Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Don't Homeschool Because...

It doesn't take much to notice that any time anyone publishes an article in defense of a Biblical admonition to disciple/educate the children of Christians at home, responses come back with arguments for why a family has decided to send their children off to school...usually the government school. Most often these are simply justifications (I read somewhere on another blog a quote..."pitch a rock over a fence, and the dog that yells the loudest is the one hit!"); other times there is a broken heart going along with it because the family would rather not have sent their children away, but felt they had no other choice.

I will also grant that there have been children who have successfully navigated the difficult spiritual territory of the government schools and come out the other end as strong believers. I know some of those young people. I also know they had at least four very important things going for them: 1) They were individuals who were soundly saved. 2) They were not peer dependent, and tended to be natural leaders. 3) They had very strong home lives with parents who discipled them rather than just shuttled them to different activities. 4) They had a strong, God-centered, Bible-preaching church. And lastly...I'm afraid they are the exception, especially given the latest statistics showing well over three-quarters of young people abandon their "faith" shortly after leaving home for post-secondary education. Of course, this means there was no saving faith in the first place...which is all the more reason parents need the discipling time with their children that is otherwise lost to the government school.

What I hope to do with this article is address some of the more common arguments used by those who have sent their children out of the home.

"My children will be missionaries and lights to the school, a 'federally-funded mission field.'"

While I might be able to see a bit of this argument if you are talking about older teens who are exceedingly mature in their faith, this argument is specious when it comes to any other category of child. In the first place, they are in an authoritarian environment where they are to in submission to the teachers. Does anyone honestly believe a child (or even most teens) can handle himself against a prepared person in authority who challenges that child's faith? How exactly is this child supposed to be a missionary? Invite other children to church? He can do that in his own neighborhood! And that's not exactly being a "missionary."

The other more important issue is that the Biblical examples in the New Testament never involve evangelizing children apart from their parents. In fact, it is most often dad who is evangelized, converted...and then his whole household after him! So if you honestly want your child involved in witnessing to others, bring him along with you as you witness to and minister to the dads and moms in your own neighborhood and sphere of influence! Then he not only gets to participate, but he gets to learn how it's done from you. He has no one to teach him how to be a "missionary" at school....

"My children need friends."

If your child cannot live without his age-related peers, then he is peer-dependent. God says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If your child needs to be around his "friends" that much, you are not helping him to mature, but rather to support the foolishness that is already in his own heart. You are also teaching him to be unable to relate to other age groups, both younger and older. Ideally, you will have a family that is larger than the American norm, and your child will have a built-in set of "friends" of many ages!

"I don't have the education to teach my own child."

Studies published by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association have proven without a doubt that the educational success of homeschooled young people has absolutely no relationship to the education level of their parents! You are a mom or a dad who wants the absolute best for your child. That's the only qualification necessary!

"I want my child to be 'successful'."

What is the ultimate benefit if your child gains the whole world, but loses his soul? What does it mean to be "successful?" If it means a high standard of living in the Disneyworld that is America, it is a woefully inadequate definition. Biblically, "successful" is to know Jesus and to be like Him. Anything else pales in comparison. Exactly how is the officially atheist, multicultural, diversity-worshipping government school going to help your child know Jesus and become like Him? At best, you will be trying to make up time in the few minutes that are left over at the end of the day. A person questioned my use in a previous post of of a statistic, 20-30 minutes of time a day with your children. While it's a generic number, it's not all that far off the mark. The children get up horridly early in the morning to board the bus. When school is over, there is sports practice, time hanging with friends, and homework. You, mom and dad, get whatever is left are in fourth or fifth place in priority for time during the day. Just try countering hours upon hours of postmodern mindset in just a few minutes at the end of the day.... Just how will you prioritize discipling your child to know Jesus and to become like Him???

"But my schools aren't like that..."

Uh-huh.... Invariably people wishing to justify the placement of their children in the government school will say their schools are better than what is described elsewhere, that these schools have Christian influence and morals. Uh-huh.... While your particular school may have a few Christian teachers or administrators, you have no guarantee your child will have that particular teacher. Then add the legal gags that are placed upon these same teachers and administrators and you will not have them able to teach Christianity or the Christian worldview as ultimate truth. Then you have the problem of the books themselves. They are generally published nationally and include all the tripe about multiculturalism, tolerance, and diversity...not to mention the postmodern viewpoint of no absolute truth. Then add in the peer influences from children who don't respect your morals and subject any child trying to bring his parents' morals into the school to untold ridicule. Oh, and don't forget the over-the-top pushing of such great holidays as Halloween and Earth Day. Sorry...while your school may be better than some, it still suffers from the problems inherent to the government school system.

"Both parents need to work to make ends meet."

While I can sympathize with this argument, I am willing to suggest that in most cases "making ends meet" is required because of excessive lifestyle that isn't necessary to the raising of strong, Godly children. How big is the house? How many cars do you have? How many TVs? Cable? How many cell phones? Latest fashions? And on and on. If you buy into the "American Dream" of success, then you will happily go into massive debt to have "bigger and better" and keep up with the neighbors. I know large families who live simply, requiring far less money than many smaller families...and they are raising wonderfully mature, well-adjusted, happy children, all the while homeschooling each of them! Until you are down to not being able to put a roof over your head or food on the table, this argument doesn't hold water. Remember our "greatest generation" was raised during the Depression....

"I would like to homeschool my child, but can't because of ....."

I left the blank at the end of the sentence because the reason are myriad, from a child's handicap to a parent's chronic illness. These are the heartbreaking stories, for you can hear the pain in the parents' hearts, desiring to disciple and educate their children at home, but cannot do it alone. They need help.

And here's where my answer may surprise you. I agree with their decision.

Why...especially given what I've written previously and now?

I agree because they truly cannot raise their children at home...and the government is the only entity that has stepped up to help them. The church used to fulfill this function. They were the community that stepped in to help each other. But the church has abdicated many of its functions to the government, which has happily taken them on. Thus in cases where the church should have been available to help, they weren't...and so the family turns to the only place it can for help: the government.

I know of some churches that are different, that are trying to reclaim the jurisdiction that is rightly theirs. They value so highly the Biblical admonition to disciple children at home that they have made it a priority in their congregations. They are intentional about several things. First, they have no buildings and no paid staff. That means that every single penny of offering goes to ministry and missions. They have taught their congregation the meaning of Christian community and the priority other Christians should have in each other's lives. So, for instance, if there is a single mom in the congregation, they require her to attempt to go to her family for support and help. If the family won't help, then they ask her to voluntarily place herself under the leadership of one of the elders. If she will do that, the church will do everything necessary, from money to physical help in her home, to allow her to disciple and educate her children at home.

This is what should happen in the lives of people using this reason not to homeschool. But sadly, in America today, the church is all about a voluntary association of autonomous individuals looking for individual fulfillment. The Bride of Christ has given up her responsibilities to her members. And the government has overstepped its jurisdictional bounds and taken over.

So to those who are in this situation, I am truly sorry for you. I wish your church understood and was different. But it probably isn't, and so you are doing the best you can. Please don't feel chastised by those of us who passionately believe in discipling at home. Some of us, anyway, understand.

To everyone about meditating on Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, Psalm 1, and the whole book of Proverbs to start? How about acting upon what you find there? Put the Word into action in your life...and disciple your children at home!


Dana said...

Your last point breaks my heart. The church has stepped out of its role in so many areas, letting the state take over...even urging it in some ways.

And now churches are taking government money to subsidize their outreach efforts through "faith based initiatives" even though that means accepting a gag on certain aspects of their faith?

Theophilus said...

This comes very near to our own family's commitments. We have made certain (supposedly) difficult choices in prioritizing Christ in our kids' education.

I am glad to see others like you articulating so well what it is that such parents hope to accomplish.

We were ourselves certain we would homeschool, until we found a school started by a core of similar-minded parents to accomplish the same objectives, even using many of the same educational resources.

I will be linking this article from my blog, and will bring it to my wife's attention.

Thanks again! (More than the education... it's the discipleship!)