Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supporting Each Other

Ever suffer from peer pressure as a homeschooling mom? I do, and it drives me crazy.

When we choose to educate our children within our home, we immediately alienate ourselves from a section of society. No, I don't mean that we purposely alienate ourselves, but that many never understand that choice. As a result we can often take abuse of different sorts from that camp. The thing is, we expect that to a certain extent. Humans, being what they are, have trouble relating to those who are different. We all do it, right?

We answer the questions about our children's academic level, their socialization and their future prospects with as much grace as we can and keep on keeping on. Unfortunately this comes from both Christians and non-Christians. It comes from those who teach in schools, both public and private, and from those who just don't understand why we would do this. We have to be prepared to face it pretty much where ever we go.

In our weariness related to the pressure from without, we often look within the homeschool community to meet a need within ourselves....finding a place to belong. A place to go and people to be with who understand our choices. A place we don't feel judged. It is this subject that begins to make me a little crazy. For within these groups of supposed support we find greater peer pressure than anywhere else.

Please don't think I am suggesting that homeschool support groups are all bad. I'm not. We need fellowship and that feeling of belonging. I have been involved at different levels of such groups in various parts of the country. Some are online and others are groups of friends that meet in each others homes. There is great variety in the types of groups, but also in the overall philosophy.

I would say that looking for a homeschool group is similar to looking for the right church for your family. There are many wonderful churches, doing a great work for the Lord, but we look for one that fits our family's goals and beliefs. In more urban areas there are more choices, while in rural areas people have less to pick from.

Regardless of where you live, if you homeschool, you may have had the experience of introducing yourself and explaining your family's homeschooling lifestyle, only to hear a variety of crickets chirruping loudly in your ears. Perhaps in this homeschool group no one else uses "workbooks". Or maybe that's all they use and the idea of "unschooling" is tantamount to being an unfit parent. Or maybe, you get a "Charlotte Who?" response. Whatever the case, you suddenly get a feeling that you don't belong.

Over time we can begin to question our own choices for our family. If everyone around me thinks this is best, maybe that is what I should be doing. And to that, I say, keep an open mind, research it on your own, pray about it, discuss it with your husband and then feel confident in your decision.

My husband and I have had the priviledge to speak with homeschoolers over much of the country. We (homeschooling families) all come from different backgrounds, different beliefs and different personalities. There is no one right way to homeschool. Every home is different...every homeschool situation will be different. As a family, we need to know what our priorities are. What are the goals we are seeking to accomplish? That is what our homeschooling decisions must be based on. By discussing and then recording our goals, we can organize our home and the education of our children to accomplish them.

When that has been done, we can really begin to look for fellowship within a group that best augments our educational plan. Don't be beat up by the idea that if everyone else around seems to be doing something different than you are that you are wrong. And if you are in a homeschool group, I encourage you to look around and see the differences. Maybe there are those who are struggling to fit in and need to know that you support them in however they have chosen to educate their children.

Finally, let me say that this pressure can also come from the homeschooling community to those who have not chosen that path. There are churches that have a majority of homeschoolers and without even realizing it, may cause those who do not homeschool to feel like second-rate parents.

Parenting is a God-given responsibility. We are mandated to teach our children in the ways of God, but how we do that is personal. A parent can have their children in a public school and be no less "spiritual" than those of us who homeschool. Christian schools can be excellent choices, as well. It just depends on the needs of your family.

Christians need to be supporting each other in the awesome responsibility of being parents. We must educate ourselves, and we must be flexible. Not flexible to every wind that passes through, but flexible to the needs of our own families. What was right last year may not be this year. What worked for our first child, may not work for the third. Most of all, we need to be on our knees for our families and for the families around us. For if our relationship with our Father is as it should be, our support of each other will follow.

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