Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Birds of a Homeschooling Feather

The e-mail appeared to be as innocent as any other from the Christian Homeschoolers Around Leavenworth Kansas (CHALK).  It was a reminder for their monthly meeting.  Then I noticed that sentence in the middle of the text.  It was the sentence that said, “You are not welcome here.”  That’s because CHALK “is a homeschool group that meets together once a month for mom's meetings” (emphasis mine).  In an email chain between the leader of the group and a prospective member, it was made clear that men are not welcome: neither husbands nor stay-at-home homeschooling dads.  

In another part of the email, I saw mention of their statement of faith.  There is a statement of faith that the group asks all members to sign.  It isn’t mandatory, but they make it clear that by joining the group you agree to the tenets of the statement.  The statement contains standard Christian concepts quoted directly from scripture, and many Christian groups require members to sign them.  I was once asked to sign a statement of Christian faith by a practicing lesbian who was also a homeschooling group administrator, a concept that I found both ironic and amusing.  No one has ever been able to explain to me how these faith statements fit with James5:12, "Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned," or Matthew 5:37, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”  Oddly, no one who ever required me to sign a statement of faith ever asked me whether or not I agreed.  It has always been a case of sign, or leave.

In the Today Show Online article As home-schooling moves to mainstream, stigma fades, a generally fair article about homeschooling, black homeschooler Angela Jenkins searched for other black homeschoolers with whom she could connect.   She “started DFWhomeschoolcafe, a website originally created to connect people of color to home-schooling resources and provide a place for them to share ideas with each other. Her site is one of various sites and support groups for people of color.” The article also listed websites such as the Black Homeschoolers Club, the National Black Home Educators, and Mommy Maestra, “a Latina home-schooling blog.” There are Yahoo! and Google groups, like the CHALK group, for Chinese-Americans, Latinos, Native American, and Muslim homeschoolers.

We read and hear a lot in the media about how politically polarized our nation has become.  I think our nation is segregated far beyond political divisions, and the evidence for that segregation has been staring me in the face for decades.  I grew up in a city that had a Polish community second only to Warsaw in size and population.  There were sections of town that were “Italian,” Czechoslovakian,” and “Black.”  Once in awhile we drove to “Chinatown.”  I am certain that at one time there was a need for birds of a feather to flock together as successive waves of immigration swept across the country.  People tend to be distrustful of change and look for support from a comfortable source: people like themselves.  At the same time, I suspect that the great melting pot doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t exist by choice.  We may be dumping beef and potatoes and carrots into the stew pot, but no matter how often we stir the beef is hanging out in one third of the pot, the potatoes are piled in the another third, and the carrots are bunched together in the last unclaimed section.   

I'm left with more questions than answers.  How can Christian homeschoolers spread the word of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross if they only associate with other Christian homeschoolers?  Is the "evil one" at work in a homeschooling group when they require a signed statement of faith and actively exclude people from participation, or are the members merely treating other people as they wish to be treated?  Why must homeschooling groups be segregated by gender?  Don’t fathers of homeschoolers have something to offer to the homeschooling conversation?   After all, the dialogue does concern their children.  Don’t fathers who stay at home and homeschool need dialogue with other homeschoolers concerning curriculum, lesson plans, resources, and field trips?  What don’t I understand about being Latino or Black or Chinese or female that makes mastering algebraic facts different than it is for male Caucasians?  Why are caucasians excluded from the category "people of color?"  "Caucasian" does not mean "white" any more than "Black" really means "black."  Just look at a cross-section of "people of color" and you'll see a wide variation on the theme of brown.  Frankly, I'm more of a reddish-pinkish hue than I am white, unless you're looking at my naked legs in the dead of winter. Then you might have a point.  Is it possible that homeschooling critics make a valid point about homeschooling when they raise issues concerning homogeny?   Where is the diversity in self-segregated homeschooling communities?  Or, was Thurgood Marshall wrong?  Is separate really equal?  Is separate preferred? Is the call for diversity a sham?


  1. I saw that same message from CHALK and red lights flashed in my mind. How can they be outreaching to others if it has closed doors? I don't pay to join the group just because I've found they don't have anything to offer to the older children. The parents of older children are cycled out of the group (my opinion) right along with fathers.

  2. You do have a point. I agree with most of what you say. The large group that I belong to is Christian based and I want to hang out with like minded people. That being said - within that group I see both parents, I see fathers there. I see different races there (reflecting the population of this area).

    I know of some Christian parents who send their kids to school to be a "light" to the world. I disagree with that thought process. I want my child's social circle to me "like minded". So I don't consider my homeschool group to be evangelical focused - to be used to reach others. But rather that group to be used to strengthen and encourage us to "go out" and be that light.

  3. This post raises a question as well concerning what the purpose of homeschool groups is/should be. One of my growing concerns about the homeschool movement is that there are increasing numbers of parents who are homeschooling for a variety of "reactionary" reasons that do NOT include having a strong sense of purpose or conviction. These parents NEED to be in the company of experienced, passionate, and motivated homeschoolers. Shouldn't the purpose of our homeschool groups include a desire to help new homeschoolers? And not necessarily homeschoolers that are just like us?!?!

    I agree with you that the segregation encouraged by many homeschool groups (including large state organizations) is not healthy and is, in many cases, counter-productive.

    Hmmmm....I have much to say. Maybe I need to continue this in a post.....

  4. When I said "like minded" I did mean similar values and faith. Within this group there are various levels of experiences, convictions and passions. I do agree that we need to come alongside and help the new homeschoolers. But I would rather belong to a group that has a recognized standard. For me there is a comfort in that. So when I disagree with something that is going on I know that we can have an understanding; that although we may not be on the same page at least we are holding the same book.

    I belong to three groups. A very large group (where I don't know nearly everybody) with a statement of faith attached to it. I belong to a much smaller group that is informal but since we all know each other personally, we do have the same faith.

    And I belong to a third group where the only common denominator is that we all homeschool - including public school done at home. This group is attached my a mass email notifying of available activities open to all homeschoolers. I regularly attend an activity twice a month - but I still tend to congregate with those who are "like minded".

  5. I left a co-op for similar reasons, they wanted only folk 'like themselves' and I want a variety. I do keep my kids close in many ways, no experience is far from me giving my opinion or offering shelter as needed, yet many different folk are around with different faiths, schooling types and opinions.

    There has to be a balance of safety. A fence can be a place of security, but it can also keep out good things.

  6. It puzzles me that when some people decide to home school, the first thing they want to do is form an organization and hold meetings. To me, one of the chief *benefits* of home schooling is the opportunity to opt out of that sort of thing. When my kids need something, I just do it, without trying to get a group of people to agree with me first.

    Likewise, if there is an organization that we think will serve a need well, we take the opportunity offered, without worrying about whether the organization is home school-centered, religious, or whatever other demographic we may or may not fit. All we ask is, "Does this aspect of this organization serve my child's need and work for my family?"

  7. I definitely wouldn't want to be part of a group that excludes anyone. I'm a member of a Christian homeschooler's association, but they don't require any statement of faith or proof of some kind from any members. In fact, they make it clear that non-Christians may join. I don't like the idea that anyone might be unwelcome, and would take myself elsewhere if they changed that.