Taking Possession of a Forceful Political Statement
by Craig Smith
The very act of keeping or bringing our children home to educate them ourselves is a rather forceful political statement. It is so contrary to “the way things are done”; it is such a challenge to the status quo; it is so totally incomprehensible to most people when they first hear of it, that people cannot help but think we must be some kind of radically unbalanced ideologues.
But we’re not even trying to make a big political statement. Some of us actually loathe politics and politicians. We don’t want our actions to be thought of as “political”, nor do we want all the negative social implications that go along with it.
Sadly, these things are largely inescapable as home educators. It’s all part of the territory. Let me illustrate.
As if the political thing isn’t bad enough, for fellow Christians who know we home educate in order to more consistently disciple our children for our Lord Jesus Christ, yet who themselves send their children to the local temples of secular humanism (state schools), there is the added repelling factor that we have taken the moral high ground. We have chosen the hard way through the narrow gate, and our fellow Christians are greatly intimidated by this position. Why? Because they have not, even though their Lord calls them to do so just as He calls us to do so.
Fellow Christians who have committed their children to Christian schools plus our unbelieving friends who don’t home educate are both often a bit wary of us as well, especially when we start getting enthusiastic about how home education is bonding our family closer together, causing us to feel more fulfilled, massively reducing the stress of everyday life, socially maturing the children so they’re attitudes are far less rebellious and peer-oriented, etc. Again, although they see that we’re onto something good, and even though they’d like those benefits too, the huge changes home education would make to their current lifestyles and income levels is just too big a hurdle to think about.
Then there are those who simply know very little about home education, who have a totally erroneous view of what it is, how it works and why we do it. They can only assume that we are cultic or fanatics of some kind who are best avoided.
And sure enough, some friends start to avoid us. They are scared the conversation might stray into areas such as education, schooling, the children, godliness, etc., and they feel they might have to justify – out loud – why they aren’t home educating or why they think what we’re doing is daft. It is no wonder we make some people uncomfortable by our very presence.
Teaching our children at home is an in-your-face declaration, a statement of faith, an act of witnessing people simply cannot ignore. Make no mistake: it is highly noticeable, it is emotionally charged, and it carries some very weighty personal and political implications as well. Onlookers are plagued by questions such as, “How do they comply with Ministry of Education requirements? Who checks up on them? Why don’t they want to be involved in the community? How will their children ever get qualified for anything? Isn’t our local school good enough for them?”
These are the kind of vibes we are putting out, either intentionally (as in my case!!) or unintentionally. It affects our relationships and may well determine the degree of fellowship we can enjoy with others outside home education circles. As if this wasn’t a bad enough cause of stress, our chosen lifestyle may be causing our children some real intellectual, emotional, social and even spiritual difficulties as well. Because this can be such a large, over-arching kind of thing, it is up to us Fathers to nail it before it becomes a problem….or tackle it as an existing problem head-on before it becomes any bigger.
What we are talking about here is how comfortable we are, or our children are, at being labeled “home schoolers”, “home educators” or whatever, and how well we have come to terms with the wide-ranging implications of the home educator’s lifestyle.
One aspect of this we have all faced is among that first lot of hurdles we had to jump over: “Is this for us? Am I doing the right thing?” (It is different from the other hurdle which can haunt many of us, totally unnecessarily I am convinced; the one that nags, “Am I capable of doing this?” I always answer, “Of course you are. In fact, as a parent with your own child in a tutoring or mentoring situation, you automatically have vast logistical and relational advantages over conventional teachers.”) This question, “Am I doing the right thing?” hits at the whole idea of home education as a package deal. It wants to know how it measures up to conventional schooling over the long term.
To carry doubts about the very nature of home education will hinder every thing you do every day as a home educator. You need to take full possession of the title “Home Educator” and be at peace with the package. Otherwise it is like being lame, or as Elijah said back in I Kings 18:21: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” Or as James says in 1:8, “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” Strive for unity of purpose. Maybe that need be only for a season: that is, give it your total dedication, your best shot, for a bite-sized period of time only: say one year and re-assess the situation after that. Such a strategy may be a lot easier to visualise, to take hold of emotionally, than thinking in a vague sort of way that you’ll be burdened with what you’re struggling with now for the next 15 years! Get that monkey of doubt off your back, either permanently or just for a year, and you’ll immediately notice a rise in your confidence level.
Once thus committed, you will not only be a lot more confident yourself, you will be able to inspire so much more confidence in your wife and children as well.
The attitude we carry around with us about our home education: whatever it is, one of insecurity, being unsure about it, worried it will stunt the children’s growth somehow, or being totally convinced, excited about its benefits, a wild-eyed missionary for the movement….this attitude we carry is an integral part of yours and – intentionally or unintentionally – your children’s Christian witness. We home educators need to be aware of this first of all, and then we need to take possession of this in-your-face declaration we make simply by being home educators. And we need to help our children become comfortable – even proud – of making this declaration as well.
We have always told our children that they are different from the vast majority of people out there, not only because we are Christians but also because we are home educators. We are hated by the world, the Lord tells us, and will definitely suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). Home education ensures we will suffer a degree of persecution even from fellow Christians. Barbara and I delight in being different for Christ’s sake, and this must rub off on the children. Their identity has been wrapped up in this: I tell them they are “Smiths” and that we Smiths belong to the Lord and fear Him, not the people around us. We told them the day would come when their friends would not just call them strange but would tell them that their parents (Barbara and I) were so unbelievably strict and old-fashioned that they’re just plain weird. When that day came, our children looked at us with awe! We could foretell the future: we were prophets indeed!
Not bad, eh? Prophesying this kind of thing is a piece of cake for parents: we can think of a whole bunch of things our children will undoubtedly encounter, including attitudes they’ll develop. “You know what’s wrong with teenagers?” you innocently ask your 11 year old. “They think mum and dad don’t understand.” Your words will come back and haunt that 11 year old two or three years later when s/he says those very words, “But Mum, you don’t understand!” All parents should prophesy regularly!
This and subtle things like calling children on the school playground “prisoners let out into the exercise yards” let your children know your mind is clear and made up. Of course, one of our responsibilities is to love both neighbours and enemies, so as far as it depends upon us, we live peaceably and harmoniously with others, outdoing one another in showing honour. Even so, your family unit wants to be self-sufficient socially, children best friends with their siblings, mum and dad obviously in love, so that hankerings to be somewhere else, doing something else with someone else don’t subvert your home environment nor your children’s contentment with your leadership.
From Keystone Magazine
September 2003 , Vol. IX No. 5
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