When I first met a home school mom, she was so full of enthusiasm and information. She touted the many benefits of home schooling, such as:
* "the world is your classroom"
* you can tailor studies to your student's interests (delight directed learning)
* plus they will have the freedom to learn at their own pace
* you are only limited by your creativity as to how you teach/what you teach/when you teach
The first home school convention I went to was filled with speakers lauding these advantages and others:
* no undue amounts of peer pressure
* freedom in the school day to go to the bathroom without seeking permission in a public forum
* freedom to choose whatever PE and/or art your student was interested in, or none if it was not their aptitude
* more relaxed family time, less rushing to make the bus/bell on time
* less overall performance anxiety that so many children needlessly suffer from
* you could touch on all learning styles in your classroom as each child had need
* you were not limited to lectures and workbooks like classroom teachers
On and on it goes. The advantages all had one theme in common: liberty!
But at those same conventions, and oddly enough sometimes promoted out of the other side of their mouth by the same moms who raved about the Colfax's and Konos and delight-directed learning, were the boxed curriculum vendors. You all know them if you home school: BJU Press, Abeka, Rod and Staff, Alpha Omega, etc.
The appeal of these types of curriculum probably depended on the person. I can only speak for myself. I used them at the beginning as a sort of multi-vitamin, to make sure that my students didn't miss out on anything I might be weak on in my unit studies. Also, on a day mom wasn't feeling well, or a student wasn't feeling well, the workbooks ensured that some learning was still happening.
But let's be honest, all of these canned programs are religious in nature. Now I'm a religious person so that didn't bother me much at all in the early years. In fact I wanted to teach respect for all people, regardless of religion, and that no matter your branch of Christianity we have things in common. The problem is that all the boxed sets are from a strict, fundamentalist doctrinal position. At least all the ones I found were. (I have heard that the Catholic home schoolers have their own boxed courses. I haven't ever seen them so I wouldn't know.)
For the first year readers, it was not that big of a deal to me that all the women in the pictures and stories wore dresses. It was easy to explain to my young daughter that dressing that way was a religious requirement, not a Jesus requirement. I even used some Anabaptist materials for Bible, simply skipping the chapter on the importance of "being plain". But as they grew I used the canned stuff less and less, relying on secular materials and using real books from the library instead of carefully chosen readers.
And it wasn't only the religion on the side that was objectionable. I picked up a workbook set for high school that was supposed to be Biology. It was abominable! It talked about animals in anthropomorphic terms you would expect in an elementary child's story book. And it was extremely simplistic; not at all acceptable for high school science. Yet I knew more than one family that RELIED on this provider for their entire school year, all subjects!
In fact, many of those women who had touted home schooling as this great nurturing, learning adventure into freedom were instead relying more and more on boxed curriculum. I think that was because they kept having more and more children, and so the exciting adventure of learning together that they set out on was not possible anymore. They were too busy with nursing, baby care, more laundry every year, more mouths to cook for every year and not one more hour in a day than they had when they started out.
They also began to be stricter about their families dress, what they could watch, and what they were allowed to participate in as far as community programs. Creation Science became a sort of sub-religion, not just one possible reconciliation between reality and the creation account in Genesis but THE TRUTH!
Many of the home school families I knew were becoming choosier and choosier about what was acceptable and what was not. Far from freedom and acceptance, they started circling the wagons over all sorts of non-essential issues. Talk about your bait and switch. These same people would still list all the liberty leaning benefits of home schooling while defending it publicly. But at home, they were practicing just the opposite!
There was a great educational resource in our community, but because the museums they toured contained statements that dated the earth and the existence of humans as older than Creation Science teaches, people not only didn't go, but complained to leadership that it was even promoted as an opportunity!
Our monthly skate was already limited to playing only contemporary Christian music, bot others boycotted skating because they thought we should only play hymns or classical music. They made a point of letting leadership know why they would not be attending.
When my children were little, G rated Disney movies were wonderful family fun. Now if you mentioned one, or wanted to plan an outing to a Disney movie, it would be a source of huge contentious debate. On the one hand, there were all sorts of arguments against the moral fiber of whatever the movie was, and on the other hand, you were considered endorsing homosexuality as a Christian norm if you were not boycotting Disney!
And then as our children aged, there was the courtship/dating controversy. Oh my! Many of these young men became arrogant and opinionated, puffed up with oversize egos because they knew they were the prize! A Christian home schooled man was the only acceptable choice for those in the courtship frenzy. And the boys knew that they were the ones who got to choose from all of the available girls- what power! (Yuck! Dear God save my daughter from such a horrendous fate as being married to one of those courtship only home schooled "men"!)
The gap between the kind of home schooling I was sold on, and the reality that was being practiced by the Christian home schooling community just kept getting wider. I knew which side I wanted to be on, and so it was inevitable that the Christian home school community and I would have to go our separate ways.
I haven't been to a convention since, oh, 2004? I went to a retreat for home school moms in 2005, and what was actually taught openly was really good. It was all about relationships in the family, and how important it is to be loving to your children.
But the personal practice of the speaker was Creation Science only, family integrated church, dresses only (though she allowed herself make-up) and I'm pretty sure courtship, patriarchy and keeping adult daughters at home. She talked a great talk, but I could not reconcile it with her walk.
Are there any other Christian home school moms out there who feel like I do? Who feel that they were brought into Christian home school support groups with bait and switch tactics? So many of the women who started out around the same time I did have wound up in very different places- in reality the opposite of what they set out to accomplish.
Or is it just me? =)