Dependent children?

This concern that homeschooled children will be overly dependent on the family may be one of the indicators of our Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times in which we live. In the past a closeknit family did not send up a ‘red flag’ to society in general. On the contrary, family members who flitted about with little common time between them may have been the family that the neighbors tut-tutted about — and tutting neighbors are a universal constant.

Many children’s stories reflect the previous close-knit relationships, if only by default.

  • Alice’s sister reading to her at the beginning of Alice in Wonderland
  • The four children in Edward Eager’s stories, Knight’s Castle, The Time Garden and Half Magic
  • Anika and Tommy from Pippi Longstocking
  • The brother and sister in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Meg and her brothers in The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Even the hobbit cousins of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Pippin and Merrie

Family culture used to be the bulwark of Society instead of Pop Culture being king. Instead of cleaving together to fight dragons or engage tesseracts, now it is expected that children will ditch their dysfunctional family and go off alone into the world to meet and interact with . . . who?  Just who is it that we’re expected to find who isn’t a member of yet another dysfunctional family?  Who are we supposed to meet in order to do . . . what? … become one with the Corporate Borg? That would make a great story.

Of course not all stories depict closely knit families, and many adventure stories are about young people who set out on their own or who are orphans. The Harry Potter series has an orphan as the main character, a character who is almost always in the company of his surrogate family. In the place of siblings are Hermione and Ron, while his surrogate parents are in the forms of professors Dumbledore and McGonagall. Ron’s mother Mrs. Weasley fulfills the most maternal step-mother role (the Dursleys exist more as a challenge to Harry than as family).

Close families are a feature of most human society.

Concern about the sometimes all-but-exclusive relationships between homeschooled siblings can be allayed by considering the future. With whom will your children be most closely allied twenty years from now, or even ten? This is especially true with military children.

  • Who else will remember the house where you’d get an electrical shock if you touched the bathroom sink faucets with wet hands?
  • Who else will remember that really bumpy flight back from Germany?
  • Who else will remember that drive back from Strasbourg in the sleet with one windshield wiper broken?

If it is friends who might remember, how often will your children get back together with those friends to recall the memories? Comparatively, how often might your children get back together with each other to not only recall times past, but also to build new memories with their own families?

Children of military families have fractured pasts lived in farflung places.  Even if a former Brat is lucky enough to visit an old home after twenty or thirty years, how might it have changed? The Jack Nicholson character in the movie About Schmidt isn’t a military Brat, but he returns to a childhood home to find it is a tire store. His hopes of touching the past are dashed. Military children can return to a place and find entire housing areas torn down. Or they find that a base has been closed and a good many of the structures either ‘re-invented’ or gone.

If we’re lucky, we Brats will have visited a grandparent while we were children and that house is still in place. But as for our own homes, the places of our youth are usually in the hands of strangers, or they’re on another continent. Decades after we’ve found out that our own ‘Hundred Acre Wood’ is not only explored but has been bought by a developer who has placed houses at Pooh Corner, and especially when our parents are aging or have died, our only foundations are dependent on our memories and those of our siblings.


Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

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