Apparently not. Unfortunately, any time you gather a group of individuals, especially those who are individualistic, there is likely to be conflict. Just because someone is a grown-up, it doesn't mean they have grown up. Back in the olden days of pioneer homeschooling, folks were busy fighting the good fight - obtaining the legal right of parents to educate their children at home. But now that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, people have time to stick their noses and opinions in other people's business, pushing their own educational and religious agendas, regardless of the harm this might cause to homeschooling overall.
It's OK to be passionate about what you believe in, and it's OK to be outspoken. What is NOT acceptable is to treat those who differ in educational method or theology as adversaries, especially when gathered together as homeschoolers.
For some, this hostile climate has resulted in a pull back from home education altogether. A recent article in The Washington Post about Susan Wise Bauer illustrates this problem perfectly.
“I’ve [Bauer] been told if I say anything supportive of public schools, even charter ones, I’ll lose my speaker’s fee, and I don’t get my expenses reimbursed,” she says. “Of course, I tell them I won’t come.”Bauer has been asked “to swear I won’t bring certain books for my book table; to mention certain words,” she wrote on her blog in April. “None of which, I should say, have anything to do with what I normally talk about: grammar, history, writing, reading, learning. I have been told that I am not welcome, in some cases, because I talk too much about the psychology of learning, and not about the Bible. Or because I have a theological degree and am obviously pushing a Christian agenda. Because my ‘professional associations,’ however loose, are too liberal, or too secular, or too Christian.”
I've got news for fellow homeschoolers - homeschooling ain't about YOU. It's about the right of parents to determine and direct their child's education. PERIOD. You may teach whatever you like in your own home, and offer support, information, and friendship to those who hold to the same beliefs. But for all that is decent, DO NOT treat other homeschoolers as enemies or traitors who do not walk in lockstep with your particular set of beliefs.
One of the realities of home education is that our children see how we act and react. Do we really want to teach our children that those who differ are to be treated with disdain and shunned? If we really think someone is wrong, isn't that an opportunity for conversation, and possibly discipleship and mentoring? How are our children going to handle the challenges of being independent if we never show them how to handle challenges by our teaching and example?
Homeschoolers should not give place any kind of passive-aggressive behavior. At the national level, homeschoolers should be supportive of parental choice, and that means ALL parental choice. There is simply no way around this. If we want freedom to teach and train our children with our own set of beliefs, standards, and traditions, then we must graciously allow that for others.
This doesn't mean, however, that every homeschool convention and group must be 'inclusive'. We also have the freedom of association, and if homeschoolers want to form a group based on shared religious beliefs or lifestyle, then that is their right, and it is completely understandable. What I am talking about is attitude - the prideful attitude that if someone else isn't home educating the way we think is best, then they aren't 'real' homeschoolers.
Because of homeschooling pioneers who wouldn't give ground on the most important issues, the government has basically been forced to open the door to school choice for ALL parents. There are states with charter schools, vouchers, cyberschools. . . all because of the homeschool movement.
This is a good thing.
The more educational choices and opportunities emerge, the more likely that we as homeschoolers will not have to face the legal challenges we saw 20-25 years ago. No more keeping the kids in the house until 3pm, no more town curfews, no more wondering if a college would accept a homeschool diploma.
Be grateful for the educational choices that have come about because of the homeschool movement. Enjoy the freedom you have to teach and worship with your family. See differences as an opportunity to learn, to connect, to mentor, or to gain a unique perspective.