In his next chapter, Rod Dreher says many admirable things about education. And I think he is correct that education is right at the center of our battle for the heart and soul of our culture.
“If Russell Kirk is right, and the family is the institution most necessary to conserve, there is almost nothing we crunchy conservatives can do that’s more important than homeschooling our kids” (p. 129).
While Dreher says that he and his wife are not “pure homeschoolers” (p. 128), he does think that homeschooling is the way to go if you can manage it.
“It’s why homeschooling — though not possible for everybody — is the ideal crunchy-con way to educate your children” (p. 126).
At the same time, as a non-purist, he acknowledges that this is not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of deal.
“We homeschooling advocates must admit that it is not the best option for everyone” (p. 148).
Homeschooling represents a radical committment to the education of one’s children. And in many situations (when that committment is a given), however hard it is, it is the easiest godly option available.
“You can do it two ways: by engaging the system (public, private, or parochial), which often means fighting teachers, administrators, and school boards at every step; or by teaching your kids at home” (p. 127).
There are other factors as well, one of them being how long you are going to live somewhere. Out the options above, one that Dreher left out was the option of founding a school, one that would be responsive to the godly concerns of involved parents. That is the course that my wife and I took when we were involved in starting Logos. All our kids went through Logos, as our grandchildren are also doing. But while our son-in-law is in grad school at Oxford, our grandchildren are being homeschooled there. There simply isn’t time to start a school. But if dedicated parents are situated for good, starting a school is at least an option that they should add to Dreher’s list above.
Dreher’s wife makes a great observation: “Homeschooling forces you to see your home as a place where more than just consumption takes place. It leads you back to the traditional view of the home as a place where something was produced” (p. 137). A home should be more than a pod for sleeping and refueling and television watching. In the older view of the home, it was an active place — the kind of place that had an impact on the economy. It was not to be thought of as the realm of passivity.
As I said in the beginning, Dreher says many good things in this chapter. Just a couple comments or cautions. Crunchy-con-ism needs to take care that it does not shrink below village size. Anchorite families are not the need of the hour. Family is important, but it is not all important. If I could add a qualification to Russell Kirk’s statement above, it would include the necessity of preserving the Church above all. Families are a part of this, and that is the point. We don’t need hermit families. We need to take care that our children grow up in community, and this needs to be broader than the family. It also needs to be centered in Word and sacrament. If the kids are homeschooled, there are ways to arrange for this, but it takes work. I would urge Dreher and those with him to consider forming schools — not status quo schools, but schools that are responsive to involved parents. Covenant schools are not a recent development of modernity — they go back at least to the Jewish exile in Babylon. And I think they are at least as consistent with the crunchy-con ethos as disciplined homeschooling is.