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Question: I homeschooled my oldest from 3rd grade thru 12th and my son is a senior in highschool this year. This year we enrolled our 8th grader in our parish school. The problem is that now that I've experienced firsthand the school system I really hate it, and I am feeling there are no options. The eighth grader is doing homework all night, last night he was up 'til midnight. All the emphasis is on points and grades and everything is rushed. It has really added to the stress of our house rather than making life a little easier as I had hoped.

Now I am afraid to send my 16 year old to Catholic highschool because I am sure the adjustment will be even worse. He is sociable but is left out of the activities of his friends in school because he's a homeschooler. I hate the culture of highschool and the freedom you give up when you enter the education system. But at the same time I don't know if I can persevere and feel like I need a break. Next year I'll have two highschoolers and two elementary. The problem is I think it is impossible to have some in school and some home because rather than simplifying things, I'm helping with homework day and night. There's never a break.
Answer:

Dear Mom,

Your letter really speaks to the conflicts that seem to arise when we enter the world of educating older children. There are so many considerations with teens and young people. Issues about freedom, trust, and privileges coupled with concerns about friendships and socialization make for difficult times. It is not uncommon for parents to feel pulled in both directions. Having experienced these conflicts myself, firsthand, I can agree with you about the amount of stress that is created. I have a dear friend that likes to say: "Little people, little challenges; bigger people, bigger challenges." What does this mean to you and I and all mothers in this situation? It means that we must be prepared for the work at hand knowing that the Holy Spirit's wisdom is there for us in all matters. In other words, I do not think that type of schooling creates the challenge as this challenge is inevitable, but it may hinder our ability to deal with the work at hand.

When our teens are homeschooled there is a certain amount of control that we have over schoolwork, work ethic, outside activities and friendships. However we must be very sensitive to the needs of young people to interact with their peer group. It is important that they feel they are a part of this peer group. It has been my experience that the groups of teens that shun other teens based upon the method of education they receive are not the type of teens that I would want my teens spending time with. Seriously, I have watched with keen interest the friendships that have developed when we began homeschooling. It is interesting to see that sincere and real friendships were often developed between my young people and peers when they shared a common interest. In fact the school that was attended by either party was really only a passing curiosity compared to the more unique qualities and individuality of each person.

The prejudice and insensitivity that can be found among young people is real and hurtful. I have lived this mini series too. It does seem to be more acute in the schools probably owing to many variable factors. Teens will be excluded based upon such silly reasons from hairstyle to taste in music. There will be the clics and clubs, etc. that make life for teens very hard. Young people are very aware of body image, popularity, and personality. Sometimes young people will behave in ways contrary to their personality in order to fit in. When they do this it only hampers their maturity. It becomes more difficult for them to "like themselves" for who they are and their uniqueness in the eyes of God.

So the problems of teens and peers just comes with the territory and I do not feel it is a direct result of the method of education. Learning to interact with one another with compassion and openness is a mark of maturity that must be learned. I believe that it is easier for me at this point in our life with teens to learn this in the homeschool away from the outside influences of public or private school. We choose to join groups or organizations that celebrate the uniqueness and talents of our teenagers. 4-H is wonderful for us. There young people are part of a group and work together to compete on many different levels without regard to school orientation. We also enjoy theater and music.

One statement in your letter really spoke to me and I believe expressed a spirit that is hurting and full of sorrow.

You stated "I am feeling that there are no options." It is rare that the Lord would leave us in a situation where He gives us no options. In fact this is contrary to His tender mercy and love for us. However when we feel stressed, fearful, and pulled apart this is a signal that the Tempter is in the works. Our loving Lord is not a God of confusion nor does He give us a spirit of fear. When I feel that I am backed into a corner this makes me very anxious and fearful. I have to step back, take a deep breath, pray, and then patiently wait for the Lord to respond. We know that the good Jesus wants what is good and holy for our children because they were created in His image for His will. That is an awesome thought. As much as we love our teenagers, this love is only pale in comparison to the abundant love the Lord has for each of them.

Because the Lord loves us and desires us to be a thinking people, it only stands to reason that He would give us solutions to challenges. He will guide us and help us each step of the way. The answers are there and the Lord does not wish to hide them from us. In fact, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we are given the answers. We must call upon the strength of the Lord because it is our right to do so. We are His children and as such He asks that we come to Him with open arms and hearts ready to receive the goodness and fulfillment of His wisdom. He wants us to do His will and He will give us the resources to do so.

You are to be admired for your sensitivity and dedication to the needs of your young people. In nursing school I was taught that the greatest threat to the well-being of children was indifferent parents. You are not an indifferent parent. You are feeling pushed by the responsibilities that are before you. Trust that the Lord will never give you burdens that His own strength can not cover. Imagine! You are able to call upon the strength of the Lord. Believe this.

Sit before the Blessed Sacrament. Slow the pace of your breathing, concentrate on the beauty of the Lord's face, imagine that He is holding you and then pray. Pray for five minutes. Then listen for five minutes. I know that you will hear the solution in your spirit. I will be praying for you as well.

Dearest Jesus, we ask for a fresh anointing upon the labors of this dear sister in Christ. She is faced with challenges that feel overwhelming. Please send the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in a real and tangible way to her and her family. Give them the peace that is Your own. This is the peace that can not be stolen or corrupted by the world. We love You, Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament. Lord, I would ask that she be able to rest this evening and awaken refreshed and renewed with inspiration, solutions, and the gift of options for her challenges. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,
Rita Munn

   
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