A Surprising Reaction to the Connecticut Tragedy

I’m doing what I often do with my series…interrupting it.  I’ve been writing about people who have inspired me, then on Friday something horrific happened that resulted in the death of twenty children.

Understandably, Facebook and other social media exploded with outrage. Who wouldn’t be stunned and angered by someone walking into an elementary school and repeatedly shooting small children?

But I have to be honest. There were things about the outrage that didn’t set right with me.  This post may be controversial and I welcome your comments. The thing I’ve been mulling over since Friday is the frequent comments about homeschooling.

Here are a few:

  • “That’s it; I’ve been contemplating homeschooling and now the decision has been made.”
  • “So grateful my homeschooled kids are here with me today.”
  • “Folks, it’s time to take a serious look at homeschooling.”
  • “Thought about not homeschooling next year until today.”

People respond to shock and grief differently. Those who posted these and other comments were likely reacting to the horrific news of what happened in Connecticut with an understandable desire to protect their beloved children from the same fate. Those who frequent this blog know I homeschooled all seven of my kids from 1st through 12th grades and am a unapologetic advocate of parents considering educating children at home when school choice becomes a consideration.

But here’s the question I’ve been asking myself: How would the parents of the children who died respond to home educators making these kinds of comments the day their cherished little ones were shot dead in a classroom?

I’ve been moved by the outpouring of sympathy and grief on social media for these devastated families. What a powerful demonstration of compassion and care! Most of the comments I read were distinctly void of self-focus.  And if you were one who made comments like those above, please know I am not criticizing…just musing.

One of the criticisms of the homeschooling movement is that we think we’re better and more devoted parents because we teach our kids at home. (Frankly, in my early years as a home educator I was tempted with these kinds of self-righteous thoughts.)  But the fact is the Bible never defines parental love (or protection) by education choices. Rather, it defines love in any relationship as incarnating Christ to others: demonstrating and mirroring the gentleness, patience, truth-telling, compassion and unselfishness (among many other things) He has shown to us in our relationship with others.

The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time for everything”, including a time to mourn. I think that time is now. Mourning is hard because it has to keep the focus on the hurting person. Keeping our thoughts on the pain of others means we can’t think about ourselves and if you’re like me, that takes self-control. I, too, found myself thanking God this weekend that I’ve never had to bury one of my children and I don’t feel badly about that. But I wonder if the parents of those twenty children who will attend funerals with small caskets this week would feel comforted by inadvertent (and most likely unintentional) suggestions that if they had taught their child at home they would still be alive.

Could this be an example of a deeper issue for those of us who homeschool our kids? Is there a subtle assumption that teaching our kids at home will protect them from bad things that happen to those who don’t? Please listen to someone who thought this way thirty years ago. Yes, I thought that home education would protect my kids from going down paths that public school kids traveled. I can’t say I kept them home to keep them from being shot (who can imagine the horror?!?!). But Benny and I thought we would be protecting them from the kind of worldliness and compromise that plagued us and most other churched kids we knew. Then our kids grew up and guess what? The temptations that are “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13) bubbled up in their own sinful hearts and we were having conversations about lust, deceit, arrogance and disrespect — and we found out they were listening to some of same kind of music lyrics that resulted in us literally burning our albums back in the 70’s because of distinctly unchristian themes. (Yep, believe it or not, a bunch of us really did this back then!)

If you’re a parent I would certainly encourage you to make a prayerful and faith-filled decision about how to educate your children. It is, after all, one of the most important choices you will make for them.  However, if homeschooling is or becomes your choice, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking it will protect your kids from all things (or even most things) bad. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but there’s a greater chance of losing a child to disease or injury than to a gunman in a public school.

Loving parents will do anything to protect their kids. I’m sure the parents of those twenty precious children would have jumped in front of a car — or a bullet — to keep their child from being hit by it.

Those of us who are homeschooling probably need to consider how our words and attitudes can affect others, not only when government school tragedies happen but also in every day interactions with those who haven’t made our same choice. I know I don’t appreciate it when people make subtle, or not so subtle, generalizations about the benefits of government and private schools over home education. Gratefully, my kids are old enough to have silenced people who were concerned they wouldn’t be “properly socialized” or be able to do well in college because Mom certainly wasn’t qualified to teach them.

For all of us, maybe it’s as simple as thinking before we speak and “esteeming others as more important than ourselves” (Phil 2:3).

Now that’s a series I probably need to consider. I would have lots of what-not-to-do examples for that one.

6 thoughts on “A Surprising Reaction to the Connecticut Tragedy

  1. This is definitely something I’ve run into quite often. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve tried to take the opportunity to encourage these (understandably) fearful mamas not to make decisions based in fear…that hs-ing isn’t an “end all” or a complete solution. So MANY do not even have the option to take their children out of ps. These mamas must be facing some incredible fear…

    • I agree that fear can often be a motive for homeschooling. And fear doesn’t sustain anyone to do anything. (Believe me!) When something like this horror happens, fear strikes and thrives. As a mother who has battled fear and the resultant craving to control circumstances that fear affects, I certainly understand the temptation!

  2. Believe me, just homeschooling does not keep your children from harm. The only child we home schooled for the whole time, was removed from our home and raped. So, there you go….it does NOT remove harm from your family. But we did not quit homeschooling…no way! I can surely understand the desire to do it but you are right, Sheree…make sure your motive is not fear.

  3. Well, said. I wonder if the same people said they’d never go to a movie theatre after the Batman shooting…probably not because going to the movies is looked at as a fun self fulfilling activity without any oppertunities for heroism and who’d want to stop the fun if there wasnt an oppertuntiy to be patted on the back and looked at as a super human! Homeschooling on the other hand….is singled out by both sides of people as a super human talent and gift instead of an equal opportunity of education that offers pros and cons just as private and public schools offer or religious or non denominational schools offer.

    • Excellent point! I do think that public perception of home educators is pretty elevated! We are not super moms! We’re flawed, weak mothers who struggle the same as others. And we’re not any smarter, either!

  4. Thank you for posting this. Really refreshing.

    As I walked to the train this morning, I thought about the many fb posts about homeschooling and the dialogue/tone that seems to be communicated.

    I read yesterday that the shooter was homeschooled. Which to me, is ironic, practical evidence that a certain kind of education does not equal the outcome of a child. Homeschooling does not equal murderer. Public Schooler does not equal “shot victim”.

    Oh, LORD, we need you.

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