Which Came First, the Child or the School? by Briana Elizabeth

We were having a chat in the Sandbox Facebook group (Did you join? You should!) about Genevieve’s post Greenest Pastures. She had asked the group what our biggest challenges were. As I started to think about my homeschool challenges, I realized that they all stemmed from one thing . . . disordered priorities. Every time things go off the rails in our homeschool, it has come down to my placing school ahead of my kids.

So which came first, the child or the school? Seems like a silly question when I phrase it like that, doesn’t it?

Yet I so often get caught up in what I think schooling should look like and what I think a kid’s level should be, and my expectations get so high that it’s really easy to flip it around and put schooling before children.

School is made for the child; the child is not made for school.

making pretzels

When I forget this simple truth, the disorder quickly upsets everything and everyone. We go from a peaceful household that runs smoothly to placing expectations and execution of skills above people. I fall into checking off assignments instead of being a present part of my child’s learning. I divorce myself from these people I have made this great sacrifice for, and then I get angry at the outcome. Unmet expectations are the frustrated fruit of my disordered priorities.

School is made for the child; the child is not made for school.

they’re never too old to play

The opposite side of this coin is making sure we respect our children, and that is also a part of the disorder of putting school before the child. If I didn’t hold my child accountable to the level of work I know they could do, if I let them slack, if I am laissez faire, if I am so sanguine about schooling – I am still putting school first. How? I don’t want to say that they’re not living up to their potential, because that sounds too ‘positive reinforcement’. What I will say is that when I don’t hold them to their highest standards, I am not respecting them, their ability, the beauty of the rational mind that lifts us above the animals, or the community that these people will one day be a part of.  If I don’t take their schooling seriously and put off the preparation it might take me or if I don’t suffer with their struggles, I am not respecting my child.

when’s recess?

It’s the same if I hold a child back from a responsibility that they have the ability to do but I’m too afraid to let them do it. This is just as dangerous as if I pushed them too hard, and they rightly resent it just as much. If I push too hard or if I brush my preparation off and leave it up to an easy grace, I am still disrespecting the dignity of the child.

This is hard stuff, this homeschooling. It can be anxiety inducing. The pressure of comparisons leaves us grasping for easy answers and fixes. The one thing we can do to battle the extremes of both ends is to always remember our first priorities.

School is made for the child; the child is not made for school.

When we remember that, the rest falls into place.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

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