Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Debate---Part One: Philosophy

I often find myself feeding the conversation with questions. I ask. I listen. They never ask. They might listen. I leave, and I am even more resolved that I will not homeschool my kids, at least for starters. (I give myself permission as a parent to always change my mind when it seems that it will be best for my children, my family.)

The homeschool rage is more of a Christian cultural movement. You'll have to excuse me for any stereotypes embraced by this verbal process against this choice for my family. The other day at my 4-month-old's appointment the Dr. found out that I stay home, breast feed, and plan on doing so for a year. Oh, and I knew the word spelunking. I guess that is way he asked, "So, do you homeschool." I looked at him and said, "No!"

A friend reminded me that I was homeschooling my oldest. I don't count preschool as homeschool especially when he was 3 when the school year began.

I am constantly running in to homeschool blogs and support groups for mom's who choose to teach their children outside of traditional institutions. But, where is the network for those moms and dads who CHOOSE to send their kids to public school? Or even a private school? This is a choice. This is a conscious choice.

As a parent I do not want to keep my children in any sort of bubble. My home is my child's safe place and place of comfort. It is a place of dialogue. It is already happening. They are already learning that the world is not a place where everyone thinks, believes and acts the same as we do. We've already learned a few new words at other houses that we don't use in our home, and that is OK. They learned the new word. They tried it out. They received the consequence. Now they know. They don't use the word. They know it exists. They aren't afraid of it. They are choosing to be different.

An older adult friend was having a crises of faith and asked me, "When did you learn that the world wasn't a good place."

"I guess I always knew this." If you read the Bible you know this. Read the Old Testament: flood, Philistines, Prophets of Bael....the list goes on, even in to the New Testament with Herod and his massacre of baby boys.

I don't want my children to be devastated when they discover that we've been sheltering them from reality.

I want my children to be equipped to see various ways of living and to choose the best way to live their lives. The world teaches this well. There are natural consequences for poor choices. My sons openly talk to me about what they see. They ask why, a lot. I am their parent. They trust me. I see this trusting relationship evolving as they continue on their educational path.

Is my plan flawless? No. Could it backfire? Yes. But, God never called us to raise perfect children. He calls me to raise my children into the Light. He is a relational God who wants relationships with his creation. That is my call as a parent, to guide them into this loving relationship. This is what I'm doing.

I don't always like what they learn and see in the world, but this is where we live. This is our culture. This is how we live a missional life. Christ didn't call his disciples and then build a house for them all to live and learn in. He went, called, and sent out. He lived and interacted. He is our example.

I'm sure there are many flaws in my theory here. I'm sure there are readers who disagree strongly with me and fear for my children. But, fear only cripples action. After I had my first I was consumed by fear. I now had someone in my life that I loved; if anything bad happened to them I would be forever altered. I could choose to hold on even tighter, or I could return them to the care of God. Each night as I rock my new baby to sleep I look into his eyes and think, "He is yours God. Not mine. Remind me of this when bad things happen to him. May I release my need to control, but give me wisdom to guide and grow him into the Light."

This is my goal as a parent, not to get them ready to be adults, but to help them live now. We are to live now and be now, not just get ready to be 18 years old... when we are adults and can all of a sudden totally handle the bubble bursting. Our missional lives begin from birth.

This is the philosophy behind my choice. Next I'll discuss the reason I'm choosing institutional school for academic reasons. Remember, I was a passionate and excellent middle school teacher in the public schools before I became a parent, and I actually think I would be a good homeschooling mom, however, I think the institutional school is better....for a number of reasons.

I'd love to hear your reactions. I'm taking quite a risk, since I am feeling more and more like a minority in my opinion in this schooling debate.

I guess I was inspired to write this today after I had a conversation with a mom who sends her kids to public school and said, "I just sometimes feel like I'm making the less holy choice by not homeschooling. That is how moms who homeschool make me feel." That might not be the intention, but that is definitely the feeling many get.

Oh, and I will also be processing the positives of homeschool, highlighting those that I think are doing a good job of it and for the right reasons. So, come along on my journey. Maybe we can learn and grow from this.

It will be interesting. There are huge groups of "graduating" homeschoolers coming of age now. I wonder what impact that will have on our communities, if any.


Jeremy and Ang said...

Bless you for writing this. Though I don't have kids and I will not be, I have quite a few friends who are on this route. I too definitely believe that "institutionalized" education is the choice I would make were I to have children. I am very cautious when speaking with people because just as you stated, it either seems that Christian parents are private or home school. As if public schools are evil. I was just thinking today about how many good teachers I know who teach public school and I think...just because they are teaching at public schools does not mean they too don't love The Lord. Anyway... hahaha

James & Kristin said...

Love it! Aren't we called to be in the world, not of it...IN public schools, being healthy examples of loving marriages and families, a positive presence in a broken world, an agent of change in an imperfect public school system, a support to teachers who we are quick to criticize and expect so much of, right in the middle of the community we are called to serve. What's the good when all the Christians leave the world of public schools, who's meant to help change the world around us, to bring truth and hope into the schools? I found no better place for my faith to grow or better breeding ground for evangelism than my upbringing in public school and I hope my kids feel the same. I hope they learn to love others even when they don't share the same beliefs, to see hope in the midst of tough situations, to learn to love when it's hard, to trust God in an unfair world and as a parent, I'd rather go through this with them while they are still at home rather than have them learn these hard lessons once they've left my nest. Oh, I think this is such an important topic because I think as Christians we are missing out on our calling to our communities and it's been, in my experience, because of guilt for not being 'christian' enough or out of fear of sending our kids into the world. Love that you brought this up because I agree we need our own support group :) and we need to dialogue about it. Can't wait to hear more of your thoughts!

Jen Rouse said...

Speaking as someone who married a former homeschooler and who has a lot of family who still homeschools, I definitely sometimes feel like people think homeschooling is the "less holy" option. I know many who homeschool for good reasons, and others who I (looking on from the outside) would say homeschool out of fear. Fear of what their children might be exposed to. I feel that fear myself, definitely--which is why I too reserve the right to change my mind whenever I feel it's best for my family! But I think homeschooling out of fear is not going to create a healthy environment for your child. I know some adult graduates of homeschooling who continue to live in a very sheltered way. Their entire social circle and nearly all their interactions take place with friends from their church. Not that I personally am out be-friending folks down at the bar or anything, but I do think that something is not right when the only time you ever see someone who believes differently than you is in a random encounter at the grocery store.

That said, I know some families who do an EXCELLENT job homeschooling without living in a bubble. They are families I would look to as a model, were I ever to do homeschool with our kids.

Jen Rouse said...

The first sentence was supposed to say that NOT homeschooling is the less holy option.

Paul Gramenz said...

i agree with you Rebekah. i would write more, but i am really tired, and would rather have a conversation about it in person! So i'll just say i agree with you! -Jane

Jessica said...

And might I add about the disciples bit . . . the people they had trouble with were not the "sinners" but rather the Pharisees. Hmmmmm. Thanks for posting Rebekah! And I appreciated our previous conversation too.

Rebekah said...

Wow, that is interesting Jessica. Scary kind of.

This post has also caused a lot of verbal dialogue for me, so I guess it has been a good topic to discuss.

I just got done talking with my mom about how when we were young it was private schools, and how they were popping up everywhere. Now, it seems that many of those church schools are no longer, but just a few remain that are modeled after the traditional school model. Even some of those are struggling. I wonder if it is because more Chrisitan parents are choosing to homeschool rather than even do private school. I also wonder what this says about GenXers as parents.

Does this fit the stereotype of GenXers and their general distrust of institutions? Do they feel their parents did that poorly of a job raising them, and in their minds this is the better choise? I do know that our generation is choosing to be stay home moms more than our prarents did. That it is in fashion to have your kids at a later age, but then put your career on hold. I just have a ton of thoughts around this topic. I'll be posting my next one soon, so keep the comments coming. I'd like to hear from all viewpoints.

Sally said...

I don't have a whole lot to say but did want to chime in and say that I too agree with you Rebekah. I must admit however that my biggest reason for not homeschooling is simply because I know I would be terrible at it! Not because I'm dumb (I'm not) but because I do not have the organizational skills or the discipline to do it. And then there's the fact that I LOVED school (even middle school). I don't want to rob my children of that. And as social as my oldest is I know he'll just love it and I don't have any doubt that he'll learn a thing or two a long the way.

Mrs. Chappy said...


As a public school teacher, I appreciate your thoughts. I've had to think about the idea of homeschooling (someday of course, since we don't have any kids yet), if we live in another country where public schooling isn't an option. But, overall, I have known so many kids who have been homeschooled that are socially awkward and sometimes emotionally immature. I know this is a stereotype, because there are people homeschooling well, but unfortunately those people are few. And, a stereotype like this one is usually based on some sort of truth. I see teaching in the public school system as my own form of ministry, so why can't children see interacting with non-christians in the public school setting as a "ministry" as well? I have friends who have left for college after being completely sheltered, and even a somewhat conservative Christian college can be too much of culture shock. I don't think it's doing those kids a favor to keep them sheltered. Thanks for your thoughts. There is no easy answer.

Rebekah said...

I just love how all the adds at the end of this post are information on homeschooling! Ha!