(More of my recent musings on homeschooling... don't worry, I'll get it out of my system soon and be on to other things.)
As a result of more than a few conversations over the past couple of months, I've come to the conclusion that there is a huge amount of fear within the homeschooling community. I should amend that statement. I see a huge amount of fear within the Christian homeschooling community. I've been trying to figure out why this should be because I don't see the same level of fear within the more secular homeschooling groups I'm involved with. Why should I see such a huge difference in underlying attitudes and behaviors between the two groups?
Here's what I think (and remember I'm speaking in broad, general terms... there are always exceptions to every rule): making a choice out of fear of one of the options never gives one enough basis for sustaining the decision. Let me explain. All parents want to do what is best for their children. We know that we have a responsibility for doing our best to make sure they grow up to be well-adjusted, functioning adults. I believe that Christian parents see this responsibility as magnified because not only are we to nurture our children to adulthood, but we also have eternal implications to our child rearing. I think the thing that every Christian parent fears the most is that one of their children will choose to not follow Jesus... and lying right underneath that fear is that it will be our fault. If we dwell on thinking of parenting in these terms it can lead to panic.
It is this sense of panic that I believe drives some to choose homeschooling. Secular, government schools are seen as something fearful and to be run from and homeschooling becomes one of the things to run to. (Whether there is any truth to these fears is not what I am going to discuss right now, nor does it really have any bearing on my argument, so let's not go there in the comments, OK?) The point is homeschooling is chosen because it is NOT something else; it is not chosen because of what it is.
Now, going against the tide of the majority is not always easy. In order to sustain ones choice, there needs to be some real thinking behind the decision with real reasons to continue. It is here that I think the difference lies between the Christian and the secular (I'm using this term, for lack of a better one, as someone who has chosen homeschooling for non-religious reasons) homeschooler. For the most part, I find secular homeschoolers to have real reasons for making their decisions. They have much less fear because there was less fear to begin with. They have made a conscience choice in living an alternative lifestyle and, for the most part, are pretty content with their decision. I find secular homeschoolers to be much less swayed by the newest teaching method or the next really expensive curriculum.
But many Christian homeschoolers are susceptible to the newest home education fad. And it's almost as if the more expensive and parent-intensive that method is, the more people fall for it. Because it calms their fears. They are doing something... and it must be important and good if it's expensive and time-consuming. And by doing this something it must guarantee exceptionally bright children whose salvation is guaranteed, right? Or if it's not a curriculum, it's going the school system one better. If public-schooled students take 3 AP classes, then my child is going to study for 5 AP exams. Because high AP scores prove you made the right choice.
This saddens me because it doesn't need to be this way. There are many valid reasons for choosing homeschooling on its own merits. (I won't go into them here, they're listed in the homeschooling tab up on top.) We don't have choose a way of teaching our children out of fear. And as Christians we have no need to fear:
"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:15-19 (ESV)
There is no fear in love. We have no need to fear. Fear comes directly from the deceitful one who wants nothing more than to throw God's trustworthiness into question. God knows and loves our children more than we ever could. He knew what He was doing when He gave them to you. This love showered on them is what will draw them Him... not the next best schooling method.