Not a big deal

I’m flexing my fingers as I prepare to write the most difficult explanation of my life. At least, this is the point I find it hardest to convince people of: that home education is not a big deal.

Most of my readers are probably familiar with writhing under the ill-deserved acclamations of friends and neighbours: “How many children? And home schooling as well? How do you do it? You must be so…” (busy, patient, organized, etc.) If you try to tell them it’s not a big deal, their admiration only grows.

Maybe some of you will disagree with me, and opine that a big deal is exactly what it is. And I will certainly concede that bringing up children is a big deal, indeed one of the greatest undertakings of a person’s life. But when I look at other mothers rushing around trying to keep up with all the multifarious demands of school, I can’t see how just keeping your children at home could possibly be more work. Okay, children still need education. But schools provide very little of that, and concerned parents usually have to try to make it up at the end of the day and in other spare time. Children need care and supervision, but they don’t get enough of that at school to keep them from harm. The alluring promise of schools to take care of all this for us is empty and hollow. One of the reasons, I would think, why there are so few families at school with more than three children.

Why is it so hard to convince people of this? I have to conclude that the real reason is that they don’t want to know. They don’t want to know for simplistic reasons – that they would realize they should be doing it too, for instance – but for far deeper reasons than that. Most people assume that ‘they’ (i.e. The Proper Authorities) are keeping a constant check on us, and if we fail to measure up to standard for a single day, will take stern action against us. People don’t want to know that this isn’t the case because the idea of any kind of freedom is terrifying to the disciples of Fabian socialism, which is what we all are these days. No-one wants to know that The Authorities are usually too busy trying to cope with all the problems they’ve created for themselves to have time for us.

But it doesn’t end there. People don’t want to know that it’s not a big deal because they have to believe that we have a schoolroom and schoolwork and school hours and school curricula and school holidays and a school timetable. They want to be reassured of all those things because otherwise they could have no hope for us. Christians should understand this, but most of them don’t.

The fact is, most of our homes are pretty muddly, with someone doing dishes, someone practising the violin, someone spilling milk, someone shouting for quiet so he can do his sums, someone trying to dry socks over the fire. None of this is actually as chaotic or distracting as a school classroom. Perhaps the average workplace would be no more peaceful or easy to work in. But that’s not the point. The school is humanism’s church, and as such requires a devoted building, a qualified priesthood, and sacred and solemn rituals. A consistent humanist would feel the same kind of horror at the idea of education taking place in a typical muddly home that the consistent Christian would feel at the idea of cafe church.

If we are going to pursue education ourselves, which the most moderate humanists will allow us the freedom to do, they at least want to know that we have a dedicated space for it, that we’re following the liturgy, and that someone (presumed to be the mother) has taken on the priestly role of teacher. And that is exactly where I insist on disappointing people. We are not following the liturgy and mama ain’t a priestess. We are following Jesus Christ. I can’t satisfy my humanist friends and be honest as well, because in their system as well as mine, there’s no salvation outside of the church.


14 thoughts on “Not a big deal

  1. Oh I love this so much! I recently journeyed into “unschooling” and have to fight against my learned responses as they battle my instincts! It is almost impossible to explain how successful this has been for not only myself but my kids as well. That they actually CAN learn better if I take a backseat. I struggle with the fear that I will be “policed” for my decisions though, so thank you for the reminder to relax!

  2. Whoa, wow! Very, very good article. Glad someone had the courage to tell the truth about public schools. I would add that most don’t want to hear the truth because in all honesty homeschooling is not for the selfish. Every waking moment is training our kiddos not just until they head off to preschool. Every moment and every decision we make and every outing we allow them to participate is usually well thought out.

  3. This is great! Very well-written! Thank you for being so bold as to speak the truth. I often think that my friends and family who really don’t understand homeschooling, think that we all sit around the table at the exact same time each day, children in silence, me at the white board giving instruction. It’s true that this does happen occasionally, but whenever, in conversation, I give an anecdote of what our days are really like, it is usually received with the slight head nodding and a deer-caught-in-the-healdlights kind of stare. It’s then that I am reminded, yeah, they don’t get it. I have decided that for the most part I am fine with that, if they want to envision my home like a classroom (even though I have never given them reason to), then let them, lest family members begin to be concerned about the children’s education ;)

  4. Wow. I like this–you have put it into words so well. The fact is, with seven children, I am very busy–but when the older ones are gone and I am home with only the preschoolers I still can’t get much of anything done. Even when they are “doing school”, the older ones help out so much with the little ones. One thing I hear so often is “I could never homeschool my children–I don’t have the patience.” Well, guess how God teaches me patience? The children aren’t the only ones learning. Anyway, thank you for writing this.

    • Hi Emma, I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to reply. I’m pretty busy just with five children! But I’ve noticed that too, on the rare occasions when they have all been away, I still don’t get much done. I guess that’s part of the consequence of God’s curse on the ground, and the good side is that it keeps us out of a lot of trouble!

  5. I currently don’t homeschool, though many of my friends do, and I think it’s great. My problem lies in HOW do they get anything done when you have toddlers around? I’ve recently taken to spending 30 minutes per day to teach my pre-kindergarten 5yo to read while the older kid is at school. During that 30 minutes, my toddler gets in to as much trouble as can be imagined. I can’t imagine having to deal with MORE of that utter chaos (and yes, that does bother me) to give even more time to school-related things. As it is, I can barely complete one household chore – ok, not really even that — without pause due to said 3yo. Wondering what other families do…..

    • Thanks for your candid comments and I’m sorry I haven’t replied sooner. (I have a toddler too!) Of course, I don’t know your family at all, but I wonder if you have tried to include your toddler in the things you do? Even when doing reading lessons with your 5yo, you could make it something for the 3yo to join in with too – whether he or she learns anything or not isn’t really important, so it could lighten the whole situation! I do this with my two youngest ones, when we do phonics flash cards or something, and they keep each other company. They also like to have their own exercise books so they can sit at the table doing lessons with the older children, even if all they do is scribble on the pages. And yes, it can be pretty mind-blowing having the little ones ‘helping’ with household chores, but sometimes it’s less work than cleaning up all the things they would get into if they weren’t ‘helping’. Anyway, that’s my suggestion. Best wishes to you.

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