Some of you know by reading my posts here that my wife and I homeschool our children. Actually, my wife Kristen does most of the teaching, although I like to be as involved as I can. I really like talking about homeschooling. Jaymie, our oldest daughter, is 6, followed by Julia (3) and Stanley (1). Jaymie is the only child actively being taught, but Julia gets to participate as well, and Stanley participates whether we want him to or not. Weâ€™ve been doing it for a year and a few months now, and the results have been encouraging. Jaymie is learning a lot, loves to read, has become great friends with her sister, has time to take an art class and a dance class, participates on a swim team, plays the piano, has tremendous poise and self-confidence, and is a delight to be around. I expect similar results for my other children (I know, blech, sorry, I canâ€™t help myself. Feel free to brag about your own kids below). Homeschooling has been a great choice for our family in many ways, and as a result I like to share our experience with other people.
Kristen, on the other hand, avoids talking about homeschooling as much as possible with her friends. As we have discussed why she doesnâ€™t like discussing homeschool, weâ€™ve come up with a few reasons. She enjoys teaching Jaymie (although it is demanding work, and she never gets a break) and has felt like it has been a good decision, so sheâ€™s not ashamed or embarrassed by what she does.
One problem that Kristen faces is that the existence of a successful homeschooler in a community introduces an element of educational choice where often none existed before. She often receives unsolicited comments from other mothers praising their childrenâ€™s schools or explaining why they aren’t able to homeschool. I suspect that subconsciously they are trying to justify to themselves why they have not made the same decision that we have made. These conversations can become subtly confrontational.
Another issue is that a sizable fraction of the homeschooling community is evangelical, by which I mean they seek to convince others that homeschooling is the One True Way to educate your children (a sizable fraction of the homeschooling community is also evangelical in the born-again Christian sense as well, a topic for another post). We do not hold to this belief, so Kristen tries not to project an image of a self-righteous mother out to convince the world that homeschooling is right for everyone.
I think that Kristen doesnâ€™t like to feel like a curiosity. Many of the people that Kristen interacts with are genuinely interested in what our homeschooling experience is like, but some are simply curious about what they consider to be an odd subculture. Sheâ€™s willing to talk about her experiences to other homeschooling parents or someone who is seriously considering homeschooling, but not so ready to make small talk about her life as a teacher.
Finally, some people feel like we are harming our children by homeschooling them, and they may express their disapproval openly. Fortunately, we havenâ€™t really had any bad experiences with people who feel this way, but dealing with such people is a fairly common problem for homeschooling families in general.
In my life, I have found that I have had attitudes towards sharing the gospel that mirror the attitudes towards talking about homeschooling. My knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been a tremendous blessing in my life, so I often find that I want to share the message of the gospel with others. At times, however, I refrain, because I donâ€™t want to come across as being self-righteous, or confrontational, or a zealot, or a freak. Sometimes I donâ€™t want to argue, or open up things I hold dear to attack. And so I remain silent.
The major difference, of course, is that I believe that homeschooling is a good choice for my family, but not necessarily for everyone, whereas I believe the gospel message is important for everyone to hear. Furthermore, as a follower of Christ, I am commanded bear witness of Him and share His message with those of my brothers and sisters who have not yet received it. I am under no such obligation as a homeschooling parent.
Still, my experience with talking about homeschooling has given me a new perspective on sharing the gospel. Am I as excited about talking about the plan of salvation as I am about the math curriculum weâ€™re using? (Singapore/Miquon for those of you who want to know). If not, why not? When I shy away from opportunities to talk about my faith, what is the reason? Is it justified? Or is that my judgment to make?