We are a nation of outsourcing. In the last century we have figured out how to outsource our food, our labor, our entertainment, the education and raising of children, and even (with the advent of social media) our relationships. A person in this day and age can theoretically live an entire life without touching soil or animals or babies or any other humans, for that matter. And this has created significant problems. The “disconnect” as I hear many people refer to it, is unsettling our families and our souls. We may be the intellectual, progressive species that we are, but we are still a part of the earth and a part of each other and many of the seemingly menial tasks of humanity are essential for our existence.
People are realizing this. The blogosphere is full of testimonies about people returning to more old-fashioned ways of living and finding peace and joy in doing so. People are gardening, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, homeschooling, knitting, etc. And I’m totally on board with this movement. I’m on board with the idea that most things— from strawberries to romance to children— do better when grown organically.
But, like with many counter-cultural movements, there is a danger lurking behind the Pinterest-worthy creations and the Instagramable family farm photos. Namely, that there was a valid reason we ever started outsourcing— and sometimes that reason is still relevant. There was a time and place (and there certainly still are places) where the prospect of attending school was literal salvation for a child and/or a family. There was a time and place (and still are such places) where there is no edible food or drinkable water. Being able to get that food or water from somewhere else means life instead of death. These things may seem obvious but it is important that we don’t forget them, lest we become too prideful to recognize when our own situations demand outsourcing.
My husband and I would love to homeschool our son. Due to the endless access to information on the Internet, our proximity to family and friends, and my own ability to stay at home, homeschooling is a viable option for us. We realize that many things (creativity, wonder, knowledge, social interaction, etc.) are important for his developement. As of right now and at his age, I do believe we can provide those things for him in a more natural, efficient, and enjoyable way than the school system could. But we have to be open to the fact that that could change. We cannot fall into the homeschool-no-matter-what mentality— this idea that parents are always the best teachers and home is always the best place for young children. It often, if not usually, is. But I can think of many places where it isn’t. I have heard plenty a homeschooling story gone wrong because a mother who wasn’t cut out for it insisted on pretending she was at the expense of the rest of her family.
We have to be willing to accept the fact that not everybody is cut out to teach math and science and history. Not everybody has room for backyard vegetables. Not everybody has time to make their own clothes. Not everybody is a good cook. Not everybody has the money for organic fruit. Not every mother can stay at home. We have to be able to admit these things without feeling like they are a threat to the homegrown movement. It is perfectly okay to have an ideal but also recognize that some things will fall short of the ideal. There will always be things that fall short of the ideal. Our virtue comes in how we adjust to that fact. Our virtue comes in the adhearance to an even higher ideal— that of providing those we love with the very best we can give them.
For some, that might mean daycare. Or preschool. Or microwavable foods. It might mean living in a big, noisy city. It might mean formula feeding. Because if the alternative means selling one’s soul to something they’re bound to fail at it’s not worth it. It’s not worth ruining your family’s peace and joy with makeshift efforts at being something you (or they) can’t be.