Christian Homeschoolers

I went to a church once where a pastor told a joke about two ministers who happened to be seated next to each other on a plane. After settling in, they introduced themselves and discovering their shared profession, set about discerning what their seatmate was all about. Down the list of topics they ran, “bible: inerrant or not, salvation: grace or works, baptism: full immersion or sprinkling” and on and on. The ran through dozens of potential problem spots of the faith and became more and more excited as they discovered that they were in agreement on them all. Finally, one proffered, “lectern: wood or Plexiglas.” “Plexiglas,” replied his neighbor. “Heathen,” the first man muttered and turned away.
Being a homeschool mom I run into many religiously oriented people. Unfortunately, this joke could well have been told about many of the moms I run into rather than about ministers. One almost hates to open one’s mouth about anything remotely religious, even when your Christian faith may be the thing dearest to your heart because inevitably, you will express an idea or opinion which doesn’t pass muster with such people. Just try walking into a religious homeschool support group and saying that you do not see the teachings of evolution and Christianity as being incompatible. Odds are, your children won’t get many playdates from that group. Then tell them that you don’t think the “sinner’s prayer” is the key to opening the door of salvation. At best you’ll have many people working to ensure that you are “saved”. I can come up with dozens of examples of things which can and are used to write you off as not believing the right things and therefore, not safe to spend time with or just not someone to take seriously.
I know that these dynamics are at work in many parts of our society, but I think they are amplified in the homeschooling community. Many people choose to homeschool specifically so that they can transfer their specific belief system to their children. Obviously, such people attach more significance to their belief system than others who may believe essentially the same things, but don’t see the need to take such a radical step as homeschooling in support of it. Also, some churches have cultivated a real community of like-minded homeschoolers and may actually encourage their members to homeschool. While this is wonderful, it does create a social pressure not to fall out of line with the common thinking – since it is the common thinking which brought you together, getting out of line can almost inevitably leave you out of the group, bereft of the support system which made the leap to homeschooling seem do-able to begin with.
While I really do understand the different dynamics which can foster unease and division between homeschoolers who hold different doctrinal beliefs (many more than I’ve spoken of here, BTW), I think this habit is problematic spiritually, communally and practically. The spiritual problem is, in my opinion, the most serious one. The message Jesus actually communicated more than any other was, “don’t be afraid.” However, many Christians live in fear. They are afraid that their children will be poisoned by any contact with the corrupt aspects of the world we live in (I’m speaking of contact with, not immersion in) and end up not knowing what to tell their kids when a relative or babysitter does something which is immoral as they don’t even think their kids should know such things happen. They cannot tolerate those who believe different things than they do and feel that they must always choose right and wrong and shun wrong (and the people who believe “wrongly”). The idea that each of us is responsible to God alone and that God alone can judge takes a back seat to the need to “know right and wrong” as Adam and Eve sought to know right and wrong. What is missing from all of this is a trust that God is big enough to handle whatever dangers we may come across. God is big enough to protect us and our children. That God can and does do what he promises and will “work all things together for good”, even if the path gets a bit scary at times. It’s like many Christians think they must stand alone in the spiritual wars which plague this existence and are only rewarded with God’s presence and approval upon the successful completion of battle. That’s not what God says. Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have troubles, but be brave, for I have [not will , could, would like to, might if you make me happy] defeated the world.” He says, “I will be with you until the end of the age.” God is not sitting on his throne, waiting to see if we do a good job, using the tools He provides us. Paul says, “In Him we live and move and breathe and have our being.” We are not fighting these battles, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me” – and it is Christ who has already won these battles. Why the fear, people? Why the need to fear and shun and judge? Is this really a reflection of faith in the mighty work God has done for us? He did not die and win the battle so that we could go out onto the battlefield of life to fight for his approval!
Then there is the point where our spiritual well-being meets our need for community. Because we know that we will be judged and either welcomed or feared based on our beliefs, many people are driven to demonstrate that they do, in fact, hold the correct beliefs in ways which run contrary to scriptural instructions. The people Jesus criticized most harshly were those who exercise their faith in ways which are meant to be seen by others in order to gain acceptance or admiration. If you look around a group of homeschool families, you are likely to see explicitly religious shirts, hear scriptures quoted in casual conversation (complete with chapter and verse) and a fair amount of name dropping of respected church members or Christian teachers. This is not to say that one cannot be open about one’s faith, but come on – when was the last time someone came to the Lord because of someone’s t-shirt or bumper sticker? If anything, many people have been repelled by such things. Most of these explicit displays of religious belief really are more about affirming one’s self and letting people know, “I’m one of you” (or conversely, “I’m not your type, so please keep your distance”).
Finally, there are practical problems. We are called to be salt and light, yet when even those who desire good, want to teach their children, want to reject the sorrid culture around us, know they are likely to be judged and rejected, we are like the stagnant water God will spit out – not refreshing cool waters or useful soothing warm waters. We are doing a disservice both to the kingdom and to the important work we are doing in creating alternative communities for people to find sanity and safety for themselves and their children in when we approach one another with fear, judgment and rejection. So, my plea to those in the homeschooling community would be to be more aware of how you are handling yourself and conducting yourself as you move about in the world. When people who are not part of your “group” see you, are they afraid or attracted? Is your need to separate good and evil greater than your instructions to love? When meeting someone who doesn’t believe what you do, do you automatically fear this person’s beliefs or are you secure in knowing God can handle it?
I think that the homeschooling community is doing really important work for our children, for society, for our families and even for the kingdom. However, I think we could be doing so much more if we would let go of our fears and need for judgement and approval. God is too big for us to try and constrain him like that.

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5 thoughts on “Christian Homeschoolers

  1. This post is so true! A lot of Christian Homeschoolers have become exclusive against people who don’t believe exactly what they believe and that is definitely not sometihng Jesus preached.

    I really enjoyed reading your post!

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  2. Thank you for having the courage to write this post!
    I’ll never forget driving home from a homeschool support group when my middle two were 4 and 6 and having them ask me why, even though we were Christians, they were going to burn in the fiery flames of hell. One of the other homeschooled children their age told them that day that because we did not go to the same church, I was the devil’s woman and they were eternally damned. At four and six, I had felt before that day that they were too young to broach the subject of hell with, but that afternoon we got to have a long discussion about hell, the redemptive power of Jesus’ love, intolerance, bigotry and people’s desire to feel better than others. We had some fallout from that day, some nightmares, some uncertanties, but we worked through it. Over the years I have been surprised many times by how unChristian some Christians can be, and I have often wondered if they have any inkling at all?

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  3. I had no idea myself how secular these people can be until recently. A friend of mine, actually, my BEST friend, was confronted by the “leader” of what I see as nothing more than a cult for doing something they all deem a sin and not of the “Truth” as they all believe is the ultimate importance in their feeble attempts at existance. Now, he stands to lose not only his marriage, but his children, and his children will be ostricize by the other “cult” members. I seriously doubt these people can SPELL Christianity, much less practice it!

    At the risk of sounding bitter, because damnit, I AM! I hope what goes around comes around and these people all suffer profoundly for what they have done to this man and his family!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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