The homeschool expo coming to Chattanooga is more than just a place to shop for educational supplies and chat with other families committed to educational excellence.
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. Local economy and free markets.
By David Tulis
The homeschool expo and curriculum fair July 15 and 16 at Camp Jordan arena (a brochure gives details here) in East Ridge promises to be a blessing to hundreds of families in the region for all the obvious reasons.
Bargain prices. Discounts. Conviviality. Crowds. 77 exhibitors. Huge selection. Helps for new homeschool moms. Advice. Toys. Games. Curricula.
Two days of educational workshops. Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 4.
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 in a state of senior dementia. 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 doctrine of Trinity answers many questions. It solves nagging problems such as that of “the one and the many,” that tension between the individual and society. Prior to the coming of the Israelites and the revelation of Jesus Christ the savior, mankind had little understanding of personhood or personality. God was conceived of as impersonal force. Revelation shows 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. But families use organizations to assist them. They 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 tune of each head of household, whose 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 and hubbub, 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. 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.
Thanks to the power of technology and the Internet, homeschoolers are lured into what could be called atomization, the breaking down into small, unrelated parts. Atomization by virtue of the humanistic state has been long in the making, with the loss of private culture and of mediating bodies that in the past sheltered individuals from the state.
Atomization caused by social media and the digital economy has been at least 15 years in the making.
Necessary work of the group
Homeschooling is a reaction against the poison and inhumanity of adminstrative centralization.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. We are not a family or a real community, but a network that supports families and individuals in families.
The group’s biggest service every year is the expo. It is the biggest expense but also the 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 state or collective. 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. Still, shopping at the expo is a way of expressing the ideas of written into creation and the human soul.
Local economy & the free market
Local economy is another reason to shop the expo as opposed to the Internet.
Local economy suggest that we love our neighbor and shop local. Now the expo features people 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.
Local economy favors the local over the national, the simple over the complex, the personal over the corporate. These are the main tenets of my argument that sees liberty and service to strangers in local economy as a fruit of Christianity.
In local economy we fight against the temptation to think of ourselves as consumers. National economy built upon consumption magnified into a mania. National economy is marked by borrowing, branding, advertising and identification with nationally promoted products.
In contrast, local economy is marked by people who trade and buy and sell among each other. They favor local, operate on a sense of stewardship, tend to mortify their desires for possessions and seek modesty of appetite. It is much more personal and, I think, ultimately much more rewarding. People of liberal and conservative persuasions are able to share in its goals.
Attending the homeschool expo is a way to make a commitment to the ideas of local economy versus national economy. The expo doesn’t require a huge gulp of of civic responsibility or community guilt. One does not have to be altruistic to attend the homeschool expo. One doesn’t attend the homeschool expo to benefit other people. One attends out of rational self-interest if one is making a commitment to free market education.
The expo represents something of what is lost being subject to an empire, being part of a national system that has lost its soul and rejected the Trinity upon which Christianity is based. If we attend the expo we make a stand for the whole orb of ideas and presuppositions captured by homeschooling.
Not only that. Great savings and discounts as you meet your educational and book needs. Even if you are not a homeschooler you should attend. Find some good histories for a nephew, art books for a niece or drawing software for a son or grandson.
The Internet and social media are hugely liberating and are tearing down centralized systems (while simultaneously raising new digital ones). The machine corrodes many things that we hold dear. We can see the loss of civic-mindedness in the decline of clubs, including rotary clubs, sports clubs and masonic lodges. Corporate insurance and the state have replaced private associations that once secured widows, orphans and retirees. Corporations have replaced many social functions with profit-skimming schemes.
We live in a day when there is very little community left. Our day is marked, as John Taylor Gatto says, by networks. Ours is a society marked by institutions. And now it’s being reshaped by social media online in which everything is done remotely. The expo is a way of making a thriving homeschool network in Chattanooga a little bit more like family or community. A network is one thing. A community is something else.
The homeschool expo represents a counterargument to me-centered and image-based national economy. Take part. Cast your vote for local economy.
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