A few thoughts on homeschooling, parishes, and family “failure” January 20, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in catachesis, Domestic Church, family, General Catholic, Interior Life, Revolution, sadness, secularism, Society, Spiritual Warfare, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.
I guess there was quite a bit of coverage I missed last week on a piece posted to Life Site News regarding children of homeschooling Catholic parents not turning out the way their parents intended. A corollary piece appeared here at Liturgy Guy that argued that raising holy kids requires more than just a homeschooling family, it requires a holy, traditional parish.
Both are well-written and thoughtful pieces. If you haven’t read them yet, they are well worth your time. I am not going to excerpt either, but instead, simply add my own thoughts on the matter in a somewhat scattershot manner.
First, I agree that no matter how much one tries to be holy and faithful and turn out kids who are similar, having kids that fall away and embrace the world is always a possibility. We exist in a culture today that is a veritable sewer, there are so many ways for kids to fail, and I think we all know certain “black sheep” who have always seemed hell bent to do just the opposite of everyone else in a family, and who seem to glory in infantile rebellion.
Having said that, I did notice several things from the list of ways in which kids might have a meltdown, and several things struck me. All of them involved things that seem to be at least controllable, if not largely preventable. Before I get into that, however, the questions below are not an attack on anyone’s parenting, we all do the best we can and we all have different circumstances. You might consider them sanity checks stemming from the LSN post:
How can kids get into porn on the internet if you have a really strict blocker/reporting system like Covenant Eyes?
Why do your high school kids (or younger) “need” to be on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tinder, or any other social media?
Do your kids really need a smart phone with texting and all the rest?
Kids are not fully mature at 18. Does it make sense then to send them off to secular or even nominally Catholic colleges (or even really Catholic colleges) where they will be totally on their own for the first time? Why not have them live at home for at least the first year or two and attend a local college, if that is an option? Is college even necessary for most kinds who are not going into business, hard science, engineering, etc? What about vocational programs? Do you know how valuable a one year class in Pro/E, Solidworks (MCAD), or Allegro (ECAD) is?
Are you really monitoring your kid’s friends? Do you know what they get up to?
Regarding the second link above, I strongly recommend finding a traditional parish if at all possible, and involving the family exclusively in that parish. There is a massive difference between a deliberately, specifically traditional parish, and one that offers the occasional TLM or a Novus Ordo parish. It is literally night and day, especially in terms of the degree of devotion to the Faith, the virtue of the children to whom your children will be exposed, the general prevailing moral standard, the catechesis received, and perhaps most importantly, the synergistic effect that comes from all these things and more taken together in toto. Surely kids do flake out from homeschool trad families, too, but the crashes tend to be much less severe, and occur less frequently.
But there are dangers even there. I have observed that traditional Catholics tend to be very much Type A personalities. There is more than a little “my way or the highway” going on. Some of this is on matters of import, some of it is not. So just as a sort of check your motives exercise, I think it important to consider from time to time whether one’s manner of homeschooling and child-rearing is really about turning out holy kids, or controlling your environment? The latter is far more likely to foster rebellion than the former. Kids do need to be able to express their own individuality. Suppressing that in a heavily regimented home environment can create pressure that could lead to an explosion later. I’ve seen that more than once.
Do some kids need to feel like they are rebelling? I say that in this sense……there are people who are simply contrarian. For whatever reason, they feel a need to show they are somehow different, better, smarter, whatever, than the status quo around them. Is it better to permit some contained rebellion than to risk a total meltdown later?
A kid going very far into rebellion does not mean failure. Look, as far as my parents knew, I was purt’ near the “perfect child,” I made straight A’s, I never (substantially) got into trouble with the law, I did “date” probably a little more, ah….aggressively….than they would have preferred, but there were no accidents or crises. I never got in trouble at school, I worked various jobs, etc. But partly to blow off steam from much self-induced pressure, and partly simply because I really, really liked it, little did they know, but I got blitzed pretty much every Friday and Saturday night from age 14 on. I was pretty wild, and had some wilder friends. We “garage hopped,” stealing things from open garages at night (mostly beer), we drank, we drove like wild men, we fought, we had huge gatherings dang near every week in the most unlikely spot imaginable……our senior high parking lot. We got busted by cops many times who inexplicably never took us home or to jail. While I had the discipline to study and apply myself scholastically just about every moment I wasn’t drinking or working, my friends would crush two liters of Sun Country wine coolers (remember those?) at lunch, smoke out, and even got into much harder things as high school wound down. But every single one of those guys are now happily married, responsible adults with families and professional jobs. They aren’t practicing Catholics, to be sure, but they weren’t then, either.
The point is not to recount my “glory years.” They weren’t glorious, they were stupid and I got lucky 1,000 times over, and not just with regard to my parent’s image of me. I nearly died on several occasions, including a 110 mph wipeout on Plano Parkway just before starting college. The point, however, is that what looks like failure at 16 or 19 or even 27 may not be look so bad a few years later. One of those friends who were most wild got his girlfriend pregnant at age 19. They got married and he finished school. They have five kids and are still together. He is very successful, materially. Conversely, what looks like success at 18 may not turn out that way in the long run.
Some people just have to learn the hard way. Some people, like me, must endure much self-induced misery before coming to the conclusion that all that “fun” wasn’t so great. So never give up, and never assume that just because you’ve “lost one” that all the others are going to turn out similarly, or that the lost sheep will never return. The school of hard knocks is very painful, but also very effective.
I’ll say a bit more. In my experience, the acorn don’t fall very far from the tree. That is to say, I am generally amazed at how similarly many of my now adult friends from childhood resemble their parent’s behavior. Now, in the cases I’m thinking of, that’s not always ideal, but it should give hope to homeschooling parents afflicted with a rebellious child. They may be rebellious now, but odds are they’ll settle down and wind up being more like you than you imagine possible right now when they hit their 30s or so.
Perhaps the above is obvious. I hope it is not offensive. This is a subject I think about a lot. And I worry that sometimes our balance isn’t quite right. The thing is, what works beautifully for one or several kids may not work well for all. They’re all different. And when you have a bunch of kids it can be hard to tailor the environment exactly to maximize success (a holy soul) in each one. So I pray a lot about that, and hope that any mistakes we make God will correct or overcome through Grace.
It’s not easy, and it’s only going to get harder. There are so many temptations in the world, our kids will hear so many voices that tell them we are crazy, extreme, reactionary, etc., and many of those voices will come from within the Church (another huge reason to find a traditional parish!). And souls simply sometimes fall into sin in spite of our every best effort. It does happen.
The key thing is to never, ever give up. Never stop trying. Always love and pray for your kids, even if they repudiate you in the most hurtful manner possible. Some may never come back, but some will. It may take a long time, but they will.