Must it be so exclusive?   Leave a comment

I spent the first eight years of homeschooling life, if you count preschool co-ops, with a group of people who made decisions by consensus and who took turns doing the work of the co-op.  We met in a church, but had a variety of faith beliefs amongst us.  We talked about what to do in group meetings, which were facilitated by someone who was good at hearing our concerns and helping us hear each other.

I always felt respected in this group.  Each person was free to speak up about problems that had come up with the kids during the co-op.  Each person was valued.  Our children had a lot of fun spending time with each other.  They also got group problem solving laid out for them, not just in the way the adults modeled it, but when Miss Janet helped them to walk through the very same process in circle time when they had conflicts with each other.

So–I thought this model was the norm.

In my current city, there are quite a few homeschool co-ops.  When I moved to the area I had trouble narrowing down the options.  I found few that were similar to what our family was used to.  Many were quite large and well established, which can be a plus for those who want the playing field already marked out.

But in a large group you will find it impractical to solve things by consensus.  And with dozens or hundreds of students and parents, you can’t create the schedule or student conduct guidelines by consulting everyone.  All that is understandable due to size.

What bothers me is that some of the co-ops and homeschool mailing lists require member parents to agree to a statement of faith; in my area that’s the Christian faith.

However, there are quite a few homeschoolers in any metro area who aren’t Christian.

That doesn’t mean Christian homeschoolers don’t have a great deal in common with them.

Most homeschool parents want to give their kids a quality education.

Most have moral standards they live by, such as the Golden Rule.

Most homeschool parents have talent, skills, creativity and energy (well, some energy) to offer the group.

Most people want to experience community.

When you homeschool it’s nice to have a place where your children can learn some new subjects, be part of a group, meet some new friends, and be part of a broader community.

But you can’t really do that if the door is shut in your face up front.

For some online homeschool mailing lists signing a statement of faith is required to be on the list, receive email, and post to the group.  This is viewed as necessary in order to avoid list members getting into doctrinal arguments.  But it seems to me that variable could be avoided by simply stating that discussions of theology should stay off list.  If any person broke that simple rule she could be removed from the list.  Other online groups work in a similar way, for example if flaming occurs.

Possibly more to the point would be a code of conduct which could be effective online and definitely in a co-op.  If the expectations of how the group would work and how the people in the group would treat each other were published up front, everyone would know how the group would operate.  The Golden Rule, conflict resolution, co-op goals, what elements of faith (if any) could be discussed, what the master plan is–all of these could be laid out.

Utilizing a code of conduct would allow people from different backgrounds to come together for a mutual purpose.  You’d know what you were signing up for and how you would be expected to behave, but you wouldn’t have to give assent to a set of religious beliefs that might not be yours.

If you can’t ethically sign a statement saying you adhere to a faith, but all you want is to find a good, active co-op for you and your children to be part of…where does that leave you?

On the outside.

Talk about missed opportunities.   It’s a loss to all parties.

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Posted December 22, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, homeschooling, the church

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