Sonny Scott of the North Mississippi Daily Journal shares an interesting perspective on society’s mistrust of homeschoolers. After identifying us at the grocery store by our stereotypical dress and behavior, that is.
It’s a big family by today’s standards – “just like stair steps,” as the old folks say. Freshly scrubbed boys with neatly trimmed hair and girls with braids, in clean but unfashionable clothes follow mom through the store as she fills her no-frills shopping list.
There’s no begging for gimcracks, no fretting, and no threats from mom. The older watch the younger, freeing mom to go peacefully about her task. Daily Journal
He obviously isn’t talking about our family. But we won’t get into the details of our last trip to the store. The image portrayed, however, is used more as a literary device, setting the homeschooler at odds with society. And it isn’t used to cast aspersions on us, as odd as we may be. Instead, the central question is one for society.
Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much? Ibid.
Not because we are religious, wear out-of-date clothing or have particularly well-behaved children. It is because we are a direct assault on the values of society.
Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return. Ibid.
This isn’t a conflict between the religious and the secular, however. The lifestyles being indicted are not those living outside of Christ, but those consumed by Materialism. With a capital “M” in his essay. A lifestyle consuming its “seed corn” as he says. Relationships, philosophies and values are sacrificed at the altar of stuff. And then it is conveniently rationalized.
While I don’t think most people who question homeschooling do so truly out of selfishness or jealousy, he may have a point. The most common reaction I experience after revealing to a stranger that we homeschool is one of defensiveness. You would think that by the mere mention of our educational choice, I had accused them of something. I never have figured out what and always assumed the reaction has more to do with yet more stereotypes, ie., I have rejected the public school system and thus must look down on all who choose that option.
But maybe there is more in that reaction than I have previously pondered.
When we advocate for acceptance of homeschooling, we are advocating for a philosophical shift in the nation. We are asking good parents who make decisions in the best interests of their children to reconsider that decision. Not directly. At least not those of us who advocate for homeschooling as opposed to evangelizing the practice. But we bring to the forefront the fact that other options are available. And as much as many of us have second-guessed ourselves, wondering if maybe our children are missing out on something somewhere in our choice to homeschool, remember that this is a trait of a good parent, not of a homeschooler. Meaning that even parents who send their children to public school at times question if this is the best option, if they should be doing something more.
I said in my article for Heart of the Matter:
I believe homeschooling has benefited society by the mere existence of a successful alternative to public education. Not only do involved parents have an alternative, but the presence of homeschooling in the national education debate forces people to consider what education really is and who should be in control of it, as well as some pretty fundamental questions about the role the government should play in the private sphere.
But maybe society doesn’t quite see it that way. I’m not sure, but it is an interesting thought. When we advocate for homeschooling, we are challenging more than the educational establishment. We are challenging some pretty fundamental beliefs about how children should be raised and how families should be structured. We are questioning the frenzied pace of American life and putting a higher priority on a value most Americans share: family. Maybe that is a little too…uncomfortable.