Thank you for all of the comments regarding my last post. I have been very interested in what you all have to say. I’ll confess to being surprised by two anonymous writers who interpreted our struggle with the decision to put our girls in school to be a reflection of an attitude of superiority regarding homeschooling. I will say it now: homeschooling is not for everyone. There are people who cannot, for a variety of reasons, homeschool their children. There are others who choose not to homeschool for a variety of reasons, one of which is simply that they do not believe it is the best choice for their children or themselves.
My struggle was not rooted in snobbery or an attitude that I, and I alone, am the only one capable of teaching my daughters. The struggle came from a much deeper place. We were faced with altering our family culture and that did not come easily to us. I’m sure there is a sociological definition of Family Culture, but to me it is the unique way that a family lives in order to reflect what they value. It is the fabric of the way we live as individual families.
Every family culture is different, but as you spend time with a family, you begin to see what they hold to be important. We know families who highly value athletics. They devote much of their time and finances to the pursuit of athletic excellence. They support one another’s activities, often traveling distances to cheer for and support each other.
Other families value the arts and music. We know families whose children play instruments, paint, draw, or write poetry. They devote time and finances to this pursuit because they value creativity and beauty.
One family we know values living close to nature. They garden, raise animals, preserve their own food, dry herbs, and grow beautiful flowers. They hike, press flowers, have picnics, chop firewood, and generally spend much of their time out of doors. For them, this is a healthy way to live and it is part of their identity.
One key to discovering your family culture would be too look at where you choose to spend your money and your time. Do you devote your time and money to the arts? Do you devote your time and money to your church and missions? Do you devote your time and money to athletics or recreation?
Another way to discover your family culture is to ask people to describe your family. Some families enjoy having something of a group identity. They ALL play sports, they ALL play instruments, they ALL love cooking. These moms love to dress their children in matching clothes when they are little and cultivate a feeling of “we belong together”.
Other families value individuality and uniqueness. Each child is encouraged to pursue his/her own interests and express themselves. Families will often put children in different schools in order to develop particular interests, when that is available.
Back to my family and the difficulty we had putting our daughters in school. We made the decision to homeschool when Sweet Pea was four years old. We were young and had no idea where God was going take us in our lives, but one thing we knew is that we wanted to have a close-knit family. We wanted children who considered their siblings to be amongst their best friends. We wanted to be a family of faith with traditions that encouraged our children to grow in their own faith, but also in our faith together. We wanted the freedom to pursue our family’s interests as we educated our children. Homeschooling seemed the best way for our family to accomplish these goals.
Our decision to adopt orphaned children was rooted in our family culture. Russ and I did not make this decision apart from our children. We discussed it with them, prayed as a family, and went through the long process together. Just last Sunday we had a family meeting and encouraged our older children to remember that ministry to orphaned children does not end once they arrive home, they are doing ministry as they love and help care for their brothers and sisters.
Having our children in school did not fit into the family culture we had created. Our new children had unique needs, and although we could have forced them to fit in our pre-established way of life, we had to adapt our family culture to make it work for them, and ultimately for all of us. Honeybee and Dimples are as much a part of our family as any of our other children, and our family culture had to expand. It was a slow process of letting go of something we had held dear as we realized that there was something better in store. Our family culture had to take a deep breath and expand.
So here we are, breathing deeply and embarking on something new. Is it a long term change? I don’t know. I only know that for now it is best and I love my daughters more than I love homeschooling. A friend told me that her husband, who is a minister, preached a sermon entitled, “Embrace the adventure and let go of the dream”. I have been pondering that as we have faced these changes. I’m sure there is a future blog post in the making.