Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Homeschool Wars

The Homeschool Wars are uglier than the Mommy Wars ever were.

I was working up to posting this week about how I am fascinated by the diverse, even polemical, worldviews of homeschoolers. About how people who live in seemingly different universes could have this One Thing in common. One rather radical, counter-cultural Thing. One Thing which changes the whole shape of your daily life and family interactions.

I was going to write about how ironic it is that many Christians homeschool because they find the public school environment hostile to the faith and the values that they hope to pass on to their children -- and yet many pagans, atheists, Muslims, Jews, and others homeschool because they find the public school system too Christian. (It makes you feel a bit sorry for the public trying to please everyone, they can't please anyone.)

I was going to write about how my daughter said, "Mom, I don't know why, but I make friends with homeschoolers more easily than with other kids." I think it's because there is some underlying cultural commonality that homeschoolers share. Maybe it's because they stay home and spend more time relating to their parents and siblings. Honestly, I don't know how you could ever pin down what that commonality is...once you thought you'd found it, you'd find an exception.

I'm not a "why-can't-we-just-all-get-along" type. I have strong convictions; I believe in objective truth. My former pastor pointed out that it is actually disrespectful to those who hold convictions other than our own to exalt tolerance and attempt to assign equal validity to all viewpoints -- by so doing we negate them all, reducing them to mere mental constructs. But there is danger in the other direction as well -- loving others is not just a means to an end, gathering notches on our belt for our Christian witness.

As Lutherans, we're usually the odd ones out at Christian homeschool events. We're not arminians; neither are we calvinists; we don't believe in the rapture and we do believe in the sacraments. But we'd be the odd ones out at an inclusive group as well. As it is, we live in a little bitty country town. It's two miles wide. Life here revolves around the activities of the local public school. As homeschoolers, we make friends and fit in where we can. We have to drive sixty miles even to go to a homeschool group activity. That puts things in perspective. Anything less than fun and friendly isn't worth my gas money.

I'm glad my children are learning to make friends with practically everyone they meet. They get on just fine with little girls who only wear dresses. They hardly even batted an eye when they found that the children they wanted to play with didn't speak English; they just found ways around it. But they also have firm convictions. They know how to stand quietly with heads unbowed when prayers are said to another god. Homeschooling affords us -- I hope -- the opportunity to guide them and talk with them as they relate to all kinds of people and ideas, think through their faith, and learn to be gentle and humble as well as truthful, to be salt and light, and to genuinely love others. And, by God's grace, ample opportunity to set an example ourselves.