One thought came blasting into my mind as I surveyed the massive crowd. “The stereotype is deserved.”
Marie and I were at the Midwest Homeschool Convention this past week. I’ve never had so much culture shock in my life – and I’ve been to a Neil Diamond concert! All the sights and sounds of homeschool moms and dads (mostly moms) bustling around punctuated ever so often by a baby’s cry, were the constant soundtrack to the three days we spent among them. We listened to lectures, surfed a veritable sea of curriculum, and tried to keep each other sane through the process.
We took the plunge into this unknown culture simply because we are opting in. The culture of homeschooling is now our culture. Or it will be in 139 days. Connor, our oldest son currently enrolled in a Christian school which we adore, will become an official homeschooler in the fall. And Marie and I, being the diligent parents we are, decided that we had best be gettin’ some edu-macation if we were to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Boy did it roll!
I was struck by two things. First, homeschooling is eaten up with Christianity and a Christian worldview. This particular conference is organized under a Christian statement of faith, but the materials we scoured were by and large based in a solidly biblical Christianity. Secondly, homeschool parents are fiercely small government in their politics. Now this doesn’t define many homeschoolers I’m sure, but it sure is consistent. The conclusion I came to was that I wasn’t against either of those things. In fact, I cannot imagine our home without Christ and a devotion to bringing our children up to love him and serve him. Nor can I imagine a world in which I cannot decide what is best for my child and implement a system of child-rearing based on those convictions. So at heart, I’m already a homeschool dad.
Now I don’t have a beard, we didn’t name our children after minor prophets, and Marie certainly does not wear denim in any form that resembles a dress, but that stereotype is so cliche. In fact, the more into the conference we got, the less we noticed the clothing around us and the more we noticed the dispositions and attitudes of our newfound contemporaries. The culture of family was all around. Children and parents were largely inseparable. Politeness and service came before getting our way and being first. It was downright pleasant. That’s when I started to realize that the stereotype is completely deserved. Except I wasn’t thinking of homeschoolers.
Since these folk tend to swim against the current of popular politics and culture a bit, it is easy to poke fun. After all, it is much more enjoyable to stay within the mainstream of society, blending in to the scenery and pointing out the differences of others. But looking like everyone else is easy and standing up for convictions is noble. It dawns on me that maybe homeschoolers aren’t the ones who easily fall into a stereotype. Maybe it’s the rest of popular culture. Maybe it’s all those people who have bought into the notion of a two-income family where mom and dad ship the kids off to be raised by their peers and their teachers and their youth pastor. Maybe it’s all those folks who think that lifestyle is the best way to educate their children – from manners, to work ethic, to relationships, ad infinitum.
What I observed at the Midwest Homeschool Convention was refreshing. And I found my own stereotypes vanishing as I observed those around me. I went in thinking I was very different. I came out realizing how very similar I am. Christ, at the center of it all, has a way of doing that.