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Commonsense Christianity

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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