OK, cast your mind back to everyone's favorite show, Seinfeld. Scene: Jerry's apartment, with a little editing--
GEORGE: Ah you have no idea of the magnitude of this thing. If she is allowed to infiltrate this world, then George Costanza as you know him, Ceases to Exist!
You see, right now, I have High School George, but there is also Homeschool George. That's the George you know, the George you go to Church with -- TLM George, Co-op George, Blogger George, Family George.
JERRY: I, I love that George.
GEORGE: Me Too! And he's Dying Jerry! If High School George walks through this door, he will Kill Homeschool George! A George, divided against itself, Cannot Stand!
Recent events have caused me to think about this episode, where George tries desperately to salvage his friends-only world from being invaded by his fiancee. In my case, though, the context is homeschooling.
My family homeschools, and unless you have not been paying any attention at all while reading this blog, you know we also attend the Traditional Latin Mass. We are now in our fourth year of homeschooling. We had sent my oldest daughter to parochial school through fourth grade, and my son through first grade. Then we couldn't take it anymore. My traditionalist conversion, so to speak, occurred more recently, about 2 1/2 years ago.
Our little history is not so unique, given the well-documented rise in the popularity of both homeschooling and the Traditional Mass. But it does create the sometimes comical situation of having two separate groups of friends and acquaintances: the novus ordo, parochial/private school crowd, and the traditionalist (or very conservative) Catholic homeschooling crowd.
Leaving the old group is at first sad, of course, as you realize the costs involved in placing the Catholic faith in the position it deserves in your life-- i.e., first place by a mile. A necessary corollary to this reality is the new found commitment you have to imparting the real Catholic faith to your children, and defending their faith from attack by well- and not-so-well- meaning teachers, pastors and administrators.
However, once you experience the manifold blessings of embracing a fully Catholic lifestyle, the sadness subsides and the comedy begins.
Your old friends and your non-traditionalist family both think that you are absolutely insane. They suddenly take more interest in your doings than they ever have before. They lecture, they cajole, they arrange interventions, etc. Some of them would like to accuse you of belonging to a cult, but they usually realize that the Catholic Church is their religion, too, or at least the one they put on census forms.
As Catholic homeschoolers, you know that they need your prayers, and that you have plenty of your own faults that require God's mercy, so you forgive them the many rudenesses they perpetrate against you. You may know the litany already, but here it is for the uninitiated: First, they assume that your homeschooled child will be a pasty, red-eyed, in-bred cracker who will be a complete mind-numbed automaton. We are over sheltering them and rendering them unable to cope with the "real world". As soon as they inevitably escape our clutches and are forced to reenter the "real world", they immediately will go berserk and become drug addicted pimps and prostitutes with illegitimate children in at least seven states. How do your friends and family know this? Because they had a friend whose cousin was homeschooled and it happened to them.
They elevate the qualifications of the teachers your child is leaving behind into Aristotelian status. Not that there is anything less than noble about the teaching vocation, but these are the same teachers about whom they complain constantly for being so unfair and arbitrary with their own little school-aged geniuses Brittany and Chase.
They make OH-so-subtle attacks on your intellectual competence, like, "You are going to have them tested, though, right? You mean it's not required by the state? Are you sure? How will you know if they are keeping up with kids in school?"
But, most of all, and constantly, the single biggest damage you are doing to your child is to deprive them of ... [duhnh, duhnh, DUHNH] SOCIALIZATION! Yes, good reader, Socialization is the be-all and end-all of traditional education. It is the absence of Socialization that makes your children into the awkward losers they are destined to become as homeschool graduates. Letting little broken-home Larry serve as the primary values educator of my second grader is to be preferred to keeping that job in-house, you see.
Socialization, in my opinion, is just another way of saying that my child will be turned into a Socialist.
As for mixing with the outside world, I guess soccer, football, karate, boys club, baseball/softball, dance, girls club, basketball, charitable efforts and friendships with their siblings and other homeschool friends isn't "real world" enough.
In desperation, they try to turn your children into the "Solvers of the World's Problems: Children's Division". After they fail to refute your case that your children would be better off at home, they try to make you feel guilty for not putting them in school to be a positive influence on their classmates. After all, little Dymphna is such a good girl. She should be there to be a good example to the others.
After this argument fails, they tend to throw up their hands and chalk you up as a lunatic. They don't have the time to try to save you anymore, as they have to run to pick up Mackenzie from detention.
And I have to admit (and probably should confess) that I really enjoy telling them all about homeschooling, or the Traditional Mass, just to irritate them into making some of these comments. I really don't mind being thought of as insane, and it is pretty funny to disagree in small doses.
Where was I? Oh yes, the new friends. As a whole, these are the best people I have ever met, and most of them ooze goodness from every pore, putting me to shame. We have grown quite close to so many wonderful Catholic homeschooling families. The fact that we have common goals, similar histories and made similar sacrifices for the faith and our families allows us to become close in a surprisingly short period of time.
Just like the old friends, there are certain actions, though, that are beyond the pale. Recently, I was discussing the decision my wife and I are making about where to educate our oldest for high school. We intend to homeschool, but we left the door open a crack for a private Catholic high school that shall remain nameless. You see, someone told me that if I didn't send my daughter to high school that she would be a pasty, in-bred cracker who would become a drug-dealing prostitute in college (or, worse yet, a protestant). That, and the fact that the school had a nifty, color glossy brochure, really intimidated me.
So, we casually mentioned to our friends that we were going to have our daughter fill out an application for this high school, and if eyes could pop out of a person's head through sheer horror, this would have done it. They were eager to give a quick and persuasive list of reasons not to send her to high school. Of course, I can't disagree with the reaction or the reasons. In fact, I share both myself! The high school option was really just to provide a safety net if we were for some reason to change our mind or be unable to homeschool. And, unlike with the old group, I give great credence to their advice.
Their reaction did help us to solidify our plan to homeschool, though. After all, I can only handle being an outcast of one group at a time.
I decided to keep my worlds from colliding.