I've been waiting for The Good Shepherds to become available online ever since I read the print version in Christianity Today magazine.  This positive, upbeat story resonates with me in so many ways, it well deserves a post.

[Insert the usual disclaimer here:  This way of life is not for everyone; it not my intention to offend, nor to imply disrespect for other people's life situations, much less push anyone into a lifestyle that is far from mainstream—albeit that it would have been considered normal by most of our ancestors.  But I can't help considering this a very cool life choice indeed.]

I encourage you to read the entire article; it's short, and tells an inspiring story of a small movement to revitalize both declining rural areas and declining family life. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article:

Once you opt out of the conventional paradigm [of public schooling] and find it satisfying, then you begin searching for other paradigms to opt out of

So we discovered.  If we took baby steps of unconventionality when we decided to become a homeschooling family, our children are now taking full strides, not only in education but also in their approaches to family life, childbirth and childrearing, health and medicine, entrepreneurship, community life, and even running styles!  By no means do I think unconventionality is limited to homeschoolers.  Jon, after all, was not homeschooled, though he thinks in many ways like a homeschooler—if I may be permitted such stereotyping—and his schooling in small-town New Hampshire was unconventional enough, at least when measured against most public school experiences I know of.  Nonetheless, I'm convinced that homeschoolers, having chosen the step outside the mainstream in a big way, are predisposed to thinking unconventionally in other areas.

Scott was skeptical when his wife said that she felt God wanted the family to raise sheep. "Excuse me," Scott replied. "I can't even stand to mow my own yard. What makes you think I'm going to start doing things like that?"

I guess he found out that sheep make pretty good lawn mowers.  :) 

Thirty years ago, 80 percent of all visitors to our farm were hippie, cosmic-worshipping, nirvana earth muffins....Today, 80 percent are Christian homeschoolers.

I've found that the homeschooling, homebirthing, and back-to-earth movements are populated by groups of people that are in many ways radically different from each other; what they have in common is dedication to a particular set of ideas, and the fact that they are even more radically different from mainstream society.

How do I leave my Dilbert cubicle at the end of an expressway...and instead invest in my family, my kids, my community?

Sometimes by combining more mainstream work with farming, like Heather and Jon's friends at Providence Pastures Farm, which is where I first learned the delights of drinking raw milk.  Of course I immediately thought of them when I read the article.  Having a job that can be done primarily from home does help reduce the pressure of trying to make the farm self-sustaining.  I believe that when these folks their motivation was simply to provide healthy food for their children, and the farm lifestyle grew from there.

In our culture today, we've got this mentality that you send your kids off to school to get a good enough education, to get a good enough diploma, to get a good enough job, to pay well enough to work a thousand miles away from home, to accumulate enough money so they can put you in a nursing home when you get old. What I'm looking for is for my grandkids to argue over who gets to spend the day with grandpa.

Amen!  And grandma, too.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Edit
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It's so refreshing to choose to live outside of the "must make lots of money" cycle. Now that Jon is supporting us full time with Lime Daley, his income is less than half of what it was at Dynavox. Yet, I am excited about it! I'm excited about the extra time the family has together (even now when Jon is playing catchup with all the work he postponed until now.) I've been reading about how to cut grocery costs and I'm even excited about that. Strange, huh? But this life is much more real life and it is rich.

Posted by joyful on Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 7:14 pm

It would be interesting to me to know which school, (Heather's or mine) is more "typical", if there is such a thing.

Posted by Jon Daley on Monday, October 29, 2007 at 8:50 am

Good question, although I think I know the answer, at least based on conversations with other people. Have you found many who share your experience?

For one thing, I have yet to find anyone else, anywhere, whose parents were allowed to determine which teachers he had. If that were more universally true, I imagine the public school experience would be vastly different from what it is today.

Or maybe not, based on the percentage of the population that votes intelligently in political matters (meaning with knowledge and thought; I'm not referring to any particular slant).

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, October 29, 2007 at 9:42 am