This reflection comes from my wife, Ricci.
Since the birth of our daughter, maybe even before, I’ve been thinking about homeschooling.
A little background to give you perspective is that I’m a trained public school teacher. And having worked with some extremely educated, creative, and indefatigable people, I have nothing but respect for the profession. At first I wasn’t sure why I wanted to homeschool, or what it was that I felt had to change. It was just something at the back of my mind that felt “off”. So, I started reading, regurgitating what I read to my husband, and then reading some more. At first I didn’t even know what I was looking for. I picked up everything that had homeschooling in the subject. I read about Maria Montessori, the Waldorf method, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, and Classical education. Trying to sift and filter what I thought was valuable, what I agreed with, what I disagreed with and trying to come up with my own philosophy of education.
And the question kept coming up in my mind, why? Why with so many choices out there now (i.e. charter schools, magnet schools, etc…) was I doing this. Why was I committing our family to a lot of work and hassle when there are highly trained professional out there who we’re already paying with our taxes to do this important job?
To answer this for myself I had to look at our life and the changes we’d been progressively making since our marriage in 2000. Seven years ago, my spirituality manifested itself in reading my Bible, praying (when I could figure out what to say), going to church, and treating others nice. Now obviously that was all good, but there was a void a big void. If that was all that my faith called me to, then Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t worth much. There had to be more, and more in a big way! We had to be alternative beings, we had to live alternative lives, lives that when against the flow, not a ‘niceified’ version of mainstream culture. It said so right there in the Bible I’d been reading. So as a couple we read and talked. We talked about simplicity, about community, about solidarity with the poor, about spiritual consequences of ecological practices and made decisions based on what we came to believe. And the point of all this is we are still searching and refining, tossing and tweaking and our children are an integral part of this process.
So, to get back to education, if our family believes in living alternatively, and being alternative beings in this current consumer, me-driven culture, and passing that on to our children, then these years of our children’s initial formation are important. If we chose to send our children to public school at the age of five, for six to seven hours a day 180 days a year the struggle, I feel, would be an uphill one.
Now, I’m reading this and realizing that it’s sounding a bit holier-than-thou, and that’s not how I feel at all. So let me say just a bit more. I wrote this to share our story, our path, one that we think meets the unique needs our daughter. This is not our call to abandon the world at large, isolate ourselves in our home, and ‘fill’ our children with what we believe. It’s one way of giving them a chance to see that there is another way to live. We want to teach our daughter, and later our son, to think for themselves. To be an active participant in their own education, not passive receptacles for society to ‘fill up’. Part of the process may be to later send them to public school, I honestly don’t know and I’m not worried about it. We’re making this up as we go along.