Fear of Failure - Perry Venson
I admit I often have a great fear regarding homeschooling my children. I feel it especially tonight. This fear has been wafting around for a long time, flip-flopping with feelings of optimism, but tonight the fear has won over and at least for the moment I am going to submit to it and let it pass through me.
I recently saw this quote: "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school." This from Albert Einstein, the epitome of a genius.
Now if that is not a battle cry for homeschooling I don't know what is! Yet tonight, that cry has been reduced to a whimper, and I am in doubt about the future of my children. In reflecting, looking at what I am feeling, I see my fears are revolving around worries about what kind of work my children will get after homeschooling, of whether or not they may be at risk as adults in a world that looks increasingly scary.
When I was perhaps 14, my mother was talking to a well-educated man who had a great public service job. She was talking to him about my future. She was talking in fearful terms of how I might turn out if I didn't get a proper education. After listening I felt a surge of emotion and something burst out of me, a fully formed idea that I had never had consciously before. I saw that her fear was because she went through the Depression, that she was fearful for me because she had experienced the anguish of poverty--sudden and helpless poverty--at age 12. My mother was concentrating, with the best of intentions, on the negative in hopes of inducing fear and thus controlling my thoughts. And it had its effect.
Because my parents were literally trembling at the thought of my failing to secure a "good solid job," they induced enough fear in me to make me truly worried. Although it didn't extinguish my desire for self expression, it certainly did leave me with nightmares. This fear rears its head now when I think about my own children homeschooling, and I am beginning to wonder if it's interfering with my thinking.
Tonight, I am looking over and over at my own views about institutional schooling. Tonight, I need someone who can shed light for me. A song pops into my mind. Here is how John Lennon put it in "Working Class Hero:" "As soon as you're born they make you feel small/ By giving you no time instead of it all."
There is a pearl there. Yes, our children deserve the whole of their time, not just a sliver of what they can manage to grab in between what people and society demand of them. But then, try as I might, tonight I come round and round again. If I afford my children the freedom to have their own time, will they grow up and face a nirvanic underemployment? Will they yearn to be free and cherish their own feelings but fail to gain a competitive advantage? Can they be happily self-knowing but dirt poor? How will they care for their own children if they live submerged below the poverty line? Will they turn out just like my parents feared I would? And how my parents are sure they will turn out--just like they feared I would?
On the subject of homeschool I have heard what seems like 10,000 times, "Do you want your child to have huge gaps in her education?" To which I have replied, "No, and that's why I am homeschooling them!" Yes, touche, my friend. And I have heard the persuasive, "When she is grown do you want to then look back and see you made a mistake?" And to that one, tonight, I fold. I collapse. I want to turn in my cards and let someone else deal the game.
So, I take a breath and then I recall there is an aboriginal saying: "Each of us has a little genius inside." And is not our business to be nurturing that little genius? That natural ability to learn? That in-born desire to grow? That's a real guide to follow!
I believe there is a genius in all of us. I think it really is fear that holds us in check. When we fail, we fail because we are afraid to be as great as we are. None of us wishes to hold our children back from being true to themselves, and thus be the best they truly can be. But tonight, I am afraid. And my fears spin me into wondering, might I somehow make it more difficult for my children to rise to the heights of their own brilliance? That is, if I make an error, if I lose the direction? If I refuse to defer to the "educators"?
Here again is John Lennon: "When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years/ Then they expect you to pick a career/ When you can't really function you're so full of fear."
So we have it there--fear. I am not alone. What my parents fed me, many parents fed others, and in the 50's the mania for higher education might have been seen as a panacea for poverty, a relief from the anguish of the Depression years' memories, and a way for parents to ensure their child's survival and security. The question I asked myself then and ask now is, at what personal cost? At the expense of what part of me, or any child, that is needed for the journey to "know thyself"?
So now I see it, this fear, the fear of failure that I am grappling with. And its result is the fear to succeed on one's own terms. In my fear I also see I may grab onto something to alleviate it, just like my parents did, just like the schools may do. I may expect results. I may expect something I can discern, expect progress I can measure, and look outside for validation. I might start comparing my children to others, start using a yardstick to measure the flowing of life's fabric. Will this happen in my efforts to make sure they learn and, yes, find a way to survive when I'm gone?
It's an awful truth. I sit here writing this and am crushed that I see it so clearly. I may be my child's worst enemy. Somehow, after this roller coaster ride of emotions and thoughts, it all stops at the beginning. I would love dearly to see my children use the life skills they were born with, an ability to see truth, hear truth and know truth.
Well, tomorrow morning I'll get up and see if I can quiet my mind. See if I can listen rather than speak. See if I can have faith, and see if I can let a dream unfold....I wish myself the best of luck, for my children's sake.
© 2007, Perry Venson