April 17, 2010

Family Choices


A recent article I read online prompted me to write this blog entry. The article was about the Duggar family, who have nineteen children and a reality show about their family. I encourage you to read the article (linked above). I cannot explain it all, but the article and especially many of the comments posted in response to it truly bashed large, homeschooling, religious families. So here is my response.

Simply put, I do not watch this show because I do not have cable or dish. My family (which is large) chooses to spend our money elsewhere. I would not put my children on TV.

However, any knock on what this family is doing should stop at their willingness to market themselves. How they raise their family is their business. I am simply glad that they are actually raising their family. Too many people allow day care, the government and the school system to be the primary influences in their children's lives. Why have children, if you do not plan to raise them?

My children are home schooled. They are obedient, well-spoken and able to interact with people of all ages, not just peers. My nine year old son knows Latin. I also know many children who attend public schools who are well-adjusted and thoughtful. These are choices we as parents must make about what is best for our children and our families. However, most people do not consider there to be any choice, but instead are pulled along by society into doing what everyone else is doing. It is not that homeschooling is the right choice, but rather thinking through all possibilities and doing what is best for your particular family and children.

There are many myths about large families in America. Overpopulation is one such myth: our greatest resource is well-adjusted people. The problem isn't overpopulation, it is under population of character-driven people of integrity. Any family producing such people...we should all hope they produce more.

Children from home-schooling families not being socialized is another myth. If by socialization we mean raising teenagers who talk back to parents and teachers, show little respect for authority, spend most of their time texting and playing video games, and find education to be a joke, then we need less socialization. Why would I want my children to spend most of their time around other people their exact same age? I want my children to have a broad range of experiences with all kinds of people. Homeschooling can provide that, but it is up to the parent to make sure it does. Public schools may provide a diversity of backgrounds. However, children must be grouped into classes where everyone is their same age and same basic education level. Therefore, public schools face a different type of challenge when seeking to expose children to diversity.

Finally, there is the myth that children from large families don't receive the love or attention they need. This could be true. Mom and Dad and other relatives might not give of themselves the way they should? But this also happens in small families. An only child can be neglected by overworking or selfish parents. And a home with many children can be a place of real love and deep relationships. Is it really bad to have an older sibling spend some time with a younger one? Isn't that what families dream about, their children taking some responsibility in life and loving each other? Is the key to a child's future really found in more free time to text their friends about the homework they are not doing?

As stated above, in the end families must make decisions based on what they believe to be best. Anytime this becomes an opportunity to demonize or dismiss those who make a different choice, goes against both democratic and Christian ideals.