Homeschooling By the Wayside
Yesterday, on the way home from grocery shopping, a fireman stopped us near the fire station because they were trying to back a fire engine into the station. We pulled off into a parking lot and my husband took Baby Bear out of the car to watch by the side of the road. When Baby Bear was younger, he wanted to grow up to be a fire truck. Now he has matured a bit and wishes to be a fire fighter.

The firemen noticed our little three year old watching with rapt attention, studying their every move. One invited him over and he got to go into the station. He climbed in the engine, blew the horn, flashed the lights and got a personal tour of the station. When it was time to go, he got a handful of candy to share with his sister and returned to the car full of excitement. He rattled off everything he had done and emphasized that he was going to be a fire fighter.

There is a lot to learn just being part of a community, and one thing I love about homeschooling is the time I feel I have to just enjoy such moments. But this gift of time also leaves me wondering sometimes. We go on walks and no one is home. We hang out in the park and in our backyard and yet rarely share many words with our neighbors. They are always out...always busy.

Sometimes, I miss the sense of community I felt living in Germany. I miss the formal "visiting time" when you knew you were welcome to drop by unannounced or might expect someone to drop in on you. You put the tea on (or in the rest of Germany, coffee) and enjoyed a leisurely hour with your family. And with any guests who dropped in. I miss the German custom surrounding invitations. There, if someone told you drop by anytime, they tended to mean it. Here, I always question whether the invitation is genuine or made merely out of politeness.

I find it ironic when people oppose homeschooling and talk about community responsibility and that "it takes a village to raise a child." I wonder where, since the advent of free and compulsory education, our communities and villages have disappeared to. Not that the two are necessarily linked, but how has public education increased awareness of community values when so much time is spent outside of the community?

I watched with interest as some of the census data unfolded about the "tradional" nuclear family. As Christians, we tend to fight for this model of family life and warn of the impending disaster if our "family values" continue to decline. But the nuclear family is not traditional. The term has only been around since 1947, coming more into common usage in the fifties and sixties as this became the model of the American family. The concept of the nuclear family has allowed us as a society to strip families into compact, portable units that can be carried across the nation to follow a job or a dream. We've shed off grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles in order to become modern and mobile. My family lives in five different states. I've lived in at least ten different communities and have never lived in one place more than six years.

If we are willing to strip our family bonds down to the nuclear family for ease of mobility, how much easier is it to cast aside our sense of community for the same goal? And what "village" is there to assist in the raising of my children if none of my neighbors know me by name? Or share more than a word or two as they get ready to go?

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