Not too long ago a woman of my acquaintance accused me educating my children at home in order to satisfy some excessive desire of mine to "control every aspect of their lives."
Now this woman had no experience of home education in her own life or among her family or friends. She sends her children to a private school and I think she is satisfied with the formation they receive there. Her remark was indirect in that it was spoken to another woman in our presence, but it was clearly directed at me and I carried it around for days, mulling it over, turning it in my mind, defending myself as I argued with her in my head.
My first thought on the matter is this: Why do women do this? Why do we look for the selfish motives of other women? Whether it's the number of children they have, if they have home or hospital births, nurse or bottle feed, educate their children at home or send them to school, why do we automatically look for a selfish motive when the choice is different from our own? I say "we" because I know I've fallen prey to this tendency, even when I've tried to avoid it. In the past, I think the reason I did this was rooted in insecurity. I wanted to do what was best for my family and before I gained a certain confidence in my judgment and abilities, I tended to see other women's choices as a judgment on my own.
But some of it, too, was just plain small mindedness.
I'm pretty sure that that was the case here. This woman simply couldn't see beyond her own circumstances. She has a good job that gives her satisfaction. She lives within a reasonable commuting distance from a private school that offers a fine academic formation and a community of dedicated parents and teachers. She and her husband can easily afford the tuition there and enjoy being a part of the community that surrounds the school, themselves. She did mention that there are some things that her children learn from other children at school that she and her husband disapprove of, but they take the time and make the effort to talk with their children about these matters and work through them as a family. These are the blessings this woman has been given and the environment in which she has made her decision to send her children to school. She cannot understand why anyone would choose differently unless they had an excessive fear of those things that give her pause and a selfish need to feel in control.
But her blessings are not the blessings I have been given and I do not homeschool for the reasons she would homeschool if she did.
I was raised in a family that valued education for its own sake. I attended a Liberal Arts college where the concept of learning for its own sake fostered a desire to become a life long learner. There, I met my husband and a few of the students we knew had been educated at home. The idea of educating my own children fascinated me more than any other career path. Since that time, we have been blessed to know countless families in several different states that educate their children at home, including several members of my own family. We have been amazed at the great variety of approaches to homeschooling and feel confident in our ability to provide a rich educational experience in a way that is uniquely suited to the needs of our children. I enjoy teaching my children and learning right alongside them. These are some of the blessings that I have been given and this is the environment in which I made my decision to educate my children at home.
As for controlling our children excessively, I do worry occasionally if we are doing enough to ensure that they will transition smoothly into the larger world when the time comes. It occurs to me, though, that if parents can send their children to school and stay on top of whatever issues arise there and deal with them at home as a family, then surely a homeschooling family can find the time and make the effort to expose their children to the world in healthy, age appropriate ways. Far from shunning such opportunities, I welcome them wholeheartedly.