I spent several days last week with my husband’s high school teacher cousin and her husband who works for the teachers’ union in California. To say they are Liberal would be to undersell their political stances in the same way that calling me a Conservative wouldn’t begin to cover it. As they are nice people, it was an enjoyable weekend of back-and-forth political banter. They support the President. We don’t. We both knew that going in which made any mention of politics more play than work. Neither one was going to be persuaded which made it about the intellectual exercise.
No one offered any new arguments to me until we began to discuss education. They seemed very interested in our decision to homeschool, the book I’m writing about it, and the children we’re raising. They both conceded that we appear to be succeeding in raising and educating children who are both well-informed and socially normal. It was then that she shook her head slightly and stated, “I think you’re doing a great job at it and you obviously have a love and a passion for teaching, which is what makes it even more selfish. Not only are you keeping money out of the schools by not putting your children in them, depriving other children of the resources which could be purchased with that money, but you’re depriving those children of the opportunity to have you as a teacher.”
It’s not a new argument, to be sure. I’ve been told many times that public schools are funded on a per-capita basis which means that our homeschooling keeps funds out of the public schools. Our local school district would receive around $11,000 for each of my children per year, so by teaching them at home, I’m keeping $77,000 out of the local budget. That money could be spent on computers, library books, or teacher salaries…or so the story goes. In reality, I’ve never seen a government bureaucracy spend money that efficiently and I suspect that that $77,000 would not make much of a difference at all.
What is new to me is the idea that my teaching of my own children deprives other children of my brilliance. The social obligation which she assumed I should feel is based in her deep belief in the notion of Collectivism, the idea that what we are and what we can do somehow belongs as much to each other as it does to ourselves. It’s a sort of communism of man. It is also an ideal which is central to Liberal ideology. It requires a moral and cultural conformity which are the antithesis of the American experiment.
In choosing to educate my children at home, I’m not making a selfish statement but an Individualist one. It is a decision which springs from my belief that the people in my household are my primary responsibility. It comes from the idea that God has entrusted these children to me to raise, and that while I must be concerned with the well-being of my fellow men it should not come at the expense of these children.
I have heard it argued that the Christian position should be a Collectivist one. It is the justification many Catholics make for voting for the Democrat Party. There is a beauty in the ideal of the Brotherhood of Man, and just enough truth in it to make it almost right. If only it didn’t require the subjugation of the family or the ownership of the individual by the group, but it does. Their ideal would necessitate that I should turn away from the raising of my own children in favor of the need to educate the children of everyone else. My ability to teach would be owned… and not by me.
So is it a selfish decision that I made to homeschool? There may have been an element of that in my wanting to keep my babies at home and with me for as long as I possibly can. On the other hand, while it may not be true for all children, this is the best choice for educating ours. They are thriving and doing quite well as they learn at our kitchen table, much better than they would do elsewhere. Our brief foray into traditional schooling showed us that quite clearly. So for these children, the selfish thing would be to send them elsewhere, because giving my life over to teaching them is the task which God has given me to do.