Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why Label My Homeschooling?

What is behind my apparent need to label what we are doing as homeschoolers? After all, I have never liked labels, I am a very difficult person to label, and in many areas of life I am quite eclectic. Why not just say we are eclectic in our educational approach? That would be true in a way, but I really do not want to use the word eclectic in relation to our homeschooling. I feel strongly about this, and so I can conclude that there is a very good reason I am being internally guided away from it. People describe my personal style as "bohemian". This is fine as far as clothing or home decor go. It's a little more specific than "eclectic", but like eclectic, it is vague. I don't go around in hippie clothes, and I don't own a suede purse with fringe. I do, however, have a red velvet, vintage 1920's couch in my living room.

Like I said before in the Romeo and Juliet analogy, how we name things does matter. Words have power, meaning, influence, and deep symbolism attached to them. This is very similar to the belly dance posts I have written, about the trouble with muddied labels like "fusion". Belly dance is the English term for the social, cultural dances of the Near and Middle East. To divorce the dance from its heritage, to replace the music with some other style, to add break dancing and hip hop and still call it belly dance is a bastardization. There are particular ideas, values, philosophies, and intentions behind words. There is a reason that the pen is mightier than the sword. What I call my dance influences the actual dance I do and the music and costuming I choose as surely as the word "rose" conjures passion, sweetness, love...and danger. Just ask Romeo and Juliet.

Ultimately, the label I choose is for the edification of me and my family--and not for anyone else, although it might be useful in a discussion about homeschooling. That our homeschooling is called Catholic is of paramount importance. It keeps foremost in my mind the ultimate purpose of raising a saint in our home, which is a domestic church. If I specify Charlotte Mason as our primary teaching method, I give myself effective educational practices with which to guide me. If I use the term unschooling, I remind myself to relax and to draw no lines between life, learning, and the Faith. Would I homeschool the same way if I had no labels at all? No. And I say this with confidence, that the process of definition creates healthy boundaries. It has already changed my approach to not only homeschooling, but to living more purposefully. Life should be a very deep pool in which to swim. It's like Mary Kay Ash said--"If you aim at nothing, you're likely to hit it."

With belly dance, knowing everything you can about the origins of the dance, and dancing that style with respect, integrity, and humility, is a necessary discipline to becoming a true artist in this field. Only after mastering specific forms of dance can one rightly fuse those elements into something new. Only then does the word "fusion" have any real meaning. Labels can be limiting, yes, but true freedom lies within the limits of one's practice. Naming what we do gives form to our practice. And we can always change our minds. Our boundaries can be flexible, but they shouldn't be made of jello. There really should be a reason for why we call our dance, or our homeschooling, by the name that we do, and we should be clear about these matters for ourselves in our purpose. What's in a name? Everything.

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