The
story below is an allegory of a homeschool journey. The names and personalities
of the people I knew have been altered to protect privacy. No one person
described below is real, though the stereotypes are common enough. If you think
you see yourself here, 
it
is merely an accident. 

The Setting

Sometime
in 1996 I got “wired”, on-line, with my homeschool. My oldest was  in first grade
and my other three were a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler. These were the
days before the Well-Trained Mind, when we were relying on Dorothy Sayers’  on-line
article, The Lost Tools of Learning
and Doug Wilson’s book,  Recovering the Lost Tools for most of
our classical information. We were lost, like the tools, but happily plugging
along by trial and error, as indeed, we still are. 

Through
a couple of novice classical email loops I met various ladies and forged
friendships which have lasted to this day. We all came from different  states, different church backgrounds,
and had different levels of education. What we shared in common was a love for
classical education, which later blossomed into many different endeavors and
interpretations of how that classical education was to be realized. 

The Group

This
was back in the days when  you were fortunate to find ONE Yahoo
group (though back then it was not Yahoo) dedicated to homeschoolers pursuing a
classical education.  My imaginary group
here for the sake of this story was composed, among others, of Rhonda Rigorous,
Joanie Joy, Flora Flow,  Essie
Expert, and myself. 

We
excitedly discovered that some of us were within driving distance of each other
and we eagerly purposed to meet. 

Our
gatherings in the beginning were long weekends at the home  of a loop member in a larger city somewhere
in the
Midwest.
We sipped long cups of tea, chatted, looked at each other’s curriculum, and
giggled till late into the night.  We
even had an all day family gathering of hubbies, kids, and ourselves to play
ping pong, frisbee, soccer, chat, and eat an all day
lunch. It was homeschool heaven. 

The People

Flora
Flow was an elegant brunette, sweet, feminine, and modest in appearance. She
never raised her voice. She had obedient and quiet and helpful kids  and
a managerial
type husband, sweet and fun, but definitely not to be trifled with
disobedience. Her homeschooling featured a relaxed, slightly messy (but
easy to
pick up…)  home with Charlotte Mason
style nature walks, crafts, stories galore, hot tea, and snuggles, some
structure, but tremendously loving and go-with-the-flow type of planning. 

Joanie Joy was a  quiet modest person. Her  home was perfectly organized  but it was warm and welcoming. Her school
room had color coordinated notebook binders organized by subject, on her
shelves nary a book was misaligned, her lessons plans
were detailed and impeccable. Her school was a classical version of Konos, academically rigorous and planned to the T, but  fun and hands on. 

Essie Expert was welcoming and relaxed,
but very strict with her kids. She was the type of person who goes through life
with long lists of things to check off and get done, firm and loving, but not particularly
snuggly. She purchased every classical book might possibly need and plugged away  one piece at a
time to do right by God and by their kids. She vowed  that as soon as there was a classical
school near by  her kids would be in it. 

Rhonda
Rigorous was new to homeschooling. She had pulled her oldest out of second
grade and the next one out of kindergarten. She was not sure which way to go,
other than her children needed a strong classical education with academic rigor
and attention to detail. 

The Gatherings

The
fist year all of us had a great time of fellowship and learned a lot from each
other. 

The
second year, Essie Expert and Rhonda Rigorous wanted
to plan a BIG homeschool conference with famous speakers, experts on every
imaginable topic so that our get-together would 
be **productive**  with lots of
learning and information. The goal was for classical education to grow and
expand and become well-known in the  area

Flora
Flow and Joanie Joy wanted something small and cozy
like the year before… **relationships**…. 
 We did a compromise and from
there we went ahead with a small class room sized  homeschool conference.  We did some of the speaking ourselves and we
invited a few local educators to speak on advanced classical topics. One of the
speakers later went on to  went on to form a
Classical
Christian
School.
Some of the children from our group, transitioned from homeschooling into that
kind of school as they began cropping up around the country. 

The
following year, the gap between  the  “expert conference” and the "homey
relationship gathering" got too big. I did not go, neither did Flora Flow
or Joanie Joy, but the other ladies pursued the conference  with
excellence. In fact, they did so well that the conference has since grown into
a large state event with famous classical homeschooling gurus from all over the
nation featured as the lead speakers. 

My Conclusion

What
I learned from this little anecdote is that homeschooling is diverse and that
we have very different goals. Some of us  homeschool because the schools in our
area, both public and private, are either poor academically or because the
schools do not provide the Christian content, which we want for our children. 

Others
of us homeschool, not just for academic and religious reasons, but also because
we believe  it
is a means of mentoring, of fostering close relationships with our kids. Our
aim with homeschooling is to re-generate a sense of the small communities which  our countries
used to have; first in the family and secondly in our extended communities. 

To
us those of us who are primarily  relationship oriented in our
homeschooling, we believe that homeschooling  is supposed to generate strong LOCAL
communities with depth of relationships. …  The concept of "community” is largely lost
in the modern world. 

We
felt that institutionalizing homeschooling  support groups into these huge academic
organizations, where we just go sign our kids up here and there, sit and wait
and otherwise  run around in the car all
day is missing the HOME in homeschooling.  We as moms are no longer the  teachers, we are no longer HOME, we are no
longer with our kids, and we never have time to sit down, be cozy, sip tea, and  contemplate the meaning of  life with kids and with their friends. 

The
homeschool support group in what I consider my home town now has a  large ***homeschool
house with class rooms***, where many moms send their kids for almost  most of their instruction time.  Can we still call that HOMEschooling?

 

A Parallel

Even
our churches rarely meet in homes any more, but have their ladies’ meetings at
out-let malls with lunch at a restaurant, their youth events in the church
gymnasium, and their men's golf and steak scramble at on church grounds.   Everything is large, practical and nobody
needs to be inconvenienced by hosting it in their homes. 

Homeschooling,
like everything else, is beginning to be dominated  by concerns of efficiency, expediency,
and convenience. We struggle to take time for relationships, we don’t take time
to breathe, to be,  and
to contemplate. 

As
homeschoolers, even rigorous classical ones, we need to slow  down, 
come home, and return  to that
old-fashioned  Abraham and Sarah
hospitality. What I learned from Joanie Joy and Flora
Flow is that  unless we slow down to take
time to create relationships, we lose 
much of  the truth, beauty, and
goodness  we want to imprint in the
lives  of our kids.

 

lmj 2004, April