Before we even moved to Denver I did some serious re-evaluation of the value of a Christian homeschool co-op. I completely understand the reason for their existence and I even helped start one up in our city. But in terms of living missionally, I had difficulty lining up my family's vision with that of the Christian co-op.
You see, I do not homeschool my children in order to shelter them from the world. Therein lies one of the major differences between me and others on this journey. I understand that rationale I just, respectfully, don't share it. I do exercise my freedom to expose my kids to the less idyllic things of the world when it's appropriate to do so (on our family's timetable and not someone else's) and when we can have a decent two-way discussion about it.
In addition to this, I want to instill in my kids that its okay to feel comfortable with people who are different from them be it in philosophy, lifestyle, worldview or anything. In my experience with Christian co-ops, there tended to be a moral agenda that was assumed to be bottom-line biblical. There was also a political agenda that was actually based on fear. While there were many in the co-op who truly loved others, there was a general feeling that we needed to be intently concerned about ourselves and minimally concerned about the world around us. I struggled with this because I understood (and still understand) it, I just couldn't set my priorities that way knowing that the gospel is the good news that God has come to rescue and redeem all of creation through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
In my attempt to do what Jesus said... to be "salt and light" in the world... I needed to step out of the Christian bubble, to engage the culture around me so that in knowing it more fully I could bless it. To, first of all, love it. Plain and simple. I have difficulty intentionally doing that in a homogeneous group that portends to exist outside of and boldly against culture.
The homeschooling group I've found here in Denver is a wonderful mix of all kinds of families. I suspect a good many have a Christian belief system, but that's not the main assumption we make about each other. The things that bind us together are the basic daily tasks of schooling, loving and training our children well, exposing them to a myriad of transformative encounters, and encouraging one another through the less idyllic experiences of our own lives. It's stretching me as I learn a deeper way to love and listen. There is much to be learned here, but if I can't love learning (or love people) then I can't teach my kids to do the same.
Tough stuff to think about.