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Volume 8, Issue 5: Repairing the Ruins

Homers

Douglas Wilson

The authority to name is part of the dignity of being human. God created Adam and gave him the responsibility of naming the creatures. Shortly after, that wonderful privilege extended even to the naming of Eve.

This action of naming goes far beyond a simple business of attaching labels. Naming requires ability in distinguishing appropriate categories of genus and species. Failure to do this properly can sometimes result in humorous collisions of ideas. One time one of our small children noticed a housefly buzzing around the room, pointed to it, and then proudly exercised the human prerogative of categorizing. "Airplane!" she said. No one thinks, for example, of categorizing animals simply by color or size. Large cockroaches and small field mice do not belong in the same category simply because they are both smaller than a breadbox. Adam did not reject the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh because she was unlike him in a way that a male animal was not unlike him. Adam exercised right judgment, and did not go off to form a brotherhood with the chimps and dogs, leaving Eve to a barren and corresponding sisterhood.
Unfortunately, in our politicized age, such right judgment is increasingly rare. The practice of collapsing wildly diverse collections of people into one or two handy pigeonholes appears to be a major indoor sport. And whenever people have a will to misunderstand, plenty of occasions for misunderstanding will soon present themselves. In the realm of education, one example of this problem is well-advanced enough to begin distinguishing two categories of educators with different names.
One category we should continue to call home-schoolers. These are people who have carefully considered all the options available to them in the education of their children, have prayerfully weighed them, and have decided to provide their children with an education at home. Homeschoolers rejoice when other Christian parents make the same choice, offering to provide help, and they rejoice when others make a different methodological choice and provide their children with a biblical education in a sound Christian school. They understand that all Christian parents who acknowledge and receive the parental responsibilities placed upon them by God are working in the same vineyard.
But I propose another name for an entirely different kind of group. Homers have a completely different attitude toward the process of homeschooling. No longer an instrument or means of educating their children, homeschooling has become, in their hands, a very modern manifestation of home as ideology. In this thinking, home is a defining principle to which everything else must conform. Even the church is brought into the service of the home. Father is no longer a father; he is a prophet, priest and king. Any home is capable of doing anything that is worth doing. A radical home-centeredness takes over, insisting that the home can not only replace the school, but also the church and the civil magistrate, not to mention Safeway and General Motors.
In contrast, homeschoolers are not defensive about what they are doing. They answer to God for how they bring up their children, and they know other parents will answer in the same way. They do not judge the servant of another; to his own master he stands or falls. Homeschoolers are thankful for the opportunities God has given them, and equally grateful for the challenges and problems. And when the challenges are pointed out, whether by someone who shares their method or not, that information is gladly received.
But homers are aggressive and imperialistic as they criticize other Christian parents who do not educate the same way they do, and they are prickly and defensive whenever anyone takes issue with them about anything. A conversation with homers does not remove confusions and misunderstanding, it creates them. And when a conversation has this effect, almost certainly an invisible ideology is governing the process and steering it into greater darkness. Not surprisingly, homers are frequently in the vanguard of church splits.
Without proof, homers assume the authority of Scripture to be behind all their convictions. This is the biblical way to educate children, and anyone who thinks differently is not really sold out to biblical living. Sold out biblical living means that this curriculum must be used (not that one), this kind of jumper must be worn to the homeschool fairs (not that kind), this kind of natural honey is best for the growth of the brain (not that kind), and so on, ad nauseam. Homers have not taken very long in giving homeschooling a bad name.
This is a genuine tragedy because Christians outside homeschooling circles have not really distinguished themselves through an incisive ability in making necessary distinctions either. Many homeschoolers need only mention the fact they homeschool before they are asked where their seventeen runny-nosed kids are. And the answer is that there are only three children, they are all at Harvard, and they don't really have any sinus problems. But thanks anyway.
In all our dealings, the golden rule always applies. Do as you would be done by. Someone may say that this is all very well, but that Christian parents who have their kids in a traditional classroom would not really like the tables turned. (Let's call them schoolers.) Actually, those parents who do not like careful discrimination, whoever they are, need to learn to cope. And those parents who are serving God in the education of their children will always rejoice whenever an accurate distinction is made.

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