Ideology vs Alternative

10 Jul

On a forum recently I was reading the responses of veteran homeschoolers who were answering the question, “How has the homeschooling community changed over the years?”.  Their unanimous response was that people are moving away from what homeschooling originally was – a belief in a different type of education that happened at home under the tuition of their parents.

Myself, I have to agree with these veteran homeschoolers.  In my own circles I have seen a move away from homeschooling as an ideology, towards homeschooling as an alternative to school, often a temporary one.  There is less talk about philosophies of education and more talk about textbooks and distance education programs.  I’m feeling unsettled about this changing perspective to homeschooling.  What do you think?

Nowadays, many of the homeschoolers I meet, new and old, have never heard of the philosophies of Classical Education or Charlotte Mason, and, if they have, they don’t subscribe to them.  I find it a little sad that we are losing this wisdom and entering homeschooling to just do what was done at school, at home.  Do you feel we are losing something significant?

The part that makes me grieve the most is that the duration of homeschooling is decreasing as people hop from one school option to another, according to life’s seasons.  With less ‘ideological homeschoolers’, homeschooling becomes more like a bandaid option, something you do when school becomes too difficult, rather than something you choose long term according to its merits.  I’m pleased, however, that homeschooling can help a broader range of people.

Ah change and choice…I don’t know exactly how I feel about all this?  But I can’t help thinking we are missing the point of homeschooling and getting all excited about the gift wrapping and totally overlooking the real gift within.



Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Homeschooling Thoughts


9 responses to “Ideology vs Alternative

  1. Petra

    July 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    A lot of wisdom in this. I will do some research myself to see more clearly what you are meaning (being a newbie).

  2. Missy

    July 12, 2013 at 1:12 am

    well, you asked what I thought…. so here it is…

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with homeschooling as an alternative. Why does it have to be an ideology based venture? I can feed my kids fruit because it’s better for them than ‘not fruit’ or I can feed them organically grown fruit because it’s better than ‘just fruit’. Either way, they’re eating fruit. Organically grown fruit might be the best, but ordinary fruit isn’t bad.

    Either way, I refuse to subscribe to any educational philosophy. All of them are derived by man. If I follow Charlotte Mason or Classical Education I am following men and their understanding of the world and humanity. My overarching goal in life is to follow Christ, not any man-originated philosophy. I will pick and choose from the ideas which seem best according to my following of Christ. If I elevate any one method to the point where I am bound by it, I limit myself in God’s leading. Life changes, I change, my children change. God changes his people. Home schooling is going to change in my life and the lives of my children. Personally, textbooks and distance education don’t inspire me or offer what I want or what my kids need at the moment. But I’m not going to totally dismiss them for myself or for others. There are times and places for all kinds of learning. And just because people aren’t following any definable ideology doesn’t mean they are just doing at home what is done at school. Different Christian families will need different options according to what God calls them to. Non christian families will still choose what is best for their children according to their standards.

    Personally, I am just as pleased to see kids at home doing distance education under the supervision of their parents, if that is where God leads them, as I am to see a home educating family based firmly and strictly in a certain ideology. Horses for courses. I think the best option is to walk the different paths of life together, encouraging obedience and submission to God and realising that this will look quite different to each disciple.

    Missy 🙂

  3. Tracey

    July 12, 2013 at 3:05 am

    True, organic fruit is the best. No chemicals doing long term, unknown damage in our bodies. But if you are eating ordinary fruit, thinking it’s the best for you then you are missing the goodness that is out there waiting for you.

    True, each to their own, but if you use the fruit analogy then there are better, best options in homeschooling too. If people pick their homeschooling path, fully knowing the options and not really worried about choosing the best educational options, just selecting according to convenience and suitability at the time, then whatever. To them, they probably know about organic fruit too and just eat the ordinary stuff, because fruit is fruit to them, and the ordinary stuff is cheaper and easier. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t better educational options.

    I hear the alternative view also in the daycare world. Mothers justify their choice to put their babies in daycare as just as good an option as being stay at home mums. In reality, their decisions are based on finances, or just the desire to not be at home, rather than the good of the child. If their choice is based on the good of the child then there is a better option, whether they agree or not.

    We all know that fruit isn’t just fruit, daycare isn’t ideal for our little ones, and many fail to thrive in school, but we aren’t all making our decisions on what is best, but rather what is convenient at the time. We are very good at justifying though and making ourselves feel better about our choices.

    My concern isn’t for those who are happy with their choices (some people don’t want to budge), but rather those who truly are looking for the best options and fall prey to the justifications that others settled with- ‘organic is just a marketing scheme’, ‘babies need expert providers to raise them’ or ‘mothers aren’t able to educate their own children properly’. There are better options for homeschooling, but sadly most new homeschoolers aren’t rising to them…many aren’t even aware that they exist anymore.

    I suppose you can view it in Christian terms too. To accept alternative views as all equal, is to accept non-Christian paths as just as valid as Christian paths. When we know that isn’t true. There is a ‘best’ path in life. Just as there is a ‘best’ path in education. There’s best in everything in our world. We just have to keep hunting for it. I think that’s the key – always searching for the best educational path, and not just setting for second best options because they are convenient at the time. Keep leaning in. We will never actually achieve the best, we are human after all, but we should at least be aiming for it, asking God to direct us in the right direction. I don’t believe He leads us all over the shop towards ‘my best’ or ‘their best’ but rather towards ‘His one best plan for all’. I cringe when people use Him as justification for all manner of poor decisions.

    In a logical sense, alternative views can’t all be the best. That’s a very rationalist point of view and I don’t subscribe to that at all. ‘Better and best’ means there’s a continuum of ‘goodness’. It can’t be ‘his best’ and ‘her best’. ‘Best’ means there’s only one.

    Another analogy that just came to me is that of a family. Having a family is better than having no family. However all families vary according to quality. Abusive families are families but they are terrible representatives of a family. Families who believe that just breathing the same air occasionally is enough to raise their children are tolerable families, not abusive but won’t ever win a prize. Families that strive to be better every day but still make mistakes are better families as they are oriented towards being better. And families that have had plenty of experience in parenthood, and make less mistakes than before are pros, and families that make good role models for others. Yes, all families are families. The kids will all probably survive just fine. But clearly there is a continuum. The alternatives are not equal and there is a forward direction in which each family should be going…a direction that is closer and closer to God’s best path for families. I believe that God also has a best educational path for His children and I worry that homeschoolers have stopped looking for that best path.

    Oh and for complete transparency, I buy just ordinary fruit. I doubt there’s anything organic in this house. Plenty of room for improvement here. 🙂

    (Hoping we can have this discussion as friends Missy. No malintent intended at all. Just a good old debate.)

  4. shelley

    July 12, 2013 at 5:54 am

    I have heard that in QLD especially majority of people make the choice to home educate only because school hasn’t worked out for them. Therefore, the overall philiosophy of those parents would be to “find a fix” & quick.

    I would hope that in time more people view home education as an alternative before they go down the school road & therefore have the time to discuss & develop viewpoints on idealogy as opposed to just seeing it as a fix or temporary solution.
    I think also, many home educators do talk to non-home educators (& family) about home ed in language they understand & thus give the view it can be just like “school at home”, so maybe this is creeping into the community in general. (I guess they do so to maybe try to placate negativity)

    IMO as a home educating parent I want to continue to educate myself & that should mean developing an understanding of different philiosophys etc so I can work out the best path for us & our family. There is always room for tweaking & improving & learning for all of us 🙂

    Unfortunately I think generally speaking it is like many things in our world now, the quick solution becomes the best solution & parents miss out on the many & varied options of what might be best, better (or even knowing what might be worse & what to avoid) for their child.

    I guess in my case we wanted to home ed since before my son was born, so I had time & enthusiasm to research different philiosophies etc & work out what was the best fit – but of course we will make adjustments as we go along. And I do think not one entire philiosophy will fit anyone & I think most home educators would view themselves as eclectic, maybe with leanings one way or another though.

    I do feel for parents who have a horrible situation at school & see home ed as their only alternative, it must be difficult & foreign at first. I would hope (although I don’t know) that if they take the step into home ed that they would continue to educate themselves on home ed as they go along

    • Tracey

      July 12, 2013 at 7:15 am

      I think there’s a lot in truth in your statement that many QLD homeschoolers are school refugees. I suspect that our numerous dist ed options make the decision to homeschool much easier on people who really aren’t interest in the ‘how to educate’ but rather ‘getting the job done’.

      Perhaps that’s the crux of the problem. There are homeschoolers who are truly interested in the process of education and spend lots of time reading and researching and there are those homeschoolers who just want to know how to teach and what to use to make sure they are covering the bases and that’s enough for them.

      What I’m noticing is that I’m having to determine what sort of homeschooler I’m talking to before I can begin a conversation with them nowadays, as the wavelengths are just so different. Rarely do I find homeschoolers who I can talk with about education. In fact I can count on one hand those people who I know in real life that I can have these conversations with, and my social circles are pretty broad.

      Yep, I think that simplifies and clarifies it the best – there are those who are truly interest in the process of improving education and there are those that are just looking for something to substitute for school that will get the job done. For myself, if the very best school in Australia was built across the street and we were given a scholarship for free and I liked what they did, I would still homeschool, as it’s not about the quality of the school for me, but the process of education.

  5. Missy

    July 12, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Yep. no worries. I’m all for discussion and even debate and I have no barrow to push in this nor any desire to malign or cause division. I have no desire to convince anyone of anything either, because it doesn’t work! Everyone has to make up their own mind according to their conscience. (And hey, you asked what we thought… 😉 )
    As for what’s ‘best’… I have to disagree. I don’t think ‘best’ is the main goal and the highest priority. Yes, there is a best path in life (glorifying God) but the out working of that is expressed differently. If there was a singular best way to do this then all Christians and their churches all over the world would look pretty much the same. But God is glorified in diversity.
    I guess my reservation is equating best with only. There is not only one way to homeschool, raise children, eat or do anything. God has given us options and diversity. Best means following him in everything and being faithful to his leading. To me, best in homeschooling means doing the most you can for each child in the way that suits them, taking into account all their idiosyncrasies, gifts, talents and interests. I can’t homeschool my children the same way someone else does (even if they have found the best (one) way), I can’t even homeschool my children the same as each other!!!

  6. Jen in NSW

    July 16, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I want to learn more about learning. So far I have read Endangered Minds by Jane Healy and The Well Trained Mind. I also managed to slog through a big book about the trivium, name eludes me right now, ans have read Better Late than Early. I am about to buy Seven Laws of Teaching. Any other suggestions?

    Jen in NSW

    • Tracey

      July 16, 2013 at 1:06 am

      All those are great titles. Another two to add would be “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child” by Anthony Esolen. Very tongue in cheek approach – tell you how to destroy it – but the it’s overflowing with wisdom and truth. Loved this book. Not only about education but a great read. I read it on Kindle but have plans to purchase the book too. It’s earned a place on my shelves. The other would be “Why Don’t Students Like School” by Daniel T Willingham. I haven’t read this one but I followed a forum thread where it was discussed in details and it sounds like a brilliant read. I’m just about to read it too. If you are looking for great audio to listen to then I highly highly recommend any and all of Andrew Pudewa’s audios from IEW. You don’t have to be using any of the IEW stuff to glean from Andrew’s wisdom. I listen to his audios over and over again always getting something new.

  7. Erin

    August 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Chiming in late. I’ve been involved in the home education community since the mid 80s, firstly when my mum home educated my much younger siblings and since the early 90s when I began home educating my own (still at it) I 100% that the home-ed community has lost something, it really grieves me, we’ve lost our way from our grass-roots beginning, and this not only effects our ideological outlooks but home-ed as a community has also lost something precious. Very hard to put into words, but in the early years there was a real sense of community that crossed ‘boundaries’ of religion and lifestyle, it was very exciting time. And too keep in mind in those early years it was illegal, so any legal gain was greatly treasured and never taken for granted. Hsers were far more politically aware. It saddens me today that hsers don’t know nor appreciate what has gone before. touched on it a little here
    philosophical discussions were very exciting and really I think the philosophical is what transcends the burnout years (hs long enough and you will encounter burnout at some stage)
    and for Jen some book recs


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