Teaching Our Ways
When "Star Wars, Episode 1" arrived in theatres, with all its accompanying craziness, a comic strip (probably Doonesbury) depicted an interview with a man in a Darth Vader costume, standing in a movie line-up. The man clarified to the reporter that he had already seen Episode 1, explaining, "We're in line for Episode 2." The reporter noted, "I see you have your children here with you. You must homeschool"; to which was replied, "Yes, we like to teach them our ways."
In a homeschool, just like in a school, we teach our children according to our own beliefs: by choosing a curriculum that upholds our values, or by teaching a curriculum from our own perspective (or, according to the comics, by demonstrating such chosen lifestyles as camping out in California for two years waiting for a movie to start.) This helps explain why homeschooling-which by its very nature shows that parents are taking great care with the upbringing of their children-is often viewed with suspicion. Everyone, everywhere, becomes understandably nervous over the possibility that "education" can cross the thin line into "indoctrination".
The dictionary definition of "indoctrination" includes "to teach¥especially with the goal of discouraging independent thought or the acceptance of other opinions." According to that definition, an indoctrinated society is not an educated one; and neither is an indoctrinated homeschooled student. Parents are right to be distrustful of school systems that are too set in their ways; and school authorities become leery of homeschoolers who are evidently not conforming to the regular system. A dramatic example of this is found in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal and those who practice it are prosecuted. The reason given by German Consul General Wolfgang Drautz (quoted in the Autumn 2008 Newsletter of the Ontario Christian Home Educator's Connection) is that, "The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views "
In Canada, such apprehension exists, but its results are annoying rather than alarming. In Quebec, for example, the government is eager to see homeschoolers teach their new "Ethics and Religious Culture" course. However, when parents feel they must resist this and other such directives, they, and the Home School Legal Defence Association which acts on their behalf, have been successful in convincing education authorities of their legitimacy. The same is true anywhere in the country. None of the homeschoolers that I know, here in Ottawa or across Canada, could be accused of indoctrination. It is therefore important to continue to insist that it's ok to permit such counter-cultural measures as homeschooling, in order to allow parents to provide the best possible care for their own children. A government has the responsibility to pay attention to potential trouble in society, but homeschoolers are not one of those "troubles".
"Teaching our ways" is inherent in every type of education. If we, as homeschoolers, want to avoid slipping into indoctrination, it's helpful to have contact with views that are different than those found at home. Homeschooling support groups are a great way to go about this. The homeschooling community makes up a very small percentage of any population, and therefore draws upon a variety of 'ways"¥all interacting together for the common purpose of activity and enrichment. Even online courses, a favourite with homeschoolers, can contribute to exposure to others' beliefs. Every day, in public online schools, youth from devout Christian and Muslim (and "other") homes cheerfully chat with each other in their online classrooms. In my opinion, that is a useful part of a child's education.
Our individual beliefs and values are essential to us as people, and so it is important that we impart them to our children; and that we are allowed to do so. The challenge for any educator is to demonstrate how those imparted values look outside their own environment. The homeschool is a great place for all this to happen.