Care for the Heart of Your Homeschool Child

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on June 23, 2014.

I read missions blogs. And missions forums. And missions tweets. And missions whatever.

This is always the reoccurring theme:

“CARE FOR THE HEART OF YOUR THIRD CULTURE CHILD.”

Like: the missionaries utter and repeat this, over and over.

And they say:

“PARENTS, YOU MAY. NOT. GET. IT. You may be living in another country, far from the land of your birth, but you are not a third culture kid. You do not know what it is like to be a third culture kid.”

See, these parents at least try to listen. Because Duh, most missionaries are NOT third culture kids. I have no idea what it’s like to not live in the USA until I am 18, then thrown back into the USA to live. Quite frankly, that sounds terrifying.

Thankfully, many missionary parents are listening to this advice instead of throwing out: “Why are you writing this article? THIRD CULTURE LIVING IS PERFECT.”

They get it. Being a third culture kid is kind of wonderful but kind of restless, frightening, and odd at the same time.

What is sad is that homeschool parents cannot give us homeschool kids the same space that third culture kids have.

I half joked the other day about those who tell me to stay in North America because I’m too bitter to plant the church. But in all seriousness, most of my troll comments and emails come from homeschool parents who wish to inform me that NOT ALL HOMESCHOOLERS ARE LIKE THAT and I’M JUST BITTER.

I do not believe homeschooling is evil in itself or that we should pity homeschool kids or burn homeschool parents at stake. Conversely, I know that homeschooling can be an enriching experience, and that it offers more flexibility than public schools. I know first hand the positives of homeschooling, and the negatives of homeschooling.

So my message to the homeschool parents is this: Just bug off. If you’re not a homeschool kid, stop telling our stories.

Instead, I will repeat the advice one missionary parent offered other missionary parents. It’s so applicable to homeschool parents that I offer it back with direct quotes from the missionary parent. I have substituted HK (homeschool kid) for TCK (third culture kid).

1. Cool advice number 1: your homeschool kid’s experience will be different than your homeschool parents experience

Recognize that your [HK]’s experiences will be vastly different from yours. Maybe more positive, maybe more negative. They may not identify with your host culture as much as you do. They may identify with it more than you. Are you ok with that?

When our family drives by the US Embassy and sees the flag flying, my kids feel nothing. When the President visited Phnom Penh and we saw Marine One (the President’s helicopter) flying over the Mekong, I stood there and cried like a baby. My boys looked up at me and said, “OK, can we go eat now?”

Cool advice number 2: If you want to alienate your homeschool kids, tell them they are ungrateful.

One of the quickest ways to damage the heart of a [HK] is to outlaw negative emotions (grief, anger, disappointment, etc.). Tell them they shouldn’t feel something, or that they just need to suck it up, or that their feelings show a lack of gratefulness. Yup, that’ll do it.

But, and this is the great part, allowing a TCK to experience the full range of emotions is one of the most caring things you can do. It’s also one of the healthiest things you can do.

I found this comment from a third culture kid interesting. Sound familiar?

“My parents were often busy, and would give me lines like, ‘Living here is good for you! It’s something few other people ever get to experience. When you get older and look back on this time, you’ll be grateful for what you learned here.’ Their comments were well meant, but they didn’t know the depth of my pain.”

Again, both homeschoolers and third culture kids speak of their positive experiences. Both speak of their negative points. But currently, it’s considered acceptable for third culture kids to speak of both, but NOT for homeschoolers to speak of both.

Although, before I praise these parents too hard, I suspect if missionary kids group together and form a webpage of their own version of Homeschoolers Anonymous, missionary parents will get upset and say they are just bitter and ugly too.

But can we get rid of this defense thing, please? Because:

Cool Advice #3: We are not here to validate our parents ministry, emotions, or ego.

This one’s insidious. And devastating. But tying your validation to your child’s behavior (good or bad) is a socially acceptable form of idolatry. It has nothing to do with walking in obedience, and everything to do with looking outside of the Father for approval and validation.

We are our own person.

5 comments

  • This. Especially #3. I am so tired of how egotistical and selfish the defensive, religious indoctrination type of homeschool parents are. And how underhandedly and manipulatively they act out this selfishness. They make decisions for their children that drastically affect the rest of the child’s lives, often causing them to miss critical developmental and cultural experiences the vast majority of their peers will experience for something the parent wants. They get an ego boost and get to control everything their child sees in order to make their goal of keeping their kid believing exactly like them easier. They take a huge risk with their child (maybe it’ll be something they look back on and want or maybe it’ll destroy their childhood), all so they can have a captive audience for their beliefs. Then, on top of how risky and fairly selfish/narcissistic this is, they gaslight the kid and tell them it’s for their own good, they have no right to complain, how could they hurt them so when they’ve done so much for them, etc, etc… It’s downright abusive and really enraging to me.

    Yes there are valid reasons to homeschool that can outweigh the risks of homeschooling. Homeschooling does, however, carry inherent risks, for development, socialization, and overall how a child will see their most important years, and to ignore that risk is negligent. It might be worth the risk, and the child may decide it was a favorable experience and that the social differences don’t matter or are better, but the parent needs to take the potential harm of making a child drastically different than their peers will be as adults seriously, and only continue it so long as it’s in the child’s overall best interest, not based on whether it serves their ego or makes indoctrination of religious beliefs easier. And if the child reports as an adult that they experienced pain and wish they had not been homeschooled, the parent has a responsibility to respect and validate that. The parent made the life altering choice for the child, who had no say, and that carries enormous responsibility.

    Maybe if parents took homeschooling more seriously, accepted responsibility for the risks it carries, and continually evaluated what was likely in the child’s best interest as an individual who will one day be an independent adult functioning in society, there would be far fewer homeschooling horror stories and the benefits of homeschooling in specific situations might be far more common than the negatives. But since the parents are doing the homeschooling and making these choices for another human being, they need to step up and take responsibility for their choices rather than using guilt, gaslighting, abuse, and blaming on their child when their child gives them evidence that the parent’s choices were misguided and harmful.

  • Very interesting application! And makes a lot of sense to me – I see the parallels. I’ve worked with TCKs for 9 years (a lot of them homeschooled) and I totally get your point. Homeschooling parents who were themselves mainstream schooled really can’t understand their kids’ experiences and feelings about it – just like TCKs and their parents. And it is the parents making the choice, not the child – homeschool kids don’t choose the homeschool lifestyle, it is chosen for them, so giving their parents’ reasons as why the child should be grateful/happy about it doesn’t work – because the child’s experience is different.

  • I so appreciate your making this correlation between TCK’s and HK’s. I home schooled all 8 of my kids from start to (finish?).

    My husband is an MK born in Seoul, Korea (he’s half Korean) and adopted by American missionaries, who, after a 2 year attempt at simulation during his junior and senior years, struggled a great deal with the transition and he was not even home schooled.

    Home schooled MK’s suffer a double- whammy.

    He plans to establish a ministry to help MK’s better make that transition before they even come back to the states by actually visiting them while on the field; if need be, escorting them back to the states; facilitating mentorships; educating them on practical aspects of adulthood and cueing them in on current cultural trends so they don’t feel so completely lost and displaced.

    We are finding the need is enormous and heartbreaking as there are already desperate requests from parents pouring in.

    During this process, we have come to realize that HK’s are TCK’s of a particular kind. The difficulties my kids encountered coming from the high-demand, cultic and over-protective environment then abruptly cast into the real world were completely unnecessary and preventable. They were part of a culture within a culture at large but never feeling they completely belonged to either.

    This is a perspective that needs much more attention. Pieces are addressed all over this site as well as others, but a parallel not dealt with specifically as HK’s being a kind of TCK.

  • “Just bug off. If you’re not a homeschool kid, stop telling our stories.”

    Exactly.

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