A Peek into a Different World, Part 2: Hope
Not once in my childhood did my mother have to invoke the sceptre of starving children in order to cajole me into eating. However, she was obliged to provide me with perspective on a different issue. I was not a happy schoolgirl, and was inclined, on Labour Day weekend, to loudly count down the coming catastrophe in my life: "FOUR more days of FREEdom!" Every day I would lament the end of my summer holidays; and I guess that by Labour Day, when there was only "ONE more day of FREEdom", my Mom had had enough. "There are children in the world that would love to go to school", she said, "and they're not as free as you."
I have noted two compelling reasons why people everywhere, and in every age, are motivated to educate their children: to prepare them to handle life as adults, and to enrich their lives. My Mom's statement reveals a motivation that I had previously never thought of: we educate to provide hope. The reason I never thought of it is that hope is readily available in our society. Instead of using the word "hope", we might say "get a good education and you'll have a better job and a better life." But in places where hope is hard to find, that word has more punch.
One of the first imperatives in helping a disadvantaged people is to provide them with an education. Everywhere I look, into the past or around the world, I see this urge to educate with a view to better things. In Brazil, for instance, parents receive a child bonus if a child attends school. In the days when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, there were stories of secret schools that had been set up for girls. When the Taliban was kicked out of Afghanistan, and girls could be educated openly, a picture was circulated showing a group of girls sitting on the ground within the frame of a temporary school building that had been burnt. They were attending classes whether there was a roof over their heads or not. These ladies were determined; and they put my childhood petulance to shame.
In the book "Night of the New Moon", author Laurens van der Post describes life in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. He and a co-officer organized "…a vast prison organization for the re-education of ourselves, a sort of prison kindergarten, school, high school, technical college and university rolled in one." In this prison school, some soldiers were taught to read, others received coaching for their bachelor and Master of Arts degrees, and others were schooled in drama, music and arts and crafts.
Van der Post says that all the prison school "teachers" knew that "…one of their main functions was to keep alive in our men their sense of continuity. The greatest psychological danger threatening men in the conditions of imprisonment we had to endure, was the feeling that imprisonment was a complete break with their past and totally unconnected with their future lives." Van der Post and his team were successful, and he reports that "…imprisonment for our men was transformed from an arid waste of time and life into one of the most meaningful experiences they had ever known."
It seems that extreme conditions do nothing to deter the urge to educate; in fact they make it more urgent. I guess, in some ways, this is what drives some homeschoolers. We want our children educated, but we are dissatisfied with what is available. I've seen reasons to homeschool that are serious (the child is demoralized and depressed in school), alarming (the school wants to put the child on drugs), and annoying (the child is bright, but expends all his energy trying to conform to classroom expectations). We can no more leave things alone than could the girls in the sabotaged school, or the men in the prison camp. We must find a way, and so we do. Like them, some of us may indeed be motivated to homeschool in order to give our child hope. Unlike them, most of us can do it without any hassle; and for that, I am extremely thankful.
In every age and in every society, a need for education is perceived. Despite my childhood lamentations, it's possible that my hopeful outlook on life is a result of the education I freely received. We can provide our children with hope; and are even more assured of this because we are free to home-educate.