Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our Rights as Mothers

Homeschool is not for everyone. There are children who do better in a public or a private school environment. There are parents who have to work or for other reasons are unable to teach their children at home. I've never tried to force my opinions on anyone about how they should raise their children. I'm a live-and-let-live kind of girl in that way-I allow you to make your decisions, and you need to let me make mine.

My husband and I made the decision to homeschool before we had children. In fact, before we were even married. I was taught at home for my entire education, including some college and trade school, and so, for me, it was a natural thing. When my husband proposed, he asked me what I was looking for in a husband. I said, "I'm looking for a man who loves the Lord more than he loves me, and will support me in giving birth at home and in homeschooling." He then proposed, I married him, and we started our family with our goals clearly outlined. This is the decision we made for our family, not one we try to force others to emulate.

A well-meaning Primary teacher recently made a few comments that caused those little hairs on the back of my neck to stand straight up. They weren't spoken cruelly, but the message was clear -- as a teacher, she knows more about my child than I do. You can say a lot of things to me, but that's not one of them.

I am a mother. I was predestined to be one from the foundations of this world. When God thought about my life and the direction He wanted it to take, He decided to make me a mother. He also decided to give me four very strong, very smart, very independent-minded children who would take all my energy. Along with those four gifts, He gave me the Holy Ghost to guide me in my quest to raise these children to the best of my ability. I have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost time and time again as I have thought of ways to encourage my children along various paths. I have often felt the sweet voice of our Heavenly Father telling me what each child needs in order to feel validated and loved. I'll tell you right now, I make mistakes. But I'll also tell you, when I listen to that voice, the success I have with my children is remarkable. God knows them inside and out. He knows who they were before, who they will be after, and what their capacities are. He tells me those things as I need to know them, so He can guide me in how to cope with them and their struggles.

In addition, I carried them for nine months next to my heart. I have stayed up all night with them. I have cared for them their entire lives. You can't tell me that someone else knows them better than I do, just because that someone has a degree. Between me and the Lord, there's not one thing about that child we can't figure out.

I will admit, I don't have a college degree. But I'm educated. And what I don't know, I learn. I may not be the best person to teach my children higher math, but when they get to that point, my husband will teach them. It's teamwork. It's turning to him to supplement the areas in which I'm weak, which is how a husband and wife unit should function. I'm not so savvy when it comes to explaining calculus, but I will put my care and concern for my children, and my love for them, up against any person on this planet and come out the hands-down winner.

I am very concerned at the comments I frequently hear being made by lawmakers and educators who state that they don't feel the parents know what's best for their children. I would pit a mother's intuition against a stack of college textbooks any day of the week. If certain proposed laws ever come to pass, and we turn the raising of our children over to the government (which really sounds to me like the plot of Lois Lowry's "The Giver,") we might as well just kiss our futures goodbye. It doesn't matter if you homeschool, public school, or private school, you as the parent know what's best for your child. I've made my decision. I will fight for it. I claim my right as a mother to be a mother, not a breeder, not some clueless, helpless female who must turn to the proper authorities to get help because she'll ruin the child otherwise.

I didn't say anything to the Primary teacher. It wouldn't have done any good. But I'm raising my voice now, and I tell you this -- parents, fight for the right to raise your children as you see fit, regardless of the method of schooling you choose. Do this with the help and inspiration of the Holy Ghost to guide you as you determine what your children need, and you will be amazed at the insights you are given concerning that most precious stewardship, your children.

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Keith Fisher said...

I would have told her off. The big problem as I see it, is that many parents are willing to bow to another. Like sheep being led by those who claim to have greater insight. you go girl.

Kimberly said...


That was beyond brilliant, but it gave me the shivers a bit. I think that issues like this are ones we're going to have to fight and push over more and more in this increasingly scary world of ours.

Marsha Ward said...

AMEN, Sister! You go!

Annette Lyon said...

What a tough day--I'm so sorry! You're a great mom, and you know it. Way to stand for your values.

On a slightly different angle, I have experienced a few moments when someone else has made an observation about one of my kids that has been helpful, something that I either didn't see because I AM so close to them (not seeing the forest for the trees) or something that my kids don't necessarily reveal or behave like when I'm around but they might show in a different setting (like at piano lessons or during a scout activity).

Granted, those are relatively few and far between, and I'll never let anyone else's judgment usurp my own (and I've had both bristle moments when you want to smack someone and tell them to back off because they don't know what they're talking about!).

Bt *sometimes* I've found it useful to sit back and ponder whether the observation has any merit. On the rare occasion, it does--and it's probably something I couldn't have seen for the very reason that I AM so close to my children and know their every tiny detail.

I think you summed it up, though--if we stay close to the Spirit, we'll be guided on how to parent each individual we're given charge of.

Tamra Norton said...

In my decade or so of homeschooling, I've learned that if people detect ANYTHING different or unusual about my children, they chalk it up to homeschooling. But when they excel or do something fantastic or noteworthy, the "h" word isn't mentioned.

You nailed it on the head, Tristi. We're MOTHERS (as opposed to breeders--LOVED that!), and our "instincts" regarding these little ones whom we love more than ANYONE else on the planet, come from God, as we seek His direction. When people ask for my advice on homeschooling, I say, FOLLOW YOUR MOTHER'S INSTINCTS! A good doctor will tell you the same regarding your child's health. Their education is no different.

Candace E. Salima said...


This is but the tip of the iceberg Americans face today, and it is a critical tip. If Americans don't stand up and let their voices be heard, on everything, the government will be raising your children. Good job on making your voice be heard!

And I'm with Keith, I'd have told the woman off.

Keeley said...

Oh, I SO agree! It's frightening to me the arrogance of some teachers that believe they - who have perhaps met our children for a few minutes - know our children better than we do. I mean HELLO??!!

And the idea that it's better for children to be separated from their parents so they can become their own person without the shackles of parental love. Uhhhh... "Helicopter Mom" is a phrase that punches my buttons. A mother who cares about her child is given a negative label? Excuse me?

I don't tell other people how to raise their children; why are they butting their nose into my household?

You GO, Tristi!

Shari said...

I was an education major in school and am actually going to graduate in elementary ed. in December. That doesn't mean that I feel like every child should be educated in the same way. Every family and every child is different. And . . . every mother, like you said, has the right to raise her children the way she feels inspired to.

AMEN and Kudos to you and your blog post.

Jennifer said...

I agree with you 100%!

I wanted to homeschool my kids from the beginning, but in the end, I decided it wasn't something I could do. I did some research and prayed and put them in a charter school instead. It's been great for us!

I also gave birth to 3 out of 4 of my kids at home. The one I had at the hospital was my third. I really wanted to have her at home as well, but when I prayed about it, I knew it wasn't right. I have no idea why the spirit prompted me to have her in the hospital because her birth was smooth and uneventful and she was healthy as anything.

The point is that I've been following the spirit and that, coupled with the fact that I have known my children since they were in the womb, qualifies me more than any doctorate degree ever could.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Annette, you're right that there are definitely times when someone can help us see what we need to see. We've got to be humble enough to know when we're being shown something for our own good. Yesterday in Primary wasn't one of them, :) but your point is very valid.

Keith and Candace, I've learned with particular people that you just have to let them think whatever they want to think. They're going to have their own opnions anyway, and no amount of me throwing a hissy, althought I might be really inclined to do it, will change anything.

Jennifer, I had my 4th in the hospital too after three home births. Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're not right. Again, it's a following the Spirit and using judgment thing, and in the end, we're all trying to get to the same place, we're just varying exactly how we get there.

Shari, I hope I don't sound like I'm villifying all educators -- there are those who are outstanding. There are also those who are a little closed in their boxes, and it's to those which I refer.

Thanks for your comments, everyone, and for letting me talk your ears off. I'm feeling much better today.

Michelle said...

I dont have a college degree yet I homeschooled my 7th grader. He was not ready for middle school.
God gave these kids to us not some hottie tottie school teacher. She doesnt know more about your kids than you.

I had a friend who after taking an educational psychology class tried to diagnose every one of her friends kids. She upset most of us, I actually talked to her and told her why I was offended, she understood and apologised.

I am proud of all home schoolers it is hard work. Right now all of my kids are in public school but we live in a small town and after praying I felt good about signing them up. But if it came down to it I would homeschool all of them.

Anyways good for you!

Amanda said...

I do think you're right when it comes to parents knowing what's best for their children with regards to education. I personally could never homeschool my kids. I don't have the patience. I need time to myself. If I was around my kids 25 hours a day I'd go crazy. I'm very smart and always did really well in school, and I'm sure I'm more than competant in many subjects, but in the subjects of patience and understanding, I often run short, and those are not places that you want to run short with children. My kids are definitely better in the hands of someone else for education. My job is to suppliment that education at home.

That seems to be working for us. My oldest son is 7.5 years old and reading middle-school level books, as well as doing special projects for school. My 6 year old is reading 3rd grade level and can do fraction-math in his head. My 4 year old has been reading since he was 3.5 and has never done a day of school yet in his life, but can count to 100 and can do basic math. My boys learn about 2 foreign countries a week on average during the summer. This summer they are on a reading challenge to read 50 books each this summer, and they are all doing really well. it's not about whether you school at home or away, it's about doing what's right for your kids. My kids have flourished in the regular old public system. My middle child would do better in Montesori, I know, but i can't afford it, so we do the best we can with our resources. And it works for us.

Karlene said...

I've been a homeschool advocate since the early 80s, although unable to homeschool for more than a very few short months, for some of the reasons you mentioned. I also use herbs for medicinal purposes and (shock!) fed them to my children when they were ill.

Telling people off rarely seems to help change their minds, but geez, there were times when it sure helped me! :)

Jen said...

Yea for home birth!!

I get criticism and the hairy eyeball here where the majority of our ward home schools, because I choose to send my children to public school. (You've heard me rant about it before, lol)

My mama bear wisdom is telling me this is what's right for my kids and they are turning out happy, healthy, polite, kind, and smart.

The mommy wars are beyond stupid. Why don't women have the self-confidence to do what they want to do with their families without feeling they have to turn around and tell (or imply) another mama she's wrong for her choices?

Haley said...

Thanks for your inspired words Trisi. I loved how you mentioned the Lord knew our children before and knows what their capabilities are. Of course, I know that and believe that but it hasn't hit me as hard as it did today when I read your blog.
My children are too young for school, but I'm a major advocate for educating my children. I teach them daily and will continue even after they are attending school. My four year old is already reading, loves being timed putting together maps, knows state’s capitals, as well as other major information dealing with planets, math, history, and my favorite to teach, the gospel! What a joy there is in teaching your own children! I hope I can always follow the spirit like you mentioned in your blog concerning their welfare.

Gamila said...

I don't want to say that you as a mother don't have a right to teach your children, but I really have seen some irresponible and inadequate homeschooler moms. It makes me mad when I know that they can't give their children as good as an education as a qualified teacher can. It isn't about knowing the child. It is about knowing basic subject matter and skills that the student needs to know and master in order to survive the competitive world out there, and to complete a college education. These skills are often not general, but subject specific. There is a reason why teachers get a college degree. This matters more in high school than in elementary school. Being "qualified" really does depend on what you value most. Some people value indvidualized approach to student learning over all, and that is a serious weakness of the public school. Yet, public educators can really do a lot of good, and can help students to be more well-rounded and experienced. Just because someone else educates your child does not mean that you aren't a part of the education, or that you aren't their parent. If a public school parent doesn't take the time to find out about thier children's techers and subjects and support them with homework, projects, and is just there to answer their questions then they should probably reprioritize.

Heather B. Moore said...

Great blog, Tristi. The topic could be changed to just about anything. People are so quick to judge, which is completely wrong. I wouldn't have told the person off (like you), I'm too passive. But I probably would have written about it. I did that once about a situation at Church and had it published in the newsletter in the form of a poem. Fancy that ;)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Great comments, everyone.

Gamila, I agree that there are many homeschooling parents who don't know enough about the subject they are teaching. This is why I took care, in my blog, to mention that I'm educated and that my husband can fill in where I'm weak. We can also call in help from other homeschool families as needed, and as the children get older, we can enroll them in certain classes at the school, such as band, drama, shop, and all those that would be really hard to teach at home. I do have four children, but that's still not quite enough to make up a marching band!

Homeschool parents don't have to do the whole thing on their own. There are helps and options. The entire point of my blog was to say that it's a choice each of us have to make with the guidance of the Spirit, and if the Spirit were to tell me that I wasn't qualified to teach my children, or that there's one topic where I need to call in some reinforcements, I most certainly would listen.

There are definitely some parents who should not homeschool. This point was also made in the blog. It's got to be a case by case decision, not a blanket one.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I've found that no matter if you home school, charter school, public school, or private school - the child's education really depends on how involved and interested the parent is in that child's education and interests.

That doesn't mean joining the PTO or selling the most stuff for a fundraiser. It means sitting down with your child while they work on math, reading together every night, working on writing, creating art projects. The list goes on and on and on.

My kids attend public school. We've been very blessed to have had amazing teachers so far. If that ever changed, we would find another solution. Our child is the priority, not the institution.

But even though we've had great teachers, my hubby and I spend a lot of time teaching our kids at home, too. Everything from enrichment activities to go along with what they are learning at school, to good citizenship (including being a good member of the family!), to religious instruction.

I've attended several girl scout meetings where certain parents complain that they had to take an hour out of their evening to sit with their kid and work on a school project - because in their opinion, that's the teacher's job. I think it's totally sad when a parent is "too busy" to be bothered with their child's education. What kind of a message does that send? Then the same parents wonder why their kids are having a hard time with reading or math. "It must be the teacher's fault". Phooey.

Parents need to look in the mirror and realize that, just like you said, they are the ones who have been given the responsibility to raise and guide their children.

Anything is possible with Heavenly Father's help. I learned this very early in my parenting journey, when our oldest was diagnosed with autism. If you pray, read your scriptures, and follow the promptings you receive, you will know exactly what to do for you child and the right timing, too.

Excellent post, Tristi.

Leesa said...

I agree also, be a mom first and let the Lord lead us in what is best for our kids.

Yet, i have been in that situation also. My child is difficult and i get told often how to raise her. Turns out she had some problems that lead to her behavior - regardless who has the right to parent someone else's kids without being asked - now i rant on. Thanks for this post!

Sandra said...

I agree with your post, Tristi, as well as all the commenters. The child and the education are what are important, not the method and we need to learn to respect another's right to deem what is right for that child.

I did want to touch on something that Keeley said about Helicopter parenting. The true definition of a helicopter parent is one that does not allow their child to become autonomous and independent. A homeschooling parent is not a helicopter parent, but a parent that has to hand hold and walk a child through every little thing, never allowing a natuaral consequence to happen is a helicopter parent. And those that would call a homeschool parent such is just plain ignorant.

Rebecca Talley said...

I've had a similar experience because I've homeschooled in the past and still do kindergarten with my kids so I can teach them to read. It really bugs me when teachers assume they know more than I do about my kids.

Great post. And you keep doing what you know is best for your own kids. That's what we should all do.

Jewel's Gems said...

Oh, oh, oh, you go, girl! I couldn't agree with you more. I love you, Tristi, you kindred spirit you:o)

Stephanie Abney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie Abney said...

Fabulous post, Tristi ~ Over the years our children have at one time or another done public, private, correspondence, online, charter and homeschool, depending on their needs as the Spirit prompted us.

When I first started homeschooling (late 1980’s) AZ required (then, not now) homeschooling parents to pass the AZ Teacher Proficiency Exam just like a regular teacher. I only had a couple of years at BYU at the time, since I had my kids instead of finishing. The thing that amazed me was I went there with several other homeschooling moms, none of us yet degreed, and we all aced that test with 95% and higher. Yet, the day we took it, we spoke with numerous other test-takers who had just graduated from ASU and were BACK to take the test for the third and fourth time. Scary.

Our son, Matt, wanted to be on campus in the 8th grade so he could wrestle. I didn’t care much for the Eng. or American Hist. curriculum so we compromised and he came home for those two classes. He’s a smart kid but when he took his Stanford Achievement tests at the end of the year he was at grade level or just above in everything except for English and American History. He scored at college level for those two subjects. I can’t help but smile remembering it. He went through 9th grade, got to high school and didn’t like the personal soapboxes of a couple teachers and called me up from school 3 weeks into it asking me to withdraw him so he could finish at home. He did so in 2 years and started Ricks College on his 17th birthday (despite the fact that our Bishop called us to repentance numerous times for not keeping our kids in the public schools).

Having said all that, I have nevertheless been a substitute teacher for several charter schools the last 13 years (I’ve found a great deal of satisfaction in the charter system) and just yesterday I was hired full time (at age 57) to teach 2nd grade at a charter school which emphasizes character, leadership, citizenship, patriotism and basic skills.

There’s so many options (love those options) and it’s totally up to the parent of every child to determine what is best for that child at any given time, with the help of the Holy Ghost. You’re so awesome, Tristi. Great post and interesting comments, but to your original post, I say “Amen!”

Rachelle said...

I admire you Tristi and I enjoyed this post. I loved reading "The Giver" and you're right that it's not so far-fetched as some people may think.
I love what my pediatrician told me when I had a concern about something with my kids---he said, "Trust your instinct, a mother knows best."
That's what I try to do and I think it has served my kids well because it's not just an instinct, it's also the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

Keeley said...

Thank you, Sandra! I didn't realize I had the wrong definition for helicopter Mom.

RobisonWells said...

I have a question, Tristi, and I promise that I'm not trying to start an argument--I'm just curious.

You start off by saying that homeschool is not for everyone. You say "There are children who do better in a public or a private school environment."

If you believe that, then why did you make homeschooling a requisite for marraige? If the decision to homeschool were really based on the needs of your kids, then wouldn't you have waited to make that decision until the kids were old enough to start school?

Again, I'm not trying to argue--I just don't get it.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I don't mind answering your question, Rob.

I was taught at home and as I contemplated what route to take with my own children, I thought about all the available options. I knew the kinds of experiences I'd had with my own schooling and that they'd been positive. I've always been a bit of a looking-down-the-road kind of person when it comes to things -- I like to figure things out in advance -- so as I got old enough to get married and to start thinking about future choices, I did some serious praying and felt very strongly impressed that my children would do well in a homeschool environment. I already had this answer before my husband proposed, and so that's why I made it a prerequisite. I knew the path that would be best for my future children, and I wanted to make sure my future husband was on board with the game plan. Of course, if I hadn't felt that homeschool was a good choice for my children, I would have placed them in either a public or a private school environment.

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