Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Not All Homeschoolers Are Christian

posted by Carolyn Henderson
The garden is a lovely place to be, whether you're working in it or not. Promenade, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

The garden is a lovely place to be, whether you’re working in it or not. Promenade, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I garden, and knit. In case you were concerned, I wash my hands after weeding the zucchini and before I pick up the cashmere.

As a well rounded person who gardens and knits, I do recognize and accept that some of you out there who garden, don’t knit (you poor, poor people); and others of you knit, but don’t garden. The two interests do not necessarily merge. It’s like those horrific math group function problems: Group A and Group B intersect to form Group C, but not always. Nobody argues with the math teacher; you always lose.

Enter homeschooling — something I have done for 20 years, successfully, with four children. Now I happen to be a Christian and a homeschooler, and while I recognize that the two lifestyles do not have to coalesce, sometimes I feel as if I were the only person in the room to do so.

The Lone Mouth to Speak up

One time, I actually was. At a homeschool meeting of 20 parents and five times that many children, I expressed misgivings about the group’s planned statement of faith, on the basis that this was a community homeschool group, not a church function.

One woman, Bertha, fluffed up like a chicken and literally flew into my face:

“Are you saying that you are ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ?” she demanded. “Do you not honor and love Him as your King?”

“That’s not the issue,” I replied, after stepping back 8-inches to retrieve a modicum of personal space. “Not all homeschoolers in this town are Christians.”

“Well they should be,” Bertha huffed, to the murmured assent of too many others. “And if we make the group Christian, they’ll become Christians and we’ll add more people to the Kingdom.”

A Common Misconception 

Bertha’s logic and mine will never agree, but her premise — that all homeschoolers are Christian and if they’re not they should be — is fairly common among many Christian homeschoolers. That most members of the local group attend some church (frequently the same one) is given as evidence of this disproportion, but few people stop to think that, maybe one of the reasons so few non-Christians are there is that they feel uncomfortable in the overly religious atmosphere of the place.

Not all roads, lives, or backgrounds look the same, but we frequently act as if they do. Blue Ribbon, original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

Not all roads, lives, or backgrounds look the same, but we frequently act as if they do. Blue Ribbon, original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

I know I do.

“So, what church do you go to?” one new member of yet another homeschool group I attended turned to me and asked.

“I don’t,” I replied. “I am a Christian, but my family no longer attends church. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that we were marginalized out, and we’ve never wanted to insinuate ourselves back in.”

Silence. A stare. Bright, frozen smile, and then she got up to sit across the room.

“So, what church do you go to?” I heard her ask.

Chasing People away

Not all Christians are that tactless, thankfully, but the experience does show the pitfalls of assuming — you know the old adage, it makes an ass, er donkey (by the way, why is ass considered a swear word?) of you and me. Assuming that all homeschoolers in the group, or the town, or the nation, basically, are Christians narrows everything down and actually chases potentially interested people away from the concept.

“I don’t want to homeschool,” some people think. “They’re all religious and weird.” If you don’t believe me, watch TV — all homeschoolers, always, are dysfunctional, narrow minded, fundamentalist, and strange.

That’s Hollywood, true — this is the place that describes all small towns as bucolic, friendly, and run by Sheriffs with southern accents — but we don’t need to contribute to it by reinforcing stereotypes.

If you homeschool, it means that you school at home, regardless of where, or if, you attend worship services. Be polite to the person next to you and ask about their knitted socks, or if they’ve ever successfully grown celery, and Jesus will shine just fine — He always does when we think about, and are interested, in our neighbor.


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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Kerry — I smile with joy at your energy and determination to solve a problem, and the popularity of your site shows that you have, indeed, hit and nerve and are meeting a need. I visited and enjoyed my visit — you have a nice tone, informational and friendly without being sappy sweet. That’s not easy to achieve.

    I was not raised in an overtly Christian background but became a Christian in my late teens. It has been an incredible advantage for me, because I always stand a bit at the outside, looking in, and this perspective — while lonely at times, is valuable. And quite frankly, when you launch out to follow Christ, and Christ alone, you do find yourself on a very narrow path, with many professing Christians traversing a wide — my way or highway, as you put it — road.

    So even if you are Christian, as I was in my Bertha moment, you find yourself as outside of things as if you were the pagan animist everyone is trying to keep out.

    There is something many Christians frequently forget, or do not realize in the first place: truth is truth, and it is found in all places. There is this idea that truth is only found in churches, or promoted from the pulpit, or derived from “Christian” literature and media, but if that’s the only place you look, you are subject to swallowing misinterpretations of the truth as well, because you trust everything that comes from that source. And no source, if it depends upon humans to interpret and pass it on, is infallible.

    But when you seek to find truth, and discern it from lies, then you are open to finding it anywhere God points.

    Thank you for reading my post, and for your most kind comments. I love writing, and I seek to say what I see in a fashion that people enjoy reading. I wish you, and your family, a lovely week of making memories together. — Carolyn

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Good points, Susan, and well thought out. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that as Christians our ultimate goal is to show people the beauty of the message, a message so embracing and encouraging that people want to know more. A sense of exclusivity precludes this, and while in a larger area there can be multiple, specialized groups, in smaller, more rural enclaves, one group is pretty much all there is.

    I remember speaking with a most wonderful, wonderful woman who prefaced her initial meetings by saying, “I’m not a Christian. I am not opposed to Christianity, but I am not a Christian. I would, however, like to interact with other homeschoolers in the area.” Thanks to some very supportive and openly engaging Christians in the group, she fit right in, and those who were not blinded by her beliefs became good friends, and we were all able to learn from one another.

    I find your observation about the concept of superiority to be most insightful — how odd that we, who follow One who calls us to humility, meekness, and dependence upon Him, should be proud — but we humans are humans aren’t we? And some of those vices are ingrained mighty deep!

    Thank you for finding me, reading me, and taking time to write your very good thoughts. May your day with your children and family be a good, warm, memorable one. — Carolyn

  • Susan Raber

    I agree with this premise- amongst Christian homeschoolers there is all too often a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, and not just about whether or not one is a Christian or attends church. There are factions inside of factions – unschoolers, traditional schoolers, organic foods/clothing, athletic families, techy families, and the-internet-is-a-tool-of-Satan families.

    The bottom line is pride and the desire for superiority. It is truly sad when our personal beliefs or standards are used to intimidate others. It is antithetical to the foundations of our faith and the liberty we have in Christ.

    However, I think the purpose of a support group decides the inclusivity or exclusivity of that group. Our homeschool group has drawn the membership line on the legal definition of homeschooling in our state, and we also have a Statement of Faith. Both of these member requirements help our group to remain true to our mission statement, to focus on particular issues, and they also allow us to take certain things for granted when booking speakers and organizing activities. It also keeps our membership at manageable levels for our volunteer coordinators and officers.

    I believe all homeschoolers should be supportive of other’s right to home educate as they see fit. Freedom isn’t just about freedom for ‘me and mine’, but for everyone. When we start drawing lines for others, we are often blind to how those lines restrict our own freedoms.

  • Kerry

    Bravo!! Incredibly well-written and heartfelt post. We were in much the same boat several years ago in that we had a Christian background, but were flabbergasted by the “our-way-or-the-highway” mentality of all of our local homeschool support groups. I’m thankful to say that in the last 5-6 years the homeschooling landscape has changed. A LOT. My experiences led me to create, and it has become one of the fastest-growing homeschooling sites on the web. As homeschooling becomes more and more mainstream, the demographics are truly changing, and even areas that were once bastions of ultra-religious homeschooling, such as my own, now often have at least one inclusive or secular homeschooling group cropping up. The times – – they are a’changing. And it couldn’t be too soon!!!

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