So if you have not heard, a recent court ruling puts into jeopardy those who choose to homeschool their children in California by making it illegal to teach homeschool w/o a teaching credential.
Yesterday while listening to NPR’s Forum as they talked about this decision [MP3] and as I heard people give valid reasons why one should or should not choose public, private or homeschool for their and everyone else’s children, I could only think about worship*.
Yes, Worship. Stay with me.
When I was serving my first church, I was kind of a jerk when it came to worship ideas. I knew the best way, the only way and the most faithful way to worship God. Worship could only be done with THIS kind of music, THIS style of preaching or THIS way of interacting. And while I certainly had valid reasons why these ideas could be true, my arrogance was based on two very dangerous assumptions:
- there is only one – MY – way to connect to God.
- if you didn’t like MY way, you are clearly NOT connecting to God.
What I learned through some very gracious people at the church and after many years of reflecting back on all the ways I was not very helpful, was this: EVERYONE FINDS THEIR CONNECTIONS TO GOD IN DIFFERENT WAYS. Sure there can be some overlap, but when it comes right down to it, in most settings, worship allows folks to connect with the divine in ways that no other aspects of life can offer. What I failed to understand was that when I invalidated particular methods that people chose to worship God, I was saying they there very relationship with God was invalid.
No one should take that crap.
And we should not dole it out.
As we talk about educational choices about our children, I think the same dangers are present. I say this because, religious or not, child-raising is a connection to the divine that is not offered in any other way. If we begin to invalidate choices that people make about educating their child, we are in essence saying that they have made poor choices in how they handle their relationship with God.
I have felt this judgment and disrespect when people critique our choice to have our three daughters enrolled in public school and I know my friends have felt it when people critique their decisions about private or homeschool. It is a visceral reaction. People may simply be making sweeping generalization or expressing opinion, but people lets think about the impact of our words. Because in many ways you are insinuating that we have made bad choices for our children, when in reality we have only made different ones.
Each child and family is different and will – and should? – live this out in different ways.
When it comes to this debate about education, while I certainly have reasons why I think public school is the best option for our children and our family, I certainly do not feel like we should limit the choices that parents have in this arena. While there are certainly blind spots for every parent about their children, we do know what is best for our kids most of the time. And even if/when we do not, we are the ones who are to make the decisions. Short of situations of emotional or social abuse, in the end, every child is different and their educational lives must be chosen in order to best help them grow into who God hopes them to be.
So the next time you engage in this conversation remember a couple of things:
- we are all trying to do what we think is best for our child and our family;
- questions on inquiry are more often better than statements of fact;
- raising children is a spiritual and holy privilege and responsibility;
- your truth and choices are not the only or best for everyone just because you made them;
- generally speaking, if you are engaged in this debate with any amount of passion and commitment, odds are that your kids are going to be okay no matter what choices you make;
- there are no guarantees;
- parents have feelings too, so be compassionate and kind in your anger, sarcasm and misjudged 😉
Be well folks and remember to give the little one a hug.
- Kristen’s promised series on the court ruling
- Forum on NPR, March 11, 2008 – On the Homeschooling Decision [MP3]
* Even though I am making allusions to the religious world, I do know that choices about education are not always made on the basis of religious beliefs.