my concerns about homeschooling my kids

Private schools are cost-prohibitive.

Public schools, at least the ones around here, terrify me-- not because I think they are particularly dangerous or violent or run by Evil Secularist Cabals; I just think the standard approach to classroom education in this country leaves a lot to be desired.

So there we are. Homeschooling it is.

Here are two things that still bother me, though.

1. While it is true that one of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that parents are completely in charge, it is also true that one of the desperate deficiencies of homeschooling is that parents are completely in charge.

We. Are not. Perfect. In fact, I am chaotically and perpetually disorganized and not a little lazy. I'm awaiting with great anticipation the release of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Well-Trained Mind, and I'm excited as all get out about using the methods described therein to educate my children. I love teaching and learning, and want to pass that on to them, and I'm pleased and happy to do it. I'm just a little frightened that I'll sabotage everything with my poor organization.

2. There are an overwhelming array of resources out there for homeschooling families. Yay! There exists a huge, benevolent, supportive community. Yay! Truly, homeschooling has gone beyond merely a movement to becoming its own subculture.

This subculture, though, is dominated by a conservative evangelicals. Which would be fine if we were adhering to a narrow definition of conservative evangelical-- I self-identify that way, after all-- but there's all the cultural dross to deal with, too.

One (but not the only) part of that cultural dross that really concerns me is the deliberate construction of particular gender identities and ways of thinking about gender. There are whole seminars at the Virginia home school convention on being "Biblical daughters" and training up one's sons to "lead" the home. Their proponents call them "Biblical," but I do not think they are, and they are NOT what I want to pass on to my boys.

I do not want my guys to grow up thinking that they must adopt certain behaviors or attitudes to be masculine, or that they are prohibited from pursuing certain interests because they aren't manly enough. I do not want them growing up with the notion that women are only there to serve them, or that women only derivatively bear the image of God, but rather that women are their equals and co-laborers, and that all of us, men and women, are called to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, the risen King. I do not want my daughters, if we ever have any, growing up with the assumption that she may only exercise her gifts and talents within the domestic sphere (and I realize, complementarian readers, that I am painting with a broad brush here-- please indulge me and allow me to defer a discussion of the complexities until a later date, like tomorrow).

So again, it's a really great thing about homeschooling that the parents are completely in charge, because you can bet your boots that we won't be passing those attitudes along to our children. But they're going to be tough to filter out, and frankly, I know my beliefs about those issues are going to filter out a lot of the support that would otherwise be offered me-- so it's kind of a lonely prospect.

...and I guess I've mentioned gender stuff often enough on this blog that I'd better get cracking on a post about what I mean when I use terms like "complementarian" and "egalitarian," anyhow. Maybe you'll get that tomorrow.

If I'm not too busy cooking and cleaning and changing diapers and all.


Kimberly said...

Mostly I am just worried that my laziness will pass on to my kid. And, AND, he seems to really like being with others; somehow I don't think the little brother is going to satisfy.

I am so not worried about the complementarian/egalitarian thing. Maybe I should be.

You should talk to Wendy and see what she is doing with her kid. She seems happy.

off to cook and clean and change diapers myself.

M. Robert Turnage said...

I will say I have only witnessed two days of home school in my life, and on both days the kids emotionally manipulated the parents into abandoning the lesson plan so everyone could go outside and play.

Part of it may have been that there was a guest (i.e. me) visiting the house both days, but the impression I got was this was common practice. One child convinced the parent that he (the child) did not necessarily need to learn how to spell "beautiful" the proper way because, and I quote, "The spelling is stupid."

This came after a long discussion about how "beau" is pronounced /BŌW/ and "beautiful" is pronounced /BYOO-tuh-FUHL/. The end result - the spelling is stupid so I don't have to learn it.

I walked away from the experience thinking that this was a genuinely bright kid who will probably grow up never reading past a fifth grade level because going outside to play is more fun.

Children learn fast and they learn things you don't want them to, like how to manipulate adults into doing what they want. That is my main argument against homeschooling for myself - my dysfunctional family-ness will dominate spill into every aspect of their lives.

School (particularly the school library) was such a haven/escape for me growing up, and I wouldn't want to deny that to anyone.

Zanshin said...

Four observations from my own homeschooling experience:

1. There are a lot of homeschoolers around here who are not conservative evangelicals. Some of them are even Evil Secularist Cabalists. Realistically, though, you are only going to interact closely with about half a dozen other homeschooling families, so there is plenty of variety available for you to cherry-pick your kids' playmates.

2. Do skim all Christian homeschooling literature for oppressive gender roles, among other things. But I don't actually remember their being that common. For my part, most of my later-confronted gender angst came not from anything so obvious as complementarianism, but rather from the simple lack of interesting female role models in the books I was reading. So know that that is important too, regardless of the gender of the reader.

3. I think that many elementary school children can benefit from homeschooling, but fewer middle school children and very few high schoolers can. So you might want to see how it goes for a few years early on. If it looks like it's not working, or if they need more interaction with their peers in an intellectual setting (which is really the variable driving the narrowing of who should be homeschooled), stick 'em in school.

4. If you homeschool, the social transition to regular school will be easy if your kids already have experience with summer camps and other regimented, peer-oriented activities.

M. Robert Turnage said...

One more thing I forgot to mention earlier. One of my co-workers used to be a professor at Baylor. She said her incoming Freshmen who were home schooled were an inverse bell curve - they were either the best students she ever had or the barely-literate worst students she ever had. There were no middle-of-the-road students from home schools.

Mark said...

I'm a biblical egalitarian who aesthetically prefers to pretend he's a biblical complementarian.

Hairline Fracture said...

I think you will do a great job teaching your children. I am all for homeschooling as long as the parent is committed. When I taught school and then worked for a tutoring company, we saw two results of homeschooling: kids who excelled and kids (probably a lot like M. Robert Turnage encountered) who hadn't done much learning at all. There's no doubt in my mind which family you will be!

I would love a post defining egalitarian and complementarian.

Julia said...

I was homeschooled from 5th to 10th grade and I will say that the cultural issues are as big as you think they are. I don't know if it was the decisions that my parents made or what, but we didn't have very diverse friends ideologically-- they were all of the hard-core conservative evangelical/charismatic type. And as a young girl, the gender issues were pretty huge. The girls who were supposed to be my peers were not taking algebra because they "wouldn't need it" and the like. Because of my experiences being homeschooled, it is not the first option we're going to pursue for our kids, but on the other hand, I will certainly keep it on the table as an option if we think it would help them, and I don't know-- try to find a more diverse cohort?

Anyway, I think you are correctly analyzing the realities, and you guys will have to struggle through that to figure out what's the right decision for your family.

Jen said...

As Buffy the Vampire Slayer says :"Homeschooling’s not just for crazy religious people anymore!" You probably will find a lot more compatibility with the unschooling movement, though they certainly won't help with any tendency toward sloth. And frankly, you might find some of the Catholic homeschooling materials more suitable because they focus on God, rather than Christian subculture. but there's a ton of secular materials out there (many of them free to use at the library).

And as is true of most of the things related to parenting, we homeschooling parents need to die to ourselves to teach academics and good habits. I am horribly lazy and a terrible organizer. I could teach my children to be similar whether homeschooling or not. Instead parenting is an opportunity to try and be a better person and teach my children to be better.

My point is that we have a responsibility as parents to instill good habits in our kids and we can fail at that whether we homeschool or not. Or we can succeed. Or we can die trying! I bet the kid that the commenter mentioned would be manipulating his parents no matter what and homeschooling has nothing to do with it. They just aren't disciplined.

happygeek said...

I too have really struggled with the whole schooling issue.
Some of the top schools in our area are Waaay too expensive (who has 10,000 a year per kid lying around?) and while the public schools are good here, no mattter how good a classroom is, a lot of time is often wasted. (Thus says the former teacher)
After much debate we decided not to homeschool, even though I really, really wanted to.
Not for the reasons you stated, though they were discussed (we didn't use the much more accurate term complimentarian, we used the term wacko) but because I am too easily overwhelmed. It was really hard to deal with the fact that the thing standing in the way of educating my kids was me. I'm a trained teacher for crying out loud. But I wasn't that good.
All that to say, I understand the angst of such a tough decision.
Eagerly awaiting your Comp/Eg post!

Allie said...

Have you checked out Charlotte Mason in relation to homeschooling? I would also look at the Rivendell School website: We have applied for Olivia to go there and they were started by a group of homeschoolers that believe that there is a fine line between being a Christian and being a Christian in the world and try to expose their children to the basic beliefs of Christianity, but also expose them to the things that they will deal with in the course of their life. During our interview Abe asked the question about whether there is a particular view of evolution taught and there is not. They also try to teach based on the Charlotte Mason model which I found intriguing enough to get her books as well as some modern breakdowns of how to acheive the same thing. My friend Amy in PA actually told me about a Mason school in Herndon who puts all of their info. on the web so you can apply it to homeschooling as well. Just my 2 cents...mostly because if Olivia does not go to Rivendell or Lorien Woods we may homeschool her.

Mary-LUE said...

Did you ever write the gender issues post? This post was linked up at the bottom of your last one which is how I came across it.

So, if I am using my context clues correctly, complementarians hold th view of women as a complement to men, but in a lesser-than way? Egalitarian seems pretty self-explanatory.

I think your concerns are valid. The advantage you and your husband have is that it is not your goal to teach your children that particular point of view. You will work to counter act that. I hope there will be kindred spirits along the way.