This post is for the Patheos Public Square topic: Homeschooling and the Public Education Quandary.
“The challenges of public education and the political rhetoric around it have driven many parents to choose to educate their children on their own. How do faith choices shape this conversation? Is public education a threat to family values? Is homeschooling a choice of opportunity or fear?”
I have been homeschooling for three and half years now. I am a member of many homeschooling groups on Facebook, but I have the privilege of actually running what I believe is the largest Pagan Homeschooling group on Facebook. When I considered how to answer this topic I realised it was actually a great opportunity to share the views and perspectives of other Pagan homeschoolers, rather than only my own. So I presented the topic and questions to my Pagan Homeschooling group.
The answers were all very similar in nature.
I have discussed this in part before, but our western world is largely dominated by a Christian perspective. Say the word “god” and people will automatically conjure an image of the Christian God. Even hard core Atheists will see the Christian God, even Pagans will sometimes revert to seeing that image first. Not Dionysos or Odin or Anubis or Ganesh. The word “god” refers to Them too, so why don’t we see Them too?
Say the word “religion” and people will automatically think of Christianity, of churches and crosses, mass and Jesus. They won’t think of a woman with her hands raised to the sky, singing to her Goddess. They won’t see a pentagram or a laurel wreath. They won’t see a child who touches a wild bird in awe and reverence.
Our history is written from the perspective of Christianity and dominance. The winners write the history, the Christian world decides what our children learn in schools. Thus it is that I learned all there is to know about Hitler and his genocide of the Jewish people – but I didn’t really learn much of his attack on black people, the Romani and other peoples and cultures and religions. Just the Jews (obviously they were the main victims, but it doesn’t mean others should be ignored either).
So it is that I learned about Australia from the point that white people came here, and whenever we touched on what existed here before, it was presented in a way to make it seem like the Aboriginal peoples were already past tense, even then, even before we arrived. When we came, we brought them a future, we didn’t destroy their past. Or so our histories and education system would have you believe.
A common thing that Pagans do is study and learn about other cultures, histories and religions. We do it as part of our self-discovery, our quest for our own religion and spiritual values. We learn a lot about what no one ever thought to teach us. I sometimes think that the one thing that truly unites all Pagans is this thirst for knowledge.
And it plays heavily into a Pagan parents choice of education for their child. We know the bias that exists in our school systems, even our public secular schools. We know our children will be raised with this same bias, this same Christian viewpoint as we were. We know our children, if they are Pagan too, may be persecuted and questioned, insulted and threatened with hellfire if they wear a pentagram instead of the oft worn cross.
And we don’t want that.
We want our kids to learn about more than just what the Christian dominance says is important. We want our kids to learn about acceptance of other religions, not hatred of their own. We want our kids to be exposed to a multitude of religions, cultures, peoples and perspectives. We want our children raised and taught in diversity.
Even those of us who raise our kids within our religion, as Pagans, Wiccans or Witches, still we expose our kids to more than just our beliefs and bias. We present them with everything we can, which is still not everything there is – but it’s far more than the schools might teach.
The feeling in my Pagan homeschooling group is simple, we don’t homeschool because of our religions, we homeschool because of other peoples religions – if religion plays a part in our choice at all, which it often doesn’t. We homeschool so our kids can learn about other religions without bias against them, they all hold equal value. Even if we might show some bias for our own religions, we try to not show bias against others. We homeschool to provide them with an education that expands beyond the borders of our own little western Christianised worlds. We homeschool to give them depth in history, science, religion, culture, politics, language and socialisation.
Is homeschooling a choice of opportunity or fear? I think religious wise it is both. It is fear of what our kids might not learn, it is fear of them becoming biased and limited in their worldview. But it is opportunity as well. The opportunity to give our kids the values to make a better world, to share our love of the world with them. It is an opportunity to expand their minds and their horizons, their skills and their levels of understanding and even, we hope, compassion. It is an opportunity to promote diversity within their minds and hearts.
It seems odd that we would take our kids out of a largely populated school system and restrict their education to the home, to give them diversity. But we don’t homeschool, we world school. We take them everywhere and show them everything and let them talk to people of different ages, races, cultures, religions and belief systems.
The school is the limit, with its gates and fences and walls.
We choose instead to give them the world.