Families, Communities, & Networks

“Good fences make good neighbors” ~Robert Frost. The natural solution to learning to live together in a community is to first learn to live apart as individuals and as families. Only when we feel good about ourselves can we feel good about others. This post could go a few different ways, but I am specifically thinking about homeschooling. It seems like the world attacks the problem of unity mechanically, not organically. I can’t take total credit for this blog as I am writing it fresh off of reading Dumbing Us Down, by John Gatto.

In our nation’s beginning, young people began to educate themselves with the help of their parents or neighbors, not an umbrella of institutions, such as compulsory schools. “Mass schooling damages children. We don’t need any more of it.” ~Gatto. I don’t believe in that statement entirely. The schools are a better alternative than children without a parent who is a) up for homeschooling, or b) a parent who is having a hard time in life with an addiction or some other problem that would prevent them from hs’ing. We need schools. I don’t deny that. Maybe not as the norm, but rather the fall back option.

One idea I do agree with Mr. Gatto about, is this, “Whatever education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important; how to live and how to die.”

So, where am I going with this? Well, I believe that real character development and real learning happens at home and in the community. The schools train for testing, but I believe the important lessonsearned in school would have been learned anyway. It takes a community to raise a child, an organic community. “Not a network of people forced to be together taking up half of everyone’s time, locking in young people with other young people exactly their own age, ringing bells to start and stop work, and by asking people to think about the same thing at the same time in the same way.” ~Gatto

A community is a place in which people face each other over time in all their good, bad, and in between. It happens in unexpected ways over decades. I believe that education happens in life and begins in the family. Families come first, community second, and networks third. Institutions and their goals, however well-intentioned can not harmonize with the uniqueness of the human soul. I think it was Harvards as well as high schools who began using the institutional banner, Good education= good job, good money, good things. What if that’s not the goal? What if those things have nothing to do with our goals? And do they understand education? It sure does sound intimidating and the formula does lead us to believe that a school education leads to happiness. But what if, as a homeschooling mother training my child up to be a decent, loving, and forgiving person, who has the opportunity to make a living doing what he loves is the goal? What if instead, education= knowing and understanding the world, healthy relationships, and finding their Truth? If that’s our definition, well then the family and community would be our best option for education and growth.

My oldest son has expressed concern over where he is going to live when he grows up. Is he going to be kicked out when he’s a “grown up”, or what if he can’t find a place to live? He has goals and I reminded him that we work towards those goals and sometimes we work hard when it’s easier to be lazy, and we spend a lot of time mastering concepts and we get out of the house often and join the community so he can accomplish those goals. And in accomplishing those goals, he will have the means to support himself. In addition, he’ll have confidence and experience in the world because we spend our days out and about and not in a single building. They will all have years of experience in cooking, laundry, making cleaning supplies and other home items, caring for a yard and garden, and knowing how to grocery shop on a budget. They are being taught most of these things right now and come spring, they will be doing all of these things. They will learn love and forgiveness as they don’t have to put up with the not-at-all-real-world example of getting stickers for good behavior or being bullied for being awkward or smart or slow. Those are things that me and my husband don’t deal with as adults. Whoever says these things prepare children for real life have very different lives than anything I’ve seen.

We live our lives unto the Lord. And the relationship between the Lord and our family is where it begins, then the community (real people in stores, homeless at the park, and librarians who help us find books), then networks- jobs, schools, classes, and groups. Our children get to know Christ at home and He is never “left at the door” of anywhere they go. The Holy Spirit, who lives inside of them never has to be silenced in order that they receive schooling 5 days a week for 13 years. They are never forced into a simulated community and told that it’s normal.

Chris and I have talked a lot about what we would do should one of us die. We talked about what we would do should both of us die. We would provide our children with the curriculum needed in order to complete school all the way up to high school, maybe even past. We would find a way to make sure they got the education that is not separated from life. Where they learn to live from adventures and exploration and hard work and real books. From an education that is not segmented into different parts, and disjointed. Everything is connected. It’s one of the reasons we love unit studies so much, because we don’t have to disjoint the Lord and His wisdom into separate categories. We would love for them to never have to face losing one of us while they are young. But if they do, my worst fear is that they would have to learn in spite of being forced into an institution. My Dad was a public school teacher. He now runs a successful family business, but still deals with schools. I write this to say that I have great respect for teachers. I know my Dad was passionate about what he taught, biology. And I know several more amazing teachers. Teachers are not the problem, they are the best part of a school because they chose to be with and care for these kids. But they are asked to do the impossible. And they are given very little in return. The mechanical machine which tries to simulate real life is the “solution” that just doesn’t cut it. Homeschool is our solution.

Have a good day bloggers!




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