No Common Ground To Start From, And We're Falling Apart

Can common ground truly be found between those who homeschool for religious reasons and those who homeschool for other reasons, such as academics? What about between those who use a curriculum-based approach, and those who are devotees of the unschooling lifestyle?

I've noticed a tendency in myself lately when I read the WTM boards. Unless it's a poster I can remember seeing previously, and I can recall some nugget of information, I find myself hesitant to post. My suggestions are always going to be secular in nature, and that's not always welcome. Further, I find when I read posts where they invite comments on what they have planned, I don't feel comfortable making suggestions depending on the obvious slant of what is already selected. Yes, there are some exceptions to this rule, but overall, I feel as if I don't have anything to contribute. Our worldviews seem too different, separated by a huge gulf.

It's funny, really - I don't remember ever seeing or hearing the term "worldview" until 2005, at the earliest. It seems like the last few years have seen a real explosion in its use. At first, I didn't understand the utility of the word. Eventually, I realized that I could, indeed, see my (theistic, for the record) evolutionary worldview influencing how I viewed things. I've been enamored by the elegant simplicity of evolution and genetics since I first understood what they were; it's little wonder I "see" evolution in nooks and crannies and little strange spaces.

And so, to be intellectually honest, to be true to my own moral perceptions, I cannot, in good conscience, tell someone that their use of Apologia is rigorous. I cannot tell them that it "looks good." I don't expect someone with a young earth creationist viewpoint is being really honest when they tell me my plans - complete with a focus on evolution! - look good!

Let's go with other secular homeschoolers.

Let me interject here. "Secular" homeschooler generally means "any homeschooler who is not a very conservative, creationist Christian." If you're a liberal, evolutionary Christian - you're secular. If you're an Orthodox Jew, guess where you will be lumped (unless you have a large community of other Orthodox Jews homeschooling near you) - yep, secular homeschooler! Pagan? Secular! Actual atheist? Secular! So "secular" may or may not mean anything in terms of a similarity of worldview, after all.

Still, then, you encounter the "unschooler." I don't know that I like the term any more than some unschoolers do, but I do have a picture in my mind. The mom who, at park day, disparages people who "use curriculum." The one who says to a friend that she doesn't understand how people who use curriculum can "get it all done" and still let their children have any time to play. The ones who look at me askance, as if I'm abusing my child by making her do, horror of horrors, math drills. Yes, these are all things I have observed in real life.

These are the homeschooling parents that appear to be the most similar to me! We may share similar approaches to parenting and life in general, but when school enters the picture, it all deviates sharply. Again, they don't really think my plans look good - they're actually horrified! It's not an unequal situation, though, because of course, I'm horrified, afraid their children will be like the twelve year old I met who was sadly resigned that she might not be able to catch up on math in time to apply to college to study engineering. An impasse.

Do I think it's really all so bleak? No. I think that many times, the divisions between groups of homeschoolers are artificial and imposed. Despite a few protestations to the contrary, math, for instance, is math. It should be possible to have a group form whose sole purpose is to prepare for and compete in math contests without religion or homeschooling style entering the discussion. There are an enormous number of clubs, events, and activities that should fall under this same rubric. EG attends a homeschool band group that is overtly conservative and quite Christian. Just ask the bumper stickers. (Don't ask me about the pink "Palin! 2012" stickers, because it takes me the full week between Fridays to recover from them.) But a trumpet is a trumpet, and band music is, well, band music. There's no statement of faith. Dd does know not to start discussing how much she loves Darwin and Obama while she's there, but that's okay. :) I see no reason why the vast majority of homeschool programs and groups could not be this way - organized by whomever, utilized by whomever.

Despite my thoughts, there are going to be gaps, and gulfs. When it comes to the aforementioned Darwin, homeschoolers will be sharply divided. It'd be hard to teach most science classes without choosing evolution or creation. And, in the end, I think that's okay, too. Homeschoolers do not compromise one big happy family, or even one cohesive movement. Calls from any corner to, essentially, play nice and sing Kumbaya are doomed to failure, in my opinion. And perhaps that's as it should be. Homeschooling, after all, is the very picture of individualistic expression.


Daisy said...

Great post.

I have to say I'm a bit tired of trying to waltz through a field of daisies only to repeatedly trip over entrenched earthworks. These people are crimping my style. LOL. I feel like saying, "Look, you don't have to agree me, but stop slinging mud everywhere."

While we may never agree on our curricula, methodology or worldview, I don't understand why the home school community can't put down their Hatfield and McCoy like feuds and either explore what we have in common or shut up.

Your belief that YE is bunk science doesn't move me in the slightest, and it seems to me only those who are insecure in the path they have chosen are easily offended when someone questions their current course. :-P

Anonymous said...

See, this is why I always feel weird being called secular, but then again, I'm an Episcopalian, we're almost always out of step with someone or another ;).

I have noticed though that I just don't want to talk on the Well-Trained Mind Forum.

Dottie said...

This is why on WTM and any other forums I visit, any yahoo groups and my own blog - I state right off the bat, usually in my signature, that I'm homeschooling secularly. I do avoid commenting or even reading political posts (Palin 2012??? can I move to Canada?)

It never even occurred to me when I first started researching homeschooling that this would even come up in anything but Science and maybe History. The fact that it can be an issue with Math, Music, Art, Grammer, Writing, etc.... really blows my mind.

Of course, I live in the Northeast, where Conservative means Republican not necessarily Christian, so I don't see these things IRL as much as online. Lucky for me.

Great post.

Smrt Mama said...

Perhaps you've noticed that I'm generally not one to hold my tongue, but I've reached a point where even I don't speak up on the forums often. I just don't think we're speaking the same language as many of those other homeschoolers. "Rigorous" and "thorough" no longer seem to mean what I thought they meant.

Anonymous said...

Ok the funny thing is I feel the same way as you and maybe even more so . . . i'm secular and eclectic . . . so I have the unschoolers trying to argue with me that setting aside 5 hours a day when my kids are not allowed to watch video games in abusive, and then I come here and dont want to tell you what my kids are learning, becuase I am sure you would think i'm failing to give them an adaquate education. I have been frustrated that I cant talk about curriculum at the park day I started with a new freind because she is a radical unschooler and has flung around comments like "Why is everyone always talking about this boring curriculum stuff". OTOH . . . today we were talking about religion, with 2 people who grew up jewish and identify somewhat or not at all with that, a very active pagan, an ex-pagan-turned mormon, a freind of hers who was balking at the mormonism due to being in a church, and the tea-party-conservative-christain who was being very quiet.

Its just life. A cross section. You get some of everything and if we only look at our differences, thats all we'll see.

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