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    Taking a Break, Or Changing a Lifestyle?

    May 15, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    There are two major objections to homeschooling that I have encountered over the years. Today, I am going to deal with one of them. Thinking things through on paper seems to work better for me that dealing with things like this spontaneously when I hear them.

    By objection, I don’t mean someone objecting to me, personally, homeschooling my children. Rather, I mean something that stops a family from homeschooling their children. In other words, the objection I’m going to think through a bit is a personal objection to educating one’s own children at home.

    So what is the objection? I have heard it countless times over the years. It usually sounds like this: I need a break from my kids. Sometimes, it is accompanied by a second thought, which is that the kids need a break from Mom as well.

    Now, I could go through this from a theological perspective. I don’t think there is an ounce of Scripture to back up the idea of taking a break from our duties as parents. This has been a source of personal frustration at times, as, on the worst of days, I would like nothing other than to pass my most sacred duties over to another and call it quits.

    I could also look at this through a historical perspective, and talk about how the idea of taking a break from the most important sociological unit is peculiar to the postmodern mindset and would sound like complete nonsense to most other peoples and cultures in most other times in all of history.

    But I won’t.

    Instead, I’d like to deal with the idea of a break.

    But before I do, I find it pertinent to mention that motherhood isn’t easy. Especially in the early days. In fact, because I know this, there is a part of me that is simply dreading September. I am well aware that, God willing, I will have four children, three of which are aged three-and-a-half and younger.

    Sometimes, I think I might perish.

    Motherhood really doesn’t have much of a break. The newborn is a great lens through which to view motherhood. A newborn requires 24-hour maintenance and attention. Every time I have a newborn, I find that my whole life revolves around feeding and changing the baby. By the time I finish the cycle, it is time to start it all over again. Throw in a few other children, which prevent Mommy from getting any sleep during daylight hours, and it can be totally overwhelming.

    And don’t forget, there is no Sabbath rest for Mom. After all, a newborn must be fed on the weekends, too. And changed. And so on and so forth.

    I say this not to complain, but to be realistic. There is a reason moms feel like they need a break.

    {At the same time, the idea that we need a break is also somewhat related to the cultural myth that absence makes the heart grow fonder, which I’ve already written about.}

    However, I think the assertion that we need a break, and that institutional schooling can fulfill that need, should be challenged. I don’t know how else to put this, except to say that institutional schooling is a lifestyle, not a break.

    A break is a short period of refreshment after which we rejoin the ranks of mothers and go back to our duties. If I want a break from doing laundry, there are a couple ways to approach it. I can hire someone to do my laundry for a week. I can simply not do the laundry for a week and let everything stay dirty {not my first choice, by the way}.

    Hiring someone to do the laundry for me for the rest of my entire life is a lifestyle change, not a break from laundry.

    Desiring a break is part of the human need for a Sabbath rest. When we look at God’s design, we see that rest took place one day of the week. It was a portion of a week, but a fairly small one over all.

    If I apply the idea that a break is a small period of time, but might be an entire day, I think we’d see a different pattern. We might see moms swapping children, taking turns watching them while the other takes a break. We might see moms using those “Mother’s Day Out” programs that some churches offer. {These are usually one morning per week for about three hours.} We might see husbands staying home with the children while Mom sneaks off early on Saturday mornings for a weekly planning session and some refreshment.

    I myself try to use naptime as a consistent time of personal refreshment. Now that I am pregnant {again}, this primarily consists of sleeping. But when I am at my best, it consists of a time of study, of catching up on a few tasks, of doing something I enjoy. When I really feel like I need a break, I have been known to use all of naptime for me. No chores, no work, just something I like {a cup of coffee and a good book}.

    There are probably as many ways to get a break as there are moms. Each family is different and has different needs. Each family also has its seasons, and there will be time when breaks are near impossible, while other times they will be available in abundance.

    The question is whether institutional schooling should be considered a break. My thought is that it absolutely cannot fall into this category. The school district we live in keeps children for just under eight hours per day, including lunch. This means that children in the district average forty hours per week away from their families, and that is assuming no extra-curricular activities. This is also assuming no homework. Homework can take isolate children from the family for another couple of hours per day, depending on the school. If children spend about eight hours sleeping, we automatically see that two-thirds of the child’s day is absolutely, without question, outside of any real family involvement.

    Two-thirds is a majority, my friends.

    Another way to look at it is to just view the almost forty hours per week that the school has the children. Forty hours is a full-time job. No one looks at their forty hour per week job and calls it a break.

    I am well aware that not every family will homeschool. And I don’t think it is my job to convince anyone to do anything. And if someone I know decides to do differently than my family when it comes to their child’s education, I really believe that is their business. I believe in the authority of parents, and I believe we will all reap what we sow.

    We have our own reasons for homeschooling, and breaks really aren’t part of our consideration when we make these decisions.

    And maybe that’s my real point.

    Breaks shouldn’t be part of the consideration at all because institutional schooling isn’t a break. When we think through life-changing decisions, decisions that could define what kind of family we have, what sort of people our children turn out to be, and whether or not we pass the torch of faith, we need to consider the real issues.

    Considering the real issues, by the way, is what keeps me grounded. On my very worst of days, when everything is going wrong, when one child is crying and another is disobeying and the other is doing both, I want to quit. If taking a break is a valid reason for institutional schooling, I would have been the first to sign up on more than one occasion.

    Looking at the issue without getting distracted by some of the peripherals {like needing a break} is important for Christians wanting to make a true decision. I am not one to think we will all look alike. I do not confuse likemindedness with samemindedness. In fact, most homeschooling families do not look alike. But it is important that we make good decisions, and that necessitates a proper starting place.

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  • Reply Brandy August 18, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I try to keep things from becoming heated around here because I think emotions tend to distract from the issues. It’s not that we can’t involve our emotions when thinking about such things–they are an essential part of our beings–but when we let them drive the discussion, we end up without learning anything.

    Besides, peace is an essential component of Christian community…and iron sharpens iron. If we can keep those two aspects fixed in our minds, I think we can learn to enjoy talking through the controversial subjects! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Thanks for the welcome Brandy.
    I did think twice about leaving my comment – homeschooling posts can get a little too heated for my liking!!!!

    Cheers, Wilma

  • Reply Brandy August 18, 2009 at 6:01 am


    Yes, homeschooled children have undesirable traits! Truth be told, their mothers doo, too. πŸ™‚

    Welcome to Afterthoughts, by the way. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Brandy August 18, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Hi Ellen,

    I know that run-ins over childrearing can be tense and emotional. I’m sorry, and I hope you are feeling better about it by now. Good for you, biting your tongue. I would encourage you to just continue sweetly in your conviction. You may be surprised how many ladies in your group end up homeschooling by the time you reach The Age.

    To answer your questions (which I have never written about, I don’t think), I can only think of one family with which homeschooling has caused a “natural divide,” as you put it. And really, we regret this, for they are a lovely family, but school consumes a lot of time, and the lifestyle has a different rythym which makes our days just not match up in such a way that we can get together.

    In general, I’d say that we have always been in a different position from you. Because I became pregnant right so soon into our marriage, we were the first of our friends to get married. Later, we joined a young marrieds-type group, but most of the participants were “waiting” to have children. So we didn’t really have a lot of friends with whom such a divide would naturally occur. What we did have was a need for friends with rowdy boys our son’s age, and thanks to the Lord, He has provided this for our family.

    I know what you mean about the exhibiting of undesirable traits. Wilma, the commenter after you, is completely correct in that homeschooled children are sinners as much as the next child. I should know. My house is full of little sinners saved by grace! πŸ™‚ However, experience has taught me that schooled children, especially children schooled by the government, have a lot of innocence lost that we are trying to maintain for our own children. So it isn’t so much that we are trying to protect our children from the sins of another child as it is the knowledge those other children might have, specifically s*xual knowledge. State textbooks attempt to introduce children to all sorts of subjects, from cross-dressing to acceptance of “alternative lifestyles.” This doesn’t make the children learning this greater sinners per se, but it does give them a type of knowledge that we do not see as fit for our youth.

    With that said, this is my main thing I will keep an eye out when we begin putting the children in Sunday School again, especially with my son getting older and the girls getting…stranger. For the most part, we play it by ear, I guess.

    In general, we have a small group of friends and Mommy is an introvert, so I suppose this makes some issues nonissues for us.

    But, yes, generally we hang out with other homeschoolers because the common lifestyle lends itself to, for instance, hitting the park at 10:00am on a school day.

  • Reply Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 1:44 am

    “Or do their children exhibit traits they got from school that keep you from spending time with them anymore?”

    This made me cringe -aren’t children all sinners too and don’t they all exhibit traits that may make us want to spend time with them??? I understand the logic, but homeschooled children also will have undesirable traits!

    Cheers, Wilma

  • Reply Ellen August 17, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I found this again to make myself feel better today. Sometimes, I swear, I am going to pretend that my decision to homeschool is a state secret that cannot pass my lips or I will have my hands cut off or something. Because I am so incredibly tired of the comments I get from friends and acquaintances when I mention homeschooling in passing. Today the mom looked at me and said, “You’re really going to homeschool,” in the same way she might’ve said, “You’re really going to join the circus and become and acrobat?” And then the “Well, some moms need a break from their kids.” I bit my tongue until it practically bled. You think I don’t need a break from my kids? But I can get that hiring a teenage girl to watch them one afternoon a week or something. School is not a “break!” I’m dying to find some likeminded moms around here. Ok, done venting now.

    But I do have a question. Now that you’re homeschooling, do you find that its created a natural divide with your old friends who are not? Are things more awkward, or do their children exhibit traits they got from school that keep you from spending time with them anymore? Have you ever written about this?

  • Reply Polly May 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Great post! I am not a mom, but I will certainly homeschool when I become one. πŸ™‚ (I am herb of grace’s sister:)) I was wondering if you had heard of mike and Debi Pearl’s ministry? They wrote the book “To Train Up a Child”, and their website is Your ideas sound a lot like some of theirs!
    Have a great day1

  • Reply Rachel R. May 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Beautifully said! Thank you. Thank you, particularly, for acknowledging that we do not homeschool because we are “supermoms” who adore every second with our children without ever wishing we could call it quits!

  • Reply Brandy May 15, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Ellen, Thanks for the link. I feel loved. πŸ™‚

    Herb of Grace, I am glad I could encourage you! Last week, this was what I needed to hear. Sometimes, I am preaching to myself. πŸ™‚

    Jeana, I must concur that, overall, homeschooling has proven an easy and enjoyable route for us. It’s not why we do it, but it definitely has its benefits. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jeana May 15, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Another excellent, well-thought out post, Brandy. I wrote a post on this once at my homeschooling blog, and the main point I made was that I would not make a life-changing decision for my children based solely on what is easiest or most enjoyable for me.

    (Having said that, I must say that most days homeschooling IS enjoyable to me, and I’m not certain public school is easier. But my point remains.)

  • Reply Herb of Grace May 15, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I followed the link from Ellen’s page. Thank you so much for this post. It was encouraging and clearly articulated for me the thinking that originally went into our decision to home-school our children. I needed the refreshing reminder today. I would like to post a link on my blog as well.

  • Reply Ellen May 15, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I linked to this today. Well said. I may send some of my friends who are thinking about homeschooling to this post.

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