When I was 16 years old, I attended an evangelical church.
Occasionally, on Friday nights (in place of Youth Group), we were dispatched in groups of 3… to our surrounding neighbourhood with the mandate to knock on doors and convert the respondents to Christianity.
We were armed with our Bibles and little booklets which contained a bunch of “answers” to any difficult questions that the potential converts may have asked.
The idea, of course, was that we knew “The Truth”… we knew “The Answers” – and we – as Christians – were… well… we were RIGHT.
And the neighbours (if they were not Christian)… were “WRONG”.
And our job… was to convince the neighbours (that they were wrong)… and then convert them into “Right-ness”.
At around the same time, there was a boy in my class at school who always loved to get me worked up in a froth over my Christian belief systems. He would mock and tease and he’d call me a “Gulliable-Gulliver” for believing what he called “utter crap”. He thought it was ridiculous that there was this supposed ONE way… this ONE answer… this ONE truth (that Christians believed they owned). I used to threaten him with hellfire and brimstone and he never seemed to care… which was enormously frustrating for me.
I wanted to PROVE to him that I was right (and he was wrong). I wanted him to KNOW that my Christian belief system had The Answers and that God was on ‘our’ side.
I wanted to correct him. I wanted to convert him.
Fast forward to about 25 years later… and (the same friend)… writes something on my Facebook feed.
But this time, it’s not about Christianity – it’s about something else (currently close to my heart): homeschooling.
Clearly my old friend is in the mood for debate (or perhaps a fight)… and he provokes me, writing a few sentences… which he knows will probably get me all riled up…
And, at first – I DO get riled.
I feel interrogated and I want to leap to my own defence. I want to justify our choices and our lifestyle. I want to tell him about the many books I’ve read… the research I’ve done… the TED talks, and the stories of friends in my circle (who walk a similar journey with their kids). There are about 50 links that immediately came to mind… which I want to bombard him with. I want him to understand my choices. I want him to know why we’re on this path and how much it has meant to us… I want him to get it.
But… about a minute after I consider the various options of how I was going to prove-my-point-to-my-old-school-friend… I thought to myself: “Why am I trying to convince him of anything?”.
And… indeed… why?
Anyone who knows us – knows and understands that the journey (and the decisions we have made regarding our children’s education) have taken us years of contemplation… soul searching… discussion… questioning… research… and simply figuring out what works best for OUR family.
Why would I need to justify these very personal decisions to anyone else?
To prove something?
Prove what? That I’m “right”… and that they’re “wrong”?
I just don’t think in those linear terms anymore.
Because the truth is – what may be right for us and our family… may be wrong for somebody else. What works well for us may not necessarily work for someone else. What might be ‘right’ for me… may be ‘wrong’ for you…
…and that’s okay.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk about homeschooling or unschooling. It’s certainly not a taboo topic. On the contrary, I am more than happy to tell our story to my old school friend over a cup of coffee. If he approached me and said: “You know, I’m not sure I agree with your stance on education – could you explain why you’ve made the choices you have? I’d like to better understand…” – I would say: “Absolutely, come over for a coffee and I’ll share our story with you”.
What I’m not interested in, however, is DEFENDING our choices (and especially on a Facebook thread, of all places). To what end? What purpose would it serve?
If someone is intent on dissing homeschooling – then they’re free to do so.
But I don’t have to rise to the bait in response.
I don’t need to defend our choices or justify our decisions to others.
And I have no desire to convert or convince anyone of anything. My proselytising days are over.
When I was young, I preached my religion to anyone who would listen (and even to those who didn’t). I viewed the world through very dualistic, judgmental eyes. One was either “in”… or they were “out”. One was either “right”… or they were “wrong”. One was either Christian… or they were going to burn in hell. I just don’t see it that way any more (here’s a post I wrote on the topic).
And the same is true for education.
I don’t believe that there’s any single right way to educate a child. Even the word “education” is a hot topic on it’s own… and everyone has their different ideas and opinions on what that word actually means. To some people it means “schooling”. To some people it means “learning”… and to those who believe it means “learning” – it begs another question: “HOW do children learn?” (and that question alone can spark thousands of differing opinions).
Of course, I have my own opinions on the topic too (LOTS of them)… but – the difference between the 40 year old Heather of today… and the 16 year old Heather of the 80’s… is that I no longer believe that MY way is the “only way”… or that MY way is The Right Way. What may be “right” for us… may just be a horrible fit for someone else.
And I definitely have NO intention of proselytising… or trying to convert others or “set-them-straight” or try to make them see or do things MY way…
Everyone has their own personal journey to make and decisions to ponder… and I support any family or parent who has pondered and chewed on the (many) options… and made whatever decision works best for their family and their kids. For some parents, it’s homeschooling… for others, it’s unschooling or world-schooling… for others, it’s private tutors… for others, it’s public or private schools… or Montessori schools… or online learning facilities…. or Waldorf schools… or Christian / Muslim schools… or WHATEVER!
Right now, our version of “education” works very well for our family – and we’re delighted with the results. We may continue on this path indefinitely – we may not. Perhaps the seasons will change… and perhaps our needs will change… and perhaps there will be another way… a different way… that will work better for our kids in the future.
I’m open to the possibilities.
But for now… we’re sticking with our decisions (on how we choose to educate our kids). Regardless of who does… or doesn’t approve.