Thursday, September 20, 2007

Clash of (parenting) Values

I met a home-school mom the other day. She explained to me that her kids asked to go to public school one year, and she let them so they could “learn their lesson.” Sure enough, they were begging to be back home with mom by the end of the year. She said her primary objection to public school is not the quality of the education (which surprised me), but rather the quality of the other children. She went on about how terrible the kids were, visibly shuddering as she described their need for decent parenting. She doesn’t want her kids subjected to them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against home-schooling and I think it’s a great option for lots of families for a variety of reasons. I just don’t share this woman’s reasoning. at all.

The elementary school this mom referred to is located in an area with a large population of low-income families. It is the same school my daughter attended – and loved – for six years. Maria always had lots of friends from homes with various disadvantages. Sometimes these kids have been mean and inappropriate, and Maria has had to cope with that. So I don’t doubt the basic observations of this home-schooling mom.

Her philosophy is that all those heathen kids might corrupt or harm her kids, and that her nice Christian children should be protected from them.

My philosophy has always been that my daughter will have to live in this world – for better or worse – all her life. The sooner she learns how to navigate relationships with diverse people of different beliefs, family cultures, and values, the better. I believe it’s better for her to experience occasional pain in social situations, and then learn how to navigate it, than it would be for her to avoid social pain by isolation. It’s better for her to see how others live and be able to contrast our values and beliefs with others as she is developing rather than be exposed to the world all at once when she hits college. But the most important difference between our practices is that I believe all those other “bad” kids aren’t bad. They are just kids who need to be loved, and who have something to offer us as well as we to them.

This means my daughter has friends who come from homes where abuse, addiction, neglect and even violence are daily realities. We can’t change their realities, but we can open our hearts to them, offer them true hospitality, and love them with the love of Christ. They have enriched our lives probably more than we’ve enriched theirs.

How could we follow in the footsteps of Jesus while bunkering down in our houses trying to avoid contamination?

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Well, I must admit that I am not the least bit objective on this topic, since I work at the aforementioned elementary school and think it is one of the greatest schools on planet earth! Yes, we do have many kids who face big challenges at home. And like all children, they need love, encouragement, and role-modeling from caring adults.

What I really appreciate are all the parents, grandparents, and other community members who volunteer at our school. Many of our volunteers are the individuals in the neighborhood who are more advantaged or more high-functioning. Rather than looking down on kids from struggling families, they choose to love and support them.

Karlene, I want to commend you because you have done exactly that. I know some of the kids who you have welcomed into your heart and into your home and I know that you have impacted their lives.

As to your question, How could we follow in the footsteps of Jesus while bunkering down in our houses trying to avoid contamination?, the answer seems clear to me. We can't.