The homeschool expo coming to Chattanooga July 21 and 22 is more than just a place to shop for educational supplies and chat with other home educating families.
It is coming to represent the claims of the physical against the abstract, the near against the far, the local versus the national and the personal against the corporate.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 92.7 FM
The homeschool expo and curriculum fair July 21 and 22 at Camp Jordan arena in East Ridge promises to be a blessing to hundreds of families in the region for all the obvious reasons of resourcing the free market in education and being a personal encouragement to many.
Bargain prices. Discounts. Conviviality. Crowds. More than 70 vendors exhibitors. Huge selection. Helps for new homeschool moms. Advice. Toys. Games. Curricula.
Underlying spiritual realities
But it represents a blessing in a way in which you might not have thought.
That blessing arises from the personal and trinitarian nature of the godhead — the holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are one God in three persons and whose intimate relationship is replicated in the creation and in the necessities of human nature.
Insofar as the event draws hundreds of families, it allows us to defy a machine. Not the machine of the state and its factory school. That bogeyman is conquered and the state less of a threat. But the impersonalism and convenience of the Internet and the credit-fueled giantism of national and corporate economy.
The theological concept underlying such home education fairs and conventions shows God in His glory.
The reality of Trinity answers many questions and solves problems such as the “the one and the many,” that tension between the individual and the people, the person and and society. Prior to the coming of the Israelites and the revelation God gave them, mankind had little understanding of personhood or personality because God and the gods were conceived of as impersonal force. Each member of the godhead has perfect unity and intimacy with each other member yet each person retains His personal individual characteristics.
— Men are made in God’s image, each with his personal characteristics, none of which are annihilated by union with God or with other individuals. Personal identity and personhood are realized in relationship with others. Just as God the Father’s identity is tied up in the relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit, so an individual bearing God’s image is best defined through his relationships with others. We show forth our human nature best in society — in family, at work, in acts of mercy, in explorations, in creative labors. At conventions.
— Because man is made in God’s image, he is unalterably social. In isolation he cannot reflect the image of God (Prov. 18:1). God’s image is best reflected by man in society, man in culture, within his network and community (Gen. 1:26, 27). This image is especially rich in the relationship between husband and wife, marked by self-sacrifice and service to others (rather than competition and rivalry).
— Because of the trinitarian nature of reality, loneliness is painful to man. “Man is too much like God to be satisfied being alone,” notes a gospel minister, Steve Wilkins. “Only as man is hardened in sin does isolation appear attractive. But when a man is reconciled to God, he confesses his sin and is transformed into a more personable, social being. He becomes human again.”
Christianity, unlike manmade religion, gives to man his fullest potential. Only in Christian culture will there exist unity and diversity. Christianity solves the conflict of the one and the many, envisioning great spheres of liberty that operate amid cooperation, voluntaryism and care for others. Christian self-government brings political and economic liberty and the free market. In unitarian culture (Muslim) or atheistic culture (Western Europe, Soviet Union, Vanderbilt University, Republicans and Democrats), a demand for conformity is imposed top-down to preserve unity.
Cultures that reject God inevitably worship power and seek to establish unity by coercion. “True unity,” Mr. Wilkins says, “is founded not upon impersonal, legislative or bureaucratic force but upon the love and grace (the personableness) of the Triune God.”
Homeschool expos vs. the Internet
The homeschool expo and curriculum fair July 15 and 16 is one of the best in the South, partly because local volunteers have great care and respect for exhibitors and vendors and exhibit a desire to serve other home educating families.
The event brings together a bevy of mostly small, family-run businesses serving the free market in education.
Home education is family based and decentralized. It does not comprise a system. Families may organize record-keeping functions under church-related schools such as Gateway in Memphis or FCA in Chattanooga. The HSLDA centralizes defense and lobbying. But home education is family centered and effectively marches to the the tune of each head of household — and the man’s wife who does most of the instruction.
Homeschoolers are generally convivial and outgoing people. The problem of over-socialization is real (too many outings, too many friends, too many outside activities, not enough private reading and writing).
Still, the temptation as homeschooler is to forget the large network or “family” of home education implied in attending homeschool expo. Thanks to the power of technology and the Internet, homeschoolers are lured into what could be called atomization.
Atomization breaks down this nexus we could call the community of home educators.This nexus is the civic life, the public life, of home education. It is the other-centeredness implied in Christian versions of home education and family-centered child training. Homeschooling may not be a real community, but only a network.
Necessary work of the group
Still, I would like to suggest the big picture of homeschooling gives some deference to and defense of a larger context here in Southeast Tennessee. That is at least reflected in the work of our home education group.
Because men and women have organized as CSTHEA, they take care of things that individual families would not, or could not. We organize teams. We subsidize mock trial and American Heritage Girls. We publish regularly. We host a graduation. We support families and churches involved in homeschooling. We organize a rally day in Nashville.
Our biggest service every year is the expo. It is our biggest expense but also our best way to raise operating capital to pay for the coming year of family support.
We see more readily now this play between the one and the many, between the individual and the family, between family and larger society. CSTHEA isn’t exactly a community. But it is an organization and a network that serves families to whom falls the charge of building neighborhood and community.
No one sins to shop the Internet. One reasonably shops there. But shopping at the expo is a way of expressing the ideas of written into creation and the human soul.
Local economy is another reason to shop the expo as opposed to the Web. Local economy suggest that we love our neighbor and shop local. Now the expo features exhibitors who come here from out of town. But it is a local event. They have come here to sell to us and to service our needs here.
Local economy favors the local over the national, the simple over the complex, the personal over the corporate. These are the main tenets of an ideas of liberality and service to strangers that reflect the fruits of Christianity.
In local economy we fight against the machine, rejecting the temptation to think of ourselves only as consumers. National economy is built upon debt-based consumption magnified into a mania.
In contrast, local economy is marked by people who buy and sell among each other. They favor local, operate on a sense of stewardship, tend to mortify their desires for possessions and enjoy modesty of appetite. It is much more personal and, I think, ultimately much more rewarding.
One does not have to be altruistic to attend the homeschool expo. One doesn’t attend the homeschool expo to benefit other people. The expo doesn’t require a huge gulp of of civic responsibility or community guilt. One attends out of rational self-interest if one is making a commitment to free market education.
Attending the homeschool expo is a way to make a commitment to the ideas of local economy versus national economy.
[A version of this essay appeared in 2016 ahead of the the education expo. — DJT]
Sources Steve Wilkins, “The Trinity and Life,” May 22, 2016, Auburn Ave. Presbyterian Church, Monroe, La. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=92142245375
R.J. Rushdoony, The One and The Many (Fairfax, Va.: Thoburn Press, 1978), 375 pp
Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, 1999