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I received an interesting email the other day from a former student who must have been struggling with decisions he had made. In a half-hearted attempt at justifying his case or cause, he had come to question a number of things associated with our past relationship.
While I am not at liberty to discuss the issue raised in this communication, I do believe my response contains thoughts that everyone should consider.
You are absolutely right regarding my positive sentiments respecting your family. When I consider all the home education families that I have had the privilege of serving over the last three decades, your family comes immediately to mind.
Your family was fun to visit. Putting the fantastic buns and soup your mother was famous for aside, you children were intelligent, articulate and thoughtful.
Those characteristics, combined with parents, particularly a mother, who truly valued education and the fact that mom started and completed the entire home education program for all four children, makes your family true candidates for “Home Education’s Poster Family,” in my books.
Your mom’s efforts resulted in some of the best trained home educated students we know, so understand that I have never considered you or your siblings as anything other than successes. We still think very fondly of our time with you.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and after a remarkable 19 years of associating with your family, we said our final goodbye to your mom and youngest sister in the spring of 2016.
Regarding my saying things within your hearing, I am not one to hide from young adults. The very reason that parents choose home education is to ascertain that their children do indeed share their values, be that sound academic, social, or spiritual training.
My mentioning the “Christian” perspective was in keeping with your parents’ communicated worldview, not an attempt to proselytize. Also, keep in mind that things can get twisted over time and the fact that you are recollecting things from over a dozen years ago provides you plenty of opportunity to “rephrase” words spoken in happenstance.
Now let me be abundantly clear here. My responsibility was to help your parents achieve their goals. My imposition of goals would have been a violation of the fundamental tenets of home education, which has always been the proper exercising of parental authority. I therefore take no credit for either your successes or your failures.
I believe that I need to remind you that it is not a good thing to make sweeping generalizations respecting anything. Although home education is the best option for training and teaching children to prepare them for the real world, it is not the best solution for everybody.
As you stated, your family was indeed weird. Perhaps a better word to describe it would be “different,” “unique” perhaps because it was comprised of very intelligent people who were not afraid to challenge the status quo. Your new life testifies to this.
Home education allows children to be who they are. Indeed, it is one of the results we celebrate, and that, my friend, makes us “weird”!
I must remind you that our relationship was based on education. My job, and I continue to take it very seriously, has never been to indoctrinate, as we so plainly see happening in public education.
I am not involved in the decisions of the parents and I am most certainly not involved with those of the children. I am supposed to provide options to help parents reach THEIR goals and aspirations for THEIR children. I actually play a minuscule, perhaps negligible, if not insignificant role in this process.
Now to address the main issue for which you reached out to me. If you were expecting some kind of knee-jerk, religiously bigoted, self-righteous response from me, then you have come to the wrong place. I do not, indeed cannot, condemn decisions others have made.
However, extending the freedom you exercised in the making of your decisions to also be applicable to myself, I will exercise my freedom to not condone your decision. I don’t have to! That is the whole idea behind freedom and “human rights.” You have the right to decide your way and I have the same right to decide otherwise. That may make us different, but it hardly makes us enemies.
I also have the right to disagree with you or anybody else respecting anything, for that matter. In fact, being known more as a freedom fighter than anything else, the minute I condemn a person over their decision, I become a hypocrite, which is certainly something I want to avoid!
I admit that I am more than a little perplexed by your reaching out to me after a dozen years have passed, especially in regards to what you are communicating here. This may sound harsh, but please understand that I don’t care one way or another respecting your chosen life, but I will defend your right to be yourself.
However, please understand that your exercising your right does not obligate me to condone, accept or celebrate your decisions. The old adages of “to each his own” and “live and let live” apply here, in both directions! You can be an atheist and I can be a theist and we should still be able to walk on the same side of the street.
Since our relationship was founded on and, in my understanding, continues to be based on your education, and since you are now well beyond the purview of my job, I do not see any compelling reason for continuing this discussion.
If your objective is to make me wrong, I will concur that my best efforts will always come short of infallibility. If you want to be right, you win. If you desire to condemn me for whatever reason, that is fine, but I refuse to do the same to you.
In keeping with my Christian worldview, I am required to love you by honouring, not necessarily agreeing with, the decisions you have made. They are your decisions, not mine, and I in no way take or accept responsibility for them. This does not involve me, it involves you and whatever position I may take on this issue makes absolutely no difference and quite frankly, is none of your business.
Common sense should inform us that everyone has to live with the decisions that they have made, regardless of what their worldview position may be.
I trust this satisfies your need to communicate your chosen pathway with me. I wish you well.
After I wrote this letter, I decided not to send it. I had to do something to get this off my chest and I did, but sending it would have likely devolved into a contest that would not have ended well if it would have ended at all! Sometimes it is better not to engage.
The primary lesson to be learned here is that even when we give the children the best that home education has to offer, there are no guarantees that they will follow our directives or even walk in the likeness of our faith. Indeed, if we raise our children to be independent critical thinkers, we should not be surprised when they exercise the freedom we want them to have by doing things that we do not necessarily approve of.
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