Friday, February 1, 2008

Homeschooling- John Denver's Mistake

I recently read an article on homeschooling.

Here is one of the quotes,

Christians should have no part in the government school system. However, I would challenge any Christian to give me a Scriptural basis for sending young children away from their parents for eight or more hours a day to be indoctrinated by a system which is anti-God. You can search the Scriptures high and low, but it isn't there.

Who has the burden of proof? Me to demonstrate that it's "biblical" to send kids to public school?

Let me give you an example of why this is a lame argument. Consider the following statement...

Christians should not live in the suburbs, take out mortgages, drive cars that cost over $10,000, attend a church that has a building, attend church on Sunday... "you can search the Scriptures high and low, but it isn't there" - it's simply not biblical to do any of those things.

Precisely.

If God wanted to give instruction on these things, he would've put it in there. That's why you can't find it. You're not meant to find it.

The problem might just be that you found somewhere in the Bible where God says to home school. I'm just not convinced that Jesus' reference to Caesar had anything to do with how we educate our kids. Voddie Baucham, who this person referred to, is a great Bible teacher. He should know better than to proof text like that.

I have personal reasons for advocating public schools. Although I think they may be good ideas based on what I know about the Bible, none of them are biblically prescriptive.

I did youth ministry for four years, and I've worked with college students for 5 years. Here are some observations (generalizations, of course, for the sake of discussion):

1. Home schooled kids are much less effective in evangelizing lost friends.
2. Many home school parents made their decision to home school out of fear (what's going to happen to poor Johnny if he hears someone drop the F-bomb? Oh no, his virgin ears... I can't send him out as sheep among wolves.)
3. Home school kids tend to be socially awkward with their peers. If you took a poll, they would be labeled "weird" by their peers.
4. Home school, private school, and public school kids tend to turn out like their parents. If their parents are loving, smart, driven, nerds, worldly, committed to the church, lukewarm in faith, immoral, unfaithful...so their kids will be.
5. Home school parents tend to be more militant about their opinions, which ends up making them aliens in their neighborhoods, schools, etc. and irrelevant for the gospel.
6. Home school parents can shape the culture of a church or youth group, making it ingrown, family centered, and cultic. Not all bad.
7. Home school kids tend to relate better to adults.
8. Home school parents tend to be more legalistic and conservative culturally.
9. Home school kids are more likely to play games that require dice with more than 6 sides.
10. Home school kids tend to be more avid readers.
11. Home school kids are more likely to wear tight jogging pants and jeans that are too short.
12. Home school parents tend to have an "Us vs. Them" view of the world that makes public school teachers out to have a liberal, homosexual, indoctrinating agenda.

The best argument I've heard for home school is that parents want to shape their children's hearts before sending them off. On the other hand, I think public school is a perfect training ground.

John Denver loved the environment. It broke his heart to see rare trees destroyed. At the time, he made a decision that seemed reasonable, but ended up having unintended consequences. He built an indoor wooded area for these special trees. At first the trees seemed to be doing well- the environment was controlled and the trees were closely watched for progress. On the outside, all was well with the trees.

The only problem was that the trees grew to a certain height, and they began falling over. There was a fundamental lesson from this tree debacle, namely, trees need everything the environment has to offer (blazing wind, scorching heat, sub zero wind chill, imperfect soil, etc) so the roots can grow deep and strong. Environment manipulation doesn't work well for trees. I think the same is true for our children. A little wind isn't going to destroy them. It may make them stronger.

I'm not against home schooling. It may be the best option for some families and children. But as for our household, we're still debating this issue

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're not against homeschooling? Could've fooled me.

Anonymous said...

How does being home schooled negatively impact a persons ability to evangelize to a friend?

My education was in a different social environment so I'm less capable of presenting the Gospel to my friends?

Surely this isn't what you meant.

Anonymous said...

What are some reasons you've decided to send your children to public school? Perhaps that would have been a more productive topic for your post. Just a thought and I am honestly curious.

AS said...

One thing that seems to be glaringly absent in your analysis and observations of home schooling is...... EDUCATIONAL VALUE. Yes, developing a child's social and evangelistic skills is important; however, to use those as the primary points of consideration in the home school vs. public school decision seems misguided.

Additionally, I think it's helpful to keep the big picture in mind. Instead of asking, "What is the best social and evangelistic context for my kids while they're in grade school and high school?", a more appropriate question may be, "What educational environment will best prepare my children for a LIFETIME of God-glorifying productivity?". Sometimes sacrificing immediate, superficial impact for sustained, profound impact is worthwhile.

The Arants said...

The main point of my post was to evaluate the quote that Christians should have no part in the government school system. I loved the comments- it's thought provoking discussion!

We're not against homeschooling. I must've fooled you. We have wondered if it would be the best route for some of our kids. At the end of the day, my 4th observation seems to be the bottom line. Some of our best friends home school, and we respect them for that.

As to the question about home school negatively impacting evangelism... it's simply a trend I have seen. But there are always great counter examples. Sarah Ellis, a girl who was in our high school ministry (and now in our college ministry) is one of the most loving evangelists I know. She pursues lost people. My point is not that home schooled kids can't be effective in sharing Christ, it's merely that on the whole, they influence fewer people to Christ. It's an observation.

The main reason we would choose public school is for us and our children to influence as many people as possible for Christ. It's all part of being culturally engaged. It's not only a gateway for our kids, but for us as well. There are more reasons, but that's the first that comes to mind.

As to the education value, I think home school kids probably learn more sooner, but having worked with college students, I can't say they're that much further ahead by the time they're juniors in college. But if you want your kids to get a classical education and learn Latin and Greek, then I think home school is the best option.

There's something you said that was interesting, "Sometimes sacrificing immediate, superficial impact for sustained, profound impact is worthwhile." I think that may be a sort of straw man argument. I have many friends who are walking with Christ today because of decisions they made for Christ in high school. I have seen hundreds (?) of students give their lives to Christ in high school because a peer reached out to them. There are by far more people that come to Christ as teenagers than adults. I'm not sure I can agree with you that keeping your kids at home will cause their impact to be more sustained long term and "profound." I understand where you're coming from, but I respectfully disagree. Did I misunderstand what you were saying?

The Arants said...

Wow…that is quite an opinion of homeschoolers. I would have to disagree with some of your generalizations, and not solely because we are a homeschooling family. While it seems a lot of your “list” was intended to be read with appropriate amounts of sarcasm, the fact that you even commented on some things shows at least a little bit of personal belief in the statements. So, to the list…

1. Home schooled kids are much less effective in evangelizing lost friends.

While homeschooled children may have a lesser number of children they interact with on a daily basis, I do not believe that they are, on the whole, a group who does not reach out to the lost. There are many MANY public school children who have more than ample opportunity to evangelize the lost around them and do not. This, in my opinion, is much less about how you are schooled and more related to comment #4 (parental influence and example). There are a number of children in our neighborhood that we interact with…more regularly when it’s not raining (oh Portland!) and we meet everyone at the park a few times a week or more. We have begun having the lot of them over to our house to play while I am able to talk with their mothers (this is necessary in a rainy Portland winter or we would not see anyone all winter!).


2. Many home school parents made their decision to home school out of fear (what's going to happen to poor Johnny if he hears someone drop the F-bomb? Oh no, his virgin ears... I can't send him out as sheep among wolves.)

Our decision to homeschool was much less about “sheep among wolves” than it was about our personal conviction that that is how God wants US to raise our children. Sure, we acknowledge that our desire to protect our kids from some of the junk the world would throw at them at such a young age was involved in our decision, but we encounter that junk simply going to the park, library, grocery store, watching tv or movies, even going to church. We use all these experiences and interactions to talk to our kids about how people act/react, how we should live (using those encounters as examples), what Jesus’ example was, etc. There is a point where you have to loose your children and pray all the time you invested in forming them returns with good decisions and godly living, but there is a certain amount of protection we can afford them in order to preserve their innocence for as long as possible. I value that innocence.


3. Home school kids tend to be socially awkward with their peers. If you took a poll, they would be labeled "weird" by their peers.

Weird, perhaps. Contrary to “normal” society, sure. In the end, I don’t really have a problem with that. We, as Christians, are called to be in the world and not OF the world, which should make us, as a whole group, weird and contrary to society. There is way too much assimilation with the world in the modern church with the guise of “becoming all things to all men”…while there is very little of the end of that verse “that I may win some.” There is a desire to fit in, to be cool, to not be seen as weird, but a lot at the expense of being separate from the world and sharing the gospel, because that (the gospel) would make us weird.


4. Home school, private school, and public school kids tend to turn out like their parents. If their parents are loving, smart, driven, nerds, worldly, committed to the church, lukewarm in faith, immoral, unfaithful...so their kids will be.

This comment is true, for the most part. Most children turn out like their parents…which is a great warning to us parents to BE people we want our children to become. Easier said than done, a lot of days. J There are some children who so despise their parents’ example that they try very hard to go the opposite direction…or children who came to know Christ and their lives went in a different direction than their parents for that reason. It is important to acknowledge that homeschool children do not necessarily turn out socially awkward or weird because of their homeschooling, but rather because their parents are probably socially awkward and weird. Perhaps others have a different opinion of us, but I don’t think Andy and I are socially awkward or weird (in the ways I assume you mean from your previous references…I know we’re weird, just not “weird”) and our children are highly social little people who have not had any problem being in normal social situations. All of them who can talk, including our two, soon-to-be-three year old, are very articulate, able to carry on a conversation with their peers AND adults.


5. Home school parents tend to be more militant about their opinions, which ends up making them aliens in their neighborhoods, schools, etc. and irrelevant for the gospel.

Having strong opinions does not need to make you irrelevant for the gospel. We SHOULD be aliens in our neighborhoods, schools, etc. We SHOULD be living differently enough to make people question why we are different or, I think, that makes our gospel message more irrelevant than having strong convictions that may result in good opportunity for discussion.


6. Home school parents can shape the culture of a church or youth group, making it ingrown, family centered, and cultic. Not all bad.

If a youth group doesn’t encourage kids to be part of their family and live out their faith, then is it different from any other social group?


7. Home school kids tend to relate better to adults.
8. Home school parents tend to be more legalistic and conservative culturally.

I know (and know of) many homeschool families that appear legalistic because of how they choose to dress, wear their hair, or how they are schooling…many of these families interpret scripture more literally than you and I choose to and are not necessarily legalistic (as in ascribing to rules but foregoing a real relationship with Christ). Being culturally conservative is not a bad thing…especially at this time in history.


9. Home school kids are more likely to play games that require dice with more than 6 sides.
10. Home school kids tend to be more avid readers.
11. Home school kids are more likely to wear tight jogging pants and jeans that are too short.

Now you’re just being ridiculous, though I think that was your point. J We do own dice with more than six sides, but they are for future math purposes. We read a lot and our kids spend a great deal of time looking at books and/or reading on their own. They are responsible for a lot of their own education, so this is a natural and interesting way for them to learn. I will assure you that any time my children wear jeans that are too short, it is on purpose for reasons of fashion and not because their apparel designer momma can’t dress them currently. We also shop almost exclusively at thrift stores, which does not mean that we dress the same as some who shop at thrift stores. Our kids are some of the most fashionable out there, but at a fraction of the cost and with much more innovation and individuality. As with our homeschooling, I trust God to provide us the things we need/want for clothing (through the thrift store).


12. Home school parents tend to have an "Us vs. Them" view of the world that makes public school teachers out to have a liberal, homosexual, indoctrinating agenda.

I don’t feel an “us vs. them” mentality pervades homeschool…perhaps an “us and them” mentality, as in different ways people are choosing to raise their children. Sure, there can be an attitude that “I am making the RIGHT choice in homeschooling my children,” but, as can be evidenced by your opinion to the contrary, public school parents can have the same attitude about their decision. My mother and two of my sisters are public school teachers. I do not believe all teachers are “liberal, homosexual, indoctrinating” though there is definitely a lot of that in public school…more so in other areas of the country, Iowa is still pretty conservative in their education system. Diversity education is required in public school from way too young an age. Most of the “liberal, homosexual, indoctrinating agenda[s]” are found in high school teachers and college professors…but the biggest “liberal, homosexual, indoctrinating agenda[s]” can be from their peers at those ages. At that point, hopefully they have a solid enough background and strong enough convictions to stand up to all the world would throw at them.

The best argument I've heard for home school is that parents want to shape their children's hearts before sending them off. On the other hand, I think public school is a perfect training ground.
……
Environment manipulation doesn't work well for trees. I think the same is true for our children. A little wind isn't going to destroy them. It may make them stronger.




…but a little protection is not bad. You wouldn’t let a new tree or growing tomato plant go unstaked or the plant would grow crooked and spread out where it was not supposed to be. If you plant a new tree, you wrap the trunk in the winter to protect it from the elements…likewise with other delicate plants and flowers to protect them from frost, animals, etc, until they get to a certain size or season. Why should we not do the same and more for our more valuable children? As with a tree, you don’t keep it staked forever or it would not stand on its own, so you have to know the right time to loose the stakes.


I'm not against home schooling. It may be the best option for some families and children. But as for our household, we're still debating this issue.

We don’t look like a lot of historical homeschoolers…well, like homeschooling stereotypes of the last 20 years who were religious zealots, isolated from all of society, high-water pants and long dress wearing, modern Amish, etc. But the face of homeschooling has really changed over the years…especially in the last five years. There are a lot of families homeschooling these days who have no religious reason for keeping their kids at home…while there are plenty of the older variety that still exist. We are an unschooling family, which makes us even more different from traditional homeschooling with 100% Abeka curriculum and a school-at-home philosophy. We are much more similar to the ancient homeschool mentality where our kids learn alongside us…they work with us, explore their interests, read, read, play, play, play. In the end it does not look like school at all, but they are learning so much and retaining more than a lot of their public school counterparts because they are interested in the things they are learning; and they are having a real childhood. I’m not concerned that they learn a bunch of facts so they can take a test and then forget it all. [how much of your American history, geography, science, math, psychology, etc (think of a subject you learned because you HAD to) do you remember now??] We will have the freedom to learn about history and then take time to go visit places and things to make it all real. The things you wanted to learn on your own have stuck with you; the rest may be hiding somewhere in your subconscious but if asked to name all the state capitals, how would you do? How would you do if you had visited most of the state capitals over the course of a few long vacations? The same logic follows in our unschooling. God knows what He has for our children and He has given them great brains and curiosity…He will lead them to learn the things they need to know so they can serve Him how He wants them to serve. Children do not have to be corralled into desks and made to sit still for 6+ hours to learn. We provide lots of opportunities for learning, lots of great information, learning toys, etc, and if they are interested in a particular subject we are free to spend as much time exploring that subject as we want. (i.e. if someone is interested in geography it does not have to be fit into the 30 minute block of the school day and then shut off. They can explore maps all day long if they would like)

It would be much easier to send my kids to public school…I could have two or three kids at home each day right now (with the prospect of having no children at home in 4 years), more personal time, a cleaner house, time to get into my own projects, etc. Every time I consider it (usually for reasons of my own selfishness), the Lord places big conviction on me that that is not what He has intended for me…or for them. Our kids are not the only ones learning in this process. The Lord teaches me things through them every day…and every day I am made aware of things in myself that need refining or changing. In the end, we are on board with homeschooling, but ultimately we did not choose it…He chose it for us.

If you really are still debating the issue, you should get some better homeschool information (than antiquated assumptions of what homeschoolers you knew when you were 13 were like J )…I have really liked the book Christian Unschooling by Teri Brown. Lots of good information in favor of letting God lead your family’s education and trusting Him with learning. It may be different now, but I don’t remember Cornerstone being a place with many homeschooling families (if any that I can recall, but that was years ago). Being part of a culture where homeschooling isn’t valued could also play into your overall opinion of homeschooling. Just some thoughts…none in an attack, but I felt a more balanced view should be expressed. J

In Him.
Erin

Barbie said...

The discussion on homeschooling did not dissappoint. It was very thought provoking....
I do believe it is an individual decision for every family, and it is NOT my place to judge that decision. For me thus far it seems to be an issue of freedom....I think I would be free to homeschool and I think I am free to send my kids to public school. Maybe that is not true of all families....?
Anyway, You know I love you Mark....even if you decide to home school! HA! Barbie

Anonymous said...

wow, I was told to view this post....and your so honest, which is a good thing I guess. I do see where your coming from...some home schoolers are weird. I was home schooled my whole life, went to school part time in highschool, which was great...but I love to evangelize, and be social usually..there are some great things about homeschool as well as the negatives , same with anything. LIke you metioned in another one of your blogs, this guy that said Homeschooling is the only way is very Legalistic.

Anonymous said...

Education isn't just learning the basics and getting high scores on tests. Public education develops essential skills for easier transitions into college and functioning in the workplace.
Learning in a group environment exposes you to different learning methods. The way we process information may be different than our co-workers and we need to know how to manage that in order to function as a team. You also learn from your classmates mistakes. You're exposed to different teaching methods, some obviously better than others. But it's important to know how to extract knowledge even when the delivery is poor. You learn to take authority from someone other than your parents. You ease into the transition of a structured day. Often I've heard of parents "not getting to homeschooling today". Doesn't that teach kids procrastination and unreliability?

Home schooling may be more socialized today than in the past but you still sheltering your kids from a very wide variety of personalities and cultures, and yes, some good and bad. But that's reality, something your kids will need to deal with sooner than later.

There is so much more and in the end there is not right or wrong answer. However I feel that teachers with a 4 year degree and required continuing education are far more qualified to teach kids a comprehensive education than parents who are more concerned with high scores on government mandated test.