Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Helicopter Parents, Letting Go, And Homeschooling

I had the pleasure of attending a college orientation program these past two days. "The girl" went to the students sessions with her freshman peers, and the husband and I got to be with the parents.

Oh my goodness.... all I can say is what a blessing that we homeschooled our daughter!

First of all, many of these helicopter parents were a mess... the school was literally handing out Kleenex. Talk about separation anxiety!! Well, I know this is our third going off to college - but honestly... you'd think these people would get a grip. The kids are adults already! They have lives of their own already. And yet, they can't seem to let go and enjoy the fact that they are parents of college aged people! Do they even remember what it was like to be free of their own parents, and wanting that freedom? Do they understand that the purpose of raising children is for them to become independent adults? That they are supposed to move out and move on?

But wait just a minute - hold the phone... you know what the college program covered for us parents? They gave us homework of sorts. The college stressed what us parents have to in the next 8 weeks before the kiddos arrive to their respective dormitories - It amounted to undoing 12 plus years of some unfortunate education (or lack thereof) in just 8 weeks. We must:

1. Instill in them some sort of code of ethics..
2. Tell them they are now on their own and have to solve their own problems..
3. Talk to them about sex, drugs and alcohol and how to conduct themselves..
4. Talk to them about being serious about college studying and where to get help on campus if they need it...
5. Talk to them about being more independent adults and that they have to now learn how to do their own laundry and care for their personal articles..
6. Talk to them about thinking about the consequences of their behavior...
7. Tell them that you won't intervene on their behalf and that they have to deal with their own problems...
8. Talk to them about managing their own time...
9. Talk to them about handling their own finances...
10. Talk to them about how to take care of their health...
11. Talk to them about how sending them to college is a financial commitment and that they should respect your sacrifices to allow them the ability to attend college

etc..etc..etc... you get the picture.

It was all about teaching your child to be independent, and undoing middle and high school "Group Think" - all in the next 8 weeks before they arrive on campus!

Their message seemed to be that the college recognized that in the past 12 plus years, parents and schools have taught most kids to be dependent - collectivists - steeped in a culture of self absorption and focused on trivial matters, receptive to the sound bites of the day that can be predigested and poured into their minds, with behavior molded by peer pressure. And now the college is looking for that to be erased, in just 8 weeks. They think this can be done with some sort of heart to heart discussion on the ride home from orientation.

According to my daughter, many of these kids were just clueless. Some have never even made their own beds! or cooked a meal (honest!!) Some had no idea how much their college education was costing them (and their parents), and some have never been away from home. It's amazing how unprepared most kids are for an independent life at the age of 18! How oblivious they are to their own real life! (versus virtual text messaging drama and pop culture) Don't get me wrong - they all seem like really good kids that come from really good families and homes... but yet - we observed that something in their development was sorely lacking. Unfortunately, it seems to be an American affliction too.

Fortunately, my husband and I don't have to do any of those things that the college asked parents to do between now and the end of August. We have spent the last 17 years doing those things! We just have to buy her new room decorations and school books. We don't have to have those deep serious discussions. We've already had them; and more than once!

Yes...what a blessing that we homeschooled our daughter! She already knows all that stuff - and more - you see she has been managing her own time and her own life all along really... doing her own laundry since she's been able to reach the top of the washer and managing her own money for as long as she could work for it and make bank deposits. She already understands the consequences of her own behavior, and the importance of making the best and most of her college days. She already understands what her goals are and how to use her college experience to reach them. They are her goals - her hopes - her aspirations and not her parent's, not her friend's, and not anyone else's. She didn't have a school guidance counselor tell her where to apply or what she should study.

In fact, her maturity was remarkable in comparison to her orientation peers, as was her ability to discern the real messages behind the material being presented to her, even by the school! She unabashedly turned up her nose at an obviously biased book distributed to all incoming freshmen, entitled "Greasy Rider" - a book with a liberal agenda regarding french fry oil run automobiles - Al Gore - Microsoft - global warming - environmentalism and.... well ... you can guess the rest. I can think of a dozen or so other titles that would have been more beneficial for these kids, and so could she .... but I digress.

But I am not surprised, nor am I bragging really. My husband and I were just struck by the difference in not only about us as parents - and our attitudes about being ready to send our youngest and last little adult off to college - but about our own child and how we have raised her and her siblings.

For all the criticism about homeschooling and homeschooled kids, it is so apparent to me about what the real results are.
Don't talk to me about sheltering my kids.
Don't talk to me about socialization.
Don't talk to me about brainwashing versus instilling family values.
Don't talk to me about my lack of credentials to teach.
Don't talk to me about how my homeschooled child will be unprepared to meet the real world.

What we saw, heard and observed proved to us the real success of homeschooling and raising our child to be educated, self sufficient, confident, out-going and well rounded. She was not coddled, enabled, brainwashed, restricted, or otherwise damaged by homeschooling. Moreover, we have in return earned her respect, her love, her admiration and her thanks (even if we do get an occasional teenage eye roll).

She is ready to begin a new chapter in her life and we are ready to let her begin it, just as we will begin our own. And we are so very excited for our young adult and the opportunities she has before her.

We are not empty nesters.
We are successful parents.

The world is still her classroom.