Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Preparing Your Answer

It is now time for another Olive Plants Drama.

The scene opens as Homeschool Dawn, Orville, and Wilbur enter the teacher's lounge at the public school where Dad teaches. The four teachers who are eating their lunches are happy to see the Olive Plant children. Since they are Dad's co-workers and acquaintances of Homeschool Dawn, friendly conversation takes place until….

Teacher Number 4: So Dawn, how long do you intend to homeschool the boys?

HSD: Probably until they graduate.

Teacher 4 (mouth agape): Oh, I would not do that if I were you. Do you really think that you can homeschool them for that long?

HSD: Yes, I do.

Teacher 4: You need to listen to me. I know a lot about children, and in my experience, homeschooling is just not good for them. You are completely neglecting…

Can you guess it?

Teacher 4: their SOCIALIZATION!

HSD (having turned six different shades of red): Well, there are different opinions. I happen to hold one very different from yours.

Teacher 4 (unaware that HSD has a degree in child development and more years classroom teaching experience than she): Yes, but what I am telling you is not an opinion. It is a cold, hard fact coming from someone who has studied child development and has experience teaching children.

HSD (feeling pride and anger well up within): Orville, Wilbur, it is time for us to go now. Goodbye everyone.

I am sorry that my drama is not as amusing as my previous ones. However, this scenario, I am sorry to say, is not fiction or even an exaggerated version of reality. This actually happened just how I wrote it. Orville had just started Kindergarten, so I was a homeschool newbie. In fact, this did not happen at my husband's current place of employment but at a school where he used to teach. I mention this because the Lord has been gracious to open many of my husband's current coworkers' eyes to the benefits of homeschooling and I have only received compliments and encouragement from them. Can you believe that?! Like I said, the Lord has been gracious.

However, what homeschooling family hasn't heard the socialization question? I have heard it from a variety of people and in some of the oddest circumstances imaginable. I have heard it from public school teachers, private school teachers, relatives, friends, friends of friends, folks at church (once again not my current church but the one previous), our hygienist, the cashier at Kroger, the veterinarian, the ice cream man, and total strangers. While bird watching one day, I thought that a bird tweeted, "What about their socialization?". That was probably just my overactive imagination at work again.

That first confrontation is the one that has stuck with me most vividly. I was completely unprepared for it. I have come to realize that the teacher was well-intentioned, though I did NOT think that at the time. I think most who bring this argument do mean well. They don't know that they are the 6,481st person to confront us. They don't realize that we can't go to the store or participate in a community event or even walk our dogs without hearing it from someone. They probably think they are making us aware of an issue we never considered. My teacher friend truly believed that my children were doomed by Michael's and my decision to homeschool them and that she would be wrong to remain silent on the issue.

She was completely unaware of my background and experience, too. Not that it matters, but here's why I bring it up. Her words revealed a sin problem with which I was still wrestling. I had to leave quickly that day because my heart was not right. I felt the wrestle between the Spirit and the flesh and I feared I was on the brink of becoming very confrontational and emotional. After I left, her words echoed through my mind, and I wrestled with my sin for the remainder of the day.

I really believe the socialization argument is a scheme of the enemy to tempt those of us who homeschool for Biblical reasons. How better to tempt people who are set apart from the world than to make them feel weird? Maybe we will believe it. Maybe we will convince ourselves that there is a better way. Or maybe it will prick our egos, and we will react with pride. My way is better than the rest, and I will prove it. I have read many a sharply-worded response to the homeschool dissenters' arguments. I have seen t-shirts, bumper stickers and other paraphernalia that promote homeschooling in an exaggerated light or mock or ridicule public school children. I wanted to do similarly that day and rub Teacher 4's nose in my teaching degree and experience. I wanted to lay out all the statistics that favor homeschooling and call her on the inherent, ugly problems of our public education system.

I failed that day. My failure was not that I let her have the last word. It was not that I left the room in hurry or that I did not present statistics or a well-formed argument. I failed because 1 Pet 3:13 tells me be ready to give an answer "to every man who asks us a reason of the hope that is within [me] (here's the tricky part) with meekness and fear." My failure was that I did not give testimony to the goodness of God. I did not explain that my hope is in Him. I couldn't be meek or show reverence for the Lord and so I fled the scene, failing to love my enemy by sharing the Gospel of Christ with her.

Later that day, when the enemy continued to remind me of what I left behind to homeschool and to tempt me to worry about my decisions, I failed again. I did not fight him properly. I fought him with my thoughts and my feelings and my logic and not with the promises and Word of God. Likewise, when I felt my own sin rise within me, I did not confess and ask for grace, but instead wrestled.

So what is my response to the socialization argument? It is kind of short, I hope rather sweet, and it is rooted in Phil 1:6. I am confident that He who began a good work in me and my children will be faithful to complete it. No statistics. No counterpoint. Just faith, plain and simple. Jesus is Lord, and my only concern in life is faithfully following Him.

Will everyone understand that? Probably not.

Will it convince them that my children aren't doomed to a life as social outcasts? Only if God opens their eyes.

However, regardless of how others may respond, I pray for the grace to be foolish in their eyes, if need be, and esteem the Gospel higher than the wisdom of the world.
Return soon for Plan-It School Series: The Conclusion!


SHELLY said...

Hi - wanted to come out of lurking status to say, really nice post, and a different take on this issue that's given me lots of food for thought.

argsmommy said...

Oooo, I think I might use Philippians 1:6 as the verse on our school planner -- thank you for making that connection. So sorry you had to go through that bad experience though. We've had a few negative comments, but nothing like that. Great post!

Christy said...

Wonderful post! I love how you share your conviction of the pride and sin, and point us to God's grace. In your place, I would have been tempted to rub her nose in it, but then that would be glorying in my own strength, and not His. Conversely, since I do *not* hold the same qualifications you do, it is also comforting to me to know that He is faithful to complete His work in our lives and our children's lives!

Debra said...

Oh, I am so glad you posted a link to this post. Wow, lots to think about. Great, great post.

Jennifer said...

This is great! Thanks for sharing again with those of us new to your blog.