Generation Cedar

I’m a glutton for punishment, I know. But I have to go here.

(We’ve had some great debates on the issue of public school, and I want to personally thank you all for your tactfulness, kindness and consideration during the debates. When we are debating “hot button” topics, it can be difficult to refrain from slander, etc. I appreciate that we can debate each other and represent to whomever may be reading this blog, that we are CHRISTIANS!)

I realize the topic of peers and peer dependency reaches over into other areas besides public school exclusively, but I want to try to keep it in the realm of PS as much as possible, since that is what we’re debating.

We have come a long way in what we believe about peers since we first started having children. A LOOOOONG way. And, though I was warned by a reader not to involve my personal experience in this debate, I believe it is impossible for any of us to debate issues detached from experience. How else are our convictions, opinions, and insights formed?

So, I may refer to my experiences from time to time, but not just my own…many I’ve observed, and continue to observe, as a basis for my reasoning.

I could talk about this for hours…so instead of trying to cover the whole issue in one post, I’ll just let your comments and our debates unravel the thread.

I encourage you to give us your input, even if you’ve never commented before. Every comment adds depth and insight into the topic.

So, to get the ball rolling, what is “peer dependency” and why am I even discussing it?

I am stating the obvious here, but peer dependency is when a child depends on his peers for acceptance, cues for behavior, values, etc., and a general need for their support. And be advised, what I’m describing here is VERY different from just a healthy state of friendship; I believe we all need that, so that is not the debate.

I’m asserting (albeit an unpopular opinion) that a child needs to feel the heaviest “pressure” from his own family in terms of shaping values, behavior, etc. To put it simply, to what group does a child most desire to conform? That will tell you where his “dependency” lies.

This is probably our biggest reason for homeschooling. It is amazing to see how my children’s values and behavior are so different from what mine were, even though I was raised in a Christian home, with godly parents who spend a lot of time training us in the Word. To me, it’s pretty simple…”birds of a feather flock together”. We become like the people we’re with the most. Period.

I know for many parents, they are actually terrified that their children will not be “normal”, whatever that means. So it starts with what parents desire for their children.

For us, we desire, more than ANYTHING else, that our children would love God with all their hearts. We desire godly children–in manner, in speech, in behavior, in their hearts. When I look at the “norm” of children around me (particularly in the public school arena), godliness is not coming to mind. I simply want to be the one who shapes what my children believe and how they behave, not their peers.

So, what do you think?

***Please be advised…in addition to the many duties of being a wife and mom to 7, trying to ship out CD and product orders, we are also trying to complete construction and move into a our new house this week and next…needless to say, my time is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d 🙂 I may not get to comment as often as I would like…but I’m sneaking a peek when I get a minute!

(You’ll be relieved to know that I have given the kids “off” from their formal schooling until the move next week…a privilege we can afford since we school year round.)

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22 Responses

  1. We feel the same way you do about peer dependency, and that’s one reason why we homeschool.

    Dh has stated on many occasions that even though he is a natural leader, he did things when he was a teen that he shouldn’t have because of peer dependency, and he said he often led a lot of peer dependent coersions of friends into drinking and partying. He doesn’t want our leader-bent sons doing that.

    Also, I see a lot of attitude problems when my dd spends too much time with other girls her age (10). All of the sudden, she wants to be snarky with her brothers, and snotty to me. After a quick splash of reality by Mom, she’s usually back to her sweet self again. We supervise as many of her encounters with kids her age as possible.

    One overlooked area of peer dependency in homeschooled children is often their extended family. A child can often have cousins that are poor influences, especially if they are older and public schooled. It is often difficult, be we don’t allow our children to roam off with older cousins. They are required to stay around the group, and not go lock up in a bedroom somewhere to talk or get away from the younger kids.

  2. I had to laugh at your first line. 🙂

    I haven’t read the whole post yet, but I just wanted to put a thumbs up in for personal experience as being valid. It may not be the only support you can use to prove something logical; but obviously God gave us eyes, ears, touch, a braind, etc. to learn about the world through our senses. If I saw 10 different people come touch a hot pan and say ouch and act like they were hurting, I think it would be wise for me to be at least very cautious around that pan.

    I certainly hope my kids don’t turn out to be normal. And we spend a lot of effort in monitoring any relationships they have and talking them about doing what they know is right and the ridiculousness people get into in trying to conform to the norm.

    I didn’t know you were getting a new house! I’m excited for you!

  3. I hadn’t heard of this term before but it is definitely a solid argument for homeschooling. I remember from my own childhood that being around all kids my own age is just awful. I personally was the kind of kid who liked to have friends older than myself and I loved helping little ones. Impossible to do in the public school system. In what few groups I was in where there was a variety of ages, I was always better off. Just generally safer from peer pressure, which amazingly enough didn’t seem to occur in groups where the ages were all different.
    Thanks Kelly another thing to think about.

  4. Well, my daughter is in public school (gasp!). And she’s doing fine. So is my son.

    Truly, I think this whole issue is a matter of parental involvement, not homeschool vs. public school. I knew homeschooled kids growing up who were the most devious, maladjusted, trouble-making kids around. So, if we’re using experience here—that was mine!

    I also knew public school kids who were awful.

    But the one common denominator with well-behaved, successful children was that their parents took an active role in their lives: helping with homework, projects, going on vacations together, talking to them, listening to them, having a true relationship with their kids.

    Yes, my kids go to public school. But we still maintain a very close relationship. We talk about everything. I know who their friends are, I know what they’re learning, reading, talking about.

    And I know people like to shoot this one down BUT….my kids ARE a good Christian example at their public schools.

    For now, at least, this is working for us. And my kids are getting a phenomenal academic education—we happen to live in an excellent school district.

  5. though i’m underage and still in school (homeschooled) I can say that I too never had a problem with public school and I too got a great education. But when I hear of all these events going on in schools (gender bender day?!?) i’m scared. I don’t plan on sending my kid to public school even if it is a great district. by the time I have children and they are school-age, public schools will be a lot worse/satanic in my opinion.

  6. “Well, my daughter is in public school (gasp!). And she’s doing fine. So is my son.

    Truly, I think this whole issue is a matter of parental involvement, not homeschool vs. public school. I knew homeschooled kids growing up who were the most devious, maladjusted, trouble-making kids around. So, if we’re using experience here—that was mine!”

    Elizabeth, it is good to hear that your children are doing well in public school, and I agree with you that parental involvement is very important (in all aspects of life). But even the most involved parent of a child who attends a public school is not with them for a majority of the day, they may know who their child’s friends are and what they are learning in school, but they don’t hear the conversations or see how the children are interacting. Hmm…I already feel like I am not explaining this like I want to.

    I guess part of what I am trying to say is that you can’t attribute this issue solely to parental involvement. A parent can be very involved in their child’s life, but that doesn’t mean that the child will choose to tell their parents everything or even the truth. I agree with Kelly that you tend to become like/be most influenced by the people who you are with the most. If I want my children to become followers of Christ who love God and desire to follow Him with their whole heart, then why would I send them off to be with many people who aren’t like that for 5 days a week? Peers do influence, and not just in children- I can see how my own peers influence me!

    I think that many Christians take this issue way too lightly. There may be some good influences in public school (other Christian children, some teachers, etc.) but we can also be sure that there are many negative influences and I don’t think we should take that risk. My main goal for my children is not that they will be well-behaved and well-educated (as in having a lot of knowledge about many academic topics), it is that they will love God and walk with Him- why would I knowingly expose them for long periods of time to influences that will not produce that in them?

    I think that parental involvement can be a good thing- it’s such a catchy phrase these days that sounds so positive, but when you think about it, God doesn’t call Christian parents to “parental involvement” in their children’s lives- He calls Christian parents to train their children in the Lord, to teach them about God (Who He is, His laws, His works, His word, to fear Him, etc.), to disciple them, to encourage them, to comfort them, and to urge them to live lives worthy of God. This is what parents are called to do (and of course to do this you must be involved in your child’s life, but it goes way beyond mere “involvement”). So if this is what I am called to do then I need to weigh every opportunity my child faces in light of these things (for example attending a public school). If this opportunity will help me in these pursuits, then it may be something for them to do. If this opportunity does not help me in these pursuits, then why should I even consider it? Knowing the kind of influences that abound in the public school setting, I cannot see how sending a child there would help a parent in these pursuits with their children- does it aid in discipleship? Does it aid in teaching about God? Does it aid in urging them to live lives worthy of God? Does it aid in training them in the Lord?

    I know that this is so contrary to what many Christians do, but God gives us children for only awhile to care for and He is clear in what parents are to be doing. If something does not line up with that, then we should not be doing it. I surely can’t see how sending children to public school to spend time with many non-Christian negative influences, or even “good people” who aren’t following God (no one can really be neutral) would benefit them at all or help in accomplishing what God calls parents to do in raising their children. And if something isn’t helping parents accomplish what God calls them to do as parents, then what is it really doing?

    Sorry, I know that got kind of off-track from “peer dependency” but sometimes it is hard to discuss just one lone issue when I feel that many of these things go back to what God calls parents to do- so I wanted to explain myself.

    Amy

  7. I have to agree on the peer dependency thing. Though that does not necessarily make ONLY public schools the bad guy… Didn’t we just read a story about a 13-year-old who killed herself because of the comments of an anonymous MySpace kid?? It doesn’t even have to be a real person, I suppose, for someone to get all attached unhealthily.

    I think it does come down to the parents looking out for the children, though that is probably oversimplistic of me. Of course we want a good environment for them as well… but honestly… you can’t even go to a church without a negative peer influence. Hate to say it, but there it is.

    Kelly, bless you as you move into your new home! I hope all goes as planned – how exciting!! HOW on earth do you do that and take care of a wee baby at the same time? If it’s some sorta natural homeopathic drug thing please ship me a bottle LOL!

    Bless you ladies!!

  8. Unfortunately, we are all peer dependent, not just our children, and we, too, must be careful of our “peers.” We are in our first year homeschooling and God is doing some amazing work on our hearts and the eyes of our heart as we learn more and more about discipling our children at home. We just visited friends who challenged us with creating a vision for our family. Having those kinds of peers in our life is encouraging us in where God is leading us. Our children need that also, and I don’t feel that they can be in any way discipled and mentored in a public school setting. They do spend the majority of the day away from home in the ps setting and most children also participate in extra curricular sports or other activities which further divides time as a family. I do think that people go through seasons, perhaps, where they feel they cannot homeschool. I think many Christian families are missing the boat in terms of what scripture calls us to as parents. It’s overwhelming sometimes, for sure, but I have to trust that God will give me what I need each day to give my kids real “peer dependency”: being part of a family that’s seeking after God and his truth.

  9. Well said, ladies!

    Mrs. C…LOL! Well, since you mentioned it, I do take Supermom vitamins! Yes, that’s what they’re called…in fact, yesterday, I think that may be all I ate the first half of day! (I forgot, already!…I have a touch of ADD 🙂 just kidding–please don’t send me ritalin. And my mom already gave me a good scolding 🙂

    Kelly…VISION…you’re on so dead on!

  10. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”…time is one of a child’s richest treasures.

    “He who walks with the wise becomes wise; but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

    Ponder what the word “walks” means in that verse.

    “Blessed is the man (how much more the child!) who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners…”

  11. There are those that think public schools are just fine and the really bad stuff isn’t going on at their child’s school. My MIL used to be this way and she was very involved with her child’s choice of classes and teacher and talked to the teacher, etc. NOW, she subs for the high school. Her eyes have been opened and she feels like after a few years of this she is becoming depressed thinking of the future with these kids as adults… of the abuse she endures as a sub and corruption and the fear (of the students) the administration lives in and the lack of avenues they have to get control. I think it’s a whole different ball game when you are there day in and day out and dealing with situations. Of course, I am sure there are less problems in elementary school than in high school. It may be hard to notice or find when one’s kids are young.

  12. “I am sure there are less problems in elementary school than in high school. It may be hard to notice or find when one’s kids are young.”

    One of my sister’s in-laws teaches elementary school. 8-9 year olds I believe. I know that last year she said she was looking forward to the year ending b/c she “hates”
    her students!

  13. You may remember me from one of your previous posts on public vs. private vs. homeschooling. Our kids attend public school and I have to say that while sometimes peer dependency is a concern, I don’t see much of a problem with it from my own kids. First of all, they don’t spend a lot of time with their school friends outside of school. We don’t allow it because we realize that most families aren’t as didligent as we are about guarding what their kids watch and listen to. Our kids don’t miss it very much I think primarily because our three older (middle school) girls are very close in age (13, and 12 year old twins). They are each other’s best friends. Also, there is a Christian homeschool family down the street from us that our kids play with from time to time, and I’m not all that impressed with their behavior most of the time. Although our kids attend public school (not my first choice), and I admit there are definitely issues that arise, as far as I can see, we are still a bigger influence on our kids than any school peer group.

  14. Kelly, I hope as many people as possible read what you wrote here. It’s so important for parents to understand just how vulnerable and influenced their children can be in a tender age!

  15. Hey, I just read/ blogged about that! It gets me nervous that the **OB** doctors are the ones proposing this. I suppose doctors and other scientist types get their own peer pressure LOL!

    You can’t completely avoid it! I think we just need to be best friends with Jesus. OK that sounded corny but ’tis true.

  16. As a formerly homeschooled child (now 27), can I just say two things? 1) Many homeschooled children are raised in such a way as to keep them from being “peer dependent.” What parents often don’t seem to realize is that they are raising them to be “permanently parent dependent.” Neither is healthy or good. I know that I believed exactly what my parents taught me, as if it were the voice of God to me. Although I don’t think these parents intend to put themselves in the place of God in their childrens’ lives, that is effectively what they can do. The goal is to raise them to be “God dependent” – which includes the possibility that they may decide that you were wrong about some things, even things you hold dear to your heart. 2) Many children of homeschooling families grow up to find themselves so “peer INdependent” that they have no basis for relating to the culture they discover themselves in. They can converse easily with professors and other “adult figures,” but the ability to build friendships with peers (not counting other homeschoolers) is just not there. It literally feels like culture shock. You have no idea what other people around you are talking about and no way of relating to their experiences. For too many years I dreamed of having my own little family of homeschooled children I could form into my ideals. I’m not saying that’s all wrong – just don’t forget your children are actual PEOPLE who are going to have to live in this world with the decisions you’ve made for them. Be very careful about totally isolating them from the people they are going to have to live alongside and work with and talk to for most of the rest of their lives.

  17. I went to public school as a child. Both of my parents and older brother are teachers. They are anti-home school, though I am certain none of them have bothered to do any research or think outside of what is conventional. I do remember thinking that all the homeschool kids in my youth group were weird. I never considered homeschooling my own kids…until I had one. Now, I can only hope that my children are weird.

    I know what “normal” is. I was not considered weird in high school. I was very normal. I had sex with different girls, drank, smoked, cussed, skipped school, fought, and made fun of other kids. I cared about my appearance and what clothes I was wearing. I fit right in. I was considered a cool kid in high school. I was invited to parties and dated the good looking girls. I was considered “normal”. If my parents sent me to public school so that I would be socialized, well…I was definitely “socialized”. My parents had no idea. They believed that their teachings were enough to keep their son on the straight and narrow. I was a christian around my parents and at church events. They thought they were keeping a close eye on me. I was deceiving. I was a “cool kid” when they were not around.

    As an adult, I am still recovering from the sins of my youth. I believe that sin has earthly consequences. The sins that made me normal in high school have effected my marriage and spirituality today. My parents had no idea what I was like in High School. They taught me the Word. But my desire to “fit in” with peers was stronger than my desire to please my parents (or God). The 1-2 hours at night with my Christian parents (after school and extra curricular) was not enough to overcome the influence of the 8 plus hours a day with worldly peers.

    My wife is a Christian. She shares the same teenage experiences as I did. My best friend is a youth minister. He was the same as me in high school and lives with similar regrets.

    I believe people defend things that are conventional to a fault. Even as adults we are still so concerned with “fitting in”. We don’t want to do anything unconventional out of fear of judgement (crazy homeschool parents). I am sick of fitting in. I have plenty of experience “fitting in”.

    Our faith and our children are too valuable to risk. Christians were not called to be normal. They were called to be radical.

    1. Jeff–your comment sounds EXACTLY like it could be mine. Every. word. In fact, I’ve written precisely about this somewhere in the archives. It simply amazes me how some can see so clearly (as you have) and some can be so oblivious to the power of peer influence (or not care about its power).

      Just like you said, my whole teenage life, though my parents knew I had rebellion issues, I still looked like a “good Christian girl” to most who knew me, even teaching a Sunday School class and was a soloist at my church.

      My parents spent every evening with us in the Word, but as you said, it wasn’t enough to combat the pull of my peers. I was promiscuous and didn’t care. Oh, and popular. Yay.

      When I would argue against some of our house rules and say, “I just want to be normal like my friends,” my Dad would answer, “normal is not my goal for you.” He knew, but he was powerless to the peer culture.

      And yes, there are earthly consequences and I have struggled a great deal from the sins of my past.

  18. I have two children. A thirteen year old son and a ten year old daughter. We pulled them out of a small Christian school (the only school they had known) to homeschool them about a year an a half ago. My daughter is super social and extroverted. She absolutely LOVES people. It broke my heart to see her withdraw and even say she was sad and lonely in the months she was home. eventually, she seemed to adjust, but I know in my heart that she does better with a social environment. Yet, I do not have peace about sending her to public school. Christian school is not an option for us right now. I’m at a loss. My worry is this issue of ‘peer dependency’. I feel that at her tender age she would be hungering for friendships and people to like her and get pulled into the wrong direction. But there is another factor – keeping her home seems to be harming her. As much as I work at it, my son is very hard on his little sister. Constantly criticizing her and putting her down. He is bossy and down right mean to her. I can never take back for her the things he has said to her. I have given consequences for his behavior and am doing everything in my power to protect her but I can’t be in the room with him every time and hear every word that is said. I have not found on any site that supports home schooling families anything about the effects of harmful peer relationships IN THE HOME. It seems that all the worry is about what is OUTSIDE. Many parents homeschool to PROTECT their kids. But what about the danger IN THE HOME? Parents can be verbally, emotionally abusive. Other siblings can be verbally or emotionally abusive. I’m in a hard situation with worry about the effect of negative peer relations outside the home (at public school) and inside my home (sibling). Any thoughts would be appreciated! Thank you.

    1. Julie,

      I’m so sorry. That is a hard situation. First, her need for friends/social interaction can be met in other ways. Church is the obvious one, and then for us, having families over has been our kids’ favorite way to make friends with peers. The reality is, even for our social butterflies (and I have several), it is good for them to have a network of friends, but it’s not necessary that they are in a peer setting every day. I’m just mentioning that to encourage you. I would make an effort to connect with some other families and purpose to get together to build friendships.

      And of course, I’d encourage you to work hard on the relationship between the two at home. Whatever it is your son loves, I would take those things away until he can develop a habit of holding his tongue and working on having a loving relationship with his sister.

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