Sixteen years ago, I wrote a book called The Way Home. An exposition of Titus 2:3-5, it made these points among others:
- A mother's role in the home is not socially irrelevant; rather, it is the antidote to socialism
- We depend far too much on credentialed experts for schooling and child training advice
- Homeschooling is biblically sound, and may be necessary in the light of what is happening to the schools
- Children are a blessing
Many young, college-educated women read The Way Home. Like most of my generation, they hardly knew how to boil water (let alone cook) or change a diaper (let alone handle a large family). Convinced by the Bible's reasoning that motherhood was a ministry to be embraced, they nonetheless felt deeply uncertain about their mothering, homeschooling, and homeworking abilities.
I received hundreds of letters, all saying the same thing:
Titus 2 the Apostle Paul tells the older women to teach the younger women: "To be sober [serious], to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."
Up by Our Bootstraps
The younger women who responded to this call in 1985 found to their distress that few older women were available to serve as mentors and role models. Our parents' generation had followed the model of a planned family of just a few kids, who were sent to public school. Our own mothers knew nothing about homeschooling; in fact, they were likely to be hostile to the notion. Far from supporting large families, older women in the church were more likely to treat any woman pregnant with her third or fourth child like she was mildly demented. Any women who wanted to stay at home and raise her own kids was automatically treated as a second-class citizen.
But those young women were hardy. They dug in and started learning what they could, where they could. For a while, the newsletter HELP For Growing Families served as a forum where we could all share our questions and answers on child training, family life, and home business. Meanwhile, homeschooling support groups had been forming; court cases were fought to establish our right to homeschool; some of us researched homeschool materials and published how-to books.
Years passed. Our families grew older. The complexion of homeschooling changed. Many more books were published. Credentialed experts began taking an interest in homeschooling and appearing at homeschool conferences. Secular publishers began thinking about the "homeschool market" and how to penetrate it by repositioning their products. Educational software bloomed. The Internet blossomed.
A Farewell to Arms?
And now I'm getting letters like this:
"Years ago I read The Way Home and it changed my life! I've had a large family, all of them homeschooled. Your books and publications have been such a big help - thank you! My youngest just graduated homeschool and has been accepted at a good college, and now I want to cancel my subscription, since we are no longer homeschooling."
When I got the first such letter, I said, "Hmm." When I got the second, I began to wonder. After a while, I finally figured out what was bothering me. It was not the subscription cancellations - they aren't exactly a flood, and in fact at first I was trying to convince myself that they were a proof of our success. After all, hadn't we succeeded in "working ourselves out of a job," which all along had been our goal?
Here's what was bothering me. None of those letters said the writer intended to help new homeschooling parents. It sounded like the opposite: "Now that my children are grown, I can forget all about keeping up with homeschooling." Yet these are the exact same ladies who years ago were writing and calling me, practically in tears, begging me to find them older women who could serve as mentors!
Admittedly, homeschooling is much easier and more socially acceptable now than it was 16 years ago. But that does not mean new homeschooling parents don't need help. In a way, they need more help, because they are often not as rock-solid in their educational philosophy and reasons for homeschooling as the first generation, whose convictions were forged in the fires of persecution.
You're Still Needed
If you are one of those "older women" who has been homeschooling for a while, I beg you to consider this. You started homeschooling, not just for the sake of homeschooling, but to serve the Lord. You spent five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years in the school of Hard Knocks learning just what works, just what doesn't, and what effect it all has on a child's heart and soul. Your ministry has been certified and approved by the results in the lives of your growing and grown children. Is now the time to drop out of the homeschooling community - just when you are finally able to serve the parents?
You asked where the older women were.
Thou art the woman.