When I tell people I homeschool, most are supportive, even if their reaction includes a “I could never!” comment. Occasionally, though, someone questions that I am sheltering my girls. My reaction these days to that rare instance is, “You bet your bippy! It’s my job to shelter them!”
I do shelter them, unapologetically, from things that might do damage to their souls: immoral or amoral lessons in sex ed, exposure to media (including books) that Travel Man and I deem to be inappropriate, ideas about family that are in opposition to our faith, and even history skewed against the truth about the Church. To some degree, I am also sheltering them from the trials and travails that they might encounter in the clique-ish school culture.
And I say “to some degree” because I know that as long as we are involved in extracurricular activities (and we are), they’ll encounter some of that anyway.
This was never so painfully obvious to me as it was a little more than two weeks ago, when I was getting Little Girl ready for dance lessons. It seems that the day before, some boys at Sunday school laughed because she doesn’t have “Summer vacation.” In other words, we school all the time, taking breaks when we need to for mental health or for family vacations or, in the case of the end of this month, for family celebrations. But try explaining that to second graders. All Little Girl knew is that her tender little heart was hurt by their laughter. And then, something that had been bothering her for some time came to a head as I went to pull her hair up for dance.
She started to cry. About dance class. “I don’t really want to go any more. I think I want to stop dance after the recital!” she wailed.
This is a child who
will not cannot stop dancing. I practically have to strap her to a chair for meals, she’s in motion so much! And she wants to quit?!?
A little inquiry on my part revealed that she was dealing with “mean girls” in her class. Girls who laughed when others fell down. Girls who wouldn’t talk to her. Girls who didn’t ask if she was okay when she fell. Girls who made fun of her for wearing tights from a Winnie-the-Pooh dance from last year – tights!! Girls who were getting clique-ish.
This was new, mind you. The class dynamics changed when a few new girls joined the dance studio. Before this year, she had no problems like this; all the girls got along, they all talked and laughed together, and there were no little groups sneering at others’ mistakes. (They all enjoyed the Winnie-the-Pooh dance, too, including the very plain beige tights.)
This is a struggle for me. I want to protect her. I want to kick butt and take names – of the mothers who let their little girls act this way, mind you. I want to lecture the girls and make them cringe. I even think about switching dance schools to protect her from these girls.
But that wouldn’t change a thing, and it would potentially damage her character. Running off to another school won’t protect her; mean girls are everywhere. (I never even took dance, and I encountered them!) Kicking butt and taking names won’t help, because then the mothers and I won’t even get along, and that would probably only feed into the problem in the long run.
So we talked and I got specifics. And I asked her, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want you to talk to the teacher for me. I might start crying again if I talk to her.”
I gulped. I HATE confrontation, but this is important to take care of. “When today? Before class or after class?”
So I had about fifteen minutes to craft my part of the discussion. Little did she know how nervous I was to bring it up, but I was glad that she said something. She almost never complains about anything. So for this to come up at all means that it’s been bothering her for quite some time. (Almost the whole school year, it turns out.)
When I pulled the instructor aside, she acknowledged that it had been slowly escalating, and the idea of Little Girl quitting was horrible to her. “She’s too good to let those girls push her out. I’m not losing her!” She’s known Little Girl for three years now, and knows how shy and sensitive she is. So she spoke to the class – without revealing who it was – about respecting others and not being mean.
Even though it didn’t help Little Girl suddenly have the old camaraderie back again, she felt better that someone would be looking out for that kind of behavior.
I know I can’t shelter her from this. I can limit it, for sure, but there are mean girls everywhere. Another school would have different mean girls. If she left dance forever and started something else, there’d be mean girls there, too. Not everyone can be “homeschooled Catholic girls like me,” which was Little Girl’s wish. But until she learns how to deal with situations like this, it’s my job, too, to step in and help her. We’ll work on dealing a little at a time, but I’m not ready to throw her to the wolves. I’m not ready to let her work it out on her own. And she’s not ready, either.
So, yes. I shelter my girls. You bet your bippy!
But I’m teaching them how to go out into the world, too. And when it’s time, they’ll be ready for it.