Tunnel Vision


It is rare that I read anything on the Web that sets me a-nodding from the first line. Josh Harris’s reprint of “Exposing Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers” by Reb Bradley gave me motion sickness from my perpetual head-bobbing in agreement.

Beyond its look at how homeschooling parents can miss the forest for the trees, it exposes the general disconnection from simple reality that often plagues the most zealous Christian families and churches. Bradley’s confession at how his son received more love from the boy’s tat-laden, stoner co-workers than from his own Christian family is a tale oft-told yet one rarely comprehended.

It’s also an article woven through with examples of overt gracelessness, as holier-than-thou condemnation takes center stage in households that should know the core of the Gospel better. But knowing isn’t always living, and if anything, better praxis in the American Church is the one area of needed growth no rational person can argue against.

I’ll also put in props for my previous post (“Fear: The Ruination of the American Church“), as the Bradley article amplifies how fear of the times and the world as it is contributes to the errors committed by well-meaning Christian homeschoolers.

More than anything, I believe this article argues for the Way of the Average. I continue to note that the people who seem to get on best with life are those who were neither too outstanding nor too underperforming. I learned this at a reunion many years ago: The people who were average in high school (and possibly overlooked then) were enjoying the best, happiest lives.

One could argue from the experience of averageness that it is not the spiritual superstar in the youth group who goes on to achieve the greatest ministry. Same goes for the über-student held out as the homeschooling pinnacle. For every Nobel prize winner, there’s a Todd Marinovich. It very well may be that it is possible to be too Christian, especially when that which is gaged as “Christian” has more to do with impressing the spiritual Joneses than with clinging to the Faith as expressed in Palestine AD 60.

Hat tips to Challies for bringing this one to light and to all the others who noted it. Do read this one. It’s an 11 out of 10.

26 thoughts on “Tunnel Vision

  1. Daisy

    Sigh. I thought there were some good things in the 3yr old article & it had already made the rounds of the homeschooling community with a positive impact. But seriously, we, homeschoolers live with enough doubt without constantly being told we are doing it all wrong. I’m a little disappointed that the anti-homeschooling crowd has discovered the article and yet can’t seem to find anything within it that might benefit themselves. The article would benefit every parent regardless of their educational choice.

    We homeschool our children because the schools here are terrible (my husband is a public school teacher). My daughter wasn’t getting any history or science due to the low academics of the school district. Now we’ve realized the opportunity for spiritual training we have in homeschooling and we cherish the time we have with our children.

    I wrestle with doubts every day about whether I’m doing the best for my children.

    • dwc

      Daisy, agreed “The article would benefit every parent regardless of their educational choice.”

      Homeschoolers are such easy targets. If your kid misbehaves AND is homeschooled, Oh, well, there’s the problem, they are homeschooled.

      If your kid misbehaves and is in public school, Kids these days, they’ll grow out of it or Boys will be Boys. Somehow they get a pass.

      Why, within the Christian community, is there animosity towards Christian parent’s who wish to homeschool?

      Broad strokes Dan and broad strokes in the article. Not a 11/10 in my book. You say “it exposes the general disconnection from simple reality that often plagues the most zealous Christian families and churches.” Really? Public school and education is a “reality”?

      From the article “Preoccupation with results often leads to emphasis on outward form.” Hmmm, as in the public schools who teach for the tests?

      And speaking about a homeschool mom he knew “she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children.” My kids love to cook/bake with me and their mother. I would like do more and so would they. Again, broad strokes…

      Wow, he says “I remember saying to people, “I am controlling the influences in my children’s lives, so I am going to control the outcome.” No wonder! He’s setting himself up for failure. I guess that’s what the article is trying to get out?? Don’t set yourself up for failure? I dunno. Yes, you can control the influences, all parents do this and should do this. With the *hope* that the outcome is good.

      I see a lot of Law and little Gospel in this article. Not much grace, not much mercy.

      I would say if you run you homeschool the way it sounds like he does/did, then yes, most definitely chillax.

      • dwc,

        I would argue that large swaths of homeschooling culture sets people up for Law and failure. It seems inherent in much of the movement.

        Nothing brought this home more than attending a meeting that had nothing to do with homeschooling but was dominated by Christian women. When those gathered introduced themselves, it was always as “a homeschooling mom of six” or something along those lines. What was insane was watching each woman crank up the perfection over the woman who spoke before her. It ended up like the classic Monty Python skit “The Four Yorkshiremen” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo) as each woman had to prove herself the more perfect Proverbs 31 woman. Literally, my jaw was hanging open at the whole spectacle.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Dan, this is called “Can You Top This?”

          Or “One-Upmanship”. Scoring brownie points as More Fill-in-the-Blank Than Thou.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            P.S. Dan, I’m a former Kid Genius (160 IQ, natural-talent speedreader), diagnosed and fast-tracked two years after Sputnik. Absolute Perfection Expected 24/7 — “You’re a GENIUS!”

            I would do most anything to go back to 1955, be born with an IQ of only 100, and have a life like normal people.

            • HUG,

              I think it was Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers who showed that once you bust the 135 IQ mark, kids actually have no greater ability to advance over their lower IQ’ed peers. In fact, it may work against them or be lived out in ways that the lower IQ’ed cannot understand. I tested at 149, so I hear you.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy

                Yeah. I heard somewhere that a difference of 20-30 IQ points equals mutual incomprehension. In one of their famous snarky lists, Cracked.com described the downside of being a Genius as “Living in Idiocracy 24/7″. You grow up and live surrounded by people who in comparison are borderline mentally retarded, unable to understand what to you is obvious.

                And my mind is always racing at redline speed down multiple tracks, thrashing in place. It never slows down, even when I sleep.

                There’s also an emotional retardation factor involved — sort of a “Conservation of Neurological Energy” where as your intellect races ahead of your chronological age, the rest of your personality lags behing. This is especially severe if all adults can see of you is “a giant brain in a jar”.

                And the expectation of Utter Perfection of the Kid Genius. Zero Mistakes, Zero Tolerance.

                Wesley Crusher and Doogie Houser are the FANTASY of the Kid Genius. The reality is more like Dallas Egbert III.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy

              But Christianese One-Upmanship is especially damaging. Because if you’re on the receiving end of it, it associates God and Christ with your tormentors.

    • Daisy,

      I can only share my experience, but I know scant few homeschooling or private-schooling Christian parents who express even one shred of doubt about the education they are giving their children. In most cases, the opposite is true: An overweening sense of righteousness dogs everything that comes out of their mouth related to their kids’ educations—and yours.

      When a church or group is dominated by homeschoolers of this type, anyone who is not in is worse than an infidel. I know; I watched what happened when we pulled our kid out of homeschooling due to a devastating issue that made it impossible for us to homeschool any longer. I can’t begin to describe the condemnation. People turned on us as if we were sacrificing our child to Moloch. Not that any of the critics were willing to help, only offer criticism and scorn. What a wake-up call!

      • alan

        Right on, Dan. I’ve seen siblings from homeschooled families go in opposite directions morally when they left the home – just as I have seen siblings from believing public schooled families go in opposite directions. “Proverbs” are just that proverbial – they are not 100% guarantees of anything. Much of what passes as “believism” these days is anything but alive with the LIFE of God – instead it based on a DEAD fleshly effort that seems to have the formula all together – while simultaneously being joyless to the point of walking death.

  2. David

    Ecclesiastes 7

    15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
    the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
    and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
    16 Do not be overrighteous,
    neither be overwise—
    why destroy yourself?
    17 Do not be overwicked,
    and do not be a fool—
    why die before your time?
    18 It is good to grasp the one
    and not let go of the other.
    Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes

  3. Honestly, I am far less interested in the homeschooling aspect of this as I am to its general application to the Church in America. There is way too much of a formulaic approach to discipleship and an “If we do A, B, and C, we will always get the desired result D” mentality. The amount of scorn heaped on the Christian family who raises up three “perfect” children and one “black sheep” is intolerable.

    I am also convinced that the families that run their households like a fundie boot camp are going to be shocked when their kids rebel. Too much “do this, don’t do that” simply is not good for the soul, and it explains in great detail why some churches have terrible outcomes for many of their youth.

  4. Candy

    We were part of the early homeschooling movement (1980’s to 1990’s). Our oldest 2 did go to Christian school for 2 years and 1 year respectively and then they and the younger 2 were homeschooled through high school. We steered clear of the “circle the wagons” mentality at least in part by having a very eclectic homeschool group which (besides the Baptists and the Presbyterians and the Christian Missionary Alliances, etc.) included at times, non-practicing Jews, Catholics, a Mormon who was into Eastern thought, a family who thought organized religion or schooling was anathema, a Unitarian, an atheist, several politically liberal families, etc. It made for very interesting talks on the way home (no classroom type situations–the parents were in on everything). My feeling at the time was that kids should be encountering “real life”, not a narrow “Christian” only world. We also were very much in the Way of the Average. I suppose I was a bit envious of those families who were racking up awards left and right, but we were enjoying the humdrum of the everyday learning in the context of life as well as from books to be pressured to chase after high achievements. My kids tell me our homeschooling them was successful. They are now parents, productive citizens and good neighbors working for God’s kingdom in ordinary ways. Can’t ask for more than that!

  5. Laura W.

    Haven’t had time to read the whole article yet, but what was amazing to me was that this was posted by Josh Harris, who was homeschooled himself, and whose parents were well known speakers at home school conventions. As for the “homier than thou” attitude of many parents, you betcha it’s a problem.

  6. Swithun

    As you point out in the comments Dan the article is far more interesting in its general applicability to the church at large which is why the article’s thrust, qua homeschooling, made me somewhat irate. The article attacks a certain way of homeschooling and its related attitudes, which is of course not a necessarily follow from homeschooling in its essence. In fact it begs the question as to what homeschooling actually is which is far from uncontroversial due to its myriad of forms.

    As such a narrower tone saying a particular type of homeschooling would have been fairer and more incisive. Clearly the types attacked need to read their Bible’s more than being merely reactionary control freaks but why not just keep the attack there.

  7. Thank you so much for linking to Reb Bradley’s article. I have several kids in my children’s ministry classes that are homeschooled, and it has really helped me understand more about the challenges that they (and their parents) face when it comes to homeschooling. This blog post definitely gave me a lot to think about—thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Spiritual

    Great post. We need to stand up and praise those that are home schooling their kids. Home schooled children are preferred over children schooled in both public and private schools by most colleges. Those that complain about home schooling do so because they want our children held down. The government wants to stamp out home school so they can sprew their garbage on an unexpecting generation. Home Schoolers stand up and be counted. Never Ever Grow Weary YOU are doing the right thing. Keep On Keeping On!

    • alan

      Which home schooling are you referring to ? Do you realize that Islam is getting into home schooling ?

      One size doesn’t fit all. In some cases home schooling is good for Christian kids, in other cases it’s bad for Christian kids. I’ve seen Christian kids who were rigidly home schooled go off the deep end when they went out on their own – including one who went on to become a topless dancer. Home schooling is no guarantee of anything. Is it a good idea in some situations ? Probably so. Is it a bad idea in some situations ? Probably so.

      What I have observed is that many Christian parents – who are very well meaning – home school their kids in such a protected sheltered way that the kids are academically brilliant, but are unable to cope with the real world when they leave home.

      • Swithun

        Surely the main issue with some in the Christian homeschooling fraternity is that rather than training their children to be in the world but not of it have tried to keep them out of the world? As such the question to ask is how can we train our children to be in the world but of it? In other words producing wise offspring. Wisdom is seldom discussed in the educational contexts and needs to be brought to the fore.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          I believe the result (especially surrounded by Christianese knockoffs of everything in pop culture) is described as “Of the World but Not In It.”

  9. Stephanie

    Then judgmental-ism, and/or so called “legal-ism” is the problem being described. Home schooling in and of itself is not a problem nor a hotbed for problems. We did home school (7-12th) for what opportunities it presented not because of anything bad happening elsewhere. I knew home school families from Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio and always our interaction with these families and our observation of them was positive: no more or no less issues than in any average family.

    I am sorry to hear of some people’s experiences. That is painful. Again, I do think it has to do with heart attitude more than their choice of schooling.

  10. Stephanie

    Also, if I may add, it occurred to me that I’ve noticed this attitude of superiority in different arenas besides schooling choices – like for instance those who exercise over those who don’t and those who are academics over the athletes and vice versa.

    In our own lives, the kids who left 6th grade to go to a local Christian high school thought themselves superior to the kids of the two families who chose to home school and the two families who chose to put their kids in the public schools. So, it really is an attitude of the heart no matter the denomination, choice of schooling or whatever.

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