Why Don't You Homeschool?

It is not unusual for homeschooling parents to be asked their reasons for homeschooling, randomly. Obviously, this is because it's not the default choice, and though it is widespread, it's still unexpected -- especially for an African American family such as ours. I don't mind the questions; no one does. But, I often wish it was as acceptable to pose the opposite question aloud: Hey, I was just wondering what made you guys decide not to homeschool?

At one point sending your child to school when it was time was just what you did; even though people have been schooling their own children forever, another option wouldn't have occurred to most modern families until the last decade or so. Now, I expect everyone has heard of the possibility of homeschooling. It's clearly an option. What do people do with that I wonder.

I often wish it was as acceptable to pose the opposite question aloud: Hey, I was just wondering what made you guys decide not to homeschool?

The question of whether you homeschool and why is one in a long list of off-limit questions that people tend to be sensitive about. It's fear -- of being judged wrongly, or even rightly. I want to say this fear is usually unfounded, but that's probably inaccurate. People are judgmental and tend to disagree poorly. Disagreement is essential to life though. Without it we are alone; we are walled-off and unknown. And perhaps just as bad, we permit ourselves, our convictions, to be shallow.

I'm thinking of this on a Sunday. I always wear a covering on my head to church as a sign of submission. No one else does this (that I've noticed) in my congregation, and that's fine. What is an issue of obedience for me is not for others. I've never thought those women are not good Christians because they don't cover their heads.

Now, that isn't to say there is no definite right. That's relativism and evil. Instead, what is right is not always known and may even appear different in different scenarios. We don't make decisions in vacuums; what we should do often involves our context and may change with it.

Disagreement is essential to life though. Without it we are alone; we are walled-off and unknown. And perhaps just as bad, we permit ourselves, our convictions, to be shallow.

True, I may think a woman with short, uncovered hair at church is in disobedience. I may appropriately lament to myself or to her (but not to some other person) her lack of a head wrap. It is fine and good for me to differ from her in this way and even to question her choice if I have opportunity. It is not because I have the right to call a sister in the Lord not good but because we are free to be passionate and real with each other. We are more than free. We are compelled.

One of my favorite places on earth is a small church in Pennsylvania. The contrast with the church I grew up with was so striking it changed my life. The large charismatic church I knew explicitly and implicitly held such a narrow view of the Church universal that at times it seemed as though our church was the only place one could experience God and his word with any certainty. We were taught by word and by example to judge the denominational churches as severely lacking; we considered them -- by implication -- not fully of God. This was not so in the Presbyterian (PCA) church I grew to love as a young 20-something.

On the surface the small church was more restrictive. For instance in the non-denominational church I knew, communion was available to anyone -- believer or not. Taking the bread and juice when you had not yet trusted Jesus was actually encouraged by the pastor. This is not practiced in churches of the PCA and was not the practice of the Pennsylvanian church I attended. On the contrary at that church the Table -- which was part of the weekly service -- was restricted to baptized members in good standing of an evangelical church. Of any evangelical church. And that is the significant part. In making a definite distinction -- members of any church -- there was implicitly no distinction in the Body. Where in the first there were invariably levels of Christian, in the second there were none (or much much less).

This was true of many issues. In this place I learned the meaning of true, beautiful tolerance -- especially in the Body, where it's more than that; it is love. It is fine and appropriate for me to call you wrong. I can say you ought to direct the education of your own children and mean it vehemently. Meanwhile, I can love you and be glad for your children's academic lives and accomplishments. Unless what we disagree on is crystal clear in Scripture, I can do both. It isn't inauthentic; it is humility.

And when the conflict is clear, and the right way is absolutely known, and our disagreement is grave, let it be grave.

It is fine and good for me to differ from her in this way and even to question her choice if I have opportunity.

So, when a mom tells me she works ten hours each day, she may see a tinge of mourning in my face before I ask how much the little ones are loving their new school. When you tell me you love it when the kids go back to school and you couldn't be with your lovely little crew all day every day, I may tell you that's awful and be glad you will get some much-needed rest. When you haven't seen me at church in a month, ask me about it. When my children seem completely unruly, tell me so. And when my response is not what you expected, smile and leave it at that. Or don't. It depends on what it is.

Yes, it depends on what it is. Don't accept excuses either. That's not going to work for either of us. For any of us.