On the Other Hand – Response from a Mom

My former student and fellow blogger Hannah Grieser recently replied to my blog post “Hard Words for Homeschool Moms.” I appreciated her thoughtful and eloquent response, and with her permission have reproduced it in full below.

As a mom with five boys, I appreciated Jim’s article and agree that it can apply to girls and dads too. It’s a good reminder to let my kids speak, even if they fumble for the right words. I know that overbearing parents creating weak, timid kids can be a big problem. Jim’s an excellent, observant teacher—one of my favorite—and isn’t making this up.

It’s quite possible that timid kids really aren’t our particular family’s problem. But before we all pat ourselves on the back for dodging that bullet so widely (Ain’t got no sissy boys around HERE!) I’d say that the opposite problem is something my husband and I more frequently deal with in raising our own kids and have seen far more of around us. What we’re seeing is not so much Christian homeschooled kids who are afraid to speak, but homeschooled kids who are so brazenly confident that they are insufferably know-it-all arrogant.

This comes, I believe, from having been constantly told, by parents and fellow homeschoolers, how much smarter and wiser and better they are than all those public school brats over there. These kids show up at college believing they are God’s gift to academia and to the culture around them—absolutely convinced that they are about to astonish their mediocre peers and professors with their lofty spiritual and intellectual insights. They are the “me monsters” from Brian Regan’s comedy skit, finding obnoxious ways to not-so-subtly insert their impressive accomplishments into conversation. By the end of the first week of freshman year, they’ve made sure that everyone already knows that they’ve just written a 600-page novel, speak fluent Elvish, and already read The Iliad twice—in the second grade.

Heh. “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.”

Problem is, when these kids arrive at college, they appear to have come not to learn but to impress. So, when put—rightly—in their place, they (and their parents!) are sometimes incapable of seeing that the problem is their own blind spots rather than the supposed failure of their peers and professors to recognize true genius when they see it. In their little enclave of home-grown perfection, these kids learned that they were always more brilliant, more godly, and more thoroughly delightful than those losers over there. How could they possibly see themselves as otherwise now?

Obviously, we’ve seen plenty of wonderfully mature and humble homeschooled kids. LOTS. I’ve also seen some Christian school—and public school—kids with the same arrogance problem, but not nearly to the same extent. After all, they’ve had the benefit of 13 years in which to discover that they’re not always the very best among their peers at everything they do.

In my experience, no matter what form of schooling we give our kids, regularly singing our own praises and comparing our successes to the worst failures of the public schools is a sure-fire way to create self-righteous young Pharisees who smugly go around thinking, and even saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this public school kid in the alley with a spray paint can.”

If that’s the case, I’d say we’ve still got a real problem. But it’s not the problem of timidity; it’s the bigger, soul-destroying problem of tremendous confidence—in our own righteousness. And in that situation, this article, helpful as it will be for many parents, probably isn’t what we need; it will only encourage us to pat ourselves on the back with greater enthusiasm. What we actually need to do is read the parable of the Prodigal Son and realize who we are in the story. (Hint: The older brother is not the hero.)

— Hannah Grieser

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