A Cautionary Post

I'm a homeschool mom.

This is a title I have claimed for over a decade, through two graduations, and countless joys and tears . . mine and my pupils'.

Homeschooling like most parenting decisions can be a "sticky-wicket." I also chose to breast feed my first baby when it was just regaining popularity, had two of my six babies in a birthing center, stayed at home with my six kids for the most part, ground my own wheat for bread and attempted to make yogurt. 

I tend to be idealistic.

Over the years, I've had a lot of success and just as much failure. I've learned that ideals can be a source of motivation and inspiration or condemnation and discouragement. They make good servants but poor masters. When I hold to them humbly, they serve me and my family well. But when my ambition turns to pride and my ideals take the driver's seat, they can take us to perilous places.

I'm glad we've homeschooled our kids. The time together and family culture we've created through homeschooling has been a blessing to us in many ways. But after thirteen years, I've found some pitfalls and even dug myself out of a few.

In an effort to help others possibly avoid the pits I didn't, I wrote this "letter" a couple years ago. It's written from the perspective of a senior demon to his pupil, which is the same perspective C.S. Lewis used in "The Screwtape Letters." (You should read it, if you haven't. If you have, you should read it again! Go here for a description.)

My hope is that this letter would challenge, encourage, and equip you to be a better parent whatever ideals you hold to, homeschooling or other.

My Pitiable Muggleword,

I received your frantic message and have considered it fully. While your concern (bordering on paranoia) is understandable, you MUST CALM DOWN. Yes, I understand the threat is real. Your patient's recent embarkment on this endeavor they call "homeschooling" may at first seem quite intimidating. Especially when she flanks her efforts with such gaudy words as "discipleship," "nurture," and "Christian Education." But take it from me, our arsenal is fully supplied when it comes to dealing with "homeschoolers."

Consider first the size of the task. So long as you keep the spectacle of institutionalized education ever before your patient, she will continually shrink back or forge passionately ahead steamrolling all in her way. Keep her ignorant of the insidious fact we have spent years trying to bury . . that the Enemy created these pitiful creatures with both intellect AND appetite and, given a loving environment, their intellect will grow as naturally as their bodies. You must endeavor to quickly make a home for the idol of academia in her house as we have in schools. Faced with the fear of failure, it has been my experience that mothers will bow readily sacrificing relationships, faith, and that sickening sense of peace in a home which a mother who trusts the Enemy so easily creates.

The weapons which serve these purposes are many. For instance comparison, which always leads the patient to weigh her weaknesses against another's strengths resulting in despair OR her strengths against another's weaknesses resulting in a false sense of pride. Strive to instill the sense of superiority so commonly found in homeschoolers, especially the novice. Follow this up quickly with inferiority when she inevitably encounters more experienced and superior homeschoolers. Superiority or inferiority, either state will serve our purposes and render your patient harmless.

Oddly enough, curriculum is another useful weapon. As the patient spends hour upon hour seeking the course of study that will be "just right" for her children, her dependence upon her choice will grow steadily. Add to that the considerable monetary investment and this weapon becomes practically autonomous. For any human will defend and fight for that in which they are invested. As she comes to homeschooling with both time and money invested in her curriculum and then experiences the inevitable resistance of her children, she will in turn fight for and defend books. The passion we've known to motivate the self-sacrificial love the Enemy instilled in mothers since time began can easily be manipulated so that, instead of defending her children, she attacks them when they impede the plan she has so carefully orchestrated late into the night while her precious ones slumbered.

Goals. Turn all her sincere desires, both spiritual and academic, into lofty goals. In so doing, you will move her from a position of humble hope and prayerful petition to aggressive ambition and demand. Cause her to assume responsibility not only for her chidren's academics, but for their attitudes, character, obedience; all of which, while forever under her influence, are completely outside her control. Thereby, you will entangle her with frustration, anger, and ultimately resentment.

Finally, fear. Fear, fear, fear. The Enemy himself knows how humans are given to fear. Over and over in His letter to them He placates them with the exhortation, "Do not fear." So you must scream it louder! Fear has the potential to undermine the "noblest" of your patient's efforts. Pervert the human instinct for self-preservation, and your patient will commit even heinous sin in the name of protection of her children. Fear is the fertile ground for every seed of destruction. Strife, screaming, abuse, even hatred will grow like weeds that choke the life out of a mother and a home.

But I must warn you, should your patient ever discover and with putrid humility embrace the truth that she is merely a vessel who has been chosen by the Enemy for a "noble" use, to pour out knowledge with grace, then you are in great danger. For it is this position, humble, dependent, and even broken, in which the Enemy finds His most useful and influential vessels. You must keep your patient from this stance. Fill her with pride and ambition or guilt and despair. Either will work. But do not let her believe that there is anything relevant beyond her own plans and efforts and the unfettered cooperation of her spouse and children with said plans. For if she does, she will discover the despicable provision and love of the Enemy who is forever working His fiendish will in the midst of our patient's seeming successes and failures.

Be diligent, Muggleword. The influence of the patient upon her children is potent, due simply to the combination of being "mother" and the multitude of hours spent together. It is your duty to exploit this influence to the ruin of all involved.