Straddling Cultures

“You were homeschooled too?”

I had a joined a couple of our discipleship group leader girls in the cafeteria over lunch. It was as if a spark went off. Suddenly, we could share about our experiences taking co-op classes and laugh about fifteen-passenger vans (especially the ones with at least ten mini-people bumper stickers on the back) becoming as much of a measure of status as sports cars are in mainstream culture.

Growing up homeschooled, I often feel bicultural [1]. Being thrown into the college atmosphere, I daily feel the tension between the norms I grew up with and life in the outside world. I daily face the beauty and challenge of learning to relate with students from drastically different backgrounds. As much as I love these new opportunities, I will never cease to love my “own” homeschool culture. Each day as I finish my college classes, I drive a few minutes to a homeschool family’s house to tutor their children. The contrast is striking. Upon walking in the door, I immediately sense that this place is “home.”

Home — because the culture is the same. There’s nothing I love more than tackling an Apologia science experiment in the kitchen with their eleven- and thirteen-year-old children, or nestling into the couch with their little boy to hear more about the latest adventures of Bob and Arty the missionary pilots from his reading assignment. Or, better yet, curling up on the floor with their special needs daughter as she shows me tricks with her ball.

Inevitably, I must go back to the outside world. There’s something stretching, maturing about having to interact with other ideas and cultures and backgrounds and coming out the firmer in your own beliefs. Even more so, there’s something incredibly encouraging about getting to witness God’s redemption in the lives of those who came from drastically different — and more painful — backgrounds. This is the bicultural world I live in — and it’s a beautiful tension.

It’s also a crucial tension. I have watched far too many homeschool graduates simply decide to ditch one culture or the other, often resulting in unhealthy balances. Some are still intentionally pursuing the faith, but they want nothing to do with their former homeschool identity and the values and norms that came with it. Others choose to remain in the homeschool bubble for the rest of their lives. Granted, the latter is the most comfortable option. Some days, I desperately wish I could go back to the simple rhythm of my homeschool schedule, reading in the afternoon, gardening, working with our farm animals.

But without that tension, how would I have learned to love people?

I’ll be forever grateful for the molding that occurred within my parent’s protective atmosphere of the home. I would have had it no other way, and I desire nothing more than to provide my own children with the same kind of upbringing. And yet, I’m thankful that my parents saw that we were arrows to be launched and prepared us as such. Thus, it is a way of honoring them to take the tools and culture they imparted to me and then go out and impart those experiences to those I meet. And someday, I pray I can prepare mine own arrows for a launch into this bicultural world of ministry.

For now, I am learning to love the straddling, to value God’s work in each person I meet, regardless of their background. But with all the tension, the homeschool world will always be home.

-Julianna

[1] I first came across this term applied to homeschool graduates in Fairlight Meyer, “When Cultures Collide,” HopeChest, Spring, 2003, Vol. 11, no. 2, 6–7.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lydia Bradrick says:

    Wow!! I’ve never seen the different worlds and why we need both articulated so well! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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