Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two kinds of Homeschoolers

It's clear to me that there are two kinds of homeschoolers-- that is, two kinds of parents who homeschool their children.

The first kind are primarily concerned about the education of their children. Because of circumstances, opportunities, and/or necessity, they have chosen to take on the education of their children at home. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't accept another opportunity (
even public schools) if it met their standards and/or was necessary; it simply means that, as things are, this is what is best for their children right now. It also means that they are open to different options in the future if, again, they considered it and determined it to be what is best. These homeschoolers are generally accepting of other people's decisions about how those people educate their children, because, after all, those parents are the ones in the best position to know what is best for their children's education and overall health and well-being.

The second kind of homeschoolers would like for you to believe that their primary concern is the education of their children. They will even say that is their primary concern. But it isn't-- in fact, that is a secondary concern, at best. The primary concern for these homeschoolers is bound up in their worldview, political persuasion, and dogmatic views about what they believe is right for ALL children. They are convinced that they are "right" about all of their views-- not in the sense that they have carefully weighed it against all others and are acting on personal conviction, but in the sense that what they say goes for everyone else too. They have fallen into the fateful error of believing that they have unlocked "God's way" for understanding education, politics, social discussions, education, and everything else that interests them. As far as education goes, they have not only determined that what is best for their children is an education administered by them, but that there is
no other biblical way that children can be rightly educated. This determination gives them a sense of superiority that empowers them to treat anyone who differs with them with condescension and belligerence.

In the Christian church, the first kind typically handles themselves in particular manner. They have come to their decision humbly, and regard others with the same humility. They are simply out to do their best, and are interested in connecting with others who homeschool because they recognize that many others are working in ways that they could learn from. While they may hold opinions about politics and social issues-- and even about whether others are making wise choices regarding their children's education-- they understand that those are their
opinions. They do not view their homeschooling as necessarily motivated out of the "right" way to do all things, but out of what they believe is the best decision for their family; in fact, they acknowledge that sometimes homeschooling is a train-wreck for some families, and was a bad decision. They are grateful for the church as a refuge for broken people, a community of fellowship, and most importantly as a place where sinners may come to learn and grow in Christ's grace as those who were once the enemies of God but have now been adopted as His children. Many of them get concerned when the church loses its focus on the Gospel and emphasizes too much the things of this world.

In the Christian church, the second kind also handles themselves in a
predictable particular manner. Regardless of the manner in which they have come to their decision (humbly or not), they tend not to regard others with humility. They are out to prove a point-- and nearly every contact with them begins or ends with that point being pushed on others. They regard their opinions about politics and social matters, as well as education, to be definitive, and anyone who disagrees with them is obviously in sin. They have no problem with foisting their every political comment and complaint on whoever will listen (and many who won't), under the guise of "keeping people informed" but in the form of a presentation that is not only biased but frequently disrespectful and undignified. They typically equivocate "Christian" with "Republican" and assume certain shibboleths (such as "pro-life" and "pro-family") to be the markers of "real" Christians-- indeed, that these are all but required alongside a profession of faith for the profession to be valid. They believe that the church is a place for the righteous, a coalition of the like-minded, and most importantly as a place where everyone should go to be shown all of the right ways of thinking about the issues they care about. They get concerned when their preacher doesn't call people to the carpet for their political, social, educational, or other failures.

Homeschoolers: which one are you?

To the first group, I say this: thank you for your humble and tireless efforts to raise your children as best as you are able. I know that it is often difficult, and you sometimes wonder if you have made a mistake in choosing this path. Your humility is affirming of the fact that you are approaching this with the right attitude, and that counts for a lot. Keep up the good work, and know that there are many of us behind you. You give homeschooling the good name that it (usually) deserves.

To the second group, I say this: please reconsider the over-confidence and absolute certainty with which you approach this and many other positions that you hold. I cannot say with any conviction that your attitudes or positions are inherently "blessed" by Scripture or by God, as you seem so persuaded is the case. I am certain of this: there is no requirement of political or educational uniformity in Scripture, and you are misrepresenting the church, the Gospel, and Christ Himself in much of the way you portray them. I fear that your presentation of what it means to be a Christian is a hindrance for many who otherwise long for the grace of the Cross.

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