I recently had a frustrating conversation with someone who vaguely knows my family and I. They had made a few assumptions about our lifestyle and parenting based on the fact that we have chosen to learn at home, and this led them to recommend that I find an activity for Joseph where he is not under my supervision and can experience submitting to the authority of other adults. It was frustrating because I wanted to explain that our everyday lives require that we are sensitive to the rules and boundaries of others, that home-ed involves being guests in the homes of various other home-ed families whose choices and boundaries we respect, and that I don't believe unquestioning authority to be particularly healthy anyway. It bothered me that this person has a perception of my family that I don't relate to based on not really knowing us, but ultimately I know this doesn't matter, and I let it go. In that respect I know it is my problem and not theirs and that in their own way they were trying to be kind, but in any case it led me to think about where general ideas about what's best for children come from.
It is important for me to question where my assumptions about what children 'need' and what is beneficial for them come from, rather than relying on a system to define my feelings for me. It is typical in our culture for four year-old children to be separated from their parents for most of every weekday, and to be under the authority of adults who are not their family or friends. The fact it is typical does not mean that it is necessary or the best thing for every child, and parents are entitled to question this. I am still amazed at the number of people I speak to who did not know that parents are legally able to decide that school is not the best place for their children to learn, and that children do not have to attend...ever! We have chosen something different for our children at this point in time based on what we feel is best for them, and this feeling comes from observing the environments in which they are happy and thrive. I make no judgement about how other families decide their children will learn (I see far more grey than black-and-white on these issues), but I'm aware that I am subject to other people's judgements from time to time. This doesn't particularly bother me, but I do think its healthy for all of us to regularly question the beliefs we hold, particularly when we hold these beliefs up as standards or measuring sticks for those around us.
So where does the idea that children should willingly submit to the authority of adults who are practically strangers to them come from? Who decided that this is what they 'need' or that it is beneficial for them, and can anybody really make this decision for all children?
It doesn't feel like a good preparation for life to me, we're aiming at relationships based on mutual respect here.