: a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations
There are many things I like, even love, about homeschooling. But the part I hate the most is feeling like I am an isolationist. Not because I am isolated or because my children are isolated, but because it is a policy of disengagement with others, specifically with our school system.
When we listened to the Story of the World, volume 4, I found myself talking out loud to the CD when we reached the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. As the French, British and Americans decided to heap the responsibility for WWI on the shoulders of the Germans, I said aloud, "Don't do it. You have no idea the evil incarnate that will come to power because of this treaty." But the Americans wanted nothing to do with Europe and their problems. Let them figure it out for themselves was our attitude. This line of thinking is what allowed Hitler to invade several countries before people said "No More." It's what kept our country out of WWII until Japan forced our hand by bombing Pearl Harbor.
I'm not saying that my school system is undergoing WWII, but it's in a sad state. I saw this for myself when A took her TCAPs last week at the middle school our children are zoned to attend. The students spent their time in the bathrooms chatting about who they were and weren't afraid to fight. The teacher routinely spoke to the students in a tone of voice that was bullying, disrespectful, disinterested and unkind. I don't want my children at this school. I can't imagine how it would change them and harm their souls. Yet I can't shake the feeling that I'm part of the problem.
J and I had dinner with some dear friends a few weeks ago. Over a meal of shrimp and grits, hushpuppies and crab cakes, we talked about the state of middle schools. Our friend teaches at a high school and said that while there are any number of good elementary schools in Nashville, it's in middle school that families begin to opt out, leaving the system for greener pastures. I'm not sure I'd classify my dining room table as fertile fields, but we have decided to opt out for now. And when that happens cumulatively - when middle class families decide to homeschool, when one income families become two income families to fund a private school education, when neighbors flee our community for the suburbs - what happens to the schools?
It honestly breaks my heart to be a part of the problem. I spent most of my elementary, middle and high school years in public schools. My mother taught in public schools for more two and a half decades. But my children are not science experiments. I will not sacrifice them for the sake of my conscience. Because the problem with our neighborhood middle school isn't really the teachers, the facilities, the absence of children like mine in the classroom. The problem is poverty. And while poverty breaks my heart, I can not solve it on my own.
I talked about this with some friends this morning. Friends who share my ideals, my faith, my problem of conscience. Friends who have also chosen to homeschool their daughters. We talked about choosing not to accept things the way they are, but one friend said that it's inevitable that we are a part of the problem in some ways. I don't disagree, but as I drove around later in the day, my heart was hurting as I thought about children who need to attend school so that they get a free breakfast and lunch. Children who are sent home on the weekends with backpacks full of food so that they don't go hungry for two days. These kids don't have the option of learning at home.
Homeschooling is almost exclusively middle class. Upper class families send their children to private school without a backward glance. Lower class families don't have the luxury of losing one parent's income to teach their children. It's families like mine that make this choice. So is it the wrong choice? Am I harming others by choosing to take care of my children first? I honestly don't know. Here's what I do know - or believe I know: if homeschooling wasn't the right choice for our family right now, I would not have peace about the decision. I would not feel like this is the path we've been lead to. I would not have the joy and contentment that I have in sharing knowledge and acquiring new knowledge with my girls.
Isolationism isn't perfect, nor is homeschooling. But for now, I'm going to do the best job I can to educate my girls. Maybe one day, they'll start a company or a ministry or a foundation that will help to ease the pain that poverty inflicts on our world.