Archive for August, 2005

Posted on August 23rd, 2005, by Mary Jo

Many of the single-parent homeschoolers on a couple of discussion groups I’ve joined recently talk about how little support they receive for their decision to homeschool.  In fact, some folks are just plain hostile to the idea:  “Why don’t you grow up, get a job like a normal adult, and put your kids in school, where they belong anyway?” 

Although homeschooling is becoming better known and somewhat more widely accepted, it still seems like an off-the-wall choice to many people, and when you combine it with single parenting, I guess it can seem downright wacko. 

Isn’t it ironic that homeschoolers (single or married) have to “defend” our decision to homeschool?  Some people feel so threatened and “judged” simply by the very existence of homeschoolers, as if by our choices we are questioning theirs. 

I don’t go around telling folks in my neighborhood or my church, “I don’t understand how you can possibly send your kids to public school.  I just don’t have the patience to get my kids ready by 7:00 every morning and help them with homework for hours every night. How can you really be sure they’re learning, anyway, when all you get is a report card every 9 weeks?  And aren’t you worried about socialization? When your kids spend all day in a room with a bunch of other kids the same age, how will they ever learn to function in the real world?” 

If homeschoolers actually interrogated public-schoolers about their decision NOT to homeschool the way some feel free to interrogate us about our decision TO homeschool, can you imagine the sparks that would fly?  Better have a fire extinguisher handy. 

Some of the best advice I’ve heard for dealing with folks who question your homeschooling is to determine whether they are hostile, simply curious, genuinely concerned for your family’s well-being, or perhaps testing the waters to consider homeschooling themselves. 

I think it’s better not to engage in a debate with the truly hostile, but to have a simple, brief answer ready—something along the lines of “This is what I believe is best for my family”—and leave it at that.  Just don’t take the bait.  On the other hand, if someone seems genuinely interested, you might want to go into a bit more detail than you would with questioners who are merely looking to pick a fight.  Dealing with the simply curious would fall somewhere in the middle.  The genuinely concerned (family members, perhaps, or your pastor—though I realize these folks sometimes fall into the hostile camp) deserve a thoughtful reply. 

I’d love to hear your suggestions for how to respond to folks who question your decision to homeschool.  Comments welcome! 

Mary Jo

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Posted on August 18th, 2005, by Mary Jo

Belinda Letchford wrote about asking herself “Who can benefit from being with me at this moment?”  Read her thoughts here:

What a wonderful idea! Multi-tasking is one of my top survival strategies as a single homeschooling mom working from home, and I’ve always looked for ways to redeem bits of time for one-on-one interaction with my kids, but I haven’t approached it in quite such a focused, strategic way.

I think I’ll post Belinda’s question on an index card over my washing machine, over my kitchen sink, and on the steering wheel of my van.

Mary Jo

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Posted on August 11th, 2005, by Mary Jo

Homeschoolers are generally independent and self-reliant.  After all, we’re taking responsibility for educating our own children—something the majority of folks entrust to others.  But sometimes, I think, our self-reliance is valued to the extreme, particularly by those who strongly advocate living far away from anyone else, sometimes to the extent that they seem to be proclaiming country living as somehow more virtuous than living in the town or city.

I don’t mean to open a can of worms here.  I am NOT saying that country living is bad! There are great benefits to living in the country, and several of my dear friends live way out in the “middle of nowhere.”  It’s perfect for their families (which, by the way, include husbands/fathers who earn a reliable living and help bring up the children). I just don’t believe it’s the only “right” or even the “best” way to live.

After my divorce, when I decided to move to a larger town an hour away in order to be closer to our church, I spent a lot of time debating about where to choose a house.  Some folks urged me that living in the country, far away from everyone else, was the only way to go.  I looked at houses in the country, on the edge of town, and right inside the city (population about 35,000).  I finally settled on a house in town, in a rectangular subdivision (of the sort that I had sometimes been prone to scorn when I was enamored with the country-life vision), about 3 miles from our church and closer than that to grocery stores, gas stations, banks, and the post office.  It turned out to be perfect for us.  (Thank God for His direction and provision!)


Posted on August 11th, 2005, by Mary Jo

In a previous post I discussed how important it is to delegate household responsibilities to our children and how much I missed my boys’ help when they were gone while I was sick.

Here are a couple of comments readers made:

I am not a single parent, but I feel that training my children to help with the household responsibilities is a very important part of raising children.  ~ Christa

My girls help me out a whole bunch! Even if I wasn’t single, I would have my girls help out a lot. ~ Janet

Christa and Janet both raise the important issue that teaching children responsibility is important whether their parents are single or not.  It’s simply a necessary part of their training to be mature, responsible adults.

My 8yo son often comments that if Daddy were still here, Daddy could earn the living, I could do all the housework, and they could just do their schoolwork and play.  I always assure him that he and his brothers would still have plenty of chores, both for the sake of contributing to the work of the family and for the character benefits of learning to work.

Mary Jo


Posted on August 10th, 2005, by Mary Jo

Many single parents don’t have nearly the support and encouragement they need from church, family, and friends.  But I get the impression from some single parents that they think a specific ministry for single parents in their church is a necessary element for improving the situation.

Although I have written about how wonderfully helpful and supportive my own church is, it actually does not have a specific ministry for single parents, though there are several single parents in the church.  Two other large churches in our town do have specific ministries for single parents, and there is a city-wide Bible study for singles (not just single parents) on Monday nights, but I have not felt inclined to attend.  I’m not saying such ministries are a bad thing–some people benefit greatly from them.  But they are not the only way to find fellowship, and they aren’t a good fit for me right now.

I guess this is part of my homeschooling philosophy of not age-segregating children in classrooms and not pigeonholing people into little categories.  My main fellowship is with the families in our church and with local homeschooling families, most of whom were my friends before my divorce.  There are a few single moms I know locally, and we are casual friends, but my closest bonds are with those kindred-spirit friends who happen to be married.  Most of them are mothers of my children’s friends.  I have been blessed with good friendships.  I go to a homeschool Mom’s Night Out once every few months.  I’m in a regular (churchwide) Sunday School class and a regular care group on Wednesday nights (with a wide range of ages–I happen to be the only single currently in our group).

Life as a single parent is definitely hard, and often lonely.  That’s for sure.  No number of close friends and no wonderfully supportive church can prevent those occasional middle-of-the-night waves of loneliness and discouragement.  (What IS it about 2:00 a.m.??)  But please don’t think a single-parent-specific ministry is a crucial element or a cure-all.
Perhaps you could find another family in your church, maybe a homeschooling family, and suggest a picnic together some Saturday afternoon, or lunch after church.   What about the folks who were your friends before you became single?  Can you rejuvenate some of those friendships?

I’d love to hear other ideas for ways we single parents can take the initiative to develop positive relationships in our churches and communities.

Mary Jo

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Posted on August 8th, 2005, by Mary Jo

I’m still recuperating from a weeklong bout of severe bronchitis—in July, for crying out loud!  Seems like it ought to be a January problem (and it usually is, for me).  The worst of it passed in a week, but another week after that I’m still coughing and tiring easily.

But let me get to the real point (there is one!).  This struck on the day my boys left home to visit their dad, followed by a couple of days at Grandmama’s house for the last week of “summer vacation” before we began a new homeschool year last week.  I had planned to use these five days of solitude and quiet for a writing marathon.  (My August 15 deadline on a book I’m revising and expanding is looming like a vulture.)  But I spent most of their absence in bed…or at best in the recliner, too weak and feverish to sit at the computer, much less to compose intelligent literary criticism.

I mentioned to a friend that it was a shame the boys were gone while I was sick.  She thought that was odd…that it would be better to have a quiet house in which to rest and recuperate peacefully.  That did have its virtues  , but it would have been wonderful to have them here to take care of the chores like feeding the cats, emptying the litter box, washing the dishes, and so on, and also to bring me water and Popsicles when I was too weak to get up, or to rub my aching head.  (My almost-9yo Perry, in particular, clearly has the gift of mercy and is such a compassionate caregiver when someone is sick or sad.)
Training our children to take care of the essential tasks of running the household, and delegating those responsibilites to them, is a crucial survival technique for single parents, even in the best of times.  Missing my boys’ assistance during my illness underscored the importance of this strategy to me in a fresh way.

I’d love to hear other single parents’ strategies for delegating the work of the home to your children.

Mary Jo