I expected that homeschooling would make me militant. After all, I get asked all the time, “Why do you homeschool?” And the only reasonable answer is that I think school is bad/stupid/useless/dishonest/whatever so I took my kids out.

Invariably the person asking questions has kids, and their kids are in school, so I end up saying that the kids in school are wasting their time.

I thought I that I would feel confrontational saying that, but I don’t. Not nearly as confrontational as I felt when my kids were in school.

When they were in school, I constantly asked for customized lesson plans that never materialized.

When they were in school, I constantly battled the idea that my kids should spend all evening doing their homework instead of being a family.

And when they were in school, I was constantly defending my kids against the ubiquitous Christian slant in their schooling. I think you know that I am not a Christian. But maybe you don’t know that the Christian bias in rural America is so extreme that no one even considers that there might be someone in the school that is not Christian. And in fact, schools can do all the Christian stuff they want, because it falls in the category of cultural learning.

It’s almost Christmas Eve, and I realize that I don’t feel angry that Santa came to the classroom. I don’t feel defensive that my kids made me Christmas gifts in art class. I feel only calmness from playing in the snow, and my husband chopped wood and we are warm and cozy and hunkered down for winter.

Christmas is not much different from all other days because I control our calendar, not the school. And I decide what’s important to our family, not the school. Christmas is not something I feel like I need to push back against. It was actually the school that was pushing Christmas on my family. Once we left school, I don’t feel militant at all. I’m simply grateful to have my family back.

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11 replies
  1. Ari
    Ari says:

    As a Jew growing up in the deep south (my father was a northerner academic who had accepted a post there), the worst part about school lunch was:

    The principal’s son telling me I was going to burn in hell if I didn’t embrace Christianity.

    I thought it was bulls***. But it was still a form of harassment.

  2. suzanne
    suzanne says:

    penelope, you would get a charge out of how things are done in the school system in many Canadian schools. in our district, and i suspect in many others across the country, great pains are made to include everyone’s culture/religion at around this time of year. we have holiday concerts, not christmas concerts. you say happy holidays, not merry christmas. it drives some people crazy but no one pays attention to them and their complaints are mostly ignored.
    LOVE your blog.

  3. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    I can really relate to your post, but ironically we are Christian. We just don’t celebrate it like everyone around us does, we don’t lie to the kids and make them believe in Santa, for us it is mostly about family time and focusing on things that matter most in life. So this imposed Christmas chaos, decorating, etc. isn’t something we are into. :) I also teach my children about the ways other cultures celebrate this time.

    • jen
      jen says:

      Same here. We are a Christian family, but we hate how shallow and comercialized this time of year is. It’s wonderful not having santa pushed on us through the school; though he is still pushed on us through family. Why is it so detrimental to childhood to not write letters to santa and leave out milk and cookies?! I know my two don’t seem any worse off; they seem quite happy. But I still get flak from family every year.

  4. Tamara
    Tamara says:

    Before we began homeschooling, we attended a public school in Michigan. During the month of December, the elementary students learned about the celebrations of Jewish and African Americans. Public schools are not allowed to teach about religion. I think they were trying to balance the Santa stuff with Kwanza and some Jewish traditional games. I am a Christian. In terms of Christmas, well it has been taken over by materialism. All this gift giving is insane. We have cut back significantly on the adult gift giving. My gift is my time. You are fortunate if I spend it with you. Christmas cards? I have stopped sending them, unless I feel the need to connect with someone. I sent a former neighbor, an elderly man, a gift and a nice letter. That had meaning for me and for him. Now, in terms of your comments regarding cultural diversity. In general, I would have to agree.

  5. jayson
    jayson says:

    As an atheist living in the nyc area, I can’t count how many crafted dreidels my son has brought home. Paper ones, clay ones, wood ones. Not to mention the stars of david that randomly appear. All this peddled by the school, however, he still comes home with christian questions about god from his Indian friend.

  6. kats
    kats says:

    Interesting, all what I have read on this site. I have always loved all the holidays of light. It seems natural that at the solstice, there would be some kind of celebration. We are moving from dark to light. I grew up celebrating Christmas with my family. Later, I found myself enjoying a solstice ritual that we held at our house and bringing forth what we were “planting” for the new year. When we had our son, I loved everything about Santa. It was fun. We still dealt with the meaning of the holiday, while buying presents. My husband’s grandparents were Jewish, although not practicing and we also have liked having a menorah and lighting the candles. I guess I am just a “season of light”, solstice “junkie”. I also find very deep meaning at this season. We attend a church on the eve of the 24th that really reminds me of the light that I want to bring into my life and the world. Of course, the singing, which is culturally diverse, is like going to a really good concert. I think the whole difference is getting to choose versus a holiday being “thrust” upon one.
    So, happy season of returning light, everyone no matter how you choose to honor it!

  7. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    YES. Our rural public school curriculum turns to xmas on December 1 every year and doesn’t waiver from preK to third grade. No one even considers the fact there are or may be non-Christians in their midst.

  8. elise
    elise says:

    I feel the same way about christmas. And we’re christian! I think there are a lot of christians who feel like Santa clause and *gifts* are too huge in the tradition that is western christmas, but it’s not like they’re going to bring too much actual theology into the public school. School christmas is very secular, at least here in California. I crapped my pants when I heard the kids sing a Alleluia song in their concert this year, haha. Cheers, from Cali.

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