Saturday, August 3, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #5


Ten Reasons Not to Home School #5
 ‘Because all the other godly  conservative families are doing it…”

   This post title is something I totally struggled over. I guess it could also be called, ‘please don’t home school  because the  ‘Lovely’  family is and it is working so well for them, or in other words to become a part of the home school culture…

     Sometimes to recognize just how complete a revolution has been, you have to remind yourself just how radical it was in the beginning….

  When you think of homeschooling – peer pressure may seem like the last word to apply. If anything, to those who remember the beginning, homeschooling seems to be the epitome of fearless non-conformity, the opposite of conventional or peer influenced thinking.

     In fact, many home school parents may mention protecting their kids from pressure to conform, freedom from influence of what other kids their age in school think is cool, or talk about wanting to raise counter cultural leaders that know how to stand alone when listing benefits of homeschooling.

  The funny thing is, - influence of others is usually one the main reasons that those parents started homeschooling in the first place and yet has become a powerful force in the movement today.

  Talk to even early (1980’s) pioneers like my parents, and if you ask them where they got the idea, they will probably mention a name.  First of someone who wrote or spoke on the subject, and second, of someone (probably the ONLY one) they knew who had actually done the unthinkable and actually taken their kids out of school.  Someone had dared challenge the conventionally accepted idea that of course educating kids was a job only for the professionals. Someone they knew (even if it wasn’t well) had children that were well mannered, kind to each other, smart and learning, but just didn’t go to school.  A radical idea was now reality. 

  It wasn’t just the influence of those who suggested something new; - it was also the influences that they were trying to avoid. To this day the desire to impart their religious beliefs and moral values remains the number one motivation that parents identify as their reason to home school.

   Of course there are families who started not knowing anyone else who was trying home education. There are even more who felt like the only ones doing it. (When I told others, both children and adults in the late 1980’s that I was homeschooled it was often met with a puzzled look, and many times it was the very first time they’d ever heard of it.)

     But very quickly things changed. Homeschooling by nature tends to attract attention. In some states it was through legal battles fought and won, while in others it was simply through more ordinary experiences in local communities.  From the start, homeschoolers (knowing that in many cases they were the only good PR they would have) became adept at championing their cause, both what they were doing and why.

   Living so differently than their peers meant that support groups, newsletters, and friendships in general were of great importance to parents and they often went to great lengths to make and keep connections with others who were also teaching their kids at home.

    Which means that while one family may have represented the ONLY homeschoolers that their extended family and local community knew, that family actually was very aware of the national community at large, of which they were a part. Alone but not alone. In my case, I knew my family was the token, large, home school family to many people in our lives. However I personally knew dozens of families ‘just like’ us.  

   Even though we lived in some cases very far apart, we very much had a sense of community with those families. Ironically many times our mutual sense of isolation was a well acknowledged topic, and it was nice to share stories with others who knew what it meant to feel odd, or misunderstood.

     In the beginning, connection to others trying this brave new thing called home school was a life line. It was a way to compare notes, to see what worked for others, to have someone who knew exactly how you felt, - who understood the challenges, and who  was totally supportive. In a time when even many extended families and local churches did not necessarily understand or approve, this support network was of infinite importance.

   Over time, numbers of homeschoolers grew. Home school groups and networks became much more common, and conferences started becoming more regional and accessible. 
Like any revolution, the home school movement began to develop order, culture and conformity of its own.

    It’s foundations in part were an accepted feeling of standing alone, forging new ground, - and also an excitement to share this wonderful ‘new’ way of living with curious outsiders. 

     Certain ideas and life style changes swept through home school circles large and small. Families who had begun to home school were not afraid to question. They were not afraid to challenge the generally accepted thinking in any area of life. They were eager to ‘re-write the book’ on any topic. And they did.

       Areas that these families explored included reviving every conceivable antiquated craft, home stead and survival skills, healthy eating and natural cleaning products, ever progressing conservative standards of dress, obsession with defining and accentuating specific gender roles, intense curiosity about Jewish ancestry and culture, focus on recapturing femininity and home making, ideas of dating, courtship, betrothal, family size and purpose, - nothing was safe from severe, long and deliberate scrutiny.

  The families that were homeschooling are obviously not afraid of being different.
 Some of them came to relish it, while others accepted it as a part of their identity.
  A culture that began as a mini revolt, continued to remain revolutionary minded. My thought looking back is that in many cases it was the movers and shakers, those who were not happy to accept the  status quo, the given answer,  those who loved debate, that were not afraid to ruffle feathers, those who were sure there was another (better) way, that were attracted to home school.

    As a result, - inherent in much of early home school culture was the idea that there was always a new revelation, a new better, a more deeply held conviction.  After all, - they had re-invented (many believed – restored to earlier greatness) the concept of how to educate their children. 
   As a whole there seems to be a wistful obsession with all things older and of the past, as somehow better, more enlightened, more pure, and less affected by immorality and problems caused by ‘modern’ society.

   This touches on what I believe is an underlying desire that many conservative Christians have for a Christian Utopia. (I have more to share on this later.)   
    As a result in many cases there was very little focus on the benefits of current culture and different ways of thinking, or any real exploration of ways in which you could have strongly held beliefs and yet actively participate cooperatively  in society at large. In fact, many were raised with the idea that they were going to single handedly change the culture, not only through persuasive debate and winning skeptics to their side, but also by simply out numbering them.

   Books and conference speakers that championed the newest idea or re-evaluation of an established way of doing things were increasingly popular. Separation and isolation increasingly became not just a unintended by-product of living so differently than others, but an accepted way of life to some families. Those who felt that others who challenged what they believed were a threat to growing children who themselves at times were beginning to question and challenge their parent’s ideas.

    Not only that, but those who had adapted home-stead life styles, large families or both often found that neither were conducive to broad social interaction. Obviously not always, - but in many cases the lives of home school families became increasingly small and myopic.

   This trend was further encouraged by the ‘restoring’ the (older and therefore more pure) ideas of ‘home church’ or ‘home based fellowships’.
Families now could ensure that their social AND spiritual influences stayed within any rigid parameters they desired.

   A movement that had begun in many cases to liberate their children from following a prescribed path, or be subjected to only one set of ideas on how to learn (sitting at a desk with peers, or hearing only one accepted view on a given topic, etc.) had itself become a culture based on strongly held views of authority, submission, conformity and control.

   Grown children who on one hand had been taught to stand alone, to question all things, and to be willing to be different, who in fact thought this was normal,  found that this only applied in one direction. It was ok to come to a more conservative opinion or conviction, but not a less conservative one. Parents had wrestled and come to strong personal views in most cases were just NOT ok with their own children doing the same thing, - if it meant their children came to different conclusions.

    These parents had raised thinkers, debaters and challengers, but these parents were not prepared to let their children think, debate or challenge what they (the parents) believed.
In many cases it is further complicated by younger siblings or other youngsters in the tight social circles. If one of the young adults choosesomething different, what did that mean for younger ones looking on and looking up to them? Parents whose entire life style and in many cases their initial motive for homeschooling was founded on the fact that the way to deal with outside influences was to remove their child from them. They were totally unprepared to face that very dynamic in their own home.

    The results have been over ten years of many of my peers and I slowly and painfully finding our way out of a culture that was designed by and remains supportive only of those who agree. (more on this later)

   If you are new to the idea of homeschooling and it's many sister lifestyle ideas, it is easy to see the benefits of some of these ways of life. The parents of those who live out these ideals have usually given much thought to why they believe them, and are eager to share with you the best aspects that they have to offer.  In many cases they are genuinely excited and love the life they live.  I truly think some of them naively DO believe that since it is working for them it will work for everyone.

   There are families who love the choices they have made, and can’t imagine life any other way. Some of them have based their entire livelihood based on representing their ideas. I am truly shocked when I see the scope of commercialism in the home school movement. There is obviously money to be made. The already staggering and yet still growing array of options proves that there are parents everywhere looking for answers and desperate to hear what has worked for others. Parents who want the best, and are willing to pay for that advice.

   Unfortunately in a movement that has such strong underlying religious convictions, ‘failure’ is usually not attributed to the ideas, methods and philosophies themselves, but in ‘human error’.
     This can far too easily lead to the thought that if you just do it ‘right’ (or like THAT family) then you will have results JUST like them.

    A question I have never heard asked is this. 
    What would you consider to be failure of homeschooling anyway?
If a child is weak academically? (Is it ok, if  after 4, or 8, or 12 years in your school they cannot read or read well!?) 
If they do not agree with you on important life styles and convictions?(What if your daughter wants a marriage and career but no kids!?)
If they reject your faith?( What if your child decides they don't believe in God!?)
Maybe you don't think these things have anything to do with homeschooling. (the method)
Do you believe that it is just the right thing to do, and your motives, your happiness, your abilities and the results don't matter?

    Which brings us to you, dear reader.  You who are considering , or currently homeschooling. This post was an attempt to look at home school culture, how it formed, and how the influence of others can affect our decision on how to educate our children.

 Please don’t home school because it worked for someone else, or because you want your kids to look just like them. Please don’t home school because you love the home school culture and feel like you’ve found a place to belong.

  As always I love to hear your thoughts – 

This Present Mom,

If you found this thought provoking you may enjoy the rest of the posts in this series...
This is the 5th in a series of posts looking at 10 commonly mentioned reasons for home school.

Ten Reasons Not to Home School #1 Because it's the right thing to do

Ten Reasons Not to Home School #2 To protect your children from secular/worldly influences

Ten Reasons Not to Home School #3 To give your child a custom education

Ten Reasons Not to Home School #4 Because you are the best person to teach them

Ten Reasons Not to Home School #6 To Avoid Sex Ed

Linking up

No comments:

Post a Comment