Our society has a misguided notion about judgment. We tend to think that a person with strong convictions must be “judging” – i.e., looking down on – someone who believes differently. Rather than accepting the advocate’s passion as part of who she is, we presume her promotion of one thing must necessarily carry with it condemnation of its alternatives. We don’t take her enthusiasm at face value; instead, we assume there “must” be more to it.
As an ardent proponent of (private, independent) home education, I’ve experienced this. I’m acutely aware that some folks dislike and even avoid me because they’re convinced I’m “judging” them for not homeschooling. Obviously, that grieves me because they’re making inaccurate assumptions about me. And, unfortunately, they seem unwilling to reconsider. But if they’d give me a chance, I’d try to set the record straight. So perhaps some will see this open letter and realize it applies to them:
Dear Non-Homeschooler Who Thinks I'm Judging You:
As you know, I actively defend and strongly advocate for homeschooling. I believe in its benefits, and I believe that institutional-style schooling is not designed with children's holistic best interests in mind. I also ardently believe that parents have a right to choose something other than institutional schooling for their own children - without interference or bureaucratic regulation. Of course, this should come as no surprise since I’ve chosen to devote a large chunk of my adult life to home education.
And when one believes in something – and pours one’s soul into it – one talks about it. So I write about homeschooling. I share snippets about my days, which necessarily includes telling stories about home learning experiences and events. I post pro-homeschooling articles and memes on social media. And sometimes that necessitates making comparisons between home education and other forms of schooling.
But if you were to honestly examine what I choose to share, you would notice that most of it simply promotes homeschooling as favorable without comment in regards to its alternatives. It's obviously possible to guess at my feelings about other forms of schooling based on what I share. But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit that my ultimate goal is to build up home education, not to tear down anything else.
And the reason for that is simple: I believe in parental rights. So, though I hold a deep conviction that private home education is actually preferable to all of its alternatives, I completely respect your right to choose otherwise for your own children. I've also given you the benefit of the doubt, choosing to believe you’ve made your choice after carefully weighing all the options and determining what’s best for your kids. If you really haven’t done that – if you’ve just followed the crowd and taken the default path that “everyone else” has chosen out of tradition – that’s between you and the Lord. But, unless you ask for my thoughts, it’s none of my business, and I know it.
Which brings me to another point I hope you can acknowledge as true: I haven’t told you what I think you should do with your kids. Yes, I celebrate and advocate for home education; I will continue to do that because it’s what I’m called to. But I haven’t pulled you aside to scold you for choosing a path other than homeschooling. I don’t chastise you for not keeping your kids home. So if you feel a twinge of angst when you hear me talk about it, that may be a legitimate tug from God because He does use all sorts of circumstances to redirect His people as He deems necessary - but it's not coming from me. I do delight in encouraging those who are considering home learning, and I will happily do whatever I can to help interested parents get started. But it’s not my place to suggest homeschooling unless someone asks. And I don’t.
You can also rest assured that I’m not judging you if you don’t ask. Frankly, I’m plenty busy being a wife, nurturing and guiding my own children, and managing the homeschool-oriented website, local resource list, and support group with which the Lord has entrusted me. I don’t have time to stew about other people’s educational choices, because I have much more important things to do. Yes, I probably do pray for your kids if I know them personally – because (from my years inside the system as a classroom teacher as well as my current research) I understand the problems within institutional schooling. But I pray for the kids of my homeschooling friends, too. I pray for needs as I see them - for all the kids who are dear to me. That isn’t judgment.
I am going to continue without apology to advocate for home education. I’m going to talk about why homeschooling is great – academically, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally - for kids of all ages. I’m going to celebrate how homeschooling supports families and individual freedom. I’m going to actively defend homeschooling when an ignorant critic calls it into question. And I will occasionally point out how homeschooling is a remedy to specific problems within institutional schooling. I do so because I am passionate in my convictions. But celebrating what I love and believe in really isn’t the same as judging someone else’s choices.
Of course, you’ll have to take it on faith that my heart isn’t to judge you; I can’t force you to give me the benefit of the doubt even though I wish you would. But isn’t it about time we set aside the childish notion that a person’s strong enthusiasm for something necessarily means she is condemning someone with an alternate view? Would you want such grace? If so, perhaps a review of The Golden Rule is in order.
Your Homeschooling Neighbor/Friend/Family Member