Our society has a misguided notion about judgment. We tend to think that a person with strong convictions must be “judging” – i.e., looking down on – someone who feels differently. Rather than accepting the advocate’s passion as part of who she is, we presume her promotion of one thing must necessarily carry with it condemnation of its alternatives. We don’t take her enthusiasm at face value; instead, we assume there “must” be more to it.
As an active proponent of homeschooling, I’ve experienced this. I’m acutely aware that some folks dislike and even avoid me because they’re convinced I’m “judging” them for not homeschooling. Obviously, that grieves me because they’re making inaccurate assumptions about me. And, unfortunately, they seem unwilling to reconsider. But if they’d give me a chance, I’d try to set the record straight.
I do advocate strongly for homeschooling…because I believe in its value. Of course, it should come as no surprise that I’d deeply believe in something to which I’ve chosen to devote 19 (or more) years of my life. And when one believes in something – and pours one’s soul into it – one talks about it. So I write about homeschooling. I share snippets about my days, which necessarily includes telling stories about home learning experiences and events. I post pro-homeschooling articles and memes on social media. And sometimes that necessitates making comparisons between home education and other forms of schooling. But if you truly examine what I choose to share, you’ll notice that most of it simply promotes homeschooling as favorable without comment in regards to its alternatives. Of course, it’s possible to guess at my feelings about other forms of schooling based on what I share. But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit that my goal is to build up home education, not to tear down anything else.
And the reason for that is simple: I believe in parental rights. So, though I hold a deep conviction that home education is preferable to its alternatives for many reasons, I respect your right to choose otherwise for your own children. I have made a conscious decision to respect your right to choose a route other than homeschooling. I’ve also given you the benefit of the doubt, choosing to believe you’ve made your choice after carefully weighing all the options and determining what’s best for your children. If you really haven’t done that – if you’ve just followed the crowd and taken the default path that “everyone else” has chosen out of tradition – that’s between you and the Lord. Unless you ask for my thoughts, it’s none of my business, and I know it.
Which brings me to another point I hope you can acknowledge as true: I haven’t told you what I think you should do with your kids. Yes, I celebrate and advocate for home education; I will continue to do that because it’s what I’m called to. But I haven’t pulled you aside to scold you for choosing a path other than homeschooling. I don’t chastise you for not keeping your kids home. I absolutely love encouraging those considering home learning, and I will happily do whatever I can to help interested parents get started. But it’s not my place to suggest homeschooling unless someone asks. And I don’t.
You can also rest assured that I’m not judging you if you don’t ask. Frankly, I’m plenty busy being a wife, nurturing and guiding my own children, and managing the homeschool-oriented website and support group with which the Lord has entrusted me. I don’t have time to stew about other people’s educational choices, because I have much more important things to do. Yes, I probably do pray for your kids if I know them personally – because (from my years inside the system as a classroom teacher as well as my current research) I understand the problems inherent in institutional schooling. But I pray for the kids of my homeschooling friends, too. I pray for the needs as I see them of all the kids who are dear to me. That isn’t judgment.
I am going to continue without apology to advocate for home education. I’m going to talk about why it’s great for kids of all ages – academically, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. I’m going to celebrate how homeschooling supports families and individual freedom. I’m going to actively defend homeschooling when an ill-informed critic calls it into question. And I will occasionally point out how homeschooling is a remedy to specific problems within institutional schooling. I do so because I am passionate in my convictions about home education – but celebrating what I love and believe in really isn’t the same as judging someone else’s choices.
Of course, you’ll have to take it on faith that my heart isn’t to judge you; I can’t force you to give me the benefit of the doubt even though I wish you would. But isn’t it about time we set aside the childish notion that a person’s strong enthusiasm for something necessarily means she is condemning someone with an alternate view?