Wow! Homeschoolers. What a pestilent lot we are. We are the bane of the internet. We’re like a school of piranha when an unsuspecting bovine wanders to the river bank for a drink. One wrong step and – Bammo! – we attack. In minutes, an unsuspecting anti-homeschooler innocently posting on their blog finds their arguments stripped to the bone, dismantled and useless, sinking in the broadband river of the World Wide Web. Just look what happened to poor Sandy, although I would be quite remiss if I did not point out that I am not calling her a cow. The loneliest blogger online needs only to write one post critical of homeschooling and their page counter spikes through the stratosphere as we assemble en masse to protest. We’re pretty effective in person, too, as was most recently witnessed at the state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. We also sing well.
Homeschoolers are quite adept at protecting their interests, whether they are confronting the opinions of bloggers, news reports concerning home education, or legislative action that increases governmental regulation over homeschooling and unnecessarily burdens homeschoolers. Why are we so effective? How do we circle the wagons to fight unwanted interference when within the homeschooling community there are so many divisions based on curriculum, educational philosophy, and religion? I think the answer rests in one word: culture. Read the definition of “culture” and ask yourself whether or not it describes home educators as a group.
cul·ture – noun (from http://www.dictionary.com/)
1. the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
It is true that homeschoolers try to raise their children with an appreciation for the arts, the ability to write cohesive letters, exhibit proper manners, and to develop the habit of scholarly pursuits. Like my son, who makes Lego Star Wars movies and posts them on Youtube.
2. that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.
They are really good movies for a beginner.
3. a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
Homeschoolers are at a particular stage of civilization where we openly reject government control of education. History will mark the years from the early seventies to now as a period of renewal in terms of home education. Are we neohomeschoolists or neohomescholars?
4. development or improvement of the mind by education or training.
I try. Dear God, I try. Please don’t judge my efforts by the antics of my eight year old. He’s a work in progress. Aren’t we all? And he'll stop playing Amazing Grace with his arm pit in church. I promise.
5. the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture…
…and the homeschooling culture. This is working. I think I’m on to something here.
6. Anthropology. the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
We certainly hope that our manner of raising and educating our children is carried on through the generations after we pass on. I will be disappointed if none of my children homeschool.
7. Biology .
a. the cultivation of microorganisms, as bacteria, or of tissues, for scientific study, medicinal use, etc.
b. the product or growth resulting from such cultivation.
Well, the NEA certainly thinks we are, and not a very beneficial culture, either.
8. the act or practice of cultivating the soil; tillage.
Metaphorically speaking, if my children are the soil, and I am the farmer, this works.
9. the raising of plants or animals, especially with a view to their improvement.
The sounds that emanate from the basement while my children are at play often make me wonder if they’ve been secretly removed from my house and replaced with howler monkeys. So, yeah, this fits, too.
10. the product or growth resulting from such cultivation.
I see growth in my children. Sometimes its abnormal growth, like my oldest boy’s mastery of belching “The Gettysburg Address,” but I take what I can get without complaining.
Are you nodding your head? Do you see yourself reflected above? Your children? I’m betting that if you’ve spent any amount of time homeschooling, your answer is yes.
Critics do not realize that home education does not simply concern the memorization of facts and figures. Neither is it just an activity between nine in the morning and three in the afternoon. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It defines who we are as a people. Our choices in home educating our children reflect what we believe in, how we view the world around us and how we interact with that world. Homeschooling takes incredible sacrifice. From researching curriculum to purchasing the same, from lesson planning to instruction, and from grading work to providing timely feedback, teaching children at home takes a tremendous amount of effort. We willingly sacrifice time, hobbies, social activities, and a second income in order to ensure that our children have the best possible chance at a successful life. When people call for homeschool reform, for government oversight of home education, homeschoolers see an effort to evaluate and control our faith, our family, and our standards for living in the privacy of our homes, with the potential to mandate changes in our homes with which we do not agree. This is especially true of Christian homeschoolers, whose constitutionally protected faith demands they educate their children with a world view that governs every subject they teach. We rightly oppose the government’s reach into our homes.
So, tell me, fellow piranhas, are we engaged in a simple defense of an educational philosophy, or are we defending our culture?