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.