(If you got to this blog via a search such as “Should I send my kids to public schools?” read this. The answer is, most likely, no. But I’m still not judging you. I’m simply warning you of some very real problems with public schools.
Remember the post in my “Things I Can’t Get Homeschoolers to Admit” series, about how I don’t think everybody should homeschool? Chances are you don’t. Even if you were with me back then, I don’t flatter myself that every post I write is so paradigm-changing that my readers can’t possibly forget it, so go back and read that, if you have time.
You should read the comments, too. They’re pretty entertaining, as one of the commenters took offense at my saying an awful lot of things in that post that I didn’t actually say, and then stomped off in one of the finest virtual snits I’ve ever witnessed. She accused me of not understanding the issues, and not being sufficiently Christian, then sniffed “I shan’t return.” For all I know, she had a change of heart and is still reading, but I doubt it. That kind rarely exits the echo chamber. It’s just too stressful. I knew when I wrote it that my post would draw the ire of some Christian homeschoolers, who have confused homeschooling with the gospel. This post will probably anger someone else just as much, but at least this time it won’t be my fellow homeschoolers who want to burn me at the stake.
I’ve read dozens of articles about how public school parents are sending their children straight to Hell, and how we’re to “come out from among them” and guard the hearts of our children from the erosion of secular culture. In fact, I think those articles make some very good points. My primary purpose in homeschooling is to counteract the decay of our once-Christian culture—a decay I believe the public schools to be directly responsible for. I have many, many reasons to choose private education, and some of them are reasons that I think should strike fear into the hearts of Christian parents with children in public schools.
I am not condoning the use of public schools! Christians do need to realize that the worldview they’re trying to impart to their children is diametrically opposed to the worldview that the schools teach. I wish every Christian parent did see the problem with even “good” public schools.
However, I can’t blame them if they haven’t understood it in such stark terms as I have yet. If God Himself doesn’t tug at the heartstrings of a family with the idea of homeschooling, I’d hesitate to try to convince anyone to jump into this lifestyle. It’s wonderful to be with my children every day, and I’m grateful that He has put us where He has! I am also keenly aware that my contrary nature makes homeschooling a much more natural choice for me than it does for most moms.
I certainly do believe Christian homeschooling (or some other form of religiously faithful education) is a superior way to raise children. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.
But I’ve also found that it is incredibly difficult in both financial and practical terms, and requires unusual sacrifice from both parents. The key word here is not sacrifice, but unusual. Parents make sacrifices for their kids all the time. Public school parents love their children just as much as homeschooling parents do. They forgo vacations so little Susie can have braces. They give up Friday nights out with friends so they can sit at home and play The Most Boring Game in the Universe with Johnny. They teach their little ones to ride bicycles and swim when they could be doing something for themselves. They do all kinds of self-denying stuff like that.
Those sacrifices are real and noble, as any dad can tell you who has been passed over for promotion because he leaves work at five to be with his kids instead of burning the midnight oil to please his boss.
Those sacrifices are also common, though, and don’t involve any of the kind of outside-the-box thinking that homeschooling requires. This lifestyle is as foreign to most people as boarding school would be to me! Homeschooling is a weird kind of sacrifice, and most people just don’t do weird things, no matter how good they sound.
People are social creatures. We default to the mainstream, because that’s where it seems safest. After all, if this isn’t the best way, there wouldn’t be so many people doing it, right? Very few people wake up every day thinking “How can I conform today?” Most of us just wake up and do the next thing: what we need to do, what’s expected of us, what seems possible. This is what everyone does, so we continue to do it. Typically, people won’t stop living the way they see everyone else living until something jars them out of complacency. Most Christians have (amazingly) not reached a point where the problems with public education are obvious enough to warrant the drastic and often painful lifestyle changes necessary to seek an alternative.
Because my personality is what it is–I’m really very hard to get along with–I require a lot less societal approval than most people do, so homeschooling never seemed as bizarre to me as it does to many people. It’s not that I’m so much smarter than them (ha!). It’s just that I’m more likely to question the value of what others are doing. In fact, my default position on everything is “Find out what the herd is doing, then do something else.” For people who lack that particular quirk, homeschooling often seems literally impossible.
Being at home instead of in school or the “work” force is something most people have no experience with, so the thought of keeping school-age children at home brings up in the imagination of most Americans a big blank. Where I’m seeing salt dough maps and cuddle-time on the couch during a reading lesson, non-homeschoolers are imagining worksheet after boring worksheet with no friend across the aisle to commiserate about the misery of sitting on hard chairs and keeping quiet all day. For most of us, school is as much a part of childhood as gravity is part of living on Earth.
I find it very hard to judge others for not jumping off cliffs. For the same reason, I can’t judge them for not exiting public schools when, for the most part, public education seems to be as much a part of life as the law of gravity. You don’t question gravity, do you?