Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeschooling Pastor? Yeah...It Makes Me Different

When I first started thinking about and planning for this homeschool year, I made light of how "different" (its a nicer word than "strange") it appears to most people.  Perhaps the reason is that people already look at me differently because of my job.  I could go on and on about the ways in which ministers are typecast by the people they meet, but I won't.  Suffice it to say that it is the sort of profession where--for better or worse--people make assumptions about you.  This is why many clergy will say that there is a certain loneliness to the profession.  It is one of the reasons for the high clergy-burnout rate.  I had a friend in high school whose dad was an undertaker.  My dad was a politician.  We decided they were pretty much the same.  People know that your choice of vocation is respectable, yet it makes them uncomfortable.  Therefore, the easiest thing for folks to do is hold you at arms length, preferably with really long arms.

Now, I am still very new at this, but homeschooling seems to work in a similar way.  This is true whether one comes from the "far-right" or the "far-left" branches of the movement.  It is true for those of us in the middle as well (I have met more than one public school teacher homeschooling, for example).  To consider homeschooling as an option, you have to accept the possibility that the "way things are" is not the "way things should be".  To actually then go out and do something about it--to pull your child from school--is, in some sense to separate yourself.  People notice.  It is not the choice most folks make and naturally your presence makes them think about it.  In that moment, the homeschooler joins the ranks of those people who are one question away from social awkwardness. 

When ministers are asked "what do you do?" in a social situation, they brace themselves.  There may be an extended conversation about God (not something many ministers bring up themselves at parties, by the way).  There may be a story (good or bad) from the questioner about ministers they have known.  Sometimes the person just walks away.  This doesn't happen to accountants.  When homeschoolers are asked "where do your kids go to school?"  They, too, prepare themselves.  Instant assumptions are made about the person and about the kids.  Of course, we don't figure out what those assumptions are until later.  Are you a religious fanatic or a permissive bohemian-type?  Only time will tell...

I should say here that the choices that set people apart are often made with eyes wide open.  I knew when I chose to become a minister that it wasn't something most people did.  I knew that the profession (and the church) had fallen on hard times in the eyes of much of the public.  I knew that being a liberal minister would just be confusing for many people.  I understood that I would spend a great deal of my time either explaining myself or by myself.  That's OK.  The same goes for homeschooling.  Many of the homeschoolers I talk to list things like "getting to spend more time with my kids" as valid reasons.  Even this rather simple desire is a critique of a culture that expects children to be educated away from home (like going to work) and in stratified environments.  Add in other more specific reasons for the choice and the homeschooler has tipped her or his hand.  It makes us different.  We know this.

All I am asking, I guess, is that if you encounter someone and feel the urge to make assumptions, give those assumptions a rest at first.  You may find that the diversity of experience and perspective is what make humanity great.  In fact, you might learn something...

I couldn't find a good link about how homeschoolers are really not aliens...sorry about that.  However, here is a link to a bunch of Vicar of Dibley videos.  Most people who watch this show like it because the minister seems so non-ministerial.  Ministers often love this show because we know that this is much more true to our lives than not.  Yeah, the vicar is based on actual clergy-people.  Deal with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment