We are sticking with homeschooling in our new place, a decision that puzzles some of our new friends. The local public schools are good (people relocate from Baton Rouge to this parish because of the quality of the schools), so why wouldn’t we put our kids in them? It’s hard to explain that we’re not rejecting the public schools, or passing judgment on the people who send their kids there (which is pretty much everybody), but rather embracing an educational path that we believe is better for our kids, for various reasons having to do with the kinds of kids they are, and what we want for them.
Writing in First Things (subscription required), David Mills tells how he and his wife met queries about their decision to homeschool their children. Excerpt:
The other day someone asked about our children, and my answer worried him, or at least he claimed to be concerned. When they hear the answer to their question, many people get a look on their faces similar, I imagine, to the look they’d get if I said we refused to have our children vaccinated or let them keep rattlesnakes as pets. We homeschool our two youngest, and have done so since they were in kindergarten, with the exception of two years early on at our parochial school.
The response varies. A few people say something nice, with some of them telling you how they’d wished they had done so, or wished they could have done so, some of those explaining a little defensively why they couldn’t. Most people suddenly furrow their brows and purse their lips and declare their concerns about homeschooling, which seem always to be less often about the quality of the education as about the children’s “socialization.” Although the people who say something nice are almost always religious and conservative, the people with the quickly furrowed brows are either religious or secular, and I’ve been surprised to find out how many seriously religious and politically very conservative people dislike home schooling and jump to tell you so.
It’s a little disconcerting, their apparent concern for making sure our children fit into the society as it is. There is something both aggressive and unctuous in their alleged concern for my children that really annoys me. My wife, who is much more charitable than I am in dealing with annoying people, answers them politely, and sets about to reassure them by telling them about the homeschooling groups to which our children go several days a week and all the other activities they are involved in. Some seem satisfied, others clearly aren’t. I have so far resisted the temptation to put my hand on their shoulder, look them in the eye, and ask, “Why is it so important to you that my children be squeezed into the same mold as everyone else?”
The socialization thing. Oy. I don’t think anybody who has met our kids will be under the least illusion that they aren’t socialized. The third day we were here, our 12 year old went to the library on his own, got a library card, and inquired about volunteering there. Of his own initiative, he’s introduced himself to many of the shopkeepers on the main street. Tell me about socialization. More:
People who have no obvious stake in the matter, like most of the people who have expressed dismay at my wife and my decision to homeschool our children, tend to side with the establishment against the parents. They’ve somehow absorbed the key elements of the ideology, like the concern for “socialization,” which is either a faux concern for the children’s well-being or a real concern for their being educated outside of and probably against the ideas public schools (with exceptions, of course) inculcate and impose.
Before someone remarks that some homeschooling parents are very odd or inept or (in a very few cases) dangerous: Yes, of course, it is not a perfect system. But that doesn’t answer the question of who should educate children.
David goes on to say that the education of children is a matter of soulcraft, and, in a lovely phrase, “should be entrusted only to the craftsman who loves his materials and will have his name on the thing he creates.”
Read the whole thing. It’s behind the subscription wall at First Things, but let’s hope they’ll free it up someday — or better yet, why not buy a subscription? There’s wisdom here, beautifully expressed.