I have some pretty great parents. My dad is wise and is the hardest worker. My mom is intuitive and is the best party planner.
Together they have loved me well, my whole life.
One of my joys of being an adult is getting to know them more personally.
One of the many great things they did for me was sacrifice for my education. They sent me to a private, Christian school from kindergarten through 12th grade. I went and performed well in my studies, but the older I grew the more difficult it became for me to function in the setting. I had no experience with any other way.
It was in 3rd grade that I started receiving labels. Stubborn was one of them.
Here’s why: I used to put my left hand through my hair and twirl a section while writing. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. When the class was being lectured or quizzed, I wouldn’t do it – it was only when I was quietly working on my own.
My 3rd grade teacher would pace the room, and every day she would firmly grab my hand and pull it out of my hair. Sternly correcting me that I should not have my hand in my hair.
Was her correction successful? I’m into my thirties now, and I still twirl my hair when I’m thinking. I was just doing it while deciding which words to write.
Doesn’t that seem silly that a teacher would get so frustrated with a child for twirling their hair when it wasn’t distracting anyone? Well, it would be silly if it hadn’t scarred and shamed me.
That teacher wasn’t quiet about her opinion of me, and from 3rd grade on it was hard for me to earn the positive attention of adults in my life.
During an intense debate over my education before I was even a teenager, I remember begging to be homeschooled – even though I knew that would officially give me the “weird” title. I no longer cared about what anyone else thought of me. I just didn’t want to be anywhere near the school I was currently attending.
I longed for a break from the labels that seemed to be growing on every side. Every child needs the positive attention of adults. The more I was labeled and disciplined at school, the more I craved the relationship and attention of my parents.
Believe me, they gave me lots of attention – and I stirred up trouble to ensure I got their attention one way or another – and when I think back on all that now I see that I was a floundering fool.
But isn’t that what we know to be true about kids?
Adults in my life meant well (most of them, most of the time), but they didn’t have the commitment level of a parent. They could only manage the exterior behaviors that I put forth, and they attempted to manage my behavior by ignoring me or threatening me.
Because of all the painful punishments and misunderstood arguments, I withdrew from trusting adults and started acting out. Any road that could have led to my heart was blocked with labels I used to keep people from getting close.
I was longing to come out from underneath all the labels and be recognized as a living, feeling, growing, and caring person. At home, I could sense that my parents still believed in me.
At school, I was a lost cause.
At my high school graduation, our commencement speaker attached a biblical character to each of us in order to personalize our challenge.
I was Jonah.
Rebel. Forced to obey. Angrily questioned God.
What a label. I felt publicly shamed. Even writing that out, the memory still brings me pain.
So I did run away from God. Self-fulfilling prophecy? I ran away from Him because it was people who in His name were labelling me as a failure.
Our decision then to homeschool our children is heavily influenced by my experience. But it is goes so much deeper than a mere reaction to the system that scarred me. I am not trying to relive my childhood or vicariously live out my desires through my children.
A large part of homeschooling for me is building my children’s identity. Truly treasuring them as individuals.
It is my responsibility to provide them with an environment that protects and nurtures them. My joy is to observe their natural talents and provide them with the time and tools necessary to develop them. All of this builds a sense of identity for them.
And that’s the #1 reason why I wish I had been homeschooled: to have learned my real identity, safely.
In the audiobook I’m working through while painting our new house (I wrote about this in this status), Lysa TerKeurst says to her kids each day: Remember who you are. The TerKeursts understand the importance of identity. They build into their children’s identities. This gives them permission to embrace who they were designed to be and to be filled with the knowledge of who they belong to at the same time.
Dr. Kathy Koch says that identity is the foundation of the 5 Core Needs in Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. She teaches how to see what a child or teenager is using as their identity in order to help get them to a more stable place.
I’ve been through a remedial identity process, and I can see now how God used every single piece of my story to build deeper compassion for all children than I would have ever had if my experience growing up had been rosy.
I can live to tell that it is possible to redeem an identity that has been lost and broken.
And I am so grateful for the opportunity to build into the foundation of my children’s identity through homeschooling.
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