritage well. In this way, they know who they are have a sense of belonging.

Although the young adults are sent out to see the world, most return to Amish life. I can’t say I blame them. I watched a couple of Channel 4 programmes following some Amish young adults as they learned about the ‘world’. The one episode I saw took place in the UK.  They stayed with people, who on the surface, appeared to have everything, but all they really had, was money.

Gatto is right about what makes the Amish strong – family and their Christian faith. It’s a winning combination.

The Catholic worldview is based on God first, and the dignity of man second with the family as the unit of strength that expresses that dignity.  A society that does not recognise the dignity of the person will always end up with the strongest exploiting the weak.

Those who are wise will try and sidestep this by trying, at least, to make a life of their own, to earn enough for their own family needs (enough for need but not greed). It will be much harder for my children than it was for me, or for their grandparents, because we are further down the anti-family slope than back then. But there is enough pro-family culture left, that there is some hope.