Homeschool Uniforms

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

You’ve probably seen futuristic movies like The Giver in which uniformity is highly valued in society. This emphasis on uniformity is reflected by the fact that everyone wears matching uniforms, rides the same style of bicycle, lives in identical houses, and thinks the same way.

Some people would say this is a kind of utopia and should be desired in our communities and learning institutions. For example, school uniforms may sound like a good idea. For instance, they can reduce distractions by minimizing the differences between socio-economic classes. But is this really the ideal or just a solution to a problem of the system’s own making? What about all the talk of diversity? If diversity is an important goal, shouldn’t we actually make the most of our differences?

Not surprisingly, I don’t hear any talk or read any articles proposing that homeschooling families need to implement a uniform policy. Could this be due to the fact that home school ideally makes the most of each child’s individuality? Now, I will say that I’ve seen many a homeschooling mom require all the kids wear the same color on a given day in order to quickly locate all of her chicks. We did this when our kids were young. It made accounting for them easy and efficient on a trip to the grocery store, zoo, museum, or other field trip.

So when you get right down to it, school uniforms are really just a Band-Aid for another problem created by institutional education. You can’t have the rich kids thinking they have an upper hand, and you certainly don’t want the poor kids to be at a disadvantage against their peers. Besides, fashion statements and name-brand clothing end up being nothing but a headache for most parents and teachers. Thus, the more items that can be “uniform,” the better.

In any mass-production assembly line, uniformity is necessary. After all, the final product will be tested against quality standards. And in order to pass, all the parts have to be nearly identical. Anything out of spec will be identified as defective and trashed. Do we really want a world where everyone wears the same clothes, rides the same bikes, lives in the same houses, and thinks the same way? I don’t.

Children aren’t parts to be assembled and spit out in a cookie-cutter fashion. They are human beings, made in the image of God and created to do good works that God prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Not every person will be called to do the same work. It’s obvious that not everyone has the same personality. God even built a natural diversity into our appearances with a rainbow of skin, eye, and hair colors. People come in all sizes, shapes, and heights. And don’t forget the obvious differences between male and female, which alone makes for some interesting variations of emotion, thinking, and acting.

Let’s face it: People are different. Relationship building is hard and sometimes inefficient work, but it has the potential to result in the most satisfying bonds with loved ones. I believe that one of the worst things for us is an insistence on uniformity. I say embrace the differences in life, especially with your children. Be inefficient but highly customized. Give each of your children a truly individualized education. Your kids look different, sound different, act differently, and learn differently. See the inherent value in this variety and point each of them to Christ, the One who has unique plans for them to fulfill. Prepare them to listen carefully for His call. He’s already planned out their futures, and He wants them to be His instruments of righteousness.

When it comes to the academics, let me prepare you by warning that your kids will probably not all go the same direction. For example, I am an engineer who loves all things science and math. With seven children, I was sure I’d raise several techies and math whizzes. It turns out that my oldest is a philosopher, my second is an artist, my third is a journalist, and my fourth is aiming for medical missionary work. My number six child definitely has a gift and passion for design—think LEGOs—so he might eventually do more math than the others. My point is this: Don’t try to turn your kids into what you want them to be. Don’t live vicariously through them. Point them to God. Teach them to listen to His voice. He will lead them gently and eventually make it clear to them the direction they should go. And it is highly likely that no two of your children will walk the same path.

Once upon a time, I might have thought it would be cool to raise seven mathematicians. But my kids aren’t me, and they certainly aren’t identical to each other. As our children have grown up, I see a cornucopia of talent blossoming into a diversity of callings. Rachael and I may have dressed them all in orange shirts when we went on a trip to the zoo years ago, but they all look different today. And our family is all the richer and closer for it.

Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!


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© 2015 Davis Carman


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