Our town is hopping with Mennonite schools—elementary, middle and high school, university, and seminary. Many of the people at our church are employed by these institutions as professors, school board members, deans, and counselors. Still more are parents of students, graduates, or current students themselves. It’s a heady congregation. Academia is cherished.
Along with all that scholarly love, there is an huge (and wonderful!) emphasis on serving the greater community. As Christians, we believe we are to work for peace and justice and serve our neighbor. With these two values—education and service—uppermost in people's minds, it only makes sense that many would feel that serving through the educational system is the way to go.
So there I was last Sunday, in front of this group of social justice academics, trying to explain the viability of homeschooling. How could I share my belief that school systems might not be the be-all and end-all? How was I to explain that keeping my children out of school is not synonymous with shirking my social responsibilities?
I started with an analogy, one that I figured should make sense considering we're an Anabaptist church and all.
Five hundred years ago or so, the Catholic church was the ruling institution. It governed through religion, economics, and politics, and it told people what they should believe. Then along came this group of people that said, “Hey, we want to do church differently!” and they were known as Anabaptists.
The Anabaptists said, “We don’t need a priest to read the Bible for us. Heck, we don’t need a priest at all. Everyone can be priests! We don’t need a church building. We can worship anywhere! We don’t need sacraments. We’ll make up our own meaningful traditions!”
And they were burned at the stake.
Nowadays, the school system is a central institution, thickly involved in politics and economics. It decides what people should learn, as well as when and how. Then along came this group of people that said, “Hey, we want to do learning differently!” and they became known as Homeschoolers.
The homeschoolers said, “We don’t need certified teachers to pass on knowledge. We can teach our own! We don’t need a school building. We can learn anywhere—outside, inside, upside down! We don’t need classrooms and grades. We can learn at our own speed and based on our own interests!”
And they were not burned at the stake, glory hallelujah.
End of Analogy
P.S. I am not opposed to either the Catholic church or schools. I married a Catholic, and I come from a family of teachers. I’m the product of all three forms of education: four years of private, three of homeschool, six of public, and four of private university, and when my husband and I went to Guatemala last year, we enrolled our children in private school.
P.P.S. For more information about those crazy Anabaptists, watch The Radicals and check out The Martyrs Mirror. (Don't blame me if you have nightmares.)