Friday, March 08, 2013

Zen and the Art of Home-Education (or why we do what we do and don't hate everyone else!)



There is a stereotype home-educating family from the United States that seems to also exist here in the UK - the creationist parents of socially maladjusted children afraid of contamination by “the world”. In actual fact most home educating families in the UK are not church-goers.

However, we are Christians and that is part of our motivation for home educating, but not in the way people assume.

To make it quite clear at the beginning - whilst I believe that our decision is the right one for our children, I would never presume to expect others to make the same choice, and my wife and I would support our friends in whatever decision they choose to make for their children. In the same way, we would expect the same support for our decisions.

I believe that education is one of the great liberating opportunities in our society, and want to see children from all backgrounds given exposure to education that inspires then and also encourages intellectual aspiration. I don't see any one educational system or pedagogy as offering the solution - and as such I welcome innovations - whether from the political left or right - that force society to think outside of the current received wisdom on education.

My wife and I chose to home educate for many reasons (some of which I explain below), but we have never condemned anyone or suggested that they were wrong for not making the same decisions we have. However, I am amazed at just how negative some people are when they find out we home educate our children. These have included:

  • that we are somehow undermining the validity of teachers, especially Christians who believe they are called into teaching
  • that we are hurting local mission by not being ‘witnesses’ at the local school
  • that we see our children as ‘too good’ for the state school system
  • that we want to isolate our children from the world around them
  • that we are making it difficult and awkward for other parents when their children ask questions


More than anything you so often get the feeling that people wish we would just ‘fit in’ - that by choosing to home educate we make everyone’s life difficult. 

It is this need for uniformity that probably concerns me more than anything else - as if Church should be a place where we all strive to be as normal as possible so we don’t put anyone from outside off. I have posted from the amazing book called ‘Colossians Remixed’ by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat before, but I want to return to that again as what they say in their platonic style question and answer section is still so important:

Q: Won't they end up being social misfits?
A: We hope so. Yes, social misfits, that's what we long for. May it be that we raise up a generation of social misfits, because to "fit into" this culture, to find your place of comfort in it, is to be accommodated to the empire. we have argued that this is precisely what this subversive little tract called Colossians is arguing against.


No matter how awkward and difficult it is, I am afraid that I don’t want to ‘fit in’ - if that means accommodating those things in our culture that stand in opposition to the foundational values of the gospel. I want my children to grow up questioning the very foundation and structure of of our culture - to see the false promises of the zeitgeist for what they are.

The attraction of the message of Jesus is not in its normality, in how much like other people we are, but in its difference - in the chance to offer an alternative way of living. The gospel should break the stupor and stultifying effects of both the consumer society and of statist passivity. The Gospel isn’t politically left or right - it is some entirely other.

So in the end, my wife and I chose to home educate because we believe it is the best way to help our children achieve their full potential. By that I don’t mean that they will get the best paid jobs or fulfil middle-class aspirations, but that they will find out who they are,  discover their innate gifts and talent and then use them for the good of other people in the world around them. I want them to grow up to be dissidents and trouble-makers, not good little consumers or passive subjects of an authoritative state.

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