Thursday, May 17, 2007

Homeschool faith?

Public school, private school or home school? Since 1980 I have been involved in this discussion with great energy and passion in the churches I've served. Want to get a parent riled up? Criticize their choice of schooling for their child(ren). Passions get stirred when someone calls the public school where I sent my children a den of godless secularism. Passions get stirred when someone says I've bailed on my civic responsibility and witness by sending my child(ren) to an elite private school. Passions get stirred when someone says I'm just too afraid to let go of my child(ren) so I keep them home and think I can do a better job than anyone else in teaching them. All approaches to education have their merits and their flaws. Each parent must make tough choices for which they alone are responsible when it comes to deciding how to educate your child(ren).
But I've noticed that the youth in public schools are pretty aware of trends in the wider culture and community. The youth who attend private schools are often a bit more selective and subdued, taking care to exercise choice. And the youth who are home-schooled own the world. They see the entire world as their personal lab space.
Recently I observed some home schooled youth on a campus. They were there for a particular reason that was legitimate and above board. But when I saw them, they were climbing a tree to get access to a roof of a different building on campus. When I asked them what they were doing, they calmly said, 'climbing the roof." When I, parentally said,"That's dangerous, you really ought to come down." They looked at me with total incredulity and just walked away, up and over the roof to the other side of the building. They were clearly doing something important to them that I was interrupting. They had a strong and private agenda for their action and I was just a bother.
That triggered a reaction in me. That's exactly how some of my hipper, emergent friends seem to respond to me as a denominational, building anchored, older (50+ years), multi-generational (babies and old people) church. "We are doing something imoprtant that you are not part of." Is there a correlation between homeschool and emergent church? Just a thought.


At 12:29 AM , Blogger Beth B said...

Wow, Don!

"We are doing something important that you are not part of."

Not even 12 hours ago I had a conversation with the librarian at Eugene Bible College, where she reported an eerily similar experience. A group of self-proclaimed "emergent" students informed her she would NEVER be able to be part of their church. It seems that for this church to be a "new and important thing" it had to protect its "private agenda."(Note: None of them were home-schooled!)

This worries me. While it is true that each succeeding generation needs to find its own place and offer its unique perspective to the Body,
it seems contrary to the gospel that the Body should "shrink" rather than grow. Thomas Aquinas once said, "Any good which cannot be completely shared is a small good." Jesus is the only Good that can be completely shared, and who multiplies Himself in the sharing!

I don't know about the home school-emergent connection; in fact, the homeschoolers I know are definitely NOT emergent. Personally, I think the correlation is more a matter of how our society idolizes individual choice and subjective experience, and how the emergent phenomenon appeals to those tendencies. ISTM that it encourages individuals to choose, assemble and even re-invent their own "traditions" without noticing(muchless committing to!) the Great Tradition.

2 Tim. 1:5,13; Deut. 32:7

At 5:10 AM , Blogger kent said...

If exclusivity and entitlement are a part of the emergent conversation, then they will end being more irrelevant than those of us in the previous model.

At 6:18 AM , Blogger MomToAnAngel said...

I thought I would make a post on my blog for comments to this question. Please don't misconstrue the post as an attack rather shedding light upon the questions in which you asked. Hope it helps you understand a little better.
Best wishes

At 9:09 AM , Blogger Dan said...

Well Donn, i'm sure you've already thought about the jump form the encounter with that group of kids to a generalization about homeschooled kids in general and then to the emmergent connection. I've known some pretty decent kids from the homeschool arena though, and i'm still trying to get the flock i'm "shepheding" (i'm thinking here of that pic of you and the 3 boys ;-)) to think more openly about the 'seeker' phenomenon and i'm having grave difficulty even imagining what to do with what the current crop of "chruch transformation" gurus (i.e. emmergent leaders) are telling me I need to "call" my congregation to to be truly the 'relevent' church today!

Oh well... maybe I better stick with the Book!

At 4:55 PM , Blogger Gary Means said...


Your post evoked a number of reactions in me. I was surprised at your leap from examining parental prejudices about educational strategies to claiming that the emerging church movement is like these children who engaged in what you felt to be dangerous behavior and dismissed you as a valid authority figure. And then you threw in the line implying that the entire emerging church movement is characterized by an attitude of arrogant exclusivity.

The emergent churches that I have been associated with and that I follow online, are inclusive, and respect authority -- when it is deserved. There are exceptions of course, but one good example is Quest Covenant Church in Seattle. They are merging with their much older neighbor, Interbay Covenant.


A once vibrant, dynamic congregation with an approach well suited to the 1970s had dwindled from over 300 on a Sunday to between 30 and 50. On the same property, in the adjacent building, Quest has grown to over 400 worshippers. The older church was dying and the newer, emergent church was flourishing. Two very different styles, with very different demographics. Both met the needs of their parishoners, but the neighborhood and the culture had changed over the past 50 years.

QUEST has a more innovative, “hip” missional approach to engaging the community, but they still use hymns, there’s still sermon-centric worship services, and pastor Cho’s leadership style was more conservative than that of the pastor at Interbay. They are "emergent", (although I don't know if they use that label to describe themselves) but they do not have the attitude of “we are doing something important that you are not part of.” The two congregations would not have merged if that had been the case.

I don't think it's helpful to characterize the emerging church movement as self-centered, unruly, disrespectful children. There are arrogant exclusivist people in all expressions of the church. Your use of such a negative broad brush seems out of character with the gracious man whom I have come to appreciate and respect. But perhaps I am reading too much into what you wrote.

At 6:28 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Gary; by no means do I dismiss any one. I guess I over described the reactivity of homeschool/emerging communities. It seems that a similarity is the discounting of the value of traditional institutions and the overvaluing of personal discovery (ala Montesorri (sp?)). I'm not educational philospher and I am a great admirer of Eugene and Q and many emergent friends. I just think it's an issue to be aware of.

At 11:50 PM , Blogger Gary Means said...

Sorry, I over-reacted. Thanks for your response.

At 3:35 PM , Blogger Isaac Johnson said...

For the record, he sent two of his kids to Public and one of his kids (the favourite) to a Private school and several family friends were home schooled.

Additionally, I didn't see an attack as some suggested - Home schooled kids do see the world differently - they lack the standard inhibitions infused by a sue-first system and ruled-by-lawyer-and-consent-form world of Public schools (and to a lesser extent Private) schools.

I havent seen any exclusion attitude in emergent churches but my only experience are these fancy high gloss post cards i get in the post from "Jacob's Ladder" which is some hip church that meets at a coffee shop sometimes, other times at the church.

One note; is when GM pushed the slogan "It isn't your father's oldsmobile" people soon wondered whose it was? Ultimately, it became no ones. Not that the auto industry is a good analogy, but its what came to mind.

At 12:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just talking with a friend this morning about how homeschooling is a rather postmodern activity. We both homechooled our children. I think that you are absolutely right. I'm not going to speak for the emerging church, but I definitely see the relation between homeschooling and postmodernism in that both devalue traditional institutions and place a great deal of value on personal criteria as a benchmark.

Neither one of us would have ever identified ourselves with anything postmodern, and here we had been for more than a decade!!


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