Recently, I began to imagine for the first time the unhappiness that could be heaped upon us by a population that is largely in the dark about who we are and what we do. I began to worry in earnest that the ‘good old days’ for homeschoolers could end. The days of quietly raising our children and educating them according to our own values, keeping our heads down, maintaining the ‘we won’t bother you if you don’t bother us’ position … all gone. Caput. And I got scared.
When I think about all the words that have been written about homeschooling by non-homeschoolers, I realize what an ill-informed enemy we have. Some believe that the few scattered, aberrant cases of abuse in homeschool households are to blame for the unwelcome, condemning public scrutiny. It might have started there, but I think we are actually the victims of our own success.
You see, if we are able to do what most of our founding fathers did …. teach our children how to learn, give them our time and our love and the knowledge and fear of an awesome God … and achieve success … well, that challenges a model upon which our entire nation relies. If it is true that homeschooling works, then a separate truth has been uncovered. For example, maybe warehousing our children from age 3 and up isn’t necessary. And then maybe mom and dad don’t have to both work full time. It doesn’t end there. I don’t have to tell you how these kinds of revelations could “rock” our nation. Now it is all unintentional. Homeschoolers aren’t revolutionaries. And we aren’t out to prove a point to anyone, and no one knows this better that all of us. We’d simply like to do our life’s work, period. But it isn’t that simple. People do not like change. People do not welcome “differentness”.
Over 15 years ago, my husband and I visited my relatives in Northern Ireland. We talked a good deal about the “troubles” in Ireland. When we suggested that the day would come when the Catholics and Protestants would no longer be killing each other and they could enjoy peace, it was met with great concern. This is because Ireland’s economy was based on the security business. If there were peace, my cousins explained, there would be an economic crisis. Some huge percentages of the Irish were employed in businesses that were there to help keep citizens safe. How strange. They were actually invested in keeping things the way they were. Now all of that has changed for Ireland in the past decade, but my point is the same. People fear change. Homeschooling inadvertently advertises change. Like it or not, we are all challengers of the status quo, albeit very reluctant ones. How do we wriggle out of this “challenger” role that has been tossed onto us, without self-deprecation and without betraying our Lord?
Anyone who has played a game of chess understands that occasionally one’s hand is forced. You get pinned and doing nothing is not an option. Sometimes you get forked, which means that you are going to take a hit no matter what your move is, so it’s a matter of doing what will result in the least damage and perhaps position you to better defend your King. Doing nothing is not an option. Quitting means you played and lost, so that’s no good either. No, you have to make thoughtful and strategic moves. You have to do your very best. You have to act.I think homeschoolers are pinned. We have kept our heads down for years, but it has not served us well because people do not know who we are and what we are. Many think that we beat our children at 9:00 am, wash down some greasy eggs with a quart of Piels, step outside in our long johns to slop the hogs, and then go in and beat our children some more.
We have tried to walk a tightrope. We obediently pay our taxes. We don’t criticize our public school system, because we know that they are not evil or wrong or inferior and we know what a tough job they have. We shy away from close examination by our friends, neighbors, families and, especially, our politicians, because we know what they don’t know and we know our methods could easily be misread, misunderstood, misinterpreted and just plain old missed. Homeschooling is like that. It is very hard to know how it works unless you’ve done it. Consequently, we don’t toot our horns too loudly, either. We just want to be permitted to educate our children ourselves! That’s all! Hence, this exquisite balancing act.Enough with the explanations. Like it our not, we have to step out into the spotlight and do a little good old-fashioned public relations and marketing. Yes, it could result in more attention, more scrutiny. I think that’s going to happen anyway. Better that we take the lead. More offense and less defense.
Put on your seatbelts. What if all the back to school issues of local newspapers and publications like “MetroKids” had Try Homeschooling! It works for us! as an anchor article? What if the annual Public School Scores that newspapers in all major cities publish each year included a section that listed all of the accomplishments of local homeschoolers. What if the HSLDA increased it’s annual membership by $10 and the money went to advertising (in secular publications) that would bolster the image of homeschoolers in America Remember Proverbs 28:1 instructs us on this. “The guilty flee where none pursue, the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
It’s very possible that the uninformed masses are closing in on us no matter what we do.
Perhaps it is time to be the bold lion, satisfy this national curiosity (friendly or not) and show them just how diplomatic, civilized, intelligent and hard-working we are.