Soul Surfer

We took the kids and went to see “Soul Surfer” this evening.  This is the story of Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a shark while surfing at the age of 13, and still went pro by 17.   She is one of the top ranked female surfers in the world today.

The movie was very well done, very moving and inspiring.   Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt play Bethany’s parents, and Bethany is played by AnnaSophia Robb, who is a great young actress.    I enjoyed the fact that although the Hamiltons are evangelical Christians, the movie was not heavy on the ‘Jesus Saves’ aspect of things, though it was made clear that Bethany’s religious faith played a role in how she dealt with her accident.   It was done in such a way that was not exclusive, but inclusive.    I also appreciated that the fact that she was homeschooled was not tied to their religion (at least, not in the film.)   At one point when Bethany and her friend are lobbying for more time in the water and less doing lessons, Bethany’s mom says, “Well, you could ride the bus for 45 minutes each way and spend 8 hours of every day in school rather than surfing.   Cause I’m ok with that.”   And both girls reply, “No, no homeschooling is good.  We like homeschooling,”  before  grabbing their boards and heading for the beach.    The movie shows a very connected, healthy family with no massive dysfunctions working through a difficult situation with amazing grace.

And yet.

Part of me was frustrated that this movie, however unintentionally, will reinforce the stereotype that homeschoolers are primarily born again Christians.    There is no way to reconcile this frustration, because I have nothing against born again Christian homeschoolers, but I do have a problem with the overriding belief that unless you are super-religious, you will not keep your kids out of school.   It’s one of the ways the mainstream media dismiss homeschooling/unschooling as a viable option for most people.   That stereotype is one of the reasons I agreed to be interviewed by PBS last fall regarding our lives as life learners.  I thought it would, in some small way, help to clear the air in that regard. But we were never notified about when the interview would be televised, and then a couple of weeks ago I heard from the reporter we spoke to that PBS has had delay after delay to due budget cuts and a change of producers, and now it is questionable whether the piece will ever air.

I would recommend seeing “Soul Surfer”.   It’s a great story, well told.   And as for the rest, I guess the best I can do is keep writing this blog and living life with Joshua, Maya and Ben.   If we can be an example for even one person and change their mind about who life learners are, it will be a step in the right direction.

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