Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homeschooling Doesn't Mean Your Kids Will be Like You

I've talked to a lot of young parents considering alternative education of some sort or another, not necessarily unschooling, and to people who plan on teaching their children, a common enthusiasm expressed is that they'll be able to teach their children to love what they love.  Usually the thing they're talking about is "classic" something or other, especially literature.  Sometimes it's even put as baldly as that, though often that simply seems to be an underlying theme in what they're saying.  I don't point it out, though sometimes I consider doing so.  It doesn't seem particularly nice to say that all their dreams of creating children who share their interests isn't necessarily going to happen, and I figure it's something people will figure out themselves soon enough.  But I always kind of shake my head a bit, internally.  Trying to make someone else like the same things you like is likely to lead to them having little interest in the subject being pushed, at best, and actively disliking and resenting both the subject being pushed and the person pushing it, at worst.

I understand the drive behind it: when you think something is fascinating and exciting, enjoyable and useful, or simply fun, it's natural that you want to share it with others.  I'm very pleased with myself for making Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans of several of my friends, and I rather hope any future children of mine will like reading Tamora Pierce novels as much as I do.

I can't wait to read her newest novel!

Wanting others to like what you like is perfectly normal.  But where many people go wrong is in how they attempt to approach it.  With friends, you mostly have to be respectful about it, and introduce things in a "I think this is so cool and thought you might too, want to watch it/read it/try it with me?" But when it comes to children, so often their very thoughts are considered to be under parental control (because really, what is attempting to teach something against someones will if not attempting to control their thoughts?), parents decide what their children should be interested in, and decide to make it happen.

But of course, no matter how much power you hold over another individual, you may be able to make your children read classic literature, but you can't make them like it, no matter how much you enjoyed reading Mark Twain yourself.

It's understood that adults will have different interests based on their own personal tastes and preferences, and those different interests are generally at least marginally respected (while an interest in comic books might not be respected overly much, it's probably unlikely someone will be told to their face they should be reading classic lit instead), yet most often children get very different treatment.  Like ideas on the necessity of Shakespeare, many parents think that their list of things that have been most enriching in their lives will also prove the most enriching to their children, if only they teach them about it.

And hey, maybe it will prove just as enjoyable and enriching to them!  But it's far more likely to be if you approach it right, the same way you would with a friend or other adult loved one.  Share your enthusiasm, make the things you like readily available, ask if your kids want to watch this great movie, or read your favorite book.  Enthusiasm and passion are engaging, and can definitely spark interest for someone else.  But unless you want to breed resentment, be okay with your kids just not being interested, or watching that wonderful movie and finding it considerably less wonderful than you find it.  It also has to go both ways: if you expect your children to at least try out your favorite things, be ready to do the same with them.  The best relationships, no matter the type, are based on sharing: sharing of emotions and experiences and interests and passions.  It's no different when it comes to sharing favorite things with your children (and your children sharing their favorite things with you).

So I keep quiet when parents enthuse about how much their children are going to love this and that thing and subject because the parents are planning on making it an important part of their homeschool curriculum.  I just wish them the best, and hope that things work out in a way that each person gets to have their own favorite things, and enjoy sharing those favorites with each other!


  1. Never managed to get any of mine to read Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books:-) I found it far more likely that I would get interested in whatever their passions were.
    thanks for sharing as always

  2. so right. i think mentioning it isn't bad providing you do it diplomatically.