It Starts At Home

Parents know they are responsible for educating their children. But the question of how often leads to debates…

Well, maybe “debates” isn’t the best word. Debates go back-and-forth, with structure and substance.  What often happens with the topic of education is a homeschool mom writes a testimony about how happy she is with her decision to education her kids at home, and unless she includes a number of disclaimers, then a public-school mother shows up to get defensive about it.

But I digress.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is NOT about how all families should keep their kids home all day.

Actually, it’s about how stable families already do a version of “homeschool,” to a certain extent (even if their kids go to public school during the day).

And, building on that, we need to have an “It-Starts-At-Home” attitude about other institutions as well.  

Thirty or forty years ago, the homeschool movement was in its infancy.  Pretty much the only families drawn to the idea were hippies and hyper-conservative religious fanatics with 170 kids.

As time has marched on, however, this has changed. Enrollment of students in a home-based school has grown steadily since 1999, even as enrollment in private schools has fallen.

Homeschoolers now make up approximately 3.4% of school-aged children, which is 1,770,000 students from all sorts of backgrounds, being taught by their relatives or close friends for a whole host of different reasons.

I asked a poll-question on Facebook about why my friends have chosen to homeschool, and I got many of the standard answers:

-Freedom to go at the child’s pace (whether slower or faster than public classrooms)

-Special needs, such as a social disorder or learning disability

-Freedom to travel

-Ability to pursue a sport or other special-interest

-Closer family ties

Again, I am not saying anyone who sends a child to public school worships the Devil. Many homeschool families work closely with public schools, including choosing full-time public education for one or two of their kids, while keeping the others home full-time.

I’m only reporting what those who are homeschooling have said about the benefits.

These families tend to be self-starters with a love of independence.  They tend to have a perspective that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” and they’re offended by the idea that Big Government can handle individual issues.

In fact, go ahead and try suggesting to a homeschooler that a teaching degree is necessary to be an effective educator. Just try.  🙂

Most completely reject the idea that educating can only be done by a degree-carrying “professional.”

Homeschool parents see themselves as the experts on their own kids. Period. Full stop.

That’s why I plan to lean on the homeschool community, as I start criticizing other institutions that need to remember “it starts at home.”

Namely the Institutionalized Church and Institutionalized Social Work and Institutionalized Counseling all need to be re-examined for their effectiveness, the same way homeschoolers have examined the Institutionalized School, and found it lacking.

Personally, I’m tired of being told that “professionals” are those who have spent thousands of dollars obtaining a degree in Divinity or Social Work or Psychology/Counseling.

I’m tired of the assumption that THOSE near-strangers are the “experts” about things happening in my own family.


If I try to unpack all of my thoughts on this subject in a single blog post, it will get way, way, too long.   But if you want to read a few things I’ve already written in a similar vein, here are some links:

-My criticism of “Professional Ministries” (click these blue words to read it).  I argue that ALL OF US have been called to teach and help the poor and counsel. Which means deferring to the “professionals” becomes an excuse.

-Problems with racism in the public education system. 

-Problems with lowering standards in public education systems.

-And a list of things Christians expect their pastor to do for all of us, instead of asking whether we’re supposed to handle it ourselves…

I want to hear your feedback in the comments!  I’m especially interested in the perspective of you self-starting, tradition-bucking homeschoolers!

What goes through your mind when I say things like “Homechurch” or “Home-Counseling?”  Would the phrase “It Starts At Home” apply to those industries, too?

I am sure I will write about this again…

13 thoughts on “It Starts At Home

  1. Dylan Black

    The thoughts you’ve expressed are like reading my own stream of consciousness on the matter. ^_^ I think some people see the diversity of topics you mentioned are tangential or unrelated, but I TOTALLY get it – optimally, there needs to be one central super-tight community that acts as the base for all others. Most usually goes by the name “family”.

    I was homeschooled from 6th-9th grade… those were formative years for me (as they are for many people). The homeschool community that we became a part of allowed me to become comfortable with myself and set a great foundation for high school, college, and my professional life.

    Now, I’ve got kids of my own and in a few years we’ll be making decisions about educating them. I’ve wavered from “Absolutely no way I’m sending them to our school district (which is last in a below average county v_v)” to “I don’t think we’ll have a financial choice but to send them there…” Through wrestling with this, I’ve landed on a very similar conclusion that you’ve stated – no matter what, I’m going to be super involved in their education.

    Then with “church” – we definitely do that outside the norm (to the chagrin of some extended family). We attend a bible study made up of about 2 dozen people that are committed to each other to varying degrees, but not a 501c3 organization with paid staff ^_-. For our family unit, this has served to keep us accountable to stay involved with other people, rather than blending in the background.

    I better stop before I get into Social Work (since I’m part of that system ^_^)… but anyway, thanks for the thoughtful post!

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Thanks, as always, for reading!

      I’d really love to hear some of your stories about social work some time. I volunteered at a Crisis Pregnancy Center for about a year (when I only had one kid at home to manage), and in just that short amount of time, I wrestled with many “pros and cons” involving the justice system and church system and other social SYSTEMS! I imagine your insights would be even more poignant.

      Also, I don’t know if you clicked any of the links I included above. But I mentioned “Pagan Christianity” in one of those posts, which is simply a must-read for anyone who has ever thought there’s something wrong with the way Westerners do the church thing. The book tends to be pretty controversial–as most subjects which intrigue me are. But, if I haven’t recommended it to you before…or if I have recommended it, but you haven’t yet read it…I can’t recommend it enough!

      http://www.paganchristianity.org/answers

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      1. Dylan Black

        I think I’ve said before, but I’ll reiterate here for context – I’m a Mental Health Case Manager through a non-profit that’s contracted with our county and is paid through county and state funding ^_^.

        There are many ways to describe how I feel about my particular social work system and even those general feelings vary from month to month… I think the one way that I would consistently describe how I feel is that I’m like a mercenary in a sense- I help people who ideally should be helped by other people, but for one reason or another just aren’t (and consequently, I am paid to fill that role). On the one hand, the system is inefficient, it sucks and it shouldn’t exist, because it shouldn’t need to. On the other hand, people in general suck – so it’s good that there is a system in place to help people who need help. So, as I’m a part of the system, I try to keep a mindset that I can actually serve people as Christ would, despite not being on board with everything the larger system stands for. In these ways, I sympathize with many pastors that I know feel similarly….

        Regarding Pagan Christianity – I have read that (though it’s been a little bit) and found it very appealing. I’m not sure just how influential the book itself has been in how I think about Church and other systems, but the type of ideas presented in it have absolutely transformed how I think about groups, systems, and how I use them. I’ll second the reco for any other readers!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. mrsmcmommy Post author

        Yes!
        Oh my goodness, the mental health thing is a big interest of mine, too! (As well as abuse, specifically when abuse is perpetuated by those with mental health issues…)

        In fact, I’m struggling with all of this precisely because I’m dealing with a loved one who has all the markers for Borderline Personality Disorder. Two weeks ago, this particular loved one reached out to a professional counselor (who is a stranger) hoping to win an ally. And, I’m frustrated that this counselor-stranger continues to give advice based on a one-sided perspective (including, I kid you not, giving my loved one a copy of “Boundaries” the day after I published my book review! How’s that for bitter irony? 🙂

        I just have a lot of stuff to process about the best way to deal with all of this. I realize there are people who don’t have strong families and depend on the system.
        But, in my family’s case, the system is what is PREVENTING us from being able to help… Because this loved one shuts us down and just shops for a new doctor/counselor/professional for “support” (i.e. to be a yes-man).

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      3. mrsmcmommy Post author

        Lol. Hopefully you’re still following my stream of consciousness, because that last comment is a total mess of randomness if not! 😀

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      4. Dylan Black

        Haha, I’m still following you, I’m pretty sure.

        So yeah, that therapist does sound a little off… I mean, the benefit of the doubt would have me say that the therapist is maybe trying to use the book as a means to discuss boundaries, which is a good concept (and can be almost definitionally misunderstood by someone who has BPD tendencies) regardless of whether the book is of value beyond introducing the concept. Of course… just giving her the book and saying “Go!” is allowing someone to weaponize the entire concept against people with whom their struggling and cut them out entirely. I know that both types of therapists exist, though… and I also know that shopping around will get you the one you want >_>…

        I understand your saying the system has hurt your family… I mean, my impulse is to give you some trite words on letting your loved one be her own moral agent and allowing her to make crappy decisions… but I know full well how the crappy decisions of our loved ones affect us and our other loved ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. mrsmcmommy Post author

        Nah, that’s not trite.
        If the stranger-counselor said something similar, I would have a little more faith in her. 🙂
        As it is, though, I suspect she “felt a calling” when she was young to “do counseling as a ministry” and now she is offering her services to all the people being told Good Christians go to [professional] counselors when they need help with something.
        It’s all so formulaic and thoughtless!
        It drives me crazy!

        (*okay, deep breaths*)

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  2. insanitybytes22

    I had those extreme atheist, far left parents, so I didn’t go to school at all except for 5th grade, 7th grade, and 11th. Those were actually very dark days, very cultian, so that’s one downside of homeschooling.

    With our kids we did a mix, homeschool, public school, alternative schools. One thing that seemed to come quite naturally was unschooling. Just letting the kids be, just letting them direct their own learning. Because of the way I grew up, pretty much educating myself, I had some confidence in self directed learning. A bit funny, I remember some anxiety when my son decided to study video games for a number of months, but that actually did progress to reading, studying medieval weaponry, and eventually physics. Two of our kids went on to college, now working on their second degrees. Two have not yet.

    I also had some serious uh, “debates” with the system, with child protective services and the public school system, so I am a huge fan, a warrior even, for the idea that it “starts at home” and those who question that right better just back the heck up. 🙂

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      That’s very interesting, IB!
      As someone who has experienced the self-described “dark” side of homeschooling, one might assume you would be warning others against it!
      I’ve heard the argument that homeschooling can lead to neglect/abuse more than once from the folks who believe we’d better leave that stuff to the “professionals.”

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  3. Nic Shoffner

    My wife and I decided to homeschool after a disastrous year of preschool for my son. He was later diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and we have never regretted our decision to take matters into our own hands. We get to teach him what we believe will best equip him for life as an adult and we get to leave out stuff that he will never use. It’s a win-win.

    Although I never looked at religion in the same light, I suppose we follow suit in that area as well. We attend church once a week but we do about an hour long family devotional/Bible study five nights a week. I take my responsibility as the spiritual leader of the household seriously and once a week didn’t seem adequate.

    That said, I draw a line at the therapy my son needs. While some parents might be very well suited to take on the therapeutic needs of an Autistic child, my wife and I aren’t so we leave that to a professional. We do work very closely with his therapist and do our best to continue the therapeutic process on our own after each session.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Thanks for the input, Nic!

      I used to work closely with therapists (mainly physical and speech therapists for kiddos with special needs), so I agree that having experts who specialize in certain techniques isn’t a bad thing!

      Also–though my husband is a nurse–you can bet we’re going to consult doctors and other experts if/when our kids develop something worse than the flu that we can’t handle ourselves.

      All of these details are relevant!

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      1. Nic Shoffner

        I definitely agree, however, that we have developed an “appeal to authority” attitude in our society that has allowed many to become complacent in all sorts of life’s aspects. As parents, we need to be truly responsible for what our kids experience. God gave my wife and I the unique responsibility of parenting our child and He will hold us accountable for our decisions.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. mrsmcmommy Post author

        Exactly.
        Also, I’m frustrated that people in the Church often dismiss advice they don’t like, simply because it didn’t come from “The Pastor” or “The Counselor” or “The Official Educator.” That’s also just a convenient excuse!
        All of us are called to be ministers to The Body. And, while I understand that not everyone has the same TALENTS, I think we need to get away from the idea that colleges and Universities can give us pieces of paper that make us the official authority on certain things. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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