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Why I'm Still Mormon and Why I Don't Homeschool

Subtitle: The Path of Least Resistance Part II

by Jessawhy

On the surface, you wouldn’t necessarily think these things are related. But, for me, they describe a part of my personality, or a part of my lifestyle that makes it easier to go with the program than find my own path.

Although no one, including me, wants to describe herself as a follower, it seems I am. Let me explain.

When my oldest son was 3, I started looking into homeschooling. I know several families who do it successfully and I read many books that convinced me of the virtues of home education. To prove my commitment, I joined some local homeschooling groups and attended their gatherings. Everything I read said that homeschooling can be hard, but it just takes organization, commitment, and the ability to let things go. “That, I can do.”, I thought. Actually, I was too good at the last part and not good enough at the first two.

When my second son was born, I began to worry that my resolve to homeschool was slipping, but no, I persisted in believing it would happen without actually taking the steps to make it happen. I didn’t buy materials, I had infrequent and mutually frustrating lessons with Jaxon.

By the summer Jaxon turned 5, my sporadic attempts to teach him anything (reading, patterns, etc) had failed miserably and I decided that if I couldn’t get a steady program together during the summer, I would enroll him in 1/2 day kindergarten in the fall (I was expecting baby 3 in October).

Jaxon really struggled in 1/2 day K, so I transferred him to a Montessori program (which I loved) but even that wasn’t helping. So he tried full-day K the next year at a traditional public school and now he’s in 1st grade at the same school. He still struggles behaviorally and at 7 1/2 he’s just learning to read. Part of me wishes I had just put him in preschool at age 3 instead of pretending I could run a household, care for three small children, and run a home school.

In sum, my belief that homeschooling is the best thing for my child/ren was not enough to make that a good choice for me or our family.

On the other subject, that of my staying part of the LDS church, it’s a similar situation. While I see much good in the church and love and respect the members, I no longer believe that the LDS church is the only path that God wants for his children. In fact, I have a strong belief in a Divine Feminine as well as a desire to connect with her more deeply which isn’t allowed within Mormonism. I’ve even written articles of faith about my intentions to find my own rituals, study sacred text, and worship in un-orthodox ways (for LDS, that is). I want more than the LDS church offers. I want a deeply fulfilling spiritual and religious experience. The trouble is, I just don’t have my life in order to do it. Even re-reading my articles is like an awakening. I wrote that? They seem helpful, but not if I don’t remember them.

Mormonism is like public school for me. It’s easier to just do what I’m used to than carve my own path, or even remember to supplement spiritually. It’s three hours, every Sunday. I put up with it and come away with a spiritual morsel if I’m lucky (not so mucn now that I’m nursery leader). I’m aware that with three small children, our goal is really just to survive every day. But, in the back of my mind I wonder if I could find a way to really live my articles of faith, I could do more than survive, I could thrive.
I feel that way about homeschooling, too. If only I could just find the time/motivation to organize my life (perhaps stop blogging?) I could help Jaxon thrive in a way that he isn’t doing in public school.

Lest I come across like a victim, I realize the story isn’t written for either Jaxon or me. We have time to grow and change. But, it’s helpful for me to step back sometimes and look at what I’m doing on auto-pilot and why. Examining these choices helps me see my current opportunities in a new light.

In the end I’m caught between feeling like I’ve missed not one boat, but two, and thinking that I’m doing the best I can with what I have. Jaxon will doubtless learn to read, and I will surely continue on my own spiritual path.

Self-doubt is only helpful if it leads to change, so the question is how much do I doubt my current situation? Is it mild, moderate, or severe?

How about you? Is inertia preventing you from making changes that would be in your best interest in some area of your life?

What do you do about it? How do you manage?

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Jessawhy

Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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30 Responses

  1. I can really relate to both of the situations you described in your post. My wife and I have 3 kids enrolled in a virtual academy (public home schooling). They have a teacher, a structured curriculum, books, lesson materials, computer, etc all provided by the program. The structured program really helps with the organization challenge of homeschooling. The commitment part is another thing, but you don’t have to be a drill sergeant and you don’t have to be perfect. The nice thing is, when it does get crazy and mom needs a break you can take a day or two off. The flexibility is one thing we really like. In the end you have to decide what the pluses and minuses are in your situation and see what the net results are.

    My wife and I have also gone through a major faith crisis over the last year. On that issue it’s really the same process, adding up the positives and negatives of staying in while not being “all in”.

  2. AS says:

    I can understand some of what you are feeling, but as for being a Latter-Day Saint, I know that being a part of the church that has the authority of God on the earth is THE right church. I know that those in our church who teach and lead are not perfect like our Savior, so things are not always perfect. I haven’t had the chance to see all that you said about a Feminine Divine, but I, too, believe there is also Feminine Divine, but at this time we aren’t as formally connected with her. I do, however, believe we are connected with Her as she is connected with our Heavenly Father and a part of how He creates. I believe the temple talks about this indirectly when it talks about our potential as women, and not just the potential of men.

  3. Two of Three says:

    Over the past year or so , I have come to many of the same conclusions you have. I believe there is much good and truth to the LDS church but no more than any other good and true religion. It is also the easier road for me to take- attending a church I no longer believe in. Not so much from inertia, but from a fear of tearing my family apart. Although my TBM husband loves me, I think he would resent my inactivity after time. I don’t know if we would survive that stress on our marriage. I also harbor a certain amount of guilt that I came into the marriage Mormon and now I feel differently. So, for now, I fib my way through temple recommend interviews and teach lessons I don’t believe in. I’m sorry if this is off course, but it seems most of these posts remind me of my current struggle in some way!

  4. Angie says:

    I see a major difference between homeschooling and religion: homeschooling can accomodate different opinions and philosophies; organized religion has tenets that are true or false, without room for middle ground. For example, either Jesus is the Son of God, or else he had maniacal delusions of grandeur and was a charismatic liar. A person who believes in His Divinity is a Christian. A person who doesn’t believe in His Divinity is not a Christian. The same goes for Mormonism – do the temple rituals actually have the power to seal families in the afterlife? Or are the rituals an exercise in groupthink based on the Masons?

    My mom is Mormon, and my dad is agnostic. The only reason that I belong to and attend the Mormon church is because I believe in the doctrines. That is the ONLY reason. If I didn’t believe, then I would attend the closest mega-church and join the Junior League. Or maybe even start my own Christian church. 🙂

  5. Interesting to compare guilt for not homeschooling with guilt for staying with a church you no longer totally believe.

    As a former 9th grade English teacher, I taught several homeschooled students whose parents belately realized they needed public school credits to gain a high school diploma. Too many of these students were years behind their classmates. Without highly motivated, disciplined mothers, homeschooling is often no-schooling.Guilt for not homeschooling is pointless if your child is getting a better education in the public system.

    Guilt for not breaking with a church you don’t believe in 100% may also be pointless. What can we believe in 100%? The uncomfortable thing about continuing in the church for the sake of your family is that Mormon culture is so all or nothing. Love it or leave it. I sometimes wonder how many people who sit through the meetings each Sunday are 100% committed believers. Maybe doubters are a silent majority. We’ll probably never know since dissent and open discussion are not part of the culture.

  6. Jessawhy says:

    Happy Lost Sheep,
    Great handle, btw. Your homeschooling sounds interesting. I’m glad that it works for you, but to me it almost seems like a little of the worst of both worlds. Are you choosing part of their curriculum, or doing music lessons, etc? I know the social part of going to school can be hit or miss, but I’m grateful that despite the low academic progress, my son seems to be doing better socially and I know it’s because he’s around other kids his age at school.
    The “all in” phrase is one I understand. Everyone has to balance the costs and benefits of their activity in the church. For some the scale clearly tips one way or the other, for others they have no idea why I’m even using a scale.

    AS,
    I used to have the same kind of conviction you have, but I don’t anymore. I’m not saying that I know the church is wrong, but I don’t know that it’s the only right choice. But, it’s broader than that. I’ve let myself think of God in a different way and I’ve come to believe that God is more loving and compassionate than I had previously believed. Part of that transition has been parenting. I’ve realized that the way I’ve imagined God has been not the way a good parent would act (cutting off contact with our Mother, for example) and that has allowed me to find a way to believe in God that helps me understand the world and interpersonal relationships.

    Two of Three,
    Life is never as easy as it seems on the surface, is it? Your analysis of the stress on your marriage is spot on. Even really understanding spouses still have their limits.
    Having small children right now almost makes church easier because I don’t have to deal with the disagreeable parts because I’m too busy with the kids.
    My close friend, Sue, attends church with the purpose of loving the people around her. I admire that and am working towards making that my goal.

    Angie,
    First, thanks for your comments. I can see that you care about this subject.
    I’m glad it’s easy for you to know the truth from the false. It’s not as easy for me. Perhaps I’m just more prone to nuance or skepticism. My MiL pointed that out to me today. She commented on some reflections of my childhood and said, “That’s got to make it hard for you to have faith, doesn’t it?”
    It was quite an eye opening remark.

    Perhaps it’s the relativist in me, but when I hear you stating unequivocally that you know other religions have false tenets I think it sounds very proud and judgmental, possibly unchristian.
    I don’t see anything wrong with stating that your own beliefs work for you, that you feel confident in your temple ordinances, etc. but I don’t understand how you can know what I think, let alone if it’s true.
    In case you are wondering, however, I think God will put us together with the people we love no matter what we do. My close friend lost her baby 18 months ago and I firmly believe that she’ll see him again, regardless of what other choices she makes in this life. If God is good, there is no other option. (or we have to adjust our understanding of good, but that’s another post).

    I also don’t think it’s fair to think that if you didn’t believe you could easily walk away. Most people can’t. Mormonism is a culture, almost an ethnicity, in addition to an organized religion. Even without a spouse and children, many people who don’t believe have a hard time making a break. Perhaps you’ll never know why. Perhaps you will.

  7. Jessawhy says:

    Course Correction,
    Ah, you have correctly labeled my post that carefully avoided the word “guilt” and called it out for exactly what it is.

    Yes, I know homeschooling can be all over the board, as can public schooling. I do believe that Jaxon is doing better now than he would if he were home (but not better than if he were home and I didn’t have other kids to tend to). That may change in a few years, but it may not. I’m still a believer in the principles and support people who choose to educate their kids at home.

    As far as the all or nothing part of church culture, I hope it’s changing. I went to a really great session at Sunstone in 08 about Religious Learning Communities. It’s helped me see exactly why we don’t often have real dialogue in church about real issues. The biggest part is that there is no avenue for respectful dissent.
    Perhaps with the rise of blogs like this and other internet forums that will change in the future.

    Thanks for your comments. I don’t know if there is a silent majority, but I’m starting to think it’s possible.

  8. E says:

    I think it’s interesting that you “believe” in homeschooling, even though it sounds like it would not meet your son’s needs. It’s interesting how sometimes we get a beautiful idealistic idea about something and we develop strong opinions that don’t change even when reality does not conform to the picture in our head.

  9. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I always wanted to attend public school. It is hard to express how devastated I felt when my parents informed me that I would be homeschooled. I missed out completely on elementary school.

    When I started school in the 7th grade, I recognized soon enough that I was different from all of the other kids. I had very few social skills and I was crazy enough to love learning for the sake of learning. What probably saved me was that attending church provided me with an automatic set of friends at school.

    I was painfully shy and the path of least resistance, socially speaking, would probably have been resuming with home school. But I remember this one day in eighth grade where I felt like I was blessed to see everyone as God saw them. I think this was a turning point in my life, because it became much easier to love people and to find deep satisfaction in getting to know and serve them.

    I look back at my homeschooling with mixed emotions. It gave me tremendous freedom as a child to explore my intellectual interests. But it also placed me at a tremendous disadvantage when it came to navigating life as a teenager. At least I can be grateful that finding my own path made me stronger.

    Pursuing the path of least resistance with church has also taught me valuable lessons about myself. I feel like I was born with a testimony. And I love being Mormon. But my questioning mind always finds things to argue with at church. And more often than not I struggle to fit in.

    Some might say the easier path is inactivity. But as much as I am exasperated by some of the things I hear in Sunday meetings, I find myself increasingly drawn to the idea that we need diversity within the church. Who am I to decide that my voice and perspective are not needed at church? As a teacher, I believe we can rarely predict the impact we have on each other, even years after a comment or visit is made.

    And yet I turn to the bloggernacle so often because church leaves me unsatisfied. I wonder too if my struggles in relating to Heavenly Father are related to his apparent patriarchy. My fondness for the Holy Ghost leaves me wondering if feeling the Spirit is just another example of male-mediated access to God.

    And then there are the times when I have felt like the Holy Ghost was my only true friend. Nobody else unfailingly encourages and supports my rigorous questioning of the gospel. No one has ever done a better job of comforting me when my world felt like it was turned upside down.

    Sometimes I wonder too if the Holy Ghost does things he thinks are best for me without necessarily telling me. I suspect, for instance, that he had a hand in how my personality has changed and I am now an extrovert. He probably knew this would further reinforce my desire to spend Sundays with my fellow Saints.

    I am still learning to trust God. I sometimes feel discouragement and disappointment when he doesn’t help me find answers to my questions. But one of the reasons why I am still Mormon is because nothing in my life is more motivating than feeling the Spirit.

    And so, like with homeschooling, I have mixed feelings about church. It drags me down sometimes how much my fellow Saints and I can disagree on things. I have little hope that I will find friends at church who always understand my point of view. But the Holy Ghost knows I will keep coming back because he is friends with many of the people there and because I get to feel his presence more closely when I spend my time serving those individuals.

  10. Téa says:

    Part of me wishes I had just put him in preschool at age 3 instead of pretending I could run a household, care for three small children, and run a home school.

    Does this correspond with a part of you that wishes you’d simply focused on the Church path? Or is this the doubt–what you fear you’ll feel in the future if your Articles of Faith don’t take you where your heart desires?

    I’ve been going over the comparison again and again (probably overthinking because I’ve been sick and probably not too clearly because I’ve been sick!) so if I take it too far or in the wrong direction, I hope you’ll let me know…

    Homeschooling is still the ideal, even though you know it won’t/doesn’t work for your family. Public school is the fallback, less than ideal, but it’s all you’ve got.

    Your new spiritual quest/ AoF (not easy to be succinct–do you have a better term?) is the ideal, but you feel you have no real way to make that happen right now, and as it’s a journey, no real-world experience to evaluate. The Church is what you find to be less than ideal, but for now it’s what you have.

    One thought, as a homeschooling parent myself:
    “All good parents teach their children at home. Most of them just choose to supplement with public school.” =D

    There’s something rattling around my head about you not wanting to subcontract your spirituality, but it’s not coming out clearly and this is way too long as it is.
    ::Waving at you from the West Valley::

  11. Angie says:

    For me, religious truth Is not about “being judgemental”, as in saying that someone is bad for believing one thing or another. It’s about logic. Two contradictory things can’t both be right at the same time. For example, Christian and Jewish beliefs about Jesus Christ can’t both be right. Either one of them has to be right: either He is the Son of God or He isn’t. I think that’s true of all religious beliefs. Either there is a God, or there isn’t. Either the Bible is scripture, or it isn’t. It really is that simple.

    I also believe that the real-life applications of our beliefs are endlessly “nuanced”, as you said, not at all simple. If there is a God, then how does that impact our daily lives – our decisions – our relationships? In these cases, it’s impossible to fully judge another person or his/her actions.

  12. Angie says:

    One last comment – just because I believe that religious truth exists, doesn’t mean that it is or has been easy for me to find and/or believe it. I essentially rejected my father’ worldview – and, in a sense, him – when I made the choice to believe Mormonism. Although this was horribly painful, I kept coming back to this question: “Is it true, or isn’t it?”. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t live a lie. If it was, then I would devote my life to it. It may sound calculated and heartless to lay it out like that, but I can’t live any other way. Ultimately, what’s the good in living a lie, or a half-truth?

  13. mr.mraynes says:

    First, @Angie: Your point about religious truth stemming from logic flummoxed me. Logic has nothing to do with religious truth at all (though it is nice on those few occasions when the two do align). The only way to learn spiritual truth is truth faith and the Holy Ghost. Also, your assertion that things are simply right or wrong overlooks so much of the complexity in the universe and in our own belief system. For example, can we definitively say whether polygamy is a correct principal? We vehemently deny any direct practice on our part and strongly condemn those who continue in the practice. Yet our own leaders are routinely sealed to more than one woman (albeit sequentially rather than simultaneously, but we must infer that in the eternities they will be sealed to all their wives together in full polygamy). That is just one example of the many contradictions we embrace in Mormonism!

    @Jessawhy, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings of inadequacy with us. For my part, I can tell you I feel much the same way about many things. I believe all of us see the potential for great things in ourselves, yet our circumstances and mortal obstacles thwart us. In my view, this life is all about doing the best we can and learning to be happy with those efforts, all the while (paradoxically!) struggling constantly to achieve better. I believe happiness is almost always found in being comfortable in the middle ground. We’re all hanging in there with you!

    As for struggling with the Church, I am in the same boat too. I guess I stick around because I see the Church like I see myself: There is so much potential there! even if we haven’t reached it yet…

  14. acceptanceisdifficult says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I grew up Mormon and expect (it’s my problem, I know) my former co-religionists to be implicitly racist, explicitly sexist and aggressively homophobic. It’s not true. I know. I was mean to someone who didn’t deserve it. She was mormon, I assumed the above trifecta of horrors, I was the cruel person; not treating her as an individual, but just as a random member of a group, all who felt the same. in my defense, Mormons, like yesterday, were declared the most conservative (i.e., sexist, racist, homophobic) religion out there. But that doesn’t mean I have no family that will treat me with kindness.

    Thanks again. Apologizing randomly. Promising to try to not be totally scared of my family.

    I confess to be terrified of my family for fear of insulting them, so that I prefer to just lay low. What behaviors of such apostates do you all find offensive–i.e., how can I have a relationship with my mormon family, in your opinion?

    Oh, and thanks jessawhy for loving your child enough to send him to school; I get a penumbra of a feeling that you took family heat for this decision. I have rather more home-schooled kids in my family than I think wise.

    There’s this thing called the Dunning-Kruger effect. In a nutshell, the more you feel you’re qualified to homeschool, the less you actually are.

    Thanks again. I will try my hardest in the future to assume my Mormon family has your kind, gentle, beautiful belief structure, and that they may accept me for who I am. Flawed. But trying.

  15. acceptanceisdifficult says:

    I realize probably most of you see sexism (women stay home and, if discarded by their husbands, probalby deserved it) racism (lamanites cursed with a skin of blackness) and homophobia (prop. 8) as positives. But I’m really trying to get over my fear of my family and i really want to believ that they are not bad people. Now, I know you realize that what I see as bad (treating women as sencond class citizens, throwing gay family members out of the family, throwing me out for the misfortune of not beiing a good mormon) positive virtues. But, assuming you have some compassion, how can i approach my Mormon family, or is it just hopeless?

  16. acceptanceisdifficult says:

    Reading my last comment, I see how mean it is, and how far I have to go to actually achieve some sort of peace with my family. I used quite a bit of scary language–racist, sexist, homophobic. I know my people feel that their beliefs are correct and do don’t deserve the approbation that the terms I chose rather harshly imply. Blacks now get the priesthood. Good. Women, uh,….. we’ll leave this one. Gay men and women, celibacy. I think what I had hope for in jessawhy’s post is that she didn’t believe all this stuff, so when I get the courage to contact a family member, I have the hope that they don’t hate me simply for who I am. I’ve been reading Mormon blogs lately and I see the phrase “pure light of Christ’ or something show up. Considering these outre groups, what does it mean?

    Can I have a relation with my family? Please say yes. I’m trying to not be mean. I just was mean myself by pigeonholing someone who didn’t deserve it. Sorry. I think I’ll just assume that you’re all apostates afraid of losing your families if you treat those you consider out of the mainstream with kindness. I’ll try too.

  17. Caroline says:

    acceptance is difficult,
    I can sense the pain in your comments. For what it’s worth, I think it is possible to have a relationship with your family. I would try to love them for their good qualities, and see their shortcomings as products of their cultural contexts, all the while realizing that you yourself have shortcomings that you too are working on. I think it helps to see everyone, including oneself, as works in progress. That said, I too have a hard time dealing with people who are racist, sexist, and homophobic. I suppose the best you can do when comments are made is to kindly state your own opinion and why you think that way. It may not change their minds, but at least you’ll feel like you’ve tried. The other option – silence – tends to make people assume you agree with them.

    Jessawhy, I found your post really interesting. Parenting just kicks you in the tail sometimes, doesn’t it? And regarding Mormonism, I would imagine that your decision to stay active comes down to more than the fact that it is easier. I imagine it is a carefully balanced decision about what is best for your kids, your marriage, etc. and I would also think there is the profoundly moral element in the decision, in that you believe that the church needs people like you in it, that you bring something unique and special to it and its members. At least, that’s how I’d see the situation. 🙂

  18. Hi Sterling, thanks for sharing that. It is interesting to hear from adults who were home-schooled as kids and to see what the goods and the bads were.

    “Social skills” is often brought up as an argument against homeschooling but it is a myth that kids who are home-schooled are somehow at a disadvantage to public school kids. Development of social skills at home is more influenced by your personality, by your parents and the kind of environment you are raised in. The same goes for the public school system. Public school can be good or bad socially for your kids depending on their personality, their teachers, the quality of the school, and the kinds of kids they will interact with on a daily basis.

    In regard to the church, Angie’s comments exemplify the kind of attitude that constitutes part of our dilemma. The leaders of the church and believing members continue to ignore problems in our history, doctrine and practices, and draw the line in the sand; proclaiming that the church is either completely true or a complete fraud. Any reasonable person knows this is wrong.

    In addition to forcing some members to decide to leave the church, this attitude prevents the church from addressing the issues of the past and moving forward. Instead we continue to look at the issues with the preconception that God has authorized it all. The result is we defend past and present wrongs and attack anyone who criticizes them, effectively impeding any refinement of our values and beliefs.

    Jessawhy is right, there is no avenue for respectful dissent or dialogue about church issues. Our kids learn at a very young age to “follow the prophet” because “what the Lord has spoken, whether by his own voice or by the voice of his servants, it is the same.”

  19. acceptanceisdifficult says:

    I don’t call my family racist sexist homophobes, or any other mormon (pretty much everyone i ever knew for most of my life) because I have the microscopic level of understanding that this wouldn’t result in a positive outcome.

    I just keep my mouth shut. For years. I’m tired of it. i’d like to again be able to have a family. But, I’m afraid it’s hopeless. Open for suggestions. I never never never talk to my family about religion; when they tell me I’m the anti-christ (for not going to church with my kids) or various other rather absurdly offensive remarks, I just shut up and give them presents.

    So, I’m a doormat. That wants a family. That doesn’t tell me to my face that I’m a bad person. Ideas? And again, thanks Jessawhy for giving me hope that people like you exist in my family that will accept me, more or less.

  20. jane says:

    This is fascinating, since I also researched homeschooling, and deemed it to be the best way to raise children (at least if well done), but never took the leap to begin homeschooling. In addition, I’m struggling with my testimony, but I’m still a very active, practicing Mormon.

    I can see how these two things are kind of related: I want to be part of a community, and the public school and my ward both provide a ready-made, supportive community that I’m very grateful to be a part of. And certainly my lack of confidence in the educational and religious realm (Would I really be a good homeschooling mom? Would I be curious and proactive and adventurous and disciplined and organized and patient and loving enough to make it succeed? And what if the church really is true? Or even if it’s not 100% true, could I replace all the good that it provides in our lives?) make it seem like the easier, less risky path is just to go with the flow, rather than trying something new, which could possibly have very serious, long-term, negative consequences for my children.

  21. acceptanceisdifficult says:

    I’ve decided to be difficult on a different subject. I think homeschooling for some large percentage of children is a very bad idea because kids have to be socialized into an often cruel, usually difficult society. School does that. In shcool, we have to get along with bullies, with the outcasts, with the random people we meet. I have trouble with humans in general, if my comments haven’t made that clear. I hated all of my schooling, but it taught me how to deal with all of the people I then met in my adult life. The mean ones, the bullies, the sweet ones, the odd ones, etc.

    And I hated school. But without it I don’t see how i could have been a successfull (more or less) adult.

    Our poor kids. I love my children; you all love your children. Being in an atmosphere of universal accepance is completely and totally different than what they will all experience when they grow up.

    Life sucks. We all must learn to deal with it soon. Also, if you have intelligent kids, I feel that it is a serious problem to not expose them to the real world, where there intelligence is only sometimes a plus and sometimes a minus. They need to know this and adjust their behavior accordingly.

  22. leisurelyviking says:

    I think both these situations are tricky. Different people require different approaches. My parents allowed my siblings and I to choose public school or homeschool year by year, which was really wonderful of them. My sister, who is very socially oriented, never wanted to homeschool. I bounced between homeschool and public school until I found a magnet high school that met my needs. My other two siblings mostly homeschooled, though each of them tried public school to see what it was like. I am terribly thankful for the choices my parents allowed me, even though it had to be frustrating for them at times.
    I think religion is the same way- different things work for different people. I used to believe, as Angie states, that the LDS church was an all-or-nothing affair. If it was true, I should devote my life to doing the best I could to believe and act in accordance with God’s will as revealed by His prophets. Because I had a hard time justifying the church’s stance on some issues, I decided I needed to know that it was absolutely true, because a false church that was so difficult for me to agree with in all respects would not be worth my commitment. After months of private study and prayer, I realized that the Holy Ghost was confirming things I already believed to be true and disconfirming the things I didn’t. It was very disconcerting to realize that my answers to prayer were so very influenced by the answers I expected or hoped to get, and that once I was fully willing to accept either a yes or a no, I had very different experiences. I have come through the years to a greater understanding of the deep complexity of religious issues, and no longer see it as a logical black or white issue.

  23. Jessawhy says:

    E,
    Yeah, I haven’t thought about it that way, but you might be right. I don’t believe that homeschooling is the best for everyone, just that it’s a good way to tailor my child’s education for his specific needs and skills. That’s also how I imagine my ideal spiritual/religious learning communities would be, suited to my needs specifically.

    Sterling,
    Great comments. It’s good to hear your perspective on homeschooling. I’m glad you found a way to make school work for you. It sounds like you were successful.
    I also agree that the bloggernacle is a good way to supplement what you get at church.
    As far as your relationship with the Holy Ghost, my first thought was that many people think this third member of the godhead is female. (I mean, a father, son, and some other random guy? Why not a mother?)
    I love the way you describe the Holy Ghost as your one true friend. I really would like that relationship with my Heavenly Mother.

    Tea,
    It’s not just you, my logic isn’t laid out very well. But, as I’ve been reading and responding to comments, I can see more clearly where the analogy is strong and where it is weak. Perhaps it all hinges on E’s comment about the ideal in my head meeting up with the truth of reality. I know that in other areas of my life I’m mostly unhappy because I’ve set my expectations unrealistically high. (Thus my life’s motto, “Happiness lies in lower expectations”)
    I’m glad that homeschooling works for you. On good days I do teach my kids stuff at home, but mostly I feel like I just try to keep them occupied so I can get my stuff done. It’s a different mind-set that I have a hard time adopting.

  24. Jessawhy says:

    Angie,
    I’ll just echo Mr. Mraynes comments and wish you the best.

    Mr. Mraynes,
    You are always a good one for comfort and advice. Thanks for your inspiring comments (and response to Angie). I particularly liked this,
    “I stick around because I see the Church like I see myself: There is so much potential there! even if we haven’t reached it yet…”
    I might have to use this line in the future!

    Acceptanceisdifficult,
    I’m glad this post was meaningful for you. It is hard to be part of a family that believes you are apostate. I’m lucky that my own family has enough other problems that my quasi-apostacy is pretty much off their radar.
    My advice is nothing novel, just assume the best. Assume that they care more about your life, happiness, and successes than they do about your sins or failures. Assume that if you approach them with love and understanding, they will do the same. If your assumptions are wrong, then you’ll probably need to take a step back and figure out if it’s healthy for you to have a close relationship with them.

    I’m sorry to hear that you have so much pain in this area. If you want to discuss it more via email, please feel free to write me at jess dot steed at gmail.

    Caroline,
    Yeah, parenting is really hard which is another reason why I think there really is a God who identifies as a parent.
    Surely if it wasn’t the case, it would have to be a really bad joke.
    You’re right, and I should have been clearer, the reasons why I attend church are very complicated.
    I spoke about this at the Counterpoint Conference in UT.
    Marriage, children, family, and friends are part of the reason why I stay. Additionally, I want other people like me to stay in the church, so I stay for them as well. I like the idea that the church is a body of Christ and each part is different but useful. Morally, I do like to serve people I wouldn’t ordinarily interact with and the church is a good place to do that. Sometimes I think I would be more selfish and less loving without the church. Other times I think the church makes me a little more crazy and negative. I guess it depends on who speaks or gives the lessons. But, the decision is multi-faceted once one gives up the true/false dichotomy.

  25. Jessawhy says:

    Happy Lost Sheep,
    The other rebuttal I heard about homeschooling and social skills was that it is completely unnatural to have peers teach a child social skills. Blind leading the blind. In real life, children are exposed to people of all ages and learn to interact appropriately with everyone. I like that idea a lot.
    Many of my worst social interactions were in elementary school, where the most cruelty can really happen.

    Acceptance,
    I’m glad that you have hope there are accepting people in your family. However, I’m not holding myself up as the Mormon mommy posterchild. Most people would think I’m pretty far out there as well.
    I do sense how desperate you are for their love and approval and it makes me sad. I hope that you offer that kind of love to your children. That’s really the only thing you have control over. I wish you the best.

    Jane,
    Fabulous summary. Next time I’ll just email you and ask you to write the post, please. 🙂
    It’s kind of fun to find kindred spirits on the bloggernacle.
    I guess the only way I can see to compromise is just good supplementing (which is hard b/c both public school and church are so time consuming). But perhaps supplementing can lead to a more long term solution.
    Let me know if you figure it out before I do.

    Acceptance,
    I’ve heard your argument before and I don’t know if I believe it. Perhaps that’s because I’m still sheltering my seven year old. It’s hard to say . . .
    I guess I choose not to believe that we have to throw out kids to the wolves to teach them about life.
    It’s the wolves who are the problem, not the solution.
    (Also, have you read Nurture Shock? There’s a section on bullying and they show that some of the most popular/successful kids are the best bullies. Very fascinating read).

    leisurelyviking,
    I’m glad you had the chance to do both homeschool and public school. I think that’s a great combination and an awesome thing for your parents to do.
    Thinking about the church in a complex way isn’t really encouraged in the church, but it seems like the best way of innoculating people from jumping ship. I know plenty of people who leave the church b/c it’s not true when they find out about Joseph’s translating in a hat or the MMM.

    Even in church last week, my EQP husband tried to open a vulnerable discussion by asking, “What struggles in your lives have been unresolved by prayer?” Before anyone could really start the discussion, they were cut off by the newly returned missionary who gave the party line, “There are no issues that can’t be resolved by prayer.”
    End of discussion. There was even a man in the ward who had lost his son who was very upset at the close-minded comment of the RM. It makes me sad that this way of thinking is the ideal. I hope that when we keep trying to be open and accepting, it will actually happen.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments, this has been a rewarding discussion.

  26. acceptanceisdifficult says:

    thank you for your kind words, Jessawhy.

  27. Ziff says:

    I really like this post, Jessawhy: interesting comparison between sticking with the Church and with public schools because they’re perhaps good enough.

    It kind of makes me think of a possible corollary to Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” The corollary might be “Never attribute to belief that which can be adequately explained by inertia.”

    I definitely feel like you do in a lot of ways about the Church. It’s far from ideal–farther than it admits–but in general it’s good enough for me. I particularly appreciate your comment:
    “I want other people like me to stay in the church, so I stay for them as well.”

    Me too. It makes me sad when fun, interesting people leave, although I can understand their reasons.

  28. R says:

    In the comments I was struck by a couple of posts.
    Two of Three, you “fib” your way through the temple recommend interview?

    Acceptanceisdifficult, did I understand you correctly when you wrote that (all?) mormons are racist, sexist, and homophobic? Not much room for dissent in that view of things, is there?

  29. wendy says:

    I see that this is kind of an older discussion, but I didn’t see it the first-time round and it was brought up on the chatter. I was homeschooled for a few years when I was younger (Gr. 4 and did Gr. 5 and 6 one year). I have since gone on to be a teacher that works exclusively with students who are learning at home with a public school board since 2001(with some maternity leaves thrown in there too). I have worked with hundreds of homeschooling families over the years. I think it’s unfortunate that so many families see homeschooling as an “all in” proposition. I have seen so many great examples of families who sample from what home education can offer. Some do home education for a few years; or for one special travel or humanitarian service year for their family; or for one child who needs intensive instruction in a certain skill before it becomes a noticeable deficit; some come and go from public school and homeschooling multiple times; some do some classes at a public school and some at home; some famlies have some children at home and some in school.
    One of the pieces of advice I most frequently give to parents I work with is about returning to the original impulse to educate at home: finding what is in the best interests of your chid. I reiterate this to parents because the best interests of your child change, are hard to predict, and will not be the same for all children in your family.
    I see so many parents who feel immense guilt after they’ve homeschooled for a few years and then decide to go back to public school. They feel like they’ve let themselves or their kids down. I try to let them see how their kids’ best interests have changed, or can be better met in a different way. Because home education is sometimes challenged or questioned by others (although this is become less and less the case), I think some homescooling parents become defined by this decision. Being a homeschooling family becomes a part of their identity, and it is only entrenched by feeling defensive about their choice and proving to others that they made the right decision about their child’s schooling. This, of course, makes it very complicated if the parent decides they no longer want to homeschool because they’ve painted themselves into a corner.
    I’ve never thought about how this would parallel to dealing with Mormon culture. Maybe it’s similarly problematic when we define ourselves as Mormon first and as changeable individuals second; are we setting ourselves up for anxiety, guilt, and role conflict if we should ever have doubts? Is it a protective measure to stop ourselves from going “all in” and saving a bit of ourselves?

  30. Jessawhy says:

    Wendy,
    Thanks for your comments. It doesn’t matter that the post is older, your voice is valuable and I was moved by your perspective.

    It’s nice to hear that I don’t have to commit 100% to homeschooling. I would love to do something more of a combination of both public and home education. I do find that my son is very tired of learning when he gets home. Just getting him to read a book or two to me is like pulling teeth.

    I had a little lesson on colors and shapes with my 4 and 2 years olds this morning and we all really enjoyed it. I don’t feel as frustrated with them, for some reason.

    As for the church, I really liked your perspective. Being “all in” is certainly what we’re expected to do in Mormonism. I’ve never really thought about myself as a changeable individual, but I certainly am.

    Thanks for giving me so much to think about.

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