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The Pioneers vs. The Settlers

  • 2005 14 Mar
The Pioneers vs. The Settlers

Have you ever had one of those moments when you can't believe what you're hearing? The kind where you find yourself rolling your eyeballs with such force, the gyroscopic effect nearly tilts the earth from its axis?

I heard this type of conversation at a recent homeschool co-op support meeting.

"We've got to have more help with field trips. Marci and I can't be expected to do all this by ourselves. After we brainstormed for an entire morning at Starbucks, I had to spend almost a quarter-hour on the phone trying to schedule it. I don't have time for this, and neither does Marci. Now, we need a mom to print out a sign-up sheet, and someone else to make up a map. Oh, yes, we'll need a volunteer to collect money, and another person to pay the bill when we get there. We should probably assign a thank-you note writer as well."

By that point I had bit my tongue so hard, it had molar indentations top and bottom. It was either speak now, or forever hold my peace with a permanent lisp.

"Excuse me, that would be seven people to handle one field trip. Seven! I realize that most of you are new to homeschooling, but this is only a field trip, not a manned mission to Mars. When this co-op first started fourteen years ago, not only did I single-handedly plan field trips for three years, but I also taught the kindergarten through fourth graders every other Friday, spearheaded the talent show, and produced the yearbook from layout to press, while I was pregnant with number three and four."

Silence. Blank stares. The tick, tick, tick of the clock clicked larger than life. Finally, Marci spoke.

"Well, we could never be like you. You're superwoman. Now, maybe we should make a field trip list of who's going to help out with…."

This scenario illustrates, in my own exaggerated way, a colliding of two different mindsets which I lovingly refer to as the pioneers vs. the settlers.

The pioneers are the first-wave homeschoolers – the ones who forged a path to make home education legal. Their 'can-do' attitude was a survival tactic, not an option. If a mountain needed moving, they'd rent a bobcat and start shoveling.

The settlers are the new generation. Their biggest fear isn't a social worker knocking at the door, but a distracted SUV driver talking on a cell phone. The title of homeschooling no longer applies – it's more like 'car'schooling.

No wonder new homeschoolers are overwhelmed with commitments. Much time is spent in the car going to and from music lessons, sports activities, co-ops, nature centers, church functions, support groups, workshops… the list goes on.

In light of these definitions, is one group more dedicated, more committed to the cause of homeschooling? Who should be revered most for their heroic efforts at home education, the pioneers or the settlers?

The answer is: both. Blame can not be placed on the newcomers for banding together and working as a team any more than a finger can be pointed at homeschooling veterans for their extreme independence.

The co-op meeting I attended that night made it clear to me I'd been harboring an assumption that was not true. Pioneers or settlers, we're all homeschoolers. Romans 12:6 brought that home for me, "We each have gifts, according to the grace given us."

As much as I like being viewed as 'superwoman,' it's God that gave me the grace years ago to get a co-op off the ground, and it's every bit as much His grace to coordinate a willing team of seven women to pull off a field trip.

It's not about pioneers vs. settlers, or newbies vs. veterans, or any other possible comparisons or labels. It's about using the gifts God has given to you, and keeping a cheerful attitude in the process. And, if you stop comparing yourself to others, you will be one happy homesteader on the homeschooling frontier!

Michelle Griep has four children and wears her stay-at-home-mom badge with pride. She's homeschooled for the past thirteen years and in her spare time (as if) is a freelance author. She can be reached at