Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why We Homeschool - Part I

This post is an answer/reply to a comment from a previous post. I have included the entirety of the original comments and questions here as a block quote. My answers are below. In posting this, I am in no way looking for a debate to break out. In fact, I hope it does not. I am answering here, because my answers were too long to be written in a comment box.
 I am a Christian who is also a public school teacher, and I have to say I'm having difficulty reading some of these posts/comments. First of all, I feel a bit attacked by the comment about the devil being on the rampage in our public school system. The devil has his hand in all places, even in some of our churches! How is sending your children to public school any different than letting them join an organized sport or playing with the neighborhood children. I went to a Christian college with MANY other women and men who earned education degrees and are now teaching in public schools. You really have no idea how many Christian public school teachers there are out there. If your children aren't in public school anyways, how do you know if there is something wrong with it? Did you go to public school - were there problems that you had with it then? I'm sure that you spent time thinking about your options before deciding to home school, but I just hope that the first reason was not because you didn't want them going to public school and that you had some positive reasons for wanting to do it. It seems like you are a bit TOO concerned with what is taught in public schools. In reality, if you are being the parent you should be, you should have no worry that your children are going to be discerning with what they see in the world around them. If they are raised right, and something evil crosses their path, they will come to you. Do you worry that they will not?
I have a Bachelor's degree in education, and I'm almost finished with my Master's degree in Reading and Literacy. Still, I would never feel adequate to educate my own children in every aspect that they would possibly need from kindergarten through high school. What if your child had a learning disability and needed special education services in order to reach his or HER potential? What if they needed speech services, or a remedial reading program? You would deny him/her of that? Would you even know how to identify some of these issues? And what if your child had a mental disability - I have an autistic student this year who is able to do everything my regular education students can do academically - he only struggles socially. The way that he learned his academic skills was nowhere near the same as regular education students. If you had a child like this, what would you do? Would you still home school? Without any expertise in the area, how would you even know how to teach him?

I agree with what you say about how our first calling should be "going into all the world," but how are your daughters going to do that if they are not encouraged to go to college or some other form of life outside of the church and home. We are the salt of the earth, and as my pastor says, "the salt isn't doing any good while it's still in the salt shaker." It is true that some could refuse the call to missions in order to go to college, but isn't it true that for MOST of us the world around us IS our mission field? What if a female is called to go to college in order to be a lighthouse to others there?

I think it is important that we teach our children what the bible says, but that we give them chances to practice it. Be sure you are not living a life of separatism. I went to school with some people who came from home schooled homes and MOST of them knew what they believed, but couldn't put into words WHY they believed it. How can they spread the word of God when they aren't experiencing those first young opportunities to tell others about God? Later in life whenever they encounter resistance, they won't know what to do because they've never experienced that before. Do your children know any other children that are not from Christian homes? If not, how are they getting their first experiences spreading the good news?

I agree that the devil is at work all around us - as you have said. Unfortunately he has a stronghold in many homes, schools, and churches. You are right that any time we let our children go anywhere or do anything there is a chance that they will be exposed to something unbecoming.

I, too, went to a Christian college where many men and women were trained to be educators. And, I have a lot of respect for teachers! As a homeschool mom, I have an even greater respect for teachers! Never before did I know what planning and forethough went into lesson plans! And, I cannot begin to imagine how you can keep order in such a large classroom - sometimes I struggle with just a few kids (*winks*). I cannot answer for my other readers, but my husband and I both went to public school. Though we do not judge all schools by our own experiences, we certainly do tremble at some of what we went through and some of what we were taught. I BY NO MEANS think that public school is all evil all the time. There are a lot of good things about public schools: organized sports, choirs and bands, highly educated teachers, state of the art equipment, well-stocked libraries and more. However, a Christian parent does well to consider what is being taught in the classes their children are attending (or could attend). I do not think that a parent can be "too concerned with what is being taught." I think it is our duty as parents to guard our childrens' hearts (Proverbs 4:23), because they are too young to do it for themselves. However, we know that we cannot shelter our children from sin, and we hope to train our children in such a way that prepares them for fighting their own battles in the future. Also, when you think about how many hours the children are at school - compared to being at home - then it becomes even more valuable to know what they are being taught. (And, please know again, that I am not saying that everything a public school teaches is bad.) Kids are in school most of the day, and then come home to do homework, eat, play, and go to bed. If a Christian parent chooses to educate their children in the public schools, then I hope they are very committed to spending the evening hours with their children. Otherwise, it is almost as though the school is bringing up the child and training him... not the parent. What I mean to say is that a child will most likely be taught by the person/people they spend the most time with.

In response to the amount of education that a homeschool parent has... I think I speak for just about everyone when I say that we all feel inadequate. And, I do think that there are some parents who are too undisciplined and poorly educated to do it well on their own. But, there are so many available resources in these days that it is amazing! There are all kinds of books written on home education (many by highly educated individuals like yourself, who came out of a public school teaching situation), blogs, web sites, and more to help a parent. (Not to mention the hundreds of fantastic Christian curriculums to choose from!) Also, there are homeschool associations where mothers and fathers collaborate to teach each others' children. For example, I might teach lessons in music, some one else can teach some lessons in art, another can facilitate P.E. (And, of course, field trips, speech classes, and play time.)

As for learning disabilities... Homeschooling a "normal" child is a daunting task, and I will be the first to admit that educating a struggling learner is even harder. BUT, most homeschool parents feel grateful to be able to care for these special needs on their own. The benefits of this situation would be that: 1) I know the child very well, 2) I have all day every day to work with him/her at his level, 3) There is much more time spent one on one with the student, 4) There is less of a concern that others will make fun of the struggling student. And, again, there is SO much helpful information on the internet and in books about all types of learning and behavioral disabilities!

I hope that all Christian parents are raising their children with the intent that they will some day be a light to the lost world around them. For our family, this means training them at home until they are old enough to make positive decisions for themselves. Then, we will gradually turn them loose into the world. And, if they go on to college, we trust that they will be well prepared for the differing worldviews that they find there. We are not raising our children in a bubble, trying to shield them from all sin. Rather, we are trying to introduce them to varying worldviews through the lens of the Bible. When we talk about divorce, abortion, creation, government, mathematics, etc. we do so from a Biblical standpoint. This is the biggest reason that our family has chosen to homescool. When I teach the children to read - I have great joy in telling them that we learn to speak and write so that we can learn more about God and make Him known to others. When I teach math and science, I find great joy in sharing with the children the order that we find in the universe. We are studying the order of things laid out by an Orderly Creator. This is, in our minds, giving them a firm foundation to build upon later.

I completely agree that Christians ought to be the salt of the earth! And, that we should not lock ourselves in our homes to keep us from sin. Instead, I think we ought to spend our time at home preparing to go into the world and bring others to the Lord. BUT, it is my personal opinion that children are not ready to be little missionaries sent out into public schools.Children are not well enough equipped to stand alone in such a role. However, we are training them so that they will be ready more every day until the time comes for them to be on their own. And, though I am not in favor of being a complete separatist, set away from the world... I am in favor of doing our best to be different from the world... to be in it, but not of it. And, we are doing our best to train our children to be holy, which does of course have to it this meaning of being apart from and separate. No homeschool family is perfect! We do our best to train our children to raise them to be educated believers (knowing what they believe and why they believe it). But, ultimately we parents cannot make them be Christians. It is still a decision they have to make for themselves. (However, I do personally believe that homeschooling is a good foundation upon which to make that choice).

In regards to college education - I agree with you, that perhaps college is the best way to prepare a person for the work that God has for him/her. The Lord has certainly called to Himself doctors, teachers, presidents, and other professionals that require higher education. Even my husband, who is a mechanic, finds that he can better provide for his family if he were to go back to college and get a degree in that field.

In writing this reply, I am in no way attacking you. These conversations are always easier to have face to face! I know that you cannot hear my tone of voice or see my face, but I assure you that you would hear and see only kindliness there.

Furthermore, I have a lot of Christian friends who are "called" to teach in the public school. I will NOT question what you feel is the Lord's calling on your life. Likewise, may of use here are "called" to homeschool. We ALL need to be careful how we address one another when we talk about these issues.

Thanks for your comment. If you have any other questions or comments you are more than welcome to e-mail me. I love talking about why we homeschool. (I just love talking *winks*).

With sincerity,
Bethany

11 comments:

Mama in Uganda said...

Bethany,

First of all, THANKS for your prayers. My husband just got home, which means I can finally rest!

Secondly, this post is amazing. You took the words/thoughts/intentions right out of my heart. Once again, I appreciate how you speak the truth in love.

Thirdly, I do believe that public schools are a good place for Christian teachers to be (if clearly called by the Lord), however, I have a hard time with some of the things that they are required to teach which contradict the scriptures.

Fourthly, it is a lie of the enemy that small children can be "salt and light" in a public school. Children are not spiritually strong enough to carry such a "weight."

* I encourage parents/teachers to read about the history of public schools. Make note, however, that public schools were once run by Christians, with the Bible as their main "tool." A lot has changed...*

Fifthly, my husband and I have spoken extensively about our children going to college. Once they turn "of age" their decisions will be between them and the Lord. However, until that time, WE have been commanded by the Lord to "train up our children." It is our desire to teach a Christ-centered world view SO THAT our children will be able to "answer for the hope that lies within them." 1 Peter 3:15

And lastly, what is important to your children's development/maturity in light of eternity? Making sure that they read before they turn six? The ability to finish their times tables in 3 minutes or less? Or that they become whole hearted followers of Jesus Christ? I will opt for the latter. And although this does NOT mean that I will neglect their education (the three R's) I will strive to make sure that in all things JESUS CHRIST WILL BE GLORIFIED.

*A prayer that we always pray before we begin our lessons is "Lord open up the children's minds so that they might learn what is needful to serve YOU."*

Dare I say, education has become an idol worldwide and we as Christians must be aware of this trap.

Mama in Uganda said...

I would like to add, I have college degree which I could have easily (but not without conviction) pursued to a higher level. But instead of listening to the worlds wisdom I listened to the Lord. Again, I am not against higher education if is it CLEARLY God's will and it will better equip one to serve the Lord.

As for my children being around non-christians. We are a missionary family in East Africa. Daddy is a pastor/evangelist. And we bring orphans into our home (children who once lived in godless homes). It is important that children are brought up to serve/minister to the lost, but not without the "shepherding" of a parent.

Please, make sure that what you believe is of the Lord. The enemy comes as an angel of light, twisting the truth just enough to make it a lie, even if it looks "pretty."

Mama in Uganda said...

I just re-read a post I made a few days ago. I wanted to clarify that the extensive talk my husband and I had about our children going to college was due to the discussion on this blog. Before that we had never discussed this issue.

Bethany said...

Mama in Uganda,
You are more talkative than usual today ; )

Thank you for all your comments and the clarification that you have added. I am always glad to hear that I have caused someone to think things through again and again.

Bethany

April said...

Bethany, I am in awe of your poise in writing this post! You wrote very truthfully and with conviction, but never disrespectfully or arrogantly. Your words were brimming with humility, and reading them made me very glad to call you friend. :)

I absolutely echo a point that Mama in Uganda made about our eternal perspective. Education IS good and important, whether it is done at home or in a school. But as Americans, with our compulsory schooling, we tend to make it THE most important thing. I don't think we should every deny our children an education, but we must check our motivation--are we educating them so that they can be successful, or so that they can be godly? I would much rather raise a child with a heart fully given to the Lord than a child who brings home spelling bee trophies.

In everything we do, I think we all (myself included for sure!) need to think more about our impact on eternity, instead of our tendency to focus on right here and right now.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

Arthur Sido said...

Ultimately the issue is not one of qualification but of calling. The most highly qualified (in the world's eye) teacher in the public schools, with years of experience, an innate ability to teach and multiple advanced degrees cannot replace, must not replace, the calling of Christian parents to educate their own children. We cannot subcontract ministry to "someone else who is more qualified" and that is true in parenting as much as anywhere else. Our marital relations are a type of ministry but we would never subcontract that out to someone who we think we think would be a better husband or wife. The very idea if ludicrous. The same holds true with educating our children.

Kimberly said...

Great answer, Bethany. I was looking back at my posts, I've never posted a "why we homeschool" post. I think I'll be working on that, might I link your blog when I'm ready to post this?

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous teacher, and I fully understand all of your thoughts and desires for your families. I completely agree that our first goal as parents should be to bring up our children with strong Christian values so they are ready to become Christians when God calls them.

Mama in Uganda, I knew that your family was in Uganda (due to your name), but as for any of the comments made about children having a mission field - I have to disagree with some of you. While I would not expect children to "preach" to one another, they can be setting a Christian example for other students, inviting others to VBS, camp, Awanas, or even just a Sunday School class/church service. They NEED to experience small experiences like these before they are faced with large ones! Just like we crawl before we walk. As a child, I had opportunities to invite others to church activities, or to share my beliefs in a simple way. Kids would ask if I went to church or why I went on Sunday morning AND Sunday night AND Wednesday. I was able to tell them that it was important to my family to go because it was good for us to be with our church "friends," and that it was also important to us to not just learn about God on Sunday morning! While these seem quite elementary, I know this was a form of witnessing, and I was very able to share this even at such a young age because my parents had trained us so well at home about why we did the things we did and why we did them and believed what we believed. I think it would have been really hard to share my beliefs or plant ANY seeds if I was already a teenager when I had my first opportunity to do so.

I also agree that we should be the ones teaching our children their values. And, while we should not worship education, it is something that should be valued because it opens more doors for serving God while we are here in this world.

I would also like to know what contradictory topics are required to be taught in public schools. I know things are different in each state and grade-level, but at least in my state I know of nothing that is required to be taught in a way that contradicts God's word. Of course, things are brought up that some parents don't like their children to be exposed to. For example, evolution is discussed in certain grade-levels - however it is not taught as fact. I think that Christian students need to hear the perspective that ideas like this take in order to better refute it with the Bible. How can you prove something wrong when you don't even know what it stands for? Whenever we were learning about topics such as this, my parents were always in the forefront by speaking with teachers ahead of time if they had concerns and always spoke with us about each lesson that night so they were comfortable that we had all of the information from the Bible as well.

Bethany said...

Anonymous Teacher,
I have just a minute right now to answer one question... then I need to get back to the kids. Again, you ask some very good questions. I totally understand where you are coming from! For what it's worth, I had always planned to put my kids in public school. Even at our Christian college, I thought the homeschoolers were putting their kids in an un-socialized bubble. I talked with a lot of people, read a lot of books and articles, and wrestled with it for years before realizing that somewhere along the line I had formed a conviction. So, I hope that you never think I am being ugly, because I never mean to be. I do understand your point of view.

Evolution is one of the concerns that our family has. If your school system is still teaching that it is only a "theory" then you are doing well! And, if your school system is not using the books that have Darwinian ideas that have been proven as false: the fetal chart and "Lucy" (are the first that come to mind), then your school board is awesome!

I know that I grew up believing evolution, because of what I was taught in public school. It was so ingrained in my mind, that I thought my parents were stupid for believing something that went against what my schools taught.

Another concern is the approach of many public schools to normalize homosexuality. In one town we lived in (in NC) "Heather has two Mommy's" was required reading... in Kindergarten! I do not think that kids are ready to deal with that kind of influence and not succumb to it.

I know that you are saying that parents are to teach their kids to stand up to "peer pressure," but for most families it just doesn't work that way. All the kids I grew up with... went to "youth group" with... they all professed one thing at church and lived another at school. (There were very few exceptions). It is HARD if not impossible for a child to be a Christian in the public school system - I lived it. My husband lived it. Many of the women commenting here have lived it.

Oh - and let's not forget sexual harassment. Even as a teenager, I was not ready for such things as I faced DAILY! What does a young lady do when the boy at the locker next to hers says to her, "Can I touch your b**bs?" What does a young lady do when she is constantly harassed by the star player of the basketball team... and when she finally gets the nerve to talk to someone about it, the boy gets suspended... then the whole basketball team (which knew what was going on) is angry with her. I actually had these things (and many more) happen. And, I dressed semi-modestly. I was not trying to draw attention. What must it be like now...15-20 years later?

I like the idea of trying to raise your children to be a light in any and every situation... I just don't think it is possible for them to do it on their own.

One last thought, in regards to evolution, we are teaching our children all the theories of evolution and creation. But, as with everything else, we are teaching it from a biblical standpoint. We tell that what some people believe, and then we talk about why it may or may not be true. And, even at their young ages, they can talk these things through... but this is all under our leadership, our guidance. And, I think that many other homeschoolers here are doing the same. It would be a terrible disservice to our kids to only teach our perspective, without preparing them for the "real world." We are trying our best not to do that.

This is all the answer I have time for right now. Hope I was able to answer some of your concerns, without sounding like I am debating. Because, I am not trying to debate or "win" some argument. I see your questions as legitimate concerns that I would like to address.

Bethany

Mama in Uganda said...

Anonymous.

Please show me in scripture where the Lord says "education is to be valued for the sake of serving Him."

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain."

Like I mentioned before, I do not believe that education is to be neglected, however, I do think that it has become an idol to many a Christian family.

Study the Word, seek wisdom from above and in all things let Jesus Christ be glorified!

P.S. Our children are taught "perspective ideas" so that yes, they can refute the truth.

Anonymous said...

This is Anonymous Teacher, and this will be my last comment on this topic since I also do not want this to seem like a debate.

I am, and always have been, willing to accept that some of us will always have a difference of opinion. I do understand every point made by you, Bethany, and agree with all of the points you made about what seems to happen in public schools as well as other places in our world. The only response I have to any of what was discussed about that is while I would never wish any of the situations you mentioned on anyone, let alone one of my own children, I do think situations like them could happen pretty much anywhere. Also, none of the items of controversy mentioned are taught, as they have been in the past, in my school district - no such books about "two mommies" are required reading, etc. Yes, some topics labeled as "sex ed" are addressed in certain grade levels, but ALL such lessons are up to the parents to allow or rather have their child opt out of.

As one point of defense that I would like to address to Mama in Uganda, I feel that my point about education was taken a bit out of context. (The argument of “show me in the Bible” could be made about many things we do - where in the bible does it say we should eat three meals a day? Well, it doesn't, but we do that because we know it is healthy and God wants us to keep our bodies healthy because they are his temples.) My only point was that we should be open to all opportunities that could open doors to God. (I originally included here information about how my job and schooling have opened doors to witnessing but it was so long this wouldn’t submit. Suffice it to say that I’ve had many opportunities to share God’s word at work and many opportunities to meet and work with new friends who are also Christian, female, teachers. And, my master’s degree will give me so many more opportunities to do so by enlarging my mission field.)

I am finishing my master's now BEFORE my husband and I have children of our own because I did not want to be a student while having kids of my own at home. I look at it as an opportunity not a requirement or an idol. I agree that some people look at it that way, but I want it to be clear that I can be getting that degree WITHOUT it being an idol. And, in no way am I saying that everyone should go to college or get higher education than that or work or be a stay at home mom. All of those things are callings, and I can say that I am confident, because of the prayers, support and guidance from my husband and ALL others in my life, and clear leading from God, that all of my choices thus far have been through the Lord's leading.

I appreciate all for your opinions and thoughts. Like I said before, I think we are in agreement about most things - definitely the Bible's truths. We seem to only disagree about other things that, in my opinion, won't change how godly our children turn out or how well we are serving the Lord.