Here We Parents (Rather Than the State) Speak For Our Children and That’s a Good Thing
Just moments ago I disenrolled my oldest daughter from the local high school. This decision was made with not a little turmoil. I’ll pen a post about how we came to this choice later this week. But suffice it to say for now, the decision was born out of months of violent vacillation on our part.
Nonetheless, we did it. I emailed the counselor at her would-be high school and notified them of our decision. I filed the proper “Notification of the Establishment of a Home-based Educational Program” with the local district. While making the decision took months of anguish, the implementation of it took about ten minutes. As the parents of our daughter, we made a choice and then we had the privilege of carrying it out.
The ease of implementing this choice is poignant for us because just a couple years ago we lived in a country where parents are not afforded such options. We lived in the Czech Republic where homeschooling is, for the most part, illegal. We sent our youngest three daughters to the neighborhood elementary school with some reservation. But as missionaries we knew it was good and right for us to be immersed in the community and we had little control over it anyway.
But when it came time for the oldest of the three to transition from elementary school to middle school we really didn’t want to send her. Our educational goal was to ultimately send her to college in the States. We wanted to educate her with an American curriculum and develop what we saw as her strengths. The Czech education system is not lacking, it’s just not what we wanted for our American kids after elementary school.
But one does not simply disenroll their child from public school in the Czech Republic, nor many other nations in Europe, especially Eastern Europe.
After consulting other expatriate families, as well as local Czech friends, we determined our best course of action would be to meet with the principal of our daughter’s assigned middle school. We knew the law required her to go to school there, but we hoped that we could reason with him and be given some sort of foreigner pass out of the system. We were ready to concede to her taking Czech exams or implementing certain aspects of Czech education at home, if that would sweeten the deal.
Through a translator we explained our position. His response was without hesitation, “It is not possible. All the children must attend school so that they may assimilate to society.” End of discussion.
Two years later, his answer still haunts me. And not just because freedom and autonomy run in my American blood. His answer still disturbs me because it reveals the societal value that children are to be stewarded by the State, not their parents. Children must assimilate to society—they must be shaped by government-run schools in order to become adults with values and ideals that match their government. That chills me.
Here in the United States, at least for now, parents have the right and responsibility to speak for their children. We have the privilege of making choices for them according to what we value—everything from schooling to medical care to spiritual beliefs to the morals that we impart to them throughout their childhood. We get to decide what is best and pass it on. But in many nations this is the role of the government (as was so horrifically illustrated in the recent withholding of medical care from Charlie Gard in London).
American friends, this right that we have—to steward our children according to our own values—is a gift we must not take for granted. We must cherish it and protect it and exercise it. Whether you homeschool or send your kids to public school or pay for private school is not actually the issue here. The issue is that you and I can and many parents around the globe cannot. May we steward our children and our government well. May we not take the shaping of either for granted.