I've been reading "Kingdom of Children", which is a sociologists' report on homeschooling. In combination with the homeschooling info meeting I'm organizing this month, and an educational round table I'm presenting at in March, it's gotten me thinking about my educational and parenting philosophies. In our local inclusive homeschooling group I'd be considered "unschooling" in our local unschooling group, I'm not unschooly enough. Why is that and where do I fit?
Mitchell L. Stevens, in his book "Kingdom of Children", found a description of the two basic divisions he found in homeschooling: "heaven-based" and "earth-based". Heaven-based refers to Christian homeschoolers, who tend to use a hierarchical model for both organization and family life. Earth-based refers to inclusive homeschoolers, who tend to use a "consensus" based model for both organization and family life. I found the descriptions revealing, and his book insightful, if necessarily over generalized. Using his descriptions, again, I don't quite fit.
I'm also reading Forrest Church's "The Seven Deadly Virtues", and that has helped me see how and why I'm not quite in either category. I haven't finished processing it all yet. (I haven't even finished the Virtues book.) But I'm getting a sense that it has to do with how I weight the importance of the individual with that of the community.
Growing up in 20th century America, I was taught, and believed, that an individual should be independent, strong, and free. Certain factions of my family worked hard to socialize us that family was above all, including self. Given the destructive tendencies in that bit of family, I rejected their perspective. I grew wanting to be independent and free, wanting no part in the servitude I paid in my youth to my family.
As an older parent, I rediscovered servitude. :-) And community. And interdependence.
Now as I parent my own children, avoiding the land mines laid by my past, I discover and create new ones. Yes, I want them to be independent, strong, and free. Yet, I also want them to be compassionate, involved, and reliable. I want them to be aware of how they are tied into the community around them, and how their actions affect others. I don't want them to blindly place a community above their own survival, but I do want them to see that for the good of a community, individual sacrifices are sometimes necessary, that this can actually protect the individual from a greater loss.
In a healthy community individuality is respected and protected. In a healthy individual the good of the community is considered. If individuals are greatly restricted within a community, the society as a whole will eventually suffer, and disintegrate. If an individual cares only for himself, without a sense of responsibility to those he shares a community with, eventually the individual will suffer the loss of the community resources, and the loss of the community itself. The scale of this could vary. The individual could be a person, a family, a smaller community within a larger one. The community could be a family, a congregation, neighborhood, city, state, country, even the planet.
So as I homeschool our children I have an unsteady balance to strike - the drunken walk of interdependence. Yes they should be free to explore their world in the way that suits them best. They must also learn to consider the needs of those around them, and have respect for others. These two things often collide. There is only so much time in one day. Our resources are not without limit. We must learn to wait our turn, to share, to negotiate and compromise. There are times when health, safety, or general consideration, don't allow time or resources to use the consensus model to reach an agreement. Someone has to make a decision, and others must follow it.
Who am I to think I can expect that of my children? What am I thinking? Our leaders can't do that! Who am I to tell them that they can't always have what they want when they want it?
I'll tell you what I tell them.
"The mother. That's who I am."