Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Does Homeschooling Mean Living in the Christian Ghetto?

Over the last 40 or 50 years, the evangelical Christian community in America has gradually but steadily formed a separate sub-culture with its own institutions, events, services, and entertainment. I call this the Christian ghetto, a world-within-the-world where you can live your life without ever having a meaningful encounter with people outside your self-selected group. For those of us who homeschool or use a private Christian school, this isn’t just possible, it’s quite likely–about the only way to become more isolated among Christians would be to join a commune.

What affect has this had on the vibrancy of the church in America and its impact on the larger culture? In his book Grace-Based Parenting, Tim Kimmel writes, "What’s ironic is that the ‘secularization’ of the non-Christian community has risen proportionately with our withdrawal from it. The more options the Christian community created for itself, the more our general cuture moved toward secular thinking, the corollary being that the less we need to engage the lost world around us, the more it will be left to its own devices."

Homeschooling does not have to mean living in the Christian ghetto. Nor should it. Tim Kimmel’s book provides strong support for the position that isolating children from non-Christian influences does not keep them safe; on the contrary, it sets them up for failure when they reach adulthood and necessarily must encounter those other influences OR it makes them completely unable, as adults, to impact the world around them because they don’t know how to interact with it.

Christian homeschoolers often set up their own homeschooling support groups. The majority of homeschoolers are still Christian, and so it’s natural that Christian homeschoolers make up the bulk of the people forming and joining support groups. Because of that, it’s also natural that the small number of people constituting the rest of the homeschoolers find it impossible, outside of very populous areas, to form their own homeschool support groups because there just aren’t enough of them. The result? In some areas, where the only large and active group is restricted to only Christian members, other homeschoolers have NO options for standardized testing, field trips, clubs, social events, graduation ceremonies, athletics, and the other functions provided by a support group.

It is not hard to see that not only does this remove the Christian influence from the larger homeschooling culture, it breeds resentment of Christians (and by extension Christ) among the very people we are intended to love and serve!

You may not be able to change the policies of your local support group. But you can plan events and activities outside of that support group umbrella and make them open to all homeschoolers. If an inclusive group is available in your area, you can join it in addition to or instead of joining the exclusively Christian group. Not only will you be fulfilling your mandate to "be in the world", you’ll be moving your kids beyond the boundaries of the Christian ghetto and giving them a safe, supervised introduction to life in this larger world that they must someday inhabit without your guidance or else become irrelevant.