Saw this essay this morning (thanks Russell Moore!) at First Things. The essay is by David Mills and looks at the curious response parents get when telling someone they homeschool their kids for the first time.
The response varies to the news that you do something still considered, even by some conservative Christians, odd, eccentric, and possibly subversive. Some suddenly furrow their brows and purse their lips and declare their concerns about homeschooling, less often about the quality of the education as about the children’s (meaning, in context, our children’s, which is, you know, really rude) “socialization.” I sometimes feel I must surrounded by fascists, such is their apparent concern for making sure our children fit in to the society as it is.
I am not sure that anything you say about your children short of “We chain them to a tree outside and feed them raw beets” elicits the same, immediate questioning of your parenting skills like “Our kids are homeschooled”. We get this all the time when we meet new people and they invariably ask where our kids go to school and we respond “we homeschool our kids”. We have gotten lots of variations on “What about socialization?” or “But we have really good schools in our community”. For some reason educating your children outside of the societal norm gives non-homeschoolers warrant to drill you about this choice. When someone says “My kids go to Millard Fillmore Middle School”, I never respond with “What about all of the sexual predators in public schools that keep making the headlines” or “Aren’t you concerned with your child becoming an unthinking drone fit only for service industry work?”. Even if I am thinking this, it would be presumptuous and rude for me to say so. Not so with homeschooling! I don’t really expect anything different from unbelieving friends and family.
What is troubling, as Mr. Mills points out, is that we have the same conversations with many professing Christians. The idea that perhaps sending your kids to be educated by strangers who likely do not share your beliefs, or at least are not permitted to teach as if they do, is not the best solution for Christians parents comes across as a dangerous notion.
Perhaps the paradigm we have grown up with is not a healthy one. Get married later in life once you have had your fun and travelled, have a couple of kids and no more because both parents work, go to church on Sunday mornings so your kids get a moral education, send your kids to a school system based on where you live (or move somewhere with “better” schools)to be taught by someone chosen by administrators and with no idea what their expertise and worldview are, make sure your kids are plenty busy with activities and extra-curriculars so they can get into a “good” secular college and graduate with a degree and a bunch of debt so they can repeat the same cycle for generations to come.
If you choose not to homeschool your kids, that is your call and they are your kids. Just don’t presume that someone who does is volunteering to interrogation because they dared step outside of the cultural norms of our secular society.