Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Should All Christians Homeschool?

Someone asked the question, "What's your view on homeschooling?" in the comment section of my post on going secular for righteousness' sake. To give that question the thought it deserves, I figured it would be better to write a post on it than a book in the comment stream. I'm no expert on this subject, and there are differing opinions on what to do. For example, in the denomination to which our church affiliates, high profile men like evangelist Franklin Graham and Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, have fallen on differing sides of the issue at a recent annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting. So adding my small voice and puny intellect to the mix could be risky. But I'll try to give my thoughts in a logical and concise manner.

1. Educating children is the parents' responsibility. In God's wisdom, children are not born to governments or the church. Children are born to men and women who will be held accountable for how they are raised. For instance, in God's list of charges against the Old Testament nation of Israel, we read: "And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, 'Why does he not?' Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 'For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless'” (Malachi 2:13-16). In another place, we read: "He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" (Psalm 78:5-7). Paul's version: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). So it is the parents' first responsibility to raise children to set their hope in God.

2. All education is indoctrination. This is something that Christians seem ignorant of. At best, this ignorance is just a lack of belief in what the Bible says and what history has proven. At worst, it's a willful ignorance, because to accept this notion means parents will be faced with many inconveniences they don't want to think about. So I fear many parents put their kids on the big yellow buses and go back in the house with their hands over their ears yelling, "LA LA LA! Everything's okay!" But it is undeniable that he who controls education controls the future. It is impossible to teach anything without an underlying philosophical worldview coming through. It grieves me that I even have to make this point because it's so obvious.

3. No indoctrination is neutral. If all education is indoctrination - not just passing on facts, but handing down values - then we must accept that indoctrination is aimed at something. Here's a basic lesson in worldview: "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3). The world is set up against God and under the blinding power of Satan. People aren't neutral toward God. They are actively, willfully opposed to him. So education is not neutral toward God. Again, it grieves me that I even have to make this point because it's so obvious. Just look at when children start to fall away from the things they've always believed.

4. Government education cannot build love for God, but it can destroy it. If we don't start with the right theology, everything else goes downhill from there. Government school is not interested in God. It's interested in the earth. This is understandable since the whole institution is under the control of Satan. If this sounds radical, go back to the Bible and learn the basic principles of the gospel all over again. Now, having said this, I'm not suggesting there aren't people who teach in schools that want what they think is best for children. But what they think is best is not always best, and many kids and parents have the scars to prove it. I don't know many kids coming out of school that say they're faith is strengthened because of school. But I know of kids who left behind dumb, hick, unsophisticated religion for the facts of natural humanism.

5. Kids without proper training are not missionaries. I almost ended this sentence with an exclamation point. If I hear one more parent tell me how little four year old Johnny is going to go to school to be a missionary, I'll puke. This line of reasoning just doesn't make sense, even though I've heard otherwise smart people say it. I was in the Army. You don't send kids into battle. You train them first. There's a phrase we used to have for untrained soldiers going into battle. It's called DOA - Dead on Arrival. Not only is it foolish to send untrained saved kids to government school to be missionaries, most the people that use this argument have kids that aren't even Christians yet. So how does this idea hold water with them?

6. School isn't for convenience no matter what you choose. I know of some who homeschool for the convenience of not having to deal with the evil in the world. They want to shelter their kids from anything bad like monks. I don't think this is a good reason. At some point, children are going to grow up and face the evil in the world. They better be ready for it. So we don't homeschool in order to hide out in a fortress. If God wanted us to be safe, he'd take us to Heaven right now. He wants us in the world without being of it. On the flipside of this, I know of some who send their kids to school because they don't want to have to deal with their kids all day. Some parents talk about school like it's their break time from parenting. Or they don't want to give up a paycheck to keep them home. Both, keeping your kids at home to shelter them, and sending your kids to school because it's easier for you is sacrificing your children on the altar of convenience. It's a type of idolatry. So what's the alternative?

7. Intentionally train your children. Parents need to teach their children the ways of God and the sinfulness of the world. It is not the school's responsibility to train children how to function in the world, and it's not the church's. It is the parents'. The parents can delegate this role to others, but they're still responsible for how it all works out. Kids have to become gospel-centered through continual training. This kind of gospel-awareness must start at birth and be tailored to each child as they grow. The goal of this is simple: we're intentionally training ambassadors for Christ. So if you've trained your children, if they understand the gospel, if they know what to expect from government school, and if you keep abreast of their progress daily, then send them to school to be that light you think they could be. But if you think school would crush their faith, then come up with an alternative like homeschooling.

8. Evaluation should precede evacuation. Some parents get scared to death because they're child comes home talking about sex or global warming or evolution. Make no mistake, this stuff is taught every day to all ages of children. I'll never forget the time one of the children in our church couldn't figure out how Adam and Eve fit in with the prehistoric caveman ancestors of modern man. That's the danger of teaching a young head full of mush two opposing theories of everything. But that doesn't automatically mean you should pull your children out. Evaluate your child and the situation. Is your child a strong Christian who is wise to the ways of the system? Then teach them the folly of what they're learning and why those poor people think that way. Is your child weak in faith or knowledge and is truly falling in line like a zombie with all the indoctrination? Then you may want to reconsider your decisions based on conviction rather than convenience.

9. Your child is not a social experiment. Don't send your child to government school to prove wrong all those radicals who think homeschooling is the answer. And don't homeschool your child to prove to your family and friends that you're more righteous than them. My goal with my children is to raise them to become strong missionaries for God, wherever they happen to live and work. My wife has always homeschooled our children. We have five of them, and my oldest is eleven. Our oldest, Jason, is probably headed for government school next year for the first time. We haven't come to this conclusion lightly. We wouldn't even consider it for our other four, and don't know if they'll ever go that route. But Jason is a Christian with a strong mind, but soft conscience. He isn't a follower. He's also been trained from the time he was a baby in the gospel and the culture. He has non-Christian friends and he's a light to them (while still being just as ornery). Why are we sending him? Because I think he's trained well enough to be an effective missionary to his culture, so long as he has the daily encouragement and support and oversight of his parents. I'm not convinced of any of that for the other children yet.

10. This issue isn't cut and dry. If I thought homeschooling was commanded in Scripture, then this post would have been about three sentences. But it's just not. In a way, it would have been much easier if God would have commanded one way or the other. But I think he left it open because he wants us to know all of Scripture. In a way, the whole education debate is a small picture of the age-old debate about how the church is supposed to relate to the world. Wisely is my only answer. But I'll leave it to the conscience of each parent what that will look like. My strongest advice is whatever decision you make, make it based on a conviction shaped by the Bible, and not out of convenience.

There are tons of books written on this subject, so a blog post is going to be weak. I think the goal of child-rearing is missions. Period. And if that's your goal, I think it will guide your decision-making in this area in a way that is both wise and faithful.

9 comments:

JanAl said...

Great post!
These are issues I think about on a daily basis, especially with 2 home schooled, and 3 in public school. I am taking it day by day, year by year.
pt#5- the longer my kids have been in public school, the louder this rings true, We have spent more time discussing, and explaining(things that are years ahead of them), "the evils of this world", (taught by other children), then talking about what they are learning, and/or praising God for whom they have shared Christ with. Each one of my kids has shared Christ in a public school, and what a blessing to my heart that was! But, being there is putting a bigger impression on them , then they are having on people around them.
#6- Even with "christain friends", you can not shelter them from this world.
#9-(this is what I need to remind myself of when I doubt my homeschooling abilities)~
"My goal with my children is to raise them to become strong missionaries for God"
#2and#4- this turns my stomach, that the government is raising my children.

#10- I could not tell a parent what they should do, because they have to make this choice for their family. But, our 11 year old Grace, was really struggling in public school, her teacher wanted us to drug her up, for ADD. She was getting left behind! We even had testing done at Children's Hospital. And through many tears, and many fears, we took her out of public school. She is a true homeschooling success story! She has improved 150%! Drugs were not the answer! A learning disability was not the answer! And she wasn't having petite-mal seizures, like they thought.
Many times I have heard, "If I can do it, you can do it",
comment from other moms, but I did not believe them. But, now I know I can do it, because I am!

Kati said...

I agree with everything you've said here. Though, the "sheltering" issue (#6), I will approach from a different angle.

I've been homeschooling for 5 years. (My oldest is 10) Valid or not, I will admit that one of my main reasons for keeping them home is to "shelter" them to some degree. Let me explain: I do not plan to raise my children in a bubble. I understand that one day, they would have to step out of that bubble into the "real world", full of evil, and would be unprepared for it. In keeping them with me nearly all the time, though, I am able to "filter" most of the information they're taking in, good and bad, and explain it to them with a Biblical view. We talk about things they see, read, and hear and discuss what God thinks of it. My goal here is to shape their worldview to fit God's standards. I just don't see how that would be possible if my children were away at school for 8 hrs a day, seeing and hearing all kinds of evil and left to try to make sense of it on their own.

This doesn't mean we try to shelter them from all evil, not that it would be possible anyways. (We go to Walmart for goodness sake--we see evil.) But there are definitely certain things that I purposely shelter them from simply to protect their innocence as children. Much of what they would learn at school (about sex, for instance) they simply DO NOT NEED TO KNOW at such young ages!

So, in a nutshell, yeah, I guess I shelter my kids. I'm counting on God to see my heart and honor my feeble attempts at mothering. More grace, Lord!!

Darby Livingston said...

Good points, ladies. Kati, as you described it, I don't think you're sheltering your kids in a bad way. You're training them how to be godly thinkers before sending them out. That's exactly my point.

Jess said...

JanAl, "You GO GIRL!" You are like supermom. I mean that in a very sincere way.
Luv ya Jessica
Darby, I AM one of those out of convenience mom's (Guilty) with the thought in the back of my head that the teachers are doing a better job than I could of teaching my children academics, but I do know that there are alot of issues that you have to deal with when dealing with public school and the influence other children have on your own. As you already know, I only have one child that is a professing believer, and she is the one that struggles the most in public school. Not with academics though, but the other children. It has crossed my mind before about pulling her out, but I fear that I have been really running low on patience with her and keeping her on track with ANYTHING seems almost impossible. Therefore, at this time homeschooling isn't an option for us, but who knows maybe someday, ya never know when God will change your heart about things.
I would tell ya that I luv you too, but it just wouldn't sound right since you are a man and all. lol
Jessica

Nan said...

Hi!

Ok, just my two cents worth..

I homeschooled my kids for a time. Darby was homeschooled for two years, 3rd-4th.
Cleyo was homeschooled for 6 years, K-5th. Reasons were "full time on the road" work related. From an academic standpoint, there was no comparison for either child, that homeschooling was a better choice. Any person learns faster and retains better when taught one on one because you can target the areas where they struggle.
As for the government indoctrin-ation, not being Christians yet, that part didn't matter to me. I didn't know the difference!
Darby's post is right on! When I hear parents say that they can't teach their child (no matter what their reason), my view is that they won't do what it takes, rather than can't do what it takes. God gave Christian parents all they need to do it! I think convenience is probably the biggest reason a Christian parent sends their kids to school.
It can't be the great education their child is receiving. It's not convenient for a parent to take the necessary steps to teaching their own child. I can empathize with a parent's fear. But the fear isn't lack of ability.

I think JanAl will testify what a great experience it has been to have her kids homeschooled. She has learned more about their intellectual capacities and even more about them as individuals.
I agree with Jess- JanAl is like supermom in many ways. She really spent a lot of time weighing her decision to homeschool. I am glad they are homeschooled.
Jess- the child you struggle with most, may be the one that God will use for a great good! This child is fearfully and wonderfully made!
But you already know that!

I have some other views about sending kids to public school, but I would really make waves! lol

Great post, Darby!

JanAl said...

I would like to add one more thing; I believe anyone could be capable, but if you are not willing, or committed to teaching the kids, then do not do it. A high majority of parents that I know, are doing an awesome job, and the benefits are worth it, but there are some that are causing more damage to their children, by not doing their part. Children need a teacher, and they need guidance, they can not do this on their own, and they can not go 2-3 weeks without doing any education. Do not set them up for a life of failure, commit yourself to the Lord, and He will Bless your path.
Teaching is not a gift, and it does not come easy for me. But I am committed to the Lord, and to my kids.A friend asked me the other day, "what am I planning on doing with Abby and Elijah"? (2nd and 3rd grade, public) my answer, "I am still thinking and praying about it, but the easy & lazy response for me would be, to just send them on the bus".

Kati~ I am with you on sheltering their younger years, I have exposed my kids to so many evils that they did not need to know at such an early age.

Jess & Nancy~ Thank you, but it is Christ who gives me strength to accomplish His will. On my own, I am a complete failure!

Amanda said...

I'm having heart failure because Darby publicly said that we're sending Jason to government school next year. It just seems so much more real, and scary, when I see it written! :)

Margaret said...

I have homeschooled our 5 children for 12 years (2 have graduated). This is one of the most well-written articles I have ever read. One of our biggest motivations is point #1...you cannot find in God's Word where that responsibility is ever given to anyone but parents.

#5 has also been a biggie with us. Do we want our kids to be missionaries? Of course, but we want them be firmly rooted and grounded first.

Parents who send their kids to school because they don't want to deal with them, make me very angry! Why do people have children?

One of the biggest blessings we have experienced from homeschooling is the spontaneous discussions that come up in the course of the day that have allowed us to focus on a gospel-centered conversation.

No, it hasn't always been easy; I never expected it to be, but the rewards have far out-numbered the trials.

May I paste this article into a word document to use for future reference?

Darby Livingston said...

"One of the biggest blessings we have experienced from homeschooling is the spontaneous discussions that come up in the course of the day that have allowed us to focus on a gospel-centered conversation."

Great point, and we have noticed the same thing. Most parents don't spend enough time with their children for good gospel-centered conversation to happen.

Yes, you can do whatever you want with the article.