Prompted by questions from my homeschooling author friends Cheryl Carter and Donna Spann, I have been pondering this question for over a week. Responding to my first post after a six month absence, in which I talk about the "end" of my homeschool journey, they asked me to explore two angles of homeschool "retirement":
Cheryl brought up the Lifestyle angle, and whether it is possible to retire from a way of life. The question here became whether homeschooling was really only about "education" in the sense that most of us consider that concept, or whether even the word "homeschooling" carries within it the germ of many other ideas: political, theological, family values, freedom, independent thinking, close family relationships, imparting values, civic responsibility...right now I can't think of them all but I am sure there are others.
Donna mentioned the Titus 2 model of the -ahem- older women teaching the younger, and how this would have been so helpful for her at the beginning of her homeschool journey, and how it would smooth the way for new homeschool moms. The question became whether homeschooling moms and dads who are the repositories of a wealth of information about what it is REALLY like to homeschool should ever retire, or if they should continue to be active in the homeschool community in some sort of advisory capacity.
Both of these are very interesting questions - you can see why I have been mulling for a week! Over the last week have had an opportunity to go back and reread some of the older articles in this blog and remember how I felt at times in the past.
At the very least I have given up the idea of abandoning this blog. Going back into these old articles reminded me of just how much I love to write, and just how much I love writing about homeschooling. I remembered our first homeschool conference in 2000 at Sandy Cove, where I met these ladies for the first time.
It was amazing to be in an environment where I didn't have to answer the questions,"Is that legal?" "Why do you do this?" "What about socialization?" "Are you one of those religious fanatics?" "But will your kids know how to get along with other kids?" There was an immediate sense of community, even family. I know that idea is bandied about by every group nowadays - from internet marketing programs, to fans of sports teams, to my personal favorite - "Facebook family" - but there really was an immediate connection. It was a place where I didn't have to explain myself on any level.
Part of it may have been that so many of us at this conference were "pioneers" - not the REAL pioneers of the early 1980s, but the second wave, whose first year of homeschooling was in the late 80s or early 90s, who had a real sense of what it had cost to be a trailblazer, and remembered when it was not so easy to homeschool.
Part of it may have been that this particular conference is primarily Christian homeschoolers, and the instant connection was that bond that believers in Jesus Christ often experience that transcends every other difference they may have. Probably the most special thing about this particular group is how Christians from every possible spot on the denominational and theological spectrum set aside our differences for a week and enjoy a time of fellowship like no other, as we focus on our shared love for Christ and our families, and our dedication to homeschooling. This year will be our eleventh homeschool conference.
As homeschooling goes more mainstream, and more people that we once would not really have considered falling under the homeschool umbrella (like "K-12" online students, who I think are actually considered public school students) become part of the community, I wonder if this "family" feeling will continue into the next generation of homeschooling parents. How do we bridge the gap between the online charter school kids and the homeschool kids who live in the log house, bake their own bread with homegrown organic wheat and wear matching jumpers?
For me, and many of "my generation" of Christian homeschooling moms, homeschooling was really a mandate from God rather than a "choice". I wrote about that several times in earlier posts in earlier years, notably in "Except the Lord Build The House...". But homeschooling now for some families is more about convenience than sacrifice. This is not an indictment of those families, just an observation. I wrote about that a few years ago in a post called Outsourcing Meets Homeschooling.
What do you think? Nowadays there are as many flavors of homeschooling as there are homeschoolers. Is homeschooling a "lifestyle" for you? Or is it one of many acceptable choices? Do homeschoolers ever really retire? I would love to have your comments!