I live in rural Southwest Wisconsin. In our community we are the only family that celebrates Hanukkah. We are the only family that doesn't eat pork. People are generally respectful when they hear we are Jewish. And if they have ever met a Jew before, in their whole life, they are always sure to tell us.
It's very rural and there is basically one homeschooling group. This week people announced that one group is splitting into two groups of Christians and non-Christians so Christians don't have to deal with being restricted to talking only about school in the homeschool group. And, in addition to bickering about if there should be two homeschooling groups, people are bickering about if Mormons count as Christians.
I wrote this email to the group. But now I'm thinking it's an email to every group of homeschool parents that is making their group about religion:
I would like to present the idea that we live in a very isolated area, where it's very difficult to get opposing views to anything. There are very few black people here, very few people who did not grow up here. There is not a wide range of professions represented, there is not a wide range of lifestyles. Southwest Wisconsin, compared to the rest of the United States, is exceptionally homogenous. Surely this is not news to any of you.
So I am shocked that some of you are so unable to process multiple viewpoints that you cannot talk about school with people who might have other viewpoints about different topics. No one could have become a Christian had they not been willing to hear another viewpoint, right? That was the beginning of Christianity. When did it become Christian to be closed-minded? When did education become about closing off opposing viewpoints? How does a child learn to process opposing viewpoints when a parent will not permit that?
Whether or not this group divides will not affect how I homeschool. But it will affect how I feel in the community.
I have been to a meeting with this group where the main topic was how hard it is to be looked at as an outsider because you homeschool. Yet you have seemingly no ability to embrace other outsider views even though you want people to understand your outsider choice to homeschool.
I would like to feel like Southwest Wisconsin is inclusive, inviting, and empathetic. This decision is not about religion. You guys all already have plenty of religious groups that you belong to. Splitting these groups up is about saying who is an insider and who is not. It's about making the community small and raising small-minded kids to take over the community.
Here's the response I got. First, that people do not want to be in the second group. Everyone wants to be part of the main group. Then the group published a survey where you have to specify your religion. There were five different choices for Christian, then there was Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Atheist.
Forget that atheist isn't a religion. Forget that there was no acknowledgement that other religions have factions, just like Christianity. What I really care about is that I am in a homeschool group where you have to declare your religious affiliation. For those of you who don't know Jewish history, the way people have isolated and crushed a Jewish minority was by first making Jews self-identify for no apparent reason.
In the mainstream world, this would not be acceptable. In the world of public school, public companies, larger cities, people would be shamed into stopping this behavior before they sent out a mass email. But homeschooling is something that flourishes at the edges of society. It's in crevices and crannies of society that are often left undocumented in the larger picture.
I didn't answer the poll. There's a dirty side of homeschooling, and this is it. The best way to counteract this group is for me to have my own group, that is not based on hate and exclusion. I fell lucky to have this blog, because this will be my homeschool group. And I wonder, how many of you are also people who have to go online to get a support group because a local group is not available to you?