Thursday, June 28, 2012

a little deflated

I attended my first homeschool convention on Friday.  Friends weren't able to go and so I went alone, looking forward to a day to myself and excited about the great session titles, too many I wished to hear that I could not choose.  I wanted to be there early to not miss a thing.

Jim has an ongoing joke about the homeschooling culture- you can imagine what it is: odd fashion, angry dogma-- the stereotype, and I laugh and tell him he's wrong, that it is not some strange subculture but a solid, intelligent movement motivated more by a standard of education than religion.

In my years following blogs and reading about homeschool, this has been my impression.

But on this day, at this conference, I was surprised. 

I was surprised by the anger.  The self-importance.  

Maybe it was only a session or two that colored the day this way.  I hope.  By the end of the day I had to admit that Jim was more correct in his estimation than I had been. 

I was glad for the information I gained from the conference, but I left in turmoil, and a little deflated.  Overall this was not the warm, hopeful, energetic atmosphere that I expected but an atmosphere of arrogance and condescension.  

This is not the reason we are homeschooling.  We are not homeschooling because we think we are better than anyone who doesn't.  We are not homeschooling because we are too spiritual for public school, or too delicate, or too afraid.

A few of the sessions I attended were very helpful and informative.  I got a lot out of the keynote speaker, and did find some friendly faces.

But all day I wondered if this is the impression unbelievers have of Christians?  Is it the impression I leave?  This flavor of self-importance?

"I thank you God that I am not as other men are . . ."(Luke 18:11)

I left asking myself, What is worldly after all?

I felt it again this weekend.

Returning to our religious hometown, meeting people I haven't seen in years and often there is this twinge of something- some underlying conflict or tension- what is it?  I rack my brain . .. did I offend them?  When?  Is it the church we attend or don't attend, some political affiliation we have or don't have, something I wear or don't wear, some group that we or someone in my family do or don't or did participate in five, ten, fifteen years ago?

It makes me tired.

Why the anger?  Why the division?  Why must I be in your particular camp on every issue, for us to love one another as brothers and sisters?

As my brother Joe, who participates in no church, said this weekend:
Christians, you have all the good stuff!  Love and mercy, kindness, goodness, humility . . . be known for these things!  There is so much good and attractive that could be what characterizes you!
But continually, in my experience, we drift back into our small circles.  We draw our lines and tilt our noses, and shun, and mock, and alienate ourselves further . . . and then we attend conferences for which to congratulate ourselves.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

On a positive note, Why Homeschool? at a Soulful Life are some of the best reasons I have found to homeschool.


Thoughts for the day said...

This is such a controversial topic, I do have to say my daughter in law is home schooling our grandsons and it is working very well. I think maybe each homeschooling group is different in personality and content. Maybe you can find another one you can 'fit' in better. Keep trying and don't be discouraged.

Brandee Shafer said...

I love this post. I think we're all self-righteous to a certain extent. You're likely self righteous b/c you think you're not self righteous; I find myself in that category a lot. I judge people for judging. The line that resounded most, for me, was: "It makes me tired." Yes. I find myself--a "people person!" --disliking most people. I find myself wanting to avoid church: not my church so much as "the church," and I know the blogosphere has a lot to do w/ it. I'm churched out. Everything I read, all week long, has to do w/ the Bible and people's views on it and religion. I need to go back to my primary source (the Lord...His Word). I've never homeschooled, and my 12yo son has done brilliantly in our (very good) public school system. I likely won't homeschool my other 3, either. But one of my best friends homeschools, and--from what I gather--so much of it is about figuring out what works for you. Figure out what you want your kid to learn next year, first of all. And then figure out how you want to get her there. I don't see the need to rely on others unless you find them particularly inspirational. You're choosing to do it yourself; do it yourself. That's my philosophy across the board, when it comes to parenting. You want to bottle feed...cloth wear...homeschool...make homemade baby your kids to do chores...tell your kids there's no Santa...keep your kids from trick-or-treating...whatever...great. Knock yourself out. I'm going to do my own thing, and I'm going to own my decisions and hold my head up high. If my kids were meant to be your kids, God would've given them to you and not me. And, you know, for the most part, I feel the same about religion. I'm going to do it my way and no one else's. I've signed up to be under the leadership of God, my husband, and my pastor, but--if my pastor starts to particularly offend--I'll find a new one. I'm free, and so are you. I think your questions about how we come across to the world, as Christians, are so valid and valuable. We do more w/ our hands than w/ our big, fat mouths: that's for sure. We should love-love-love. I suck at loving, half the time. I don't have love left for this sorry world after giving to my crazy kids all week long. But--where the rubber meets the road--it should be about Him...not about us and things that don't even really matter. Longest comment EVER. -Your Self-righteous Follower

Cami said...

It's the human condition that I really think comes from our own insecurities. When we come off abrasive and condescending, there is usually a story there too. A hurt. A sadness. A feeling once of being left out. Instinctually we lash out or get defensive, rather than allowing Christ to transform those deep wounds. Oh to rest in His hands long enough to be shaped by Him! I love that passage in Colossians. Sad for the stereotype reinforcement, but thankful that your eyes will stay open to those with like-minded hearts who happen to choose to homeschool, too.

Corinne said...

I have so much to say about this... my mom homeschooled my brother all the way until college, me until 8th grade... and I'll be homeschooling my kids starting this fall. I remember her going to one conference, and coming home so upset because of the anger. And the division. And that was over 20 years ago. It's partly why I wasn't going to dive in to homeschooling...
But. But you know why you are doing it. And that is all that matters. This anger, the division, the snobbery that happens... I can't help but think that some of it is fear.
I could ramble on... I'm sorry you had that experience of deflation... but hopefully it has given you the ability to sink into what you know and feel and trust that.

Jessica said...

Cami and Brandee, such great points! Cami I especially need to remember that it is often insecurity rooted in fear- which we all possess, and demonstrate in different ways. And Yes, Brandee I completely agree that I am as much- probably more- the self-righteous one in pointing my finger at "them," for being self-righteous. Very sobering and good to be keep always in mind.

Sue said...


I believe I was at the same conference. I must admit, I came away with a completely different impression! I know that a conference is experienced differently by each person there, because we are the one who has the conversations we have, and hears the talks we hear, and sees the booths we see. I didn't encounter anyone who seemed to express the feelings you express here, and I came away thinking it was a wonderful shot in the arm, and that the people I was around were full of grace and mercy. This post makes me even more aware of the impression I may leave with others I encounter!
I hope you will give homeschooling conferences another try - they are so important to me to get the boost I need to keep going each year. I pray your next experience will be a great one!

Pam said...

Thank you for this post. Sometimes I feel lonely in our homeschool world. It discourages me to see anger & judgment which end up hurting others & even turning some from Christianity.

Jan J. said...

I know where you are coming from here. I don't think I am better than anyone else for HS'ing my girls. But I do feel that my kids WERE too delicate for public school. I am a single mom through adoption and one of my daughters has very noticeable birth defects. When she first got here at age 7 we would go to the park and play on the playground about the time the nearby elementary school got out, and moms would bring their kids over to the park. They teased my daughter mercilessly. Sometimes right in front of me or their parent. I did not want her to live with that every day. I also think turning my children over ALL day to a place that does not include God is not a good way for them to be raised and thus I DO believe HS'ing is better. I just can't help it! Now that they are 15 and almost 15 I think they are now NOT too delicate for public school but we will continue to HS through graduation. BUT I don't think WE are better than other people who use public school and have never said one word to try to sway a public school parent to switch their children to homeschool. Sadly I cannot say the same. I was berated by fellow single moms to consider public school, and they treated me like an outsider because I choose to work from home and HS. So maybe a defensiveness gets built up on both sides. My kids do miss out on more social events, group activities since I work so in that way public school would be better. Everything has ups and downs. But it is important to me that my children get to know all kinds of kids and people, not just other homeschoolers because there are some pretty great people out there who do not homeschool or go to church, and I do find my fellow conservative Christian folks are often exclusive and clickish. I have as a result become a bit less conservative. But however anyone acts I know HS is a really great way for us personally to gain an education and I include myself because I am learning too! Sorry to ramble!

lo_lo_miss_universe said...

You're thinking too much. Be who you are in Christ and be happy. 1These 5:15-22, Eccl. 5:20, and finally, Jesus said don't worry about what I'm doing with others, YOU follow ME! Besides, He may have people selected to be the spearheads so you can homeschool in peace. So don't worry if the rallying cry doesn't ring true with you. You follow the joy He has set before you and keep your peace.
And don't forget that advertising and product placement is alive and well in homeschooling conventions as much as it is everywhere else. It is true and unfortunate that politics have to be apart of the movement, but I guess that's just the way it is for now. It helps me to remember that dogs snap and snarl to keep peace, not to start fights. So don't worry about the anger, just thank God and ask Him to bless the people He's got fighting for you.

Book-loving children said...

Thank you for a great post. We've been to that conference a few times before it moved, and always felt that same undercurrent. I try to remind myself that many of the organizers were the "pioneers" in homeschooling. They carry with them an "us against the powers that be" attitude because in many cases, that's how it was when they started. They had to fight the schools, the state, sometimes their churches, their families, etc. for the right to teach their children at home. They helped write the homeschooling laws that I just have to look up to remember what I have to do each year. Their conference was a chance to rest, to be encouraged, to be among "their own".

I remind myself of this when I get frustrated with their speaker choices that tell me to circle the wagons, etc. Because of their battles, I have a lot of freedom in how my kids and I interact with different curriculum choices and educators. We actually don't go to that conference anymore because of the defensive thrust, (and am so thankful for conference CHOICES!) but I've asked myself your "WHY??" question so many times; I think what I've said is part of the answer.

Sue said...

First of all, I am so very sorry that you experienced this! Now I am going to assume (which can be dangerous) that I know which convention you attended, and so I will make the gigantic leap that we also know the leadership team. My husband & I were thrilled to have been asked (a number of years ago) to be a part of the organization that runs this convention. Please believe me when I say this, but all we ever wanted to do was support and encourage both new & experienced home educators. It was such a joy for several years as we traveled around the state speaking to small groups and especially working & speaking at the yearly convention. But as the years went by we could see that being a part of this group also meant unspoken rules about dress, lifestyle, child-rearing, etc. etc. It started out so small that we didn't see it for a long time. Then came the self-righteous attitude and arrogance - that we were better than other people because of these external values. Unfortunately, we were blind-sided by a devastating experience with the "patriarchal" mindset that changed our lives and the lives of our children for a very long time.
This experience caused us to take a VERY HARD look at what was going on in the organization and then within the homeschooling movement itself.

I am not saying any of this to excuse us or the organization, but to enlighten folks as to what is going on in the homeschooling movement across the United States today. And yes some part of the weird beliefs of the patriocentrist movement are rooted in fear. But it is so much more than that. Homeschooling started out as way of life that people chose so that they could educate their children in the manner they saw fit. Now some of the homeschooling leaders want us in their box of formulas, rules, and regulations where we all look alike & believe alike. To me this is frightening and also why we continue to speak out about this movement within a movement.

The best place I can send you for information is to and to my friend Karen Campbell. She has blogged extensively about what is going on in homeschooling today and also has an extensive list of podcasts to listen to. I highly recommend her "Patriarch/Patriocentricity Series" both 2007 and the 2010 versions.

While I do think that conventions, workshops, and support groups are wonderful things to be a part of, we need to stir up the gift of discernment each time we attend and use it! Jesus didn't come here to earth to put us under the law, but to set us free. The decision to follow Christ and not man & man-made rules and regulations set us free from the bondage we had placed ourselves in. And even tho' the repercussions of this decision affected us for several years, we won't go back.

I am so sad that you experienced this - please, please know that there are many homeschoolers out there from all walks of life who love you for who you are, will laugh with you & cry with you, and support you no matter what. {{{HUG}}}

Anonymous said...

Found this via FB. Thought I'd post here, my FB comments that I posted earlier today:

I haven't read the article yet, but here's what I think about the superiority issue in homeschooling. I have seen what I suspect the article is speaking to. It boils down to people feeling a) insecure about their choices and b) not being willing to accept that it makes a lot of different ideas and people to make the world go 'round. And, this wacky idea that if people are in your sphere that don't do everything the way you do, somehow someone is wrong and even worse, that "other" doing something different (different methods, philosophy, spiritual beliefs, whatever) might pollute your children or have your children questioning your decisions about school. I wish people had more faith, honestly. Then, this nonsense would cease to exist. Does God not CLEARLY show that diversity is part of the fabric of creation???? Why should it be any different in homeschooling? We do not need to be playing "King of the Mountain" as fellow homeschoolers.

The reason we are homeschooling our children is because NO ONE is better equipped than the parent of that child to make decisions about the education of that child. No one. THAT in and of itself makes each parent the superior choice for that child. Someone once said, in choosing homeschooling, "You can't pay anyone to love your child more than you do." Love is at the heart of it all. And, it cures a host of ills and incompetencies. Were that we'd remember that amongst each other as homeschooling parents!

Having said that, I think homeschooling is vastly misunderstood. It does not mean anything other than taking charge of your child's education in a way that mainstream society does not. And ultimately, of course, then taking responsibility for that decision. So, you could unschool, school at home, have tutors, attend online courses, subscribe to a correspondence school. It's all homeschooling. And, it's all best for that child because the parent, who knows the child best, is the one calling the shots out of love and love trumps it all. The only way to NOT be superior is if you do this without love and without taking responsibility.

So, the bottom line is EVERY homeschooling parent has the right to feel superior about one thing and one thing only: how they educate THEIR child(ren). They cannot and should not ever feel superior, however, TOWARDS the other parents they encounter who also are making their most SUPERIOR choices for their own children. We are not the public school model where schools, teachers, classrooms, and children are competing against each other at each other's expense. This is part of what's wrong w/ modern education, no? So, why are we replicating it w/ one another?

Thanks for letting me rattle off the top of my head about something I apparently feel strongly about!

Anonymous said...

I find this happening more at conferences that are primarily Christian. I really like going to conferences to meet people, be inspired, find resources, and hear good speakers, but I am disappointed when the conference speakers agenda is Christian-centered when it was not advertised as such. Homeschoolers are a diverse group.

Anonymous said...

YES! And although I am not a part of a particular religious organization, I don't mind that you are, or if you tell me about your beliefs AS LONG AS you don't try to 'save' me AND you return the respect in kind! I am so thankful we have a variety of educational options.

a soulful life said...

What a great post.
I have found this too.
There are also the same issues in secular groups such as natural parenting, attachment parenting etc...
I really wish that we could step beyond the divide and extend more grace, love and simple friendship without all the prejudices.
I was a member of a traditional catholic homeschool group a number of years ago and for no reason, out of the blue was suddenly cut out of the meet ups etc...
I still don't know exactly what we did wrong :(
I am like you, I just want to meet up with a welcoming, loving, friendly community where I can feel free to be who I am, share stories and experiences and learn and grow as a person.
Thank yo for these great thoughts :)

a soulful life said...

...and thank you for linking :)
...just noticed :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica,

I heard that you spoke with the Leaders at the Conference you attended. Can you share with us anythign helpful of how that conversation went?



Jessica said...

Bill, (and anyone who may be interested), Yes! I was contacted very graciously by a conference leader from the conference I attended, she very sincerely wanted to know about my experience and I have promised to describe what might be helpful . . . it is my fault that I have not gotten back to her, as I have been nearly completely disconnected from the internet over the past two weeks due to two funerals in the family . .. I am hoping for a moment to thoughtfully write her soon!

Jessica said...

I really appreciate all of the comments here, and I feel bad that I have not been able to respond quickly as the past two weeks have been quite a blur, and we are currently enjoying out of town guests . . . I just want to be sure to state that I was contacted by a leader of the conference that I attended. She very sincerely was interested in learning about my experience and said that they "do everything possible to give our attendees the exact opposite experience as what you felt." I shared with her a bit of our own history, and explained that I believe this critical spirit is alive and well in most branches of Christianity, and perhaps I should not have been surprised to find that it exists in homeschooling communities as well . .. I declined to share specific names with her of speakers, but added that there were also conversations with individuals that day which colored my impression-- so I don't know that this is something conference leaders can control so much as a pervading divisive spirit among believers.

I KNOW that not all Christians, and not all homeschooling families, exhibit these qualities and I pray that it is our good works which unbelievers will see and glorify our Father in Heaven!

Janet said...

I appreciate this post. I've never been to a homeschool conference, but I don't really feel like I belong to any of the ready-made homeschool communities available to us either.

All I can say is, I'm entering my 6th year of homeschooling, and it's never yet looked like I imagined when I first started. I've been disillusioned more than once. But I get more and more comfortable with it and excited about the possibilities. It's an incredibly humbling experience, but incredibly creative and rich.