Coping with Constant Irrational Guilt over Homeschooling

I am unsure what to do about my guilt over homeschooling. It plagues me daily. Why in the world would I feel guilty about choosing an educational path that is the hardest option for my own life, and that demands so much of me: time, resources, energy, etc?
We chose homeschooling in order to provide a classical, Catholic education for our children. We have found a wonderful, albeit intense and demanding curriculum, and have used it for several years with great success. We know that there are no schools in our area that can provide this. My children have told me several times how much they prefer homeschooling to their experience of private school. We are getting involved in scouting. We have a growing network of friends, some of whom homeschool, but most of whom choose either private or public or charter school, and all have great kids. The kids seem happy, they are thriving, so why do I feel so very guilty everyday?
I am sacrificing just about everything of myself, and still I feel like I am being incredibly selfish. Why is this happening? What can I do to assuage my guilt? Is this a temptation or a trial or a diabolical trick, or what? I would think, after several years of homeschooling, that I would be happy and remember that this was a choice which my husband and I carefully and prayerfully discerned.

To some extent, parents are so barraged with guilt that you can’t make a decision that can’t be second-guessed. To that extent, anyone at all prone to guilt will feel it from time to time. Feeling guilty every day is not typical, though.

Could it be that you’ve spent too much of your life having everything you do by your own initiative undermined by the use of a heavy layer of guilt that says you don’t know how to make a good decision? Just because the manipulator is gone does not mean that the means she used to control you is gone. It is more like the offender is taken off by the police and the offender’s dog is left behind to menace you! The repeated messages we get from our parents do become messages that we eventually take over and repeat to ourselves.

When you have a bad habit of thinking, try replacing it with another habit.

I don’t know if this is accurate in this situation. It is true that I have had more than my fair share of manipulation and guilt from that person, but, in this situation, she is following suit with my choices. I became Catholic, she became Catholic. I began homeschooling, she began homeschooling my niece, whom she is raising. And I HATED going to school as a kid, even though I had and still have a deep love for education.
As an interesting example of where I feel no guilt, I have exclusively breastfed all my children. I experience a lot of shame and embarrassment because so few women in my town/state (and none in my family) ever breastfeed, but it is because people actually freak out on me and say I am gross for breastfeeding. Even still, I have never once had a moment of guilt. I simply nurse my babies, and am pleased that I am able to nourish them according to God’s design without too much difficulty (but again with a lot of sacrifice). So embarrassment at being “gross”, yes, but never guilt.
My greatest guilty thought regarding homeschooling is that I am depriving them of something, some indefinable, unidentifiable experience…But I cannot figure out what that is. Every time I attempt to look closely at the root of my guilt, it slips away, only to reappear a short while later as the background noise of my daily life.
I have nothing else in my life like this. Since my conversion, I have experienced so much healing and interior restoration, for which I am so thankful. And yet this guilt over homeschooling grows and it is nagging and constant. It is frustrating.

This is 100% speculation, because I have never homeschooled. BUT:

Parents who homeschool their children often (not always) do so because they are afraid to let their children grow up and become real people in the real world. Homeschooled children are ‘protected’ from things like ‘different opinions’ and ‘different ideas than Mom and Dad have.’

Homeschooled children don’t learn the same social lessons the rest of us do–private/public schools are difficult for children, and they may not like having to learn social skills (because school sucks. It always does), but the stereotype bears a kernel of truth: homeschooled children often grow up to be a little weird and isolated and don’t fit in, because they never learned how. Their base-line experiences are much more limited than kids who learn to deal with a classroom of peers that are utterly different from themselves, rather than the microcosm of their insulated home.

Homeschooling sounds hard. Exhausting, even. But you are choosing to exhaust yourself why? To make sure your kids stay Catholic enough? It sounds like you don’t trust your kids and like you don’t trust the world. MAYBE (I don’t know) you feel guilty because you know there is an important component missing from their lives?

Edit: posted before I saw your follow-up reply.

Sometimes we feel guilty if we like what we’re doing.

Sometimes we feel guilty if we don’t have professional credentials and are successful anyway.

This is false guilt. Don’t let your worries and fears mess with you.

Are your kids getting beat up on the schoolbus today? No? Then you are doing the right thing.

Every kid I’ve met who was homeschooled has turned out to become a mannerly, balanced, socially graceful adult, full of confidence and energy. Employers love them.

I just wish my parents had had the chance to do homeschooling.

I would speculate you haven’t met any homeschoolers. If you have, you’ve probably encountered that one weird kid who is going to be weird regardless of his or her educational setting.

Just so you don’t have to speculate anymore about those concerns you’ve brought up (and believe me, those are the usual suspects that those not familiar with homeschooling bring up all the time), let me provide you with some information:

After educating yourself by reading some of those links, I hope you consider changing your viewpoint about homeschoolers, because what you posted sounds a little narrow and isolated. That can happen if you don’t get out in the real world and meet actual homeschooling families. :wink:

I agree with this 110%

Okay, number one, I certainly do not “trust the world”. The Bible and the writings of the saints tell us we should not do so. I would be insane to do so, especially since “the world” has proven itself to be utterly hell-bent on destroying anything designed by God and said to be good by our Creator.
Two, Catholic parents are bound to provide a Catholic education for their children. There are several ways to do this: parochial school, public school plus CCD (and hopefully, at-home faith formation), private school plus CCD, charter school plus CCD, homeschooling plus pastor-approved Catholic religious education. Whichever path a parent chooses, the whole point of the obligation and the effort is to do our best to keep our kids Catholic until they are old enough to make the faith their own and choose to follow the faith as a confirmed adult. Of course, there are parents who abdicate their authority and neglect their duty to provide a Catholic education for their children, but that is a subject for another thread, and not really relevant here.
Three, no I absolutely do not trust my children. The Bible repeatedly reminds us that a person must be trustworthy in small things before they are able to be trustworthy in larger things. So that is how I parent. I train my children in handling certain responsibilities, and only when they have demonstrated both the ability and the inclination to handle it, only then do I “trust” them with it. And I still need to check up on them occasionally to ensure they are not forgetting or neglecting or abandoning their responsibility. They are still in the early stages of being trained out of being selfish, aggressive little creatures (albeit adorable and infinitely cuddable) into responsible people of good character. Why would I trust mini-tyrants who are sweet and lovable one moment, and crazed chimps the next? I would have to be insane to trust them! :eek:
You said you have no experience with homeschooling, and yet you have a vivid idea of what homeschooled people are like. You seem to think that they are all socially awkward and weird. Is this your prejudice, or do you actually know a lot of people who were educated at home and are they all weird and socially awkward? Are none of the public-schooled people weird and socially awkward? What makes you assume that homeschooled children are not expected to learn social skills? Could you defend your statements or is this more of an assumption without any evidence?
Finally, we chose to homeschool for multiple reasons, none of which have to do with eliminating the possibility that our children will be exposed to ideas different from Mom and Dad’s. In fact, we discuss the opinions of other people and different choices and different lifestyles on a regular basis, daily even, as part of our parenting. It helps them to learn to think for themselves and to develop the gift of discernment. We teach them what God’s Word says, what the catechism says, we talk about our pastor’s homilies, we read spiritual classics and share the wisdom from them, we read children’s faith formation books. And then we talk about the ways of the world and different opinions/choices and the children will come to a conclusion about whether or not they agree with them. If things discussed have moral weight, then we correct any misunderstanding and help them to properly form their conscience, but if it is merely a matter of freedom and prudence, we let them be. This is normal parenting, whether for homeschooled children or not.
Finally finally :smiley: , I am not afraid to let my children grow up. In fact, I work every day very hard to help them to grow up. I hope when they reach their late teens, that they will be ready to launch into the world, ready to meet the challenges that face them, and fully prepared to change the world for Christ. I am trying to raise adults, not just babysit them until they reach legal adulthood but remain spiritually and socially and intellectually infantile. Oh, and they are already real people and we already live in the real world. :wink:
Thanks for the challenge.

God bless you and thank you for sharing! Although you echo the sentiments of many, I would have to challenge you (with all Christian charity of course) that homeschooled children OFTEN grow up to be a little weird and isolated. True it can happen to any child, but I wouldn’t say “often.”

All things being equal, there are awkward and “weird” homeschooled children and awkward and “weird” children that attend school. Attending school is not a magic ticket to being a social butterfly. In fact, most of school is not really a social experience, since teachers are expecting children not to socialize but to be quiet in the classrooms, libraries and hallways. Lunch and recess are really the only true social experiences which are a fraction of the day really.

Homeschooling may not be right for this family, it is not for every family that Is for sure! I think it is important too for children to get involved in the community like scouts or other things and it sounds like this mom does that.

I have the background of being a public school mom, Catholic school mom and homeschool mom, one time all at once! Another thing you mentioned was “protecting” my homeschooling children and I have to say I laughed out loud because that is impossible. Dear friend in Christ, if I COULD possibly protect and shelter my children in this crazy world I would! My “sheltered” homeschooling children were exposed to bad language, pornography, gay marriage propaganda and other things I can’t mention. Woe to the parent that thinks they can raise a protected child in this day and age of internet, iphones, television, radio and media everywhere because they can’t.

We may have to agree to disagree but hope this brings some understanding. God bless.

To the original poster: Please consider the possibility of a spiritual attack if you are feeling pressure to change course on your children’s upbringing for no good reason. Please be assured of my prayers.

My best friends growing up were from church, and they were homeschooled. I know several homeschooled children. I speak from experience, not speculation, about what homeschooled families CAN BE like. Not all families fit into this description, however. But there is a stereotype, and sometimes stereotypes contain a kernel of truth.

I don’t know if this will help assuage your guilt or not, but I hope it does.
I was homeschooled from 5-12th grade, and the conditions were pretty bad. I was isolated (we lived out in the country- no neighbors around, the nearest town was 30 minutes away). There were very few people my age at my parish, and none of them turned into friendships. The internet started becoming popular in my teens, and I turned to chat rooms for friendship. My parents gave me books and a syllabus from Seton Home Study school, and left me to my own devices. I cheated on most tests all through high school (the temptation was too great- no supervision!)
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make from this experience is that kids can bounce back from pretty terrible educational experiences. Even though I had an awful experience with homeschooling, I still went on to attend a very well-respected, rigorous private university, graduated with honors, and have been a successful high school teacher for the past 10 years.

Simcha Fisher does a better job of expressing this thought than I did:

You’re not going to get an ideal education in a brick and mortar school. You’re also not going to get an ideal education by home schooling, or by unschooling, or by semi schooling, or co-schooling, or private schooling, or charter schooling, or attending-all-the-conferences-and-working-yourself-into-a-damp-spot-on-the-carpet schooling. Some schools are better than others, but since we are dealing with finite time and human nature, there will always be gaps. Expect this, fill in what you can, and remember that your kids are people, not empty mason jars waiting to be filled up with the perfect combination of ingredients. We’re making people, here, not soup.

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OK. Well, maybe you are concerned that they aren’t having “peer immersion” experiences that are typical for their age group. This is something that my friends who home school deal with by being in a homeschooling group. Where that exists, for instance, the home school families can have home school sports teams, etc.

Thank you Monicad. I appreciate the input of veteran parents.

How can I discover if this is a spiritual attack? As I stated before, my children are thriving academically and they are happy and they enjoy our lessons. So, already we have so much going for us. I don’t have a single complaint from them about homeschooling, which makes my life less stressful in that respect. They still do grumble about having to stop playing and do lessons, like any child would, but it is not often. So that cannot possibly be a source of guilt.

I was a teacher for several years, at a local private Christian school, so obviously I feel I am well suited to the task, too. I don’t really get any pushback from family or friends. Everyone accepts our choice and some even fervently support and encourage us. We have friends at the parochial school that we left who encourage us strongly even while they stay at the parochial school, because they have failing confidence in the curriculum the school is using, but they do not feel well-suited to the task of homeschooling. So none of that would be the source of my guilt, either, since I am remarkably encouraged by others and even must defend against flattery.

So, in light of this, would it be safe to assume this is a spiritual attack? If so, what should I do? Should I pray the St. Michael prayer or chaplet when the doubts arise? Or is there something I should do to strengthen myself against guilt and doubt?

I completely agree with the above. Every child has his or her own personality. Every situation is unique. I was only attempting to speak in generalities.

In fact, most of school is not really a social experience, since teachers are expecting children not to socialize but to be quiet in the classrooms, libraries and hallways. Lunch and recess are really the only true social experiences which are a fraction of the day really.

This part seems a little overstated, and was not my experience of school. Classroom activities are by nature social. Some work is independent, some work is group-oriented. Teachers lead classroom discussion, etc. The social component of school is vital for many children.

Homeschooling may not be right for this family, it is not for every family that Is for sure! I think it is important too for children to get involved in the community like scouts or other things and it sounds like this mom does that.

We may have to agree to disagree but hope this brings some understanding. God bless.

Agreed. Thank you. :slight_smile:

It sounds like your friends were isolated, not only in their education, but in their experience of childhood and growing up. Most the homeschoolers I know (my own children included) are active in academic co-ops and activities that include public, private, and charter school kids, along with homeschoolers. By the time they’re in high school, we outsource their more challenging academic classes to local colleges for dual credits. My oldest was in police and fire explorers while in high school- lots of diversity among his fellow members and he was exposed quite a variety of people while working public events in our city. So you can see why my view of homeschooling is quite different than the one you have. Your experience of homeschoolers is with isolated and awkward kids while mine is free-range learning with real life experiences. We do tend to go with what we know or have experienced when we share our opinions on things :slight_smile:

I am just recently really learning to recognize false guilt. I wonder if you have any advice on how to learn more about recognizing false guilt and rejecting it?

And to the highlighted blue statement, me too! I begged to be withdrawn from my public school when I was growing up. Despite not being Catholic at the time, I desperately wanted to either be educated at home, or sent to a nearby Catholic girls boarding school that had an intense academic curriculum and strong faith environment.

Of course you feel guilty.

Because what you know what are doing is wrong.

If you are a mother and choose one option among several, you will always choose the wrong one.

I call it mommy guilt. It is not rational.

Only people who really care about raising their children correctly and try their hardest to do the best job possible experience it.

Just keep reminding yourself of the very valid reasons you have for making that choice and remember to celebrate your successes.

What an awesome post! You went from an adverse circumstance to really making the most of your education, and even sharing that with others. Thank you for telling your story, and for sharing Simcha Fischer’s perspective.

Yes, this is an aspect of my guilt, I think. But every time I try to look at that logically, then the guilt slips away. They are forming friendships, participating in social activities, and getting together with friends. In fact, hearing from my own mom friends, their kids are so busy that they are unable to plan for get-togethers for their kids as often as they like, so they actually appreciate that I call them up and plan things for our kids. It is not daily, but it is often. And we are finding more opportunities that we could participate in than we actually have time for, too. And my kids love to play with each other. They are each only separated by a couple years, so they make good playmates. So why in the world would I feel guilt about that aspect? And yet, I know that this is part of it.:shrug:

We are involved in a playgroup for the littles, and joined the scouts for the older ones. My kids play with friends and go to sleepovers and there are upcoming camping trips. We do not currently have enough time for a homeschool co-op, but that is on our agenda for next year (I am due with my 5th baby in October). They are far too young for the youth group, but from what I hear, we have a phenomenal youth group.

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