Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ruminating on homeschooling

When I'm feeling blocked, I go blog surfing. There are certain blogs that always make me think, and a visit to one of them led me on a round of blog reading that leads me to this post.

I visited Dana's blog and she was talking about a post on Dangitbill! about his recent trip to his first homeschool convention and his encounter with the radical side of homeschool culture. Then I popped by Spunky's place to see what her take on it was.

I have been to a couple of statewide homeschool conventions. I look at the books. I talk to people I run into. But I have been to very few sessions. Many of them, especially the main speakers, come at homeschooling from a religious perspective that is at odds with our theology. Many of them see homeschooling as something that is Christian, must be done by Christians, for proper Christian reasons, and in proper Christian ways. Many of them see homeschooling as something you do to keep your kids out of the evil public schools. And they wouldn't mind keeping the non-Christians out of homeschooling, too.
In like manner, the homeschool movement must decide whether it will work to advance a specifcally Biblical vision, or take a “big tent” approach that is now comfortable and uncontroversial - and lose the covenantal vision.
What they don't seem to realize is that they were never the totality of the homeschool movement and with each year they are a smaller part. I have worked hard for over ten years to help build the big homeschool tent, and in spite of false witness from some in their camp, we are seeing the big tent get more and more full.


Susan said...

If it weren't for John Holt and the Moores, these "holy" people who don't want to associate with the likes of me wouldn't even be able to homeschool, nor probably even have heard of it. And now they're claiming homeschooling as their own thing and wondering whether the rest of us should be allowed "in the tent"? Good grief. Almost makes me want to sell them out....

Jane said...


Dakotapam said...

As someone who has now done it all, home school, public school, private parochial school, and even a bit of unschooling thrown in during a drawn out move...I've learned that there really are merits for each type of schooling. A lot has to do with the students, and the parents, and the amount of money in the family budget.

To each his own, but I really bristle when I hear people telling me that a certain way is the "only" way. Because, simply put, there is no only way.

Meg_L said...

Well, you probably saw my comment around there as well.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

Dana said...

It would be fully acceptable for them to talk of keeping the covenental vision in your own homeschool or perhaps even in a church, but in the homeschool movement as a whole? It doesn't even make sense.

When we talk about homeschooling as a "big tent" it isn't that we have to personally accept everything that is being done or that we really have to agree with anyone. It is then more about how we can protect every family's rights to make the best decisions for their families. I think they've missed somewhere that you can defend someone's rights without agreeing with anything they do.

Marcy Muser said...

Great post, Jane! I'm so glad Dana got this discussion started. Someone from our state's Christian homeschool organization found my blog (because I mentioned the organization by name, I think):

She has been posting on my comments section for several days now - we are having a fascinating discussion.

The thing that bothers me most about the exclusionary approach is that they continue to draw the circle tighter and tighter. First they limit the suppliers to only Christians; then they limit them to only holding certain theological perspectives; then they limit them on practical teachings (watch out if you believe women should cut their hair and wear shorts!); and so on.

I have no problem with homeschooling organizations taking a position on certain issues. But it seems to me that homeschooling as a whole is strengthened by the number and variety of people involved in it. Not only that, if you believe homeschooling is the best choice, why wouldn't you believe it's the best choice for everyone, not just for conservative Christians who happen to believe in birth control and daughters staying at home when they finish school? If homeschooling really is a biblical issue, as they believe it is (and I'm not sure I disagree), then families who choose it will be blessed, even if those families are not Christians (just as those who abstain from abusing their bodies with drugs are blessed by living out biblical principles, whether they accept the Bible as authority or not).

I wish there were a way to help these people understand this truth.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Kim said...

I am so glad I found this through the Carnival of Homeschooling. I'm of the big tent philosophy, but the other base seems to have the squeakier wheel. It's nice to see some balance. Thank you!

Marcy Muser said...


I liked your post so well, I quoted it in my blog. Thanks for the thoughts!

Melinda S. said...

That quote at the end is amazing to me. I've heard a lot of the "Christian parents should only homeschool" idea, and some of the "homeschooling is essentially a Christian idea," but I had not heard anybody speak against a "big tent" idea before.

As a conservative, Christian homeschooling mom--I am appalled!

Spunky said...

I've been around homeschooling a long time, so the "big tent" comment didn't take me by surprise when I saw it. Especially considering my own first homeschool convention experience, which I talked about in my post.

I think that the more strident they become in their exclusivity the more irrelevant they will become.

Jane said...

Yes, unfortunately the "big tent" comment didn't surprise me either. Almost ten years ago I started an inclusive state homeschooling list because I was getting calls from people who were being told things like, "You can't homeschool; you don't have a church," and being excluded from the homeschool groups they could find. I wanted a way to connect them.

I received nastygrams from leaders in "the" state group. Rumors were started that we were anti-Christian or pagan. (We still get that from time to time.) I was told that I was "Polluting" homeschooling.

So, no. Not surprised. :(