What is a paradigm? A paradigm is the word used to describe any number of scientific patterns, but in this case, a pattern for a homeschooling lifestyle. A simple proof that such a thing exists can be found in the comments that people outside the homeschooling community might make such as “You can tell they are homeschoolers” or “That’s amazing, I never would have known that you were a homeschooler” or “She dresses like a homeschooler.” Of course, those comments come with perceived bias but they do reflect the truth that many homeschoolers have embraced a paradigm.
What draws people to a paradigm? A few weeks ago, a long-time homeschooler was talking to me about this very thing. She said she has noticed that most of us who are in the 40-60 year age range of homeschoolers, grew up with moms who were at home with children and came from, for the most part, intact families. Most of our children have shared that experience with us. But there are many young families who are choosing homeschooling for their own children after having been raised in families where either they lived with a single parent or their moms weren’t home all the time. Homeschooling paradigms are attractive to them because they want something different for their own families than what they had growing up.
I think her point is a valid one. This leads to what I call the “Martha Stewart Perfectionism” of homeschooling. The difference is that Martha’s homemaking tips are just that, tips. They don’t come with the “godly womanhood” or “godly manhood” banners draped over them, notions that create expectations that aren’t fair or even biblical.
So what is wrong with a paradigm? I see several other things that concern me other than what I have already written earlier this week. One thing is that a paradigm is actually a repellant to many young families who are considering homeschooling their children. Twice in the last month I have read online discussions among Christians who are evaluating their education options for their children. By far, the number one reason they listed for not wanting to homeschool or for deciding against it after planning to do so previously, is the concern that they and their children will not fit in with the homeschooling paradigm. Sadly, the example of the homeschooling community, in embracing the nonessentials, is driving people away from what we all know is an awesome way of family life.
Secondly, a paradigm is comfortable, at least in the beginning. But a family that embraces a paradigm becomes lazy and doesn’t study the Word of God for themselves. They take what others state as gospel. They have to check in with the “expert” blogs to see how so and so is doing it. It requires little effort and, truthfully, little leadership on the part of the parents. Dads who think they are turning the hearts of their children to themselves are really turning the hearts of their children to the dad’s gurus!
Thirdly, and speaking of dads, while I am the first to believe that fathers are absolutely crucial to homeschooling, the truth of the matter is, if people are being honest, moms are doing the bulk of the homeschooling. The continual emphasis on fathers and homeschooling is ignoring this fact and, as I stated before, I feel like much of the paradigm promotes an attitude that the moms are just one of the kids, only taller. Homeschooling is not about promoting the father’s agenda. It is about a family working as one unit toward the common goal of loving God with our whole hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. It is about building a life-long closeness that comes from each one honoring the other’s gifts and callings. It is treating each other, dads, moms, sons, and daughters, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fourthly, you may begin in a paradigm but you will end up in having a groupthink mentality. Groupthink is described in Wikopedia as “a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is usually used as a derogatory term after the results of a bad decision.” I think we will begin to see some of those bad decisions in the next ten years if homeschoolers continue to embrace some of the teachings within the paradigm.