An Economic Homeschool Meltdown?

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Things I think about…

Seven years ago, few of the moms my wife and I knew worked. Today, nearly all do.

Many of the men we know make less money than they once did. And that was before enormous increases in the cost of nearly everything, so their reduced incomes buy even less.

More than 2.5 million jobs evaporated in 2008. Gone. Possibly for a long time.

Every indicator shows that more households than ever homeschool. At least that’s what the latest polls show. The problem is that most statistics run only through 2007.

So what’s been going on in the last year or so in the homeschooling ranks as the economy slipped into depression?

Truth is, I’m not really sure. Few homeschooling resources are talking about the economy. (Although I did find one, and almost could not believe what I read there. Yow. Talk about spin!)

But I have got to believe the downturn must be having some effect. With many male breadwinners succumbing to the pink slip parade, more jobs will open for moms, if the last downturn proved anything. Dads? Not so much.

Where will that leave homeschooling families when mom is forced to do full-time work to keep the family in their home? What happens when both parents are scrambling for elusive jobs? What happens to a mom forced to return to work having been out of the workforce for…well, a small eternity.

For many families, homeschooling is a badge of honor, a sign of God’s righteous blessing, and the password into that hoity-toity back room at the world’s most exclusive club.

And I say that as someone who has homeschooled and fully supports homeschooling families.

Sometimes good Christian people will talk and talk about a subject as long as that subject is working in their own lives. The second it stops, the silence is deafening. A vanishing scene?I’ve seen this so many times I may trademark a term for it.

For some families, the shame that comes from extended unemployment may lead, in their minds at least, to an even more crushing blow: the inability to continue homeschooling. (That shouldn’t be the priority, but it is for some.)

Though this post may be nothing more conjecture on my part, I know that my wife and I had to make tough decisions about homeschooling and the future of my business (along with my role as primary breadwinner). Homeschooling lost. Was that our wish? No. But sometimes you really can’t have it all.

If you’re a homeschooling family that is dealing with the kinds of situations I’ve outlined in his post, I want to extend to you something you may not find elsewhere: grace. I also want to hear your story.

Thanks for stopping by. God cares. So do I.

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(I’ve writen extensively on homeschooling. Some of the best posts: The Myths of Homeschooling Series:1, 2, 3, 4; A Few Thoughts on Homeschooling, A Bag Full of Wet Tribbles, Choosing Your Canaan, and Super Christian Homeschooling Ninja Moms of Death.”)

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42 thoughts on “An Economic Homeschool Meltdown?

  1. Andrea

    Very interesting post! I am wondering what you think of the virtual academy route? We are mulling over our options for next fall, and that looks pretty attractive, from a financial standpoint.

    Sadly, your comment about “many families” and God’s blessing, and hoity-toity and all that doesn’t really seem very accurate or kind to me. I know loads of HS families and they are all **grateful** to be able to homeschool and certainly don’t wear it like a badge of honor. What gives?

    Thanks again, from a “new” reader.

    • Andrea,

      We did the virtual academy route with Ohio Virtual Academy, which used K12. While other parents were raving about OHVA, I ended up less than thrilled. In our case, the books were top notch and the online guiding materials good, but our supervising teacher was so busy having babies that we felt abandoned by what was heavily billed as OHVA’s very tight support system. When I complained to OHVA and other families in the group, we all got eye rolls at the mention of that teacher. OHVA went on and on about their great support and communication, but I felt abandoned—and that’s not something I say much, no matter the situation.

      So definitely, YMMV.

      Actually, the raging pridefulness exhibited by MANY homeschoolers is epidemic. Their way is God’s way, and any other way is straight from hell. If you’re not encountering this, try asking some people who send their kids to public school what they think of the attitudes of some of the folks who homeschool (or who send their kids to private Christian schools). Just read my link to “Choosing Your Canaan” above.

      • Andrea

        Dan, just because those people might say that, does it follow that these people actually *do* have this attitude? I have run into people whose own consciences seem so touchy about schooling issues, that they will tell me all the reasons why they don’t homeschool within minutes of meeting me, and believe me, I never ask and I only bring up schooling if I’m prodded to do so.

        Why would people feel the need to tell me all the reasons why they don’t homeschool? I certainly don’t feel the need to lay out all the reasons why I do? Most often, people who do this are sounding like they are trying to justify their choice, when (if they only knew!) I really don’t care what they are doing (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). I have enough just keeping my own life straight before God to worry about their familial responsibilities.

        So…I wonder if some of those comments that you seem to think we might get from those people might also be their reaction. I am sad to think that “raging pridefulness” is happening. I guess I’d better open my eyes…I’m in Ohio, too.

  2. trevor

    Hey, Dan. We do homeschool, although I’m at pains to point out that although we are both christians and homeschoolers, we’re not ‘christian homeschoolers.’

    The ability to tailor our educational approach to each child’s unique needs, give a them a broad and deep education, plus all the benefits of very small class sizes has been a wonderful opportunity.

    I’m not sure about the ‘exclusive club’ aspect you mentioned – maybe that’s just a US thing? In Canada, homeschooling is considered somewhat fringe, although several other families in our neighbourhood do it. Back in the UK, it’s virtually unheard of.

    My experience is that homeschoolers are a diverse lot, with a huge range of educational philosophies, from strictly regimented to completely un-schooled.

    This week we’re experimenting with co-schooling with another family – sharing kids and teaching responsibilities. We’re only a couple of days into the experiment, but so far it’s going well.

    And yes, in regards to your original point, we are very fortunate that we can afford the time to do this.

    • Trevor,

      Wow. I can’t believe you’ve never encountered the exclusive club thing. That may be that you’re in the midst of it and don’t get a chance to step back and listen to what some folks say.

      I have talked to so many homeschooling parents where the overweening sense of pride at the fact that they alone know the proper form of education dominates everything. The “Well, we homeschool because it’s God’s only way” thing, with nose firmly in the air around those who don’t school that way, is rampant everywhere I look. So is the fear of all other educational alternatives. In those circles, if you don’t homeschool your kids, you might as well just damn them all to hell because any other form of education will most certainly turn them into drug-addled motorcycle gang members.

      Seriously.

      In fact, just last week I was at a meeting where that kind of rhetoric was flying fast and furious. I felt obligated to lighten it up, and the daggers that got stared at me from folks were enough to fill the Colosseum in Rome.

      • trevor

        Ah, it’s probably a cultural difference. The majority of homeschoolers I know are doing it for educational reasons – things like small class sizes, the ability to tailor the educational approach to individual children. In our case, the fact that we’ve been migrating back and forth between Canada and the UK and wanted some consistency in our kids lives was a major driving force.

        I am aware that there are specifically ‘Christian’ homeschool groups around, but we’ve never been invited to join. I guess the secret password got lost in the mail. In the last city we lived in there was (at least) a Christian group, a Muslim group, and the ‘all comers’ group that we were part of.

        Seems to me it’d be pretty hard for the homeschoolers round to here to get an ‘exclusive’ attitude, because they represent so many diverse educational philosophies. We don’t homeschool because it’s the ‘one right way’, but because it lets us experiment until we can find the right way for each child. And I certainly acknowledge that public school may well be the ‘right’ thing for a given kid at some point in their education – we’ve never ruled that out.

  3. We are “Christian homeschoolers” who homeschool first and foremost because we are Christians. I try not to take that as a badge of honor, although I know that I and others do so at times. I lost my job early in 2008 and although unlike many people I got another one very quickly, abandoning homeschool for my wife to work was simply not an option. Our responsibilities as Christian parents are not put aside for economic reasons. Many of the ills in our families come from treating children as economic units, as expenses on a spreadsheet.

    I actually don’t think that the downturn in economics is going to decrease homeschooling. In fact many reports show that fewer and fewer families are able to pay for daycare and one parent is staying home. Two income families rarely make economic sense given increased costs for taxes, work expenses, child care. So I hope that as Christians set aside the worldly and spend more time with their children, they will embrace educating their children at home or in a Christian setting.

    At the risk of sounding “hoity-toity ” or dogmatic…Homeschool may not be right for EVERY Christian family but secular government schools are not right for ANY Christian families.

    • Arthur, et al., (Please read.)

      A few points:

      Up until the industrial revolution, ALL families treated children as economic units because children had a work responsibility that improved a family’s chances for survival. Only since the industrial revolution has this idea of “childhood for childhood’s sake” been promulgated. And that is largely because children are essentially “useless” to the livelihood of families because of the jobs we do in the West and mistaken notions we have about the role of children in the family. But rest assured, for most of human history that has not been the case. Nor is it the case in cultures outside the West.

      Not everyone will be able to replace a lost job with one that will afford them the same level of income they once enjoyed. I witnessed that among the college-educated men I call friends when the Internet bubble burst. Most ended up taking jobs that paid less after they were laid off. Their wives ended up taking up the slack. This is why we know almost no families where the wife does not work.

      Two-income families make economic sense when both adults can make decent money. In many cases, though, mothers who stayed home with the kids for years can only get sub-$12/hr. jobs, which usually won’t overcome the losses that come in other areas, just as you mentioned. But when both parents can bring in similar amounts of decent pay, it does make sense.

      I don’t understand your final comment. It sets up a paradox that cannot be resolved.

      Many families cannot afford to homeschool for financial reasons. You allow that homeschooling may be not be right for all Christian families. But if you eliminate public schools, what is left? Private school? Have you priced private schools lately? Unless dad brings home $100+K a year, private school is a luxury most families can’t afford. You have left no alternatives.

      Take our situation, for instance. After working for years and enduring repeated downsizings that had nothing to do with my job performance or work ability, I decided that I had to go into business for myself. The constant downsizings were playing havoc with our family. They put my wife into the primary breadwinner role after a while because each downsizing was forcing me into jobs that paid less, while companies kept offering my wife more money. Around this time, our son was born.

      At that point, the knives came out and many Christians deemed me unworthy of my role as husband because my wife was making more money than I was. Trust me. Some Christians can be ruthless on this.

      I saw my only way out of the downsizing cycle through owning my own business. As it takes five years for most small businesses to get going, this meant that my wife would be working outside the home and bringing in almost all the money while I worked to get my business going. I started ramping up my business, but right when I got to that sweet spot for growth, we faced the prospect of educating our son. I stayed home and homeschooled because I have the degree for it and was also the one working from home anyway. This only brought more derision from the Christian community because it wasn’t my wife doing the homeschooling. The things some homeschooling mothers who claimed to be Christians said to me and the way they treated me was not worthy of the Savior’s name, let me tell you.

      However, the amount of time homeschooling took out of my day kept me from expanding my business. This put more pressure on my wife. Then her industry started facing downsizing, too. This put even more pressure on me to expand my business. This meant I could not be the one homeschooling anymore, but we were not at a point that we could bring my wife home to work and still pay our bills. At that point, we decided to put our son in public school.

      And it was a blessing that we did, because shortly thereafter illness struck our household. If I had not been home working and our son in public school, it would have been a disaster of epic proportions. My wife is not working at present and is not able to homeschool. I am doing the work alone and it has been difficult. There is no way I could homeschool my son. Private school is a pipe dream.

      We do not live a profligate lifestyle, by any means. We drive a 9-year-old car and a 16-year-old pickup. We have not had a vacation in ten years. In fact, my son has never been on a vacation to anywhere. I can’t remember the last time I bought clothes.

      So when I hear the standard rhetoric from fellow Christians, I get angry. I get angry that I was labeled a transgressor for ending up making less money than my wife, then later working from home while she worked outside it, then for abandoning homeschooling, then for not being involved in every Christian cause because I am too busy trying to bring in an income to do all the worthy work I need to be doing (so says all those Christian culture war battlers).

      I would love to homeschool my son again. I would love for it to always be a sunny day. I would love for people to always be healthy. I would love for companies not to toss away at every economic whim hard working people who are loyal and smart and take pride in their work. If every day had a rainbow, it would be grand.

      But this is a sin-sick world, not a utopia. And many Christian people don’t realize how good they have it until something goes wrong and their own little utopia burns down and the ashes blow away in the wind. I have not only lived through that, but I still face it every day.

      There is too much judgment leveled at people who trying their darndest just to get by. Plenty of judgment and no help at all. I can listen to all the rhetoric out of those Christian organizations who say that a father must always be the primary breadwinner, and a mother must always be home with the kids, and you must always homeschool because the public schools are pits of hell, but when we asked those groups for help they gave us nothing. So what good is all their rhetoric?

      Kudos to families who homeschool. Now I just wish they would stop being so judgmental of everyone else and far more appreciative of what they have. ‘Cause brother, they may not always have it. Trust me, I know.

        • Andrea,

          What’s really sobering is that my family and I are not the only ones who have gone through this kind of thing. I’ve talked with others who have similar stories. That’s why I offer grace. A lot of people who call themselves Christians won’t. And that’s a travesty. We too easily require that people be the family on the front cover of Focus on the Family magazine while failing to equip them to be that family—or kicking them when they fall from the cover and wind up less than our ideal.

          That’s why I write about economics, homeschooling, benevolence, community, counterculture, and the types of issues writing you read here at Cerulean Sanctum. Someone has to. Someone has to point to the flawed system, whether secular or sacred, and say, “We have got to do better. There has to be a better way.”

          If our trials don’t lead us to better answers, then we are wasting those trials. And if our trials don’t humble us and make us less willing to throw stones at others who have fallen, then God help us.

        • One last thing…

          Part of our problem is that we are like the Pharisees in that we need to have someone to blame for the man born blind. Either he or his parents did something wrong to account for his condition.

          The truth is that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Time and chance happen to them all. That’s what the Scripture says. That should keep us humble. Perhaps our smarts weren’t the reason that we succeeded. On the flip side, we may have done everything right yet the bad news came anyway.

          We don’t want to hear that. We don’t because it forces us to recognize that we are not in control. And that’s a scary, humbling position to be in. (Though it’s the position God demands we be in.)

          And we also don’t want to hear that because it eliminates our ability to assign blame. The blind man and his parents weren’t to blame, said Jesus. The man was blind so that a servant of God could come into his life and demonstrate the awesome power of God to the glory of God.

          Rather than blame people when they are suffering, where are the servants of God drawing alongside the hurting to demonstrate the power of God to the glory of God? Are they bringing grace, or are they assigning blame? Are they dealing with the problem out of the riches that God has bestowed on them for service, or are they kicking the hurting while they are down, saying, “You did something wrong, so now you are paying for it”? Or are they standing off to one side saying, “Thank God I’m not like you, you poor schmuck”?

          Please God, never let us be anything less than servants who draw alongside to demonstrate the power of God to the glory of God.

    • trevor

      See, this is where we differ. I don’t homeschool because we’re Christians, I homeschool because I want the best possible education for my kids and I couldn’t possibly afford a good private school.

      To say that government funded education is always wrong is, too me, completely bizarre. I’m profoundly grateful for the advances in public education that have been made over the last 200 years or so, and I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me thanks to my government funded schooling. Why would this be a bad thing?

      • Trevor,

        I find the Evangelical criticism of public schools to be maddening.

        Evangelicals beefed like mad about state and national standards for the public schools. Then when they got them, they beefed that they were too limiting. Then they started pulling their kids out. Then denigrate the very thing they argued for and poison the well for everyone else.

        That’s nuts, yet it’s exactly what happened. Perhaps if Evangelicals had left wel enough alone, things would be even better for public school kids.

        Then again, the mere insinuation might get me tarred and feathered.

  4. It’s been ages since I’ve commented, but I just had to say, Kudos, Dan! I was homeschooled and continue to defend it as a viable educational alternative. HOWEVER, I strongly agree with your assessment of the Christian homeschooling landscape, because in the same way that I defend homeschooling, I have also had to defend (to homeschoolers) my (female) coworkers who were holding down jobs in order to keep their families afloat. It’s so hard to recognize (and remember) the ways in which we are privileged.

  5. Andrea

    I can tell that if I keep reading this blog, it’s going to take some processing time.

    Dan, I think you have some good reflections here. In your last comment at 13:03:01 above, are you hinting that you are suffering? Are you suggesting that people how have made the decision to not homeschool are suffering? That post loses me a bit on the whole homeschooling issue…are you talking about people who wish they could homeschool but are not able to for various reasons?

    Maybe it doesn’t really matter why people do or don’t homeschool? Is that what you are saying, too?

    You are clearly someone who has experienced some nasty and completely unnecessary reactions, but I actually think that if you are talking about criticism in terms of sheer numbers, I have received way, way more negatives from fellow Christians who chose public or private school. Before we moved, our church where we were attending was around 450-500 people and we were the only homeschoolers and many Christian folks were not shy about telling me how I was shirking my Christian duty to put my Christian children in the schools, blah, blah, blah. Add to that, that I am a former high school teacher myself, and people felt like I was a “traitor.” So…I think it runs both ways. You just happen to be abused on the homeschool side of things.

    Perhaps this is a wider issue of immaturity; an issue of failing to understand what is my concern and responsibility and what is not; and an issue of allowing the smokescreen of “someone else’s problem” to keep me from focusing much needed mental/spiritual energy on the issues in my own walk.

    • Andrea,

      People who don’t fit the approved list of Evangelical Christian “MUSTs” often find themselves the recipients of a lot of abuse from the greater group. That practically defines Evangelicalism in 2009 in America. Conform or die, in other words. I’d like to say that my opinion on this is hyperbole, but no evidence to the contrary has been forthcoming as I have observed modern Evangelicalism.

      I think we need to stop criticizing people on their choices of education for their children, even if they decide to send their kids to public schools. I know of many homeschooled kids who are dumb as rocks because their parents loved the warm fuzzies they got from calling themselves homeschoolers, even if they couldn’t teach their kids to save their lives. In the same way, a lot of public school kids are indoctrinated in some rotten stuff. And private school kids? Well, they and their parents can both end up with an elitist attitude, even at a Christian school. Trust me, I’ve seen that elitist stuff up close and it’s not good.

      No matter how you chose to teach your kids, be humble about it. Don’t glamorize your choice or denigrate those who choose a different path for their own kids. Parents need support from each other, not brickbats. And the Church should be even better at that understanding than the world.

  6. Octavato

    “For many families, homeschooling is a badge of honor, a sign of God’s righteous blessing, and the password into that hoity-toity back room at the world’s most exclusive club.”

    I saw this in a church I once attended where the homeschooled parents formed a ‘faction’ and demanded seperate children’s church classes for their kids to where their kids wouldn’t get ‘polluted’ from those ‘secular kids’ in the normal children’s church. This, mixed with a dominionist Joel’s Army / last-days remnant / old testament ‘sin in the camp’, and knowledge of every AFA boycott and FOTF Citizen alert mentality was a very lethal, angry, bitter, and volatile combination.

    They had an elitist, arrogant, and disgusting attitude and it manifested more from the women while dad was silent, passive, and spoke with a fake meekness with the wimpiest handshake with no strength as if he knew who was really the boss of the family.

    It got to the point (before the parents within the ‘faction’ made their request) where the parents were anointing their children with oil in the parking lot and praying loud ‘protective prayers’ over their kids’ (to get noticed) before church and after church perform loud spiritual warfare to ‘cast off the evil influences’ off the kids (you can’t have sin in the camp) before they got into the car to go home.

    The ‘faction’ made their request. The deacons denied their request.

    The next couple of weeks, the parents from the ‘faction’ set up a round-robin rotation schedule from house-to-house where one family would be the host to ‘home children church’ the kids before church and the ‘faction’ would show up for church with their kids who sat in the sanctuary while the ‘secular kids’ were in the normal children’s church.

    It got to the point where the topic was addressed from the pulpit and when it appeared that the ‘faction’ wasn’t going to get their way, they stood up and rebuked the pastor, stormed out while praying for God to send down the fire, brimstone, plagues, etc. while quoting Mark 6:11 and performed a ‘shake dust’ ritual before they got into their cars.

    Onto another subject – In the bible Belt where I live, one of the selling points is that the mom can be a ‘Bible-based’ stay-at-home’ mom and raise ‘great kids’ when compared to the dual income families who according to them raise ‘bad kids’.

    What I discovered is that in most of these families, the ‘single income’ mentality they portray is nothing more than a myth. When dad comes home from work, mom prepares for her other career.

    Second-shift Professional MLM Saleswoman (it’s amazing how many homeschooling parents are usually MLM salespeople) where the dad and kids go to the back corner of the house to do homeschool homework silently while mom uses the living room and den for .

    Monday Night – Avon Makeover – woman’s night out

    Tuesday Night – Tupperware Party

    Thursday Night – Partylite candle shows

    Friday Night – Cookout (dad leaves the backroom because this time, it’s dad’s co-workers who are the guests turned into a Pampered Chef session)

    Saturday – Flea Market booth or yard sale of Mega Vitamins, supplements, De-toxifiers / antioxidants, weight-loss pills, Third World Nation miracle juices, and Colon Cleansers combined with whatever old clothes from their closets and leftovers from the previous weeks MLM shows while dad stays inside and cleans the house.

    the off nights are Wednesday Night (they go to Church) and on Sunday (they go to Church, then the Golden Corral afterwards and then do their weekly grocery shopping with a Family night of Veggie Tales movies.) They drive the SUV or minivan with the homeschooling bumper stickers and with magnetic signs for a MLM (depends on which one is the hot seller at the time is the one you see) on the doors with a cell phone number and a link to a (insertMLMhere).com/sweetie476374958737589 webpage.

    Worse is when you are a visitor at their churches and they hit up on you as if they want to be your friend and invite you to the Golden Corral for lunch after church. You go. In the middle of lunch, they turn the conversation from getting to know you and your relationship with God to buying their products or becoming their sub-tier distributor.

    • Octavio,

      You bring up many good points, and though I recognize the generalizations, I think you nailed that subculture pretty well. Even the MLM thing. Your final paragraph is a killer; I have heard those horror stories, too.

  7. Denise

    I know that this economy is tough for all families, not just homeschool families. I really think that those who are in it for the long haul will sacrifice what they can to continue.

    I homeschooled my two daughters from kindergarten through their senior years of high school. We lived in a small house, bought used furniture, shopped at secondhand and clearance type clothing stores, and at garage sales. Our cars weren’t new and sometimes the finances were very lean.

    I never said much about our homeschooling to others, because their reactions were usually very negative. If I was asked, then I would share. I have encountered all kinds of homeschoolers of every extreme, and I have encountered the same types of people in the public and private school world. People are people the world over.

    I will always be glad that we homeschooled our kids. I am very close to both of them and I don’t think that I could have been such a part of their lives otherwise. They are well-adjusted and socialized individuals. They both have done well in college, and I am excited about their future potentials.

    I wish that all families could homeschool, but realize that it isn’t always possible. If you can do without some material things and make it work, then I encourage you to do so. If you can’t, then be involved in your kids’ schools and try to help them with their homework. They will value more, the time that you spend with them, then they ever will the things that you buy for them.

    • Denise,

      Some people do without the material things and still cannot make it work. Those people need grace, too.

      In my neck of the woods, homeschooling is all the rage and is a badge of honor for many. I rarely meet anyone who has a negative view of it. Ironically, my mother was probably the most anti-homeschoolng person I know. That may have been because she was an old school schoolteacher. I wonder what she would have said, had she lived, concerning both our homeschooling and public schooling experiences.

  8. Good post Dan. Our two oldest children went to the local Christian school, and we homeschooled our son.
    There were advantages and disadvantages in both.
    Our girls were never quite accepted in their Christian school because we were not members of an approved church…a couple of dispensationalists in a flock of Calvinists. I don’t think people were really overtly elitist, but they mostly ignored us until it was fund-raising time. The girls did get a good academic foundation, though.
    We began homeschooling our son (a “caboose” in our family train) because he was very bright, began reading very early, and was nearly an only child. Homeschooling was recently made legal in Wisconsin, and there were several other families in our area who met together for cooperative music & art classes and did field trips and fellowship activities. Our son loved it, and we formed some good friendships. I didn’t see the elitist attitude for years, until homeschooling became very popular. Suddenly some groups were expelling families because they weren’t Christians, and started circling their wagons.
    Of the two school experiences we’ve had, the homeschool route was by far the best. And the groups that were not “exclusive” were the ones where we felt the most comfortable.
    That said… I wonder how families with children in the Christian & private schools will be able to finance their educations. Most of the families with kids in the Christian school here have both parents working now just to pay the tuition. When one gets laid off, they have no reserve worker to enter the job market to meet the bill.

    • Kat,

      What is it with wealthy Calvinists and their private Christian schools? The most exclusive Christian school in my area is largely Calvinist and the stories of elitism I have heard (or personally experienced) about that school are astonishing. Man, I wish some people could see themselves in the mirror of Truth.

      Your story of Wisconsin just now accepting homeschooling as legit surprises me. I taught outdoor education to homeschoolers in Wisconsin way back in the late ’80s.

  9. N.

    Dan,

    I can sympathize, but from a different perspective. I began homeschooling when it became apparent that my daughter had attention deficit and neither the public school or a subsequent private school could meet her needs. Two years into the program, I took took in the son of a friend, a single mom who had to work but whose last child was failing (and getting into trouble) in the public school. Both improved in abilities and self-confidence and then went on to high school–fortunately for us, I found a private prep school that offered wonderful financial aid. Then my daughter went off to a Christian college, again with financial aid, because she wanted a “safe” environment. She was raped during her first year by a leader in the “Christian” college, was shunned by the other “Christian” students after he lied about it and her, felt ostracized by many at the church we attended, and was so ashamed she didn’t tell me about the abuse until she ended up in counseling a couple of years later.

    My son, five years younger, home schooled until he could attend that same prep school. I worked with his father in the father’s business–barely scraping by financially–during much of that time, relying on videos for our son’s early years–with two breaks in 5th and 7th grades when we tried Christian (after one year we could no longer afford it) and then a public school (for one year only until I realized they only required two books of literature per year and would not advance anyone at honors levels because it prejudiced the poor children who only read at the 2nd grade level). We group home schooled during his middle grade years (I taught French to all the kids after work; the other two mothers taught the other subjects. I was very fortunate to know these wonderful ladies). He graduated valedictorian and went on to a secular college.

    My daughter has rejected Christ. My son loves Jesus.

    What does that say about their education? Perhaps nothing. I think a unified home where both parents love and follow Jesus has a much greater impact on the child’s faith than his schooling venue. It’s too bad that we Christians must spend so much time forgiving the behavior of those in the church who ought to know better. And I’m not talking about their sin issues; I speak of their lack of love. As Dan has said: we live in a fallen world where good and evil coexist. Too often the line smears on into the church and human folk forget their own humanity.

    • N.,

      Your story about your daughter is horrifying. It’s the kind of thing I can never rationalize theologically. If someone is in Christ and is brutalized by Christians and “falls away,” how much is that person responsible for their own falling away? Does God hold that person guilty for what happened to them at the hands of supposed brothers and sisters in Christ?

      I feel for your daughter immensely.

  10. Matthew from Alaska

    Dan

    Man, you have had a hard run of luck. I like your site because it is good to take a good hard look at your own group sometimes. But you almost always depress me. I guess I lucked out. The church I came to Christ in was a Calvary Chapel in AK pastored by a no nonsense, Yale divinity school grad who hadn’t lost his faith, had been an Army Chaplain for 15 years or so and was one of the best and most wicked smart Bible teachers I’ve ever met. When we moved down here to the midwest, right away we found a good E-Free church. It’s not perfect, but I most of the crazy stuff you and some other commenters mention is just things I’ve heard about but never experienced.

    I say all that just for context. We homeschool. In Alaska a lot of people do and we assumed almost from day one that is what we would do. In the last five years I have seen my income cut almost in half. My wife was a chemist and could make good money if she went back to work. But we do alright the way it is. Once we have no credit card debt we’ll be doing great.

    The church we go to now has a fair number of homeschool families in it, but certainly not the majority. I think we all get along quite nicely. We belong to a local homeschool group, that I guess would qualify as Christian, but there are a wide range of liberal to conservative Christians in it and probably some without much belief. But they like our group so they are welcome.

    Octavato’s post struck me as unfair. For one thing, there are plenty of people out there trying to help their family out by working a home based business and they aren’t all homeschoolers. I have seldom met anyone involved in more than two so the 5 night s a week thing is being smarmy. And what do you expect people to do. Heck even if it isn’t a home based business or MLM. If someone in your church owns a Quizno’s or a plimbing supply business, is it wrong for them to want you to know that? I thought you were all for the body helping each other out.

    Lastly, the badge of honor thing. Others are allowed to be proud when their kids are on the honor roll, if their kids school gets some award or recognition, heck even if they just have a REALLY good football team. But not homeschoolers? And I concur with I think it was Andrea about people feeling a need to justify themselves to you. But I can also admit to my own judgementalism at times.

    Once I was talking with a co-worker right after we moved hear. Taking about our kids and she asked where mine went to school. “We homeschool.” was all I said. She gave me her list of reasons. And I have to admit, in my mind I was thinking – no your house that contains you and your husnband and newborn is 3 times the size of the one that contains me, my wife and 3 kids and being able to buy a new SUV every year is more important to you than homeschooling. And you are right, I should, even silently in my head shown more grace than that. So thank you.

    • Matthew,

      Not intending to be depressing. Only to face reality with common sense and the truth of God’s revelation.

      My wife and I carry no credit card debt. If we can’t pay for something outright, we simply don’t buy it.

      As for Octavio’s example, if you live in Alaska, then you’ve not experienced Christianity below the Mason-Dixon line. Same goes for large chunks of the Midwest and Plains states. We have a friend who lived in a wealthy suburb outside Atlanta and her stories of her Christian neighbors mirrored what Octavio said almost perfectly. The only thing he forgot to add was the cult-like dedication to NASCAR. 😉

      Badge of honor–more than once I have witnessed a homeschooler barge into someone else’s conversation about children or education to announce that they homeschool, as if their homeschooling trumps whatever the other people were talking about. Also, no matter how hard a non-homeschooling parents works on their children’s education, the homeschooler always claims to work harder. That’s pride and nothing else. It’s the “Look at us, we’re homeschooling and you aren’t” thing that is worn as a badge of honor, as if the homeschooler is somehow a better, more committed parent. That makes me angry when people pull that stunt. And I see it a lot.

  11. Octavato

    In reference to Matthew’s post about MLM. It’s not the MLM I had a problem with. It’s the ‘portrayed’ mindset that these homeschooling families are ‘single income’ families with pride where the woman ‘doesn’t work’ and is only dedicated to home schooling, cooking, cleaning, and being a happy homemaker but the woman does have a full time job when dad gets home where she pushes all of these MLM’s. To me, that is not single income. That’s “1.5 to dual income” families.

    If a parent wants to homeschool. That is fine. I really do not have a problem with the concept at all and support your right to homeschool. Homeschooling is not wrong in and of itself. If you want to brag about your kids, fine. I do not have a problem with that either

    Here is what I have the problem with:

    It’s the arrogance,’remnant’, elitist, and “God’s holy winner” future corporate CEO mentality depicted along with the condescending attitude that children who are not homeschooled are uneducated, sinners headed for hell, evil, full of demons, future drug dealers, future pregnant crack whores, and is the tattoed and multi-piereced auto mechanic who listens to heavy metal when changing your spark plugs or the cashier at the grocery store who is half awake from her overnight shift at the Waffle House trying to make ends meet.

    It’s the attitude that your child can not play with my child because my child goes to ‘pubic school’ (a ‘derogatory’ term used by homeschoolers in my area very to refer to public schools and try to portray that they do not learn the three r’s but ‘only’ learn how to roll condoms on cucumbers and Heather does have two mommies) and my child may transpose ‘demons’ on your child and your child can only play with another homeschooled child in order to feel safe and ‘pure, innocent, and holy’ in the eyes of God.

    It’s the attitude of telling me who I better vote for in the next election for the Board of Education per your ‘real Christian’ voting guides (or God is going to smite us) and even if they get elected and somehow reform and revamp the system, they still would keep their kids homeschooled.

    It’s the ‘persecution’ mindset that every one is out to get them and that the government will one day take their kids in a 3AM FBI house raid (claiming a warrant for child abuse) to brainwash their kids and make them athiests.

    It’s the mentality that if every Christian parent would have nine kids, homeschool them, and teach them to vote for ‘real Christians’ in every election (because the non homeschool parents either abort theirs or only have one to two kids at the most) who would institute the policies of RJ Rushdoony; we will see (eighteen years later) prayer back in public schools and only then will America be saved.

    At that same church I mentioned in the previous post before the ‘faction’ left, you used to hear annually the rants from the ‘faction’ if a homeschooled child won the national spelling bee (and it happened for many years straight and was a very big thing to the homeschooling community) about why homeschooling is ‘of God’ and why the parents were ‘better Christians’ because they did homeschool.

    I think I have ‘ranted’ long enough. But in reference to your “NASCAR” remark, many homeschoolers that I have met don’t watch NASCAR. In fact, most of them subscribe to the ‘liberal news media’ mentality and the only reason a TV is in the house is to be able to play the VHS tapes or DVD’s that some homeschooling curriculums use and that (along with Veggie Tales videos) is the only time the TV is actually turned on in the house. No cable TV. No antennas. No rabbit ears. Their source of news is the on the hour newsbreaks from the Christian news network on Christian radio or what the Christian teachers on Christian radio tell them how God feels about a certain piece of legislation.

  12. Dave

    Thank you for this post. I am 31, my wife is 29, and we have not yet started having children. This alone puts us out of step with many of our Evangelical peers. I opted for an academic life, and thus married a little later than normal. My wife came from a terribly poor family, was in foster care for a while, and went to college almost entirely on loans. We would love to home school and are trying to pay off debt. Of course, this delays having children, which also seems to be an unspoken taboo among many of our peers. When I was younger, my values were very different and, I believe, much more worldly. Now, the idea of a large homeschooled family seems great, but I feel trapped. So many people I know home school that I feel at times like I would be sinning not to do so. I don’t consider private “Christian” school much of an option, because I went to one myself, and it was less “Christian” than a mark of prestige for the cities wealthiest families. My blue color parents were able to send me only because I was an only child, and my mother worked, sometimes two jobs. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly the most popular kids at this school. I’m rambling, but thank you for this post. I still see homeschooling as an ideal, but this is freeing.

  13. shevrae

    The elitism isn’t just one way, you know. Mention you homeschool to some people and they instantly feel the right to question your teaching credentials, your curriculum choices, your ability of properly parent, and your sanity. And you wonder why we’re defensive sometimes?

    I see the same debate among people who have small families vs. large families. Those with small families argue that they’re being financially responsible and making sure they have time to give each child the best. Those with large families will argue that children are a blessing from God and that being part of a larger group gives you more people to rely on in times of trouble. In the middle is someone who feels hurt because someone told them they have too many children, or not enough children. Certainly we as Christians need to extend grace to one another, but we also have a responsibility as Christians to not be ashamed if we feel we are doing what God has called us to – if the rest of the community doesn’t like it, that’s their problem.

    We homeschool because we love it and it works for our family. Someone else decides to do something different. Great. I do think that sometimes people are too quick to take things personally. If I’m going on about how great my kids is doing in homeschooling and I think it’s the best thing ever – I’m just proud of my kid – I’m not trying to condemn you!

  14. doug_lasky

    I’ve enjoyed the comments immensely, as well as the origional topic (but who can remember what that was).

    I’m planning on homeschooling my children. As of now I only have a 7 year old. Economically it will take my wife and I 3 more years to pay off the mortgage and be in a place where we can survive on one income. So it has made us ‘put off’ the homeschooling, as well as having more kids.

    I worry about a lot. After mentioning to our family our 3 year plan to stay home full time and homeschool (by the way, DAD would be the one staying home, as mom makes more) we haven’t had one positive response. Everything from socialization, to ‘you can’t teach everything,’ etc. It is remarkable since 3 of my inlaws are public school teachers that constantly gripe about what a joke the school systems are.

    I’ll admit I am secretly afraid of what everyone thinks of me being the stay at home dad while my wife is off earning the income. I will need grace for that. I’ll admit to secretly planning to turn my kids into the next Einstein to compensate, which isn’t probably possible, or healthy, and really against some of the reasons I want to homeschool in the 1st place. I don’t want my kids paying the price for my feelings of inadequacy. I’ll need grace for that.

    I’m afraid of being able to mingle with whatever homeschool groups and parents there are out there, because of the ‘dad’ thing. We are also not terrifically religious in an ‘in your face’ way and the only people I know of so far are very religious. We can’t seem to find a church that makes sense to us, so that concerns me.

    • Doug,

      Having been a stay-at-home dad who homeschooled, I feel for you. Homeschooling moms have no idea how to relate to you and the “bum” title is a hard one to shake.

      That said, I think homeschooling works better, though socialization IS hard if you only have one child. Been there, too. Some localities are better than others for providing socialization options.

      Where do you live? Perhaps I can help recommend a church. What about your local churches has been nonsensical?

  15. doug_lasky

    Well, the plan (if God will have it) will be to have 2 or 3 more kids in quick fashion once I stay home, in 3 years. There will certainly be enough do do once that happens, though the ‘bum’ title concerns me more than I let on. The truth is I care deeply about what people think of me, and I always have; I’m trying to grow up though.

    I’m in Clinton County Michigan, in a small town called Ovid.

    Nonsensical … I’m going to try not to be judgemental here. I never understood why we spend so much time IN church but never get out to do real community good; to preach the gospel, comfort the poor and sick, in general ‘they will know us by our love’ Christianity. I don’t understand why nearly every church I attend feels the need to bash muslims, homosexuals, and democrats. I don’t understand why we would oppose abortion but then talk behind the back of a pregnant teenager who is the very picture of pro-life. Why aren’t we lining up at the Planned ParentHood Centers with signs saying ‘we love you,’ ‘we love your child,’ ‘we are here to help’ ? Why is it that the children at youth groups are more misbehaved than the random child in my daughters 1st grade course? Why can’t my wife aspire to be an elder or church leader – why can’t my daughter when she grows into adulthood?

    Perhaps I’m oversimplifying the bible – I’m not a scholor of it by a long shot – but it seems to me that it boils down to: what you do onto others you do onto me, wherever two people meet in My name, I am there with them, and ‘understand that I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Nearly everything in the church should come back to these points.

    I’m sorry, I know this is a homeschooling forum. I worked with a pastor that quit (went into banking) who has services for his family (and friends, on occasion) where they do reading from the bible, talk of thier thankfulness and love and love for one another, and adjourn. I was thinking that this might be more helpful, along with weekly tasks to look (for example) at opporitunities to see and practice grace, or forgiveness, or mercy. But then I really would be sheltering my children from the world – no school, no church. I think perhaps I am taking it all too far, as I tend to do.

  16. Bobby

    Dan,
    For my family it is tight when it comes to money. But I do believe that homeschooling is the only way for my family. After seeing how my kids are treated in public school and the things they are taught just astounds me. Teachers calling kids dumb, lies taught to the children, and bullying on the playground. I would much rather have my child grow up in a nourishing environment. Homeschoolers spend more time socializing with a more diverse peer group than kids do in public school. Public schools, as we know it today, was founded by socialists back in the 1800’s as a way to teach kids to act the way the government wants them to act.

    As far as the exclusive club- I would say that is the biggest joke I have ever heard. You have fallen for the rhetoric on this one. More and more parents in my community are homeschooling, over 300 families in fact in a town of about 8 thousand. Our homeschool co-op is maxed out. None of the parents, nor do any of the kids, think they are better than anybody else. all kids in the co-op help each other. 18 year olds are even helping the first graders. The problem with people who think like you is you see it one way and so that has to be the norm. Somebody else said they do not see it either and you say they are in the midst of it. Could this be you are being too judgmental of other people.

    Now homeschooling is not for everybody. Some kids need to be in the prison setting for 13 out of 18 years of their life! And then after being in prison for 13 years they are thrown out to the world and they think they know everything.

    • Bobby,

      You wrote: Homeschoolers spend more time socializing with a more diverse peer group than kids do in public school.

      This was not my experience as s rural homeschooler. It was next to impossible to get kids together. I know this is less of an issue for suburban homeschoolers, but it was a huge one here. In addition, being a homeschooling dad did not get me invited into groups largely overseen by women; I suspect I was seen as a threat, a sad commentary on our times. Because I was often not welcome into the group, neither was my son.

      You wrote: Public schools, as we know it today, was founded by socialists back in the 1800?s as a way to teach kids to act the way the government wants them to act.

      Patently untrue. Public schools in the United States are an outgrowth of private Christian education and the Sunday School movement that had their roots going back to the founding of this country. As such, public school was inherently Christian. However, the Industrial Revolution and postmillennialism wrought major societal changes in this country that ended up splitting families and altering the way the Church functioned in the U.S. Subsequently, churches abandoned their schooling programs and “socialists” or postmillennialist progressives rushed in to fill the vacuum (and were often welcomed by Christians, often postmillennialists also, for doing so). Sadly, we Christians do not want to acknowledge our dropping of the ball, nor how our doing so created the antagonistic system we protest today

      You wrote: As far as the exclusive club- I would say that is the biggest joke I have ever heard. You have fallen for the rhetoric on this one. More and more parents in my community are homeschooling, over 300 families in fact in a town of about 8 thousand. Our homeschool co-op is maxed out. None of the parents, nor do any of the kids, think they are better than anybody else.

      My commentary on exclusivity was not about numbers but about how people who homeschool often look down on those who don’t. I would disagree with your statement that no one in your group looks down on those who do not homeschool. My own personal experiences both in and out of homeschooling speak strongly otherwise. This exclusivity is both obvious and subtle. Sometimes it comes when homeschoolers insist that the only Christian form of education is homeschooling. Or there is the constant need by some homeschoolers to always note (in nearly every conversation, regardless of the focus) that they homeschool. I once watched a room full of women play “can you top my homeschooling credentials,” with each one going one step further than her predecessor to show how she alone was the true representative of the perfect homeschooling mother. I felt awful for those women who could not compete in this silly game of “one-upwomanship.” I would say that the judgmentalism on display here is not so much mine as that of those women (and men) who define themselves this way.

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