I watch a number of homeschool Facebook groups and there’s one recently that has had a number of hot debates on topics like curriculum choices, so it made sense to me when I saw someone posted a link to an article called “Homeschool Mommy Wars.” The article was structured with “5 lies” and then “5 strategies to fight the battle” and it portrays homeschooling mommy wars as a set of mothers tearing each other down using criticism of how others do things and by pretending that homeschooling is easy. I can agree with that part of the article. Homeschooling is often hard. Self-doubt is all too common and even friendly advice can end up coming out sounding like criticism. Within that context, the advice to think before speaking, to try to build one another up, and, if one prays, to pray for strength of character make sense. (I add “if one prays.” The author of the blog I’m writing about seems to presume one does, or at least, that one should.)
That’s where that blogger and I diverge in opinions. I don’t believe in some mythical enemy:
The enemy wants nothing more than to see the homeschooling movement fail. He doesn’t want you to be able to raise your child in the Christ-filled environment of your home.
I don’t presume all homeschoolers have any interest in a Christ-filled environment. The article gets worse though. It was when I got to this part I really cringed:
Sweet moms, it is time to put an end to the homeschooling mommy wars. It’s time to wave the white flag of surrender. Surrender to Christ. When we fully surrender to Him, we’ll love as He loves. We’ll encourage and build up. Your homeschool will be stronger, your family will be stronger, and those around you will grow in love as they see Christ’s love active within you.
If we want to talk about ending homeschool mommy wars, and being really supportive of other homeschoolers, we need to stop pretending non-Christian homeschoolers don’t exist. You can’t “end homeschool mommy wars” by telling people you don’t know to “embrace Christ.” Doing so dismisses the fact there are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, atheist and pagan homeschoolers! It’s like saying “we Christians shouldn’t argue about how we homeschool – but we don’t have to talk to those who aren’t Christian, they’re not really part of our community” or at least “they can’t really love as well as we can.”
When I saw the post about ending the homeschool wars, I commented about the presumed Christianity aspect of the post. The person who posted said she did “not post this with intent to argue Christianity” and I wrote back I’m sure she didn’t meant to. I’m guessing she didn’t even notice the presumption of Christianity and how it might exclude members of the homeschool community. I didn’t want to argue about Christianity either (and I don’t mean to here) only about how people both religious and non-religious interact with each other and how we can create community that is open.
I accept that one of the things many homeschoolers like about homeschooling communities is that they don’t have to keep quiet about their religious beliefs. I’d just like to make sure there are ways of talking about religion without presuming everyone there will be religious, or implying people are wrong if they aren’t.
In homeschool parlance “secular homeschoolers” aren’t necessarily non-religious, they are just not vocal about faith the way Christian homeschoolers are. I’m a secular homeschooler, though I have a complex relationship with religion. Most secular homeschoolers already accept that homeschool groups are filled with religion. I don’t bat an eye when a homeschool group starts having a discussion on Bible study, and I’m never surprised to find that there are homeschoolers teaching their kids that dinosaurs lived with humans. Secular homeschoolers get used to hearing those type of things, and while some will stay clear of any but specifically secular homeschool groups, many will accept the religious content of homeschool groups because they want to remain parts of larger homeschool groups, whether online or face-to-face.
I didn’t get to have the conversation I wanted on the Facebook page. The whole thread was quickly deleted, conversation over. I think deleting it was meant to keep the group “drama free.” Drama is all too easy to come by on the internet.
I felt a bit of sadness at the thread being deleted, because I wanted to try to start a conversation there about what homeschool mommy wars look like. There are arguments over curriculum, and implications that if a person isn’t homeschooling the same way as the critic, they’re doing it wrong, and those can in many ways be answered the way the other blogger tried to answer it, with the idea that different families are different. Yet there are other differences not as easily dismissed. What happens with philosophical arguments, like questions over unschooling, rewards, and discipline? Its harder to say “families are different” when one is holding a philosophical viewpoint about how children learn or how giving rewards reduce intrinsic value of something. It would be nice to simply say “all families are different” but it is a little hard to because the underlying belief is that there is some common truth to how children think or learn. So how do we get outside of that – without completely silencing the discussion around it?
I’d like to see more discussion about being supportive when one is, oneself, insecure, because hey, I’ll admit, I have a harder time talking with other homeschooling moms when I’m feeling insecure about what I’m doing. I hear about all the awe-inspiring things other people are doing, or even just their sheer determination in doing schoolwork every single day, and I think, I must be doing things wrong!
I want to work better at just listening, being supportive, and there are times when I’m confident and happy to listen to the wonderful things others are doing.
Some days I’m nervous about talking to other homeschooling moms. I’m scared that when I start talking about the fun things I’m doing, it will sound like I’m bragging, or like I’m implying that they should be doing the same thing. Sometimes I just want to talk about the stuff I’m doing without having it compared to what someone else is doing, without implying I hold any judgement whatsoever about what they are doing.
I have been lucky to have found some great homeschooling friends, and some great online communities too. This isn’t meant as a criticism of any of them, only a questioning response to the blog post I referenced to above, and a recognition that at times there are difficulties.
Do you ever feel like you’ve stepped into “homeschool mommy wars”? What would make it easier for you to feel supported by homeschooling communities? Leave a comment and maybe we can get a good discussion going here.