Homeschool Wars

Homeschool Wars January 27, 2012

Can you swim in your school without eliciting derision?

Homeschool wars?  Really?  Don’t we already have enough wars?

Last week, I wrote a post about the primary reason our family homeschools – namely, that we want to spend more time together and enjoy the closeness and lifestyle that comes with that.  While many people appreciated the post, others (both on this blog and other venues) took issue with either my casualness about the importance of homeschooling or the prideful way I suggested homeschooling is the only way. What is it about homeschooling that brings out such strong reactions?

Today, I’ll try to respond to three comments from last week’s post that critiqued homeschooling.  And I’ll try not to add fuel to the fire in the process.

Comment #1The article and most of the comments sounded like a brag fest for why homeschooling families are superior to everyone else, as if we don’t experience wonderful relationships, laughs, and adventures with our kids.

I tried to write about why our family homeschools, and our experience of it, and hope that I didn’t convey that other choices are wrong.  I might have failed, but if I did it wasn’t consistent with what I actually believe.

But here’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed in my year of blogging.  Whenever I write about my struggles as a mother, people are incredibly appreciative.  When I write that I hate homeschooling and can’t stand to be around my kids, people cheer.  At last! Someone is keeping it real! When I write about my children being disobedient and selfish and my fears that I don’t know how to raise them well, people thank me profusely for my transparency.  But when I write that things are going well, that God is in fact answering my prayers, that homeschooling my children has improved our relationship – then I am showing off, acting like a know-it-all, and judging people who make other choices.

This has to stop, friends.  Believe it or not, people raise wonderful children without breastfeeding them.  Some women give up powerful jobs because they think it’s better to stay home with their newborn.  Some fathers work extra hours so their children can go to Catholic school.  Some families live below the poverty line so that they can homeschool.  These are called choices.  And yours is not a direct affront to mine.  If we can’t accept this, then we start rooting for others’ failures.  We start resenting and questioning other people’s joys.  I don’t want to live in that society.  Do you?

Comment #2:  [Homeschoolers are insular and should join the public schools] to know your neighbors and everyone around you…BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW GOD!!

This is a version of critique that carries some weight with me (although it’s one I find easier to hear without the caps and exclamation points).  When Jeff and I decided to pull our kids out of the public school, the question that we had the hardest time answering was, “What about our obligation to the public school/public good/life of the community?”

So when we decided that the weight of evidence pointed toward pulling the boys out, we were very intentional about how we did it.  We continue to play at the school many days after school.  I maintain friendships with the mothers, stay on the listserve, and even attend an occasional parent meeting.  I continue to work on community programming with our church.  I run enrichment programs for teenagers. My boys participate in a chess club I run.  The boys and Jeff did yard work last year for an elderly man who could no longer do it himself.  I could give other examples, but I think it suffices to say that in each of those places, we share our skills and education and elbow grease, hoping to be the hands and feet of Jesus, loving a world that is in great need of good news.

But we do this not simply because we want to “save” our neighborhood.  There is a lot that is right with our school and our neighbors.  And what’s not right is as challenging to fix as are the many character faults of my own that still have not given way to my superior powers.

Instead, when I think about what a good education looks like, it includes deep friendship and connectedness to people and communities that may not be a perfect – people like me.  Last week, a very high teenager showed up on my doorstep because we have a relationship that started in one of the programs I run.  I don’t know if she is going to overcome the daunting obstacles she faces, but she sat down to dinner with us and I felt honored to have her in our lives. My kids play chess with the neighborhood kids who come to the church hungry and smelling like cigarettes, not because those boys need my boys to fix them.  All of the boys in that room, mine included, are blessed by their friendships.

The problem is not that homeschooling isolates us.  Every choice isolates us from the choices we eliminated.  The question is: Who are we isolated from?  Do we want to be?  Are there things we can do in our circumstance – whether homeschooling or something else – to decrease that isolation and love our neighbors as ourselves?

Comment #3: Christians are responsible for providing a Christian education for their children (“to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”) and they cannot do that while giving up their children to be educated by the humanist, anti-God, public schools, 8 hours a day, 180 days a year.

I’m not sure where to start here, except to say yes to the first part and no to the second.  I actually know Christians who send their children to public school and raise Godly children.  It’s true.

Comment #4: Terrific and inspiring article, Tara — one quibble: Jeff is a giant of a man, a spiritual warrior, a creative genius, a blessing to our lives……but HOT????

Okay, this comment didn’t directly contribute to the homeschool wars, but it warrants a response, nonetheless.

Why yes, Mike, he is hot.  Very hot.

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