He asked about how school and their classes were going. I casually told him that our children were homeschooled.
He paused. Looked at me and suddenly became angry and very agitated.
In front of my daughters, the following fifteen minutes became a mild to and fro. Me defending why we homeschool and him saying that homeschooling was a bad idea. From his perspective it was just plain wrong.
With some forthrightness our Doctor, who is originally from India, made the claim: “Kids need to learn from their peers about how to respond to people who are different. Parents cannot teach them this socialisation. Their friends teach them more about life than their parents can.”
The trigger for this seemed to be my daughters anxiety about being there. This was understandable for three reasons. First, we were in for vaccinations. Second, she did not respond with a great deal of enthusiasm to our Doctor’s request to listen to her chest as part of the prep beforehand. Third, his hostile tone towards me and the idea of homeschool was very noticeable.
I was then told that we were being ‘’narrow’’, ‘’closed off to people who are different (race),” and “how our children should learn things other than Christianity” (referring specifically to his own religion, and then making the point that Jesus never hid himself away – like we were doing – he [Jesus] went out to the people). Subsequently, what we were doing was “inadequate because they were around the same kind of people all the time.”
I acknowledged his points and said that we “recognize the importance of understanding how we all fit in to the multicultural fabric of Australian society. That as homeschooling parents, we put a lot of effort into teaching our kids to be fair and balanced. For example: we aim to do homeschool-in-community.”
Conceding that all education formats have their limitations including homeschool, I explained that my wife and I do our best to compensate for them. Making the most of opportunities, where possible, to add “in-community’’ elements into their curriculum.
The response I received in return was that because we’re ‘’white’’, not a minority, and education is cheap, if not free [Australian, for taxpayer-funded and/or subsidised education], homeschool was okay for a select few, but that we had no real reason to homeschool.
I tried to explain that we have not always been homeschoolers. It took us three years of prayer and serious consideration to commit to it. I even attempted to give reasons, such as, my daughter running a race by herself at a sports carnival because she was the youngest in her class. I went on to suggest that socialisation may be more a problem for kids who are thrown into artificial groupings when they attend school.
Oddly enough, I’m sure he meant well. The whole event was surreal. It meant that the discussion didn’t move forward because I had to make a constant effort to distinguish between the professional speaking to me, and the passionate person sharing his strong personal opinions against homeschooling.
In the end I managed to steer the conversation back to the purpose for our visit. We agreed that, despite our disagreement on this issue, it was important to fight back to a position of mutual respect.
We shook hands and moved on.
In retrospect I think that pushing back to a place of mutual respect is part of the real content and value of seeking a respectful disagreement.
Forgiveness is part of the universal christian diplomacy.
It consists of us making an effort to find margin (i.e.: set boundaries) in our relationships to allow for a responsible “yes” and loving “no”.
Risking rejection, but doing so because in God’s revelation to us in Jesus Christ, and through the witness of Old Testament Israel, God spoke and still speaks His.
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than that leads to wrong”
– Matthew 5:37 ESV/The Message
(Repost: Originally posted June, 25, 2014)
Image: courtesy of Stuart Miles “Post-it-notes: Opinion and Point of View” / FreeDigitalPhotos.net