Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another Homeschool Rant

It's fall and school is about to start. It reminds me of a fun "discussion" this summer with a smart friend about home school. He's very much in favor of home school.

I know it's a little redundant to describe any pro-homeschooler as "smart", because they all pretty much are. But this dude isn't your ordinary home school cat.

But this didn't stop me from taking him on- just me and my public school education.

I'm going to re-create the discussion to the best of my knowledge (making myself sound smarter and more articulate, of course). I will let him remain anonymous, unless he chooses to weigh in with his comments, and reveal his identity... (although his initials are T.L.)

Me: "I'm really okay with home school, I just hate it when people use Bible verses to show why parents ought to home school. This lady pulled this on me at family camp this year, using Voddie Baucham's argument about letting Caesar train our kids. I don't think the Bible is pro-home school."

Him: "I think it is. For example, the command in Deuteronomy 6 is to 'teach our kids diligently'."

Me: "What are we to 'teach our kids diligently'? Geometry proofs? The Periodic Table? History? I don't think that's at all what that passage is about."

Tim (Ooops, I mean Him): "You're assuming that knowledge is amoral, and it's not. We have a responsibility to train our kids with a Christian worldview."

Me: "Yeah, but in that Sh'ma passage, the command is to diligently teach the Scriptures- God's word- not Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic."

Him: "But wouldn't you say that you've failed as a parent if you haven't taught them how to read?"

Me: "No, you haven't failed. You could be an illiterate Berber out in the Sahara teaching your child to love God with all his or her heart, soul and mind and never teach them to read or write or do multiplication tables. The imperative of Deuteronomy 6 is not to home school your kids because that's not the only way to teach them the word and ways of God."

Him: "So you're happy to send your kids to someone else for 8 hours a day so they can teach them- and that during an age when they are most impressionable?"

Me: "I think teachers are generally doing a good job of teaching what they are paid to teach- reading, writing, math..."

Him: "But there is definitely a worldview attached to what they're teaching. It's impossible for them to be objective. Moreover, grade school is when they are most impressionable."

Me: "I think my teachers through grade school had very little negative influence over my thinking. If they were poisoning my mind, it was a drop in the ocean of the influence that was my parents, church, etc. By the time I got to junior high/high school, when evolution was being taught, I was strengthened in my faith because it made me own my reasons for believing in the Creator God."

Him: "But in high school there are other real social pressures that you can't deny (i.e. drug use). Do you want to subject your kids to that?"

Me: "I want to win the high school for Christ."

At this point it went back and forth some more. He made some great points and really made me think. We also talked about how we need to foster an environment (esp. at church) where people can feel the freedom to make the best choice for them, and not say, "I'm ok if you home school (or public school)" but in your heart you still pass judgment.

So I'm cool with home school or Christian school, and of course public school, but please stop using the Bible to say, "The Bible is pro-home school."


J and J Masson said...

ok i'm offically a metropuritan blog stalker. sorry. as an ex-public school teacher i'm a big fan of public schools for a few reasons:

1. christian parents take their kids out for the wrong reasons-"Little Joe isn't being taught about the Word of God in school!" Well it's the parent's job to teach a child the Word of God. The teachers job is to teach them how to read, write etc. Also, "Little Joe might hear a cuss word!" Well, one day your child will grow up and be in the real world where they will see and hear lots of terrible things. Wouldn't you rather be there when your kids are experiencing the small stuff so you can help them know what to do and how to react? Then one day when they are in the real world, they won't be blown away by how sinners sin.

2. I see the public schools as a huge mission field. As a teacher, I could tell when a parent was a believer, and I could also tell which kids came from believing homes. These kids and their behavior spoke volumes to the teacher. And in an age when "it's not my child's fault-ever!" it means a lot to a teacher when a parent discusses how he or she plans on handling a behavior problem. Parents have a great opporutnity to build relationships with their childrens teachers.

For us-we plan on sending our kids to public school. I once had someone tell me that I can't possibly know what I will do when I don't even have kids(didn't at the time). But we've discussed this topic quite a bit. We want Renae to be a light where she is, even if she isn't yet a believer. Because how we interact with her peers, and her teachers will be a way to be Christ incarnate with those people. Sure, it may be hard to send my 5 year old off to school because I'll be sad, and worried, but my temporary discomfort is worth it to put my child in a position where WE can help her learn how to be an authentic Christ follower day in and day out, surrounded by sinners.

OK. That was a really long comment. Sorry. I promise to not always leave such long comments. I love who I think is T.L :) but I have to agree with you. I do admit I have a bit of passion for other Christ followers seeing the public schools as a tool for training evangelists, and a way to reach the lost in natural relationships. It's just that I think believers take their kids out of public schools for all the wrong reasons.

OK. I'm done.

J and J Masson said...

oh. and the Wheeler children are GREAT examples of how to be in the public schools with parents that truly walk them through typical teenage pressures and still know how to exemplify Christ. They are parents who still have the most influence on their kids-not thei peers. Love that family.

Anonymous said...

the point of school is to learn, not to evangelize your fellow five year olds. this early time of learning and formation will prepare a child for a lifetime of powerful influence. you say you want to win the high school for christ. well how did high school become so anti-christian in the first place--through the influence of anti-christian academia and lasting,deep change would likely only come through that. why not focus on that as an avenue for influence high school than a more short-sightened "chalenge evolution in science class" approach. plus, there is such pitiful opportunity for lasting kid-to-kid influence at this age it is irrelevant to the question--key word "lasting"

one problem you havent considered is that of compartmentalizing life into the secular (during the day)and the sacred (during time with parents). This is difficult to overcome. You also fail big time to appreciate the subtle and (initially) invisible influence of secularism from the teachers and fellow students of a school. Read the abolition of man for more on this. I think many many adult christians suffer deeply from an "injured chest." Some of this simply cannot be overcome even if it is identified and resisted in more mature years. Augustine says that a new cup will forever retain the flavor the first substance poured into it. Let this not be materialism and secularism in an impressionable and eager and oblivious child.

purely education-wise, every public school teacher will tell you that they could get miles further if they could focus all their attention on the kids who want to learn. thus, kids thirsty for knowledge suffer because of the majority who are apathetic.

i think the biblical witness on this question has not been listened to nearly enough for you to pronounce such a definitive judgement on it's position. so until you have, please stop using the bible to say the decision is "anything goes".

Ed Noble said...

As you know, I'm totally with you on this. I think one can make arguments either way, but as a 20 year veteran of student ministry I was able to observe thousands (no exaggeration) of students at the end of that process. That is one of the main reasons that our kids went to public schools.


The Pelhams said...

Anonymous and Mark make some good points, however, I disagree with the idea that we are supposed to go to school to learn not evangelize 5 year olds. Yes, we do send our kids to school to learn, but the very impressionable age of 5 is just that impressionable! Half of our church's youth group are kids who were invited by another kid from our church and they loved it and started asking their parents to take them to our church or coming with their friend's family!
Those first years and the ground work that is laid about Christ has a big impact on seeds that could be planted by our children. Asking others over, having them see how another family does things, especially a Christian family, having a sleepover on a Saturday night and having that friend go to church the next morning. All of those things are important parts of what the Bible teaches us. JJ Packer said "The people who know God, display great power for God." Even 5 year olds. If we bring our 5 year olds up in the Lord and introduce them into a more public system(school), they too can show the power of God and others will notice! So, yeah I think the whole high school can be saved!
I continue to struggle about what to do with my kids. My son is 4 and will again go to preschool this year. I don't know if I should send him to public school or start out homeschooling him next year. I don't want him to miss out on that first day of school, new friends,
birthday parties, field trips, recess, music, PE etc. But another part of me knows he is very vulnerable at 5, and have we done a good enough job teaching him about Christ and grounding him in what is right and wrong, and what and who to stay away from! Its a tough decision and I think a huge one as a parent. So I know that the issue of homeschooling will never be cut and dry, but a child can be used to evangelize even at 5 and I do remember this, 2 Cor. 5:20 "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." I don't remember anywhere that says your age matters and the mission field at school is HUGE!!

Anonymous said...

I know you like to poke at people a bit with some of your posts so please don't be offended by a little poking back. You may be right about your grade school teachers having very little negative influence over your thinking, but what about the peer culture that you were immersed in for that time in public school? Don't you struggle with the materialism and putting others down that is exalted in peer culture? Isn't there a glimpse of that seen in your making fun of the guy at your garage sale wearing the "WalMart kicks," describing homeschoolers as kids with ill-fitting clothes, and you waiting eagerly for the $70 AE jeans to go on sale? I'm not saying that homeschooled/Christian schooled kids don't struggle with those things, but you fool yourself if you think you weren't negatively influenced by the public school system in some ways.

I'm wondering too why you don't send your little ones to daycare for eight hours a day so your spouse could work or do ministry things. They wouldn't be negatively affected by their teachers there either right?

Just trying to contribute to the discussion...

J and J Masson said...

I have to chime in once again.

I think the real issue comes down to how one parents. When a parent takes their child out of public schools so "they won't be influenced by the world" then they are saying to the child, the world is a bad bad place, (and it is) and you should stay far away from it. Doesn't that put a negative worldview into the child's head so that everytime they look at the world they see it through a negative mindset? The child doesn't learn to see the world with a broken heart. Instead of looking out and saying, "God these people are so lost. Your heart is broken for them, and so my heart breaks for them" they look out and say, "They are bad people. I'm a Christian and I'm not supposed to be like them so I'm going to stay away from them.

How can they learn to see the world throught THAT worldview if their parents have essentially told them, "Look the world is bad. I don't want you influenced by it so you're going to stay as far from it as possible."

I think the job of a parent is to guide and model what it looks like to be a Christ follower. The main job of a parent is NOT to protect the child from everything. (Somethings at certain ages-yes)

If a parent homeschools a child so that as a family they can reach out to internationals (Like i know one family does) then they are homeschooling for the purpose of modeling how they lead others to Christ. If a parent keeps a child in public school, then they are doing so with the purpose of helping them reach their friends, and modeling how to lead others to Christ.

Yes, I'm still a big fan of sending your kids to public schools, but it still all comes down to what you view your role as a parent as. I know a few families who homeschooled and did a REALLY good job with it and their kids are really influential with their kids. And I know even more families who sent their kids to public school and did a great job and their kids are really influential among their peers.

To the 2nd annonymous, I think you are missing the point with your question about why they don't send their kids to daycare. A wife staying at home with her kids IS a ministry because she is there when the child comes home from school and she can then talk about how God is using the child, or what the child is strugging with.

I am seriously addicted to these blog discussions now. Especially this one. :)

Anonymous said...

j and j missed the point--the point is why wait until age five at kindergarten until your child becomes a light to the world? why not start at age zero so they can be a light to other infants and win the 0-5 year age range to christ? obviously they have little to nothing to contribute at that super young age, and they grow in their ability to contribute and influence as time goes by.

when is the age they should be placed on their own out in the world? everyone thinks there is some age before which kids should not be left outside the home for 8 hours a day, the question is when. if we go by state institutions it is 4 or 5 years old. So they go from almost 100% of the time at home to a huge portion of their waking hours outside of the home abruptly at 4 or 5.

homeschool advocates a more gradual introduction to the world and i think more accurately sees that at age 5 they are much more like being age 0 in their ability to win others than they are at age 20 (if they are taught well). so why not focus on good education (home school) at that young age to prepare them for lifelong influence?

"winning" kids at age 5 is more akin to brainwashing or getting them to change only out of positive peer pressure. that is why over 75% of high school christians lose their faith at college--they don't know jack squat and their "christianity" is nothing but socialization.

a parents first duty is to love their child and see to his formation and maturation, not to use him as a tool to evangelize other families.

it is stiking how little of this debate is seen to be about education. maybe that is why american public school is so secular in the first place, and why evangelicals are an intellectual laughing stock in our society.

how bad would public education have to be either education-wise or morality/worldview-wise before the ability to evangelize fellow public school kids would be outweighed by your child's own needs?

ed noble, could you explain what you saw as the end of the process you speak of? what was the main reason you saw that homeschooling parents homeschooled?

Tim said...

Hey Mark,

When I mentioned Deuteronomy 6, you may recall that I wasn’t emphasizing the “diligence” aspect as you suggest in your blog, but the idea of being present in your children’s lives, e.g. Deu 6:7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” No one said that this verse makes it clear that the Bible is “pro-home school.” My point was that this principle is easier to obey when parents are present in their children’s lives for more than a few minutes a day. Are you saying that you disagree with this?

I also mentioned the Proverbs passage that says, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Pro 1:7 . We have to be careful dismissing categories like history and logic (as you seem to be doing) as unbiased by faith commitments and presuppositions. It is inappropriate (and immoral) to pretend that we can simply separate categories of knowledge into sacred and secular. Mark, are you saying that education systems that separate these categories are better? Do you have scriptural backing for this claim?

It is true that some parents are overprotective of their children and we all agree that parents have the responsibility to protect their children from some things at some ages. The important thing here is that all sides allow a little more grace in these issues and stop being critical of people who parent slightly differently. No one would praise parents who expose their children to as much evil as possible at the earliest age and nor would we praise those who tightly control their child’s every exposure to the “world”. All parents with grown children probably regret making errors in both of these categories. Rom 16:19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. Let’s all encourage one another to find the best way to obey this instruction.

Finally, unless you come up with compelling biblical imperatives that make it clear that public schools are the way for Christian parents to educate their children (and you haven’t so far), I think we should position ourselves where we don’t just say we tolerate those who choose other education methods for their children, but we should actively encourage them as brothers and sisters who are pursuing God in the best way that they know how. Would you say that you’re doing that?

P.S. Just to clarify, I think the best option for the illiterate Berber in the Sahara that you mention, is to home school his children. Do you disagree?

This is fun, thanks for bringing it up!

CarrieAmelia said...

As someone who was both homeschooled and public schooled... I see the pros and cons of both. I don't think that a child will be fully prepared for the world if they are sent to a christian school/homeschooled their whole life. I have seen the people that come out of that life, and while they are strong christians, they don't understand what it is like for children who were not homeschooled. I think that if you are homeschooled you are missing out on seeing the world veiw, and that world veiw is very important for your walk with Christ.
This is just what I have taken away from your conversation, and I could be way off. But thats really okay with me.

Biased Teacher's Husband said...

Kids teach kids, it's important to foster an environment (managed by a trained teacher) where kids can learn from and teach their peers.

This skill will be essential to being successfull in the real world.

Just my 2 cents.

Anna said...

In response to "biased t's husband" I would like to point out that most home schooled children have siblings, and do in fact learn from one another -- thus they are learning from other children. In most cases, it is a very natural setting for learning because one has older siblings helping younger siblings, which cements prior subjects taught for the older child. Also, younger siblings often "listen in" on the older children's lessons, and absorb sippets of that, too.

Also, there are many many reasons for home schooling other than sheltering children from bad influences. We home school for medical reasons. Others home school for academic reasons, both to let their child go ahead, or to let their child develop at a slower than average rate in different subjects without being given a label. Two of our family's friends began their home school journeys on the mission field because there were no schools available(one in Africa and one in Guatemala) and they both enjoyed it so much that they decided to continue it upon returning to the states. So, the comment by j and j related to Christians taking their kids out of p.s. for all the wrong reasons is quite an umbrella statement. I wonder if all the reasons listed above are considered wrong?

Great discussion here! I enjoy "hearing" people's opinions and thoughts on the h.s./p.s. issue.

Metropuritan Mark said...

I guess I'll have to resort to all of my philosophy education to figure out who to respond to...

Eeeny Meenie Miney Mo...

Tim is the winner.

Oh wait, first to one of the anonymous comments- you'll be glad to know I ended up getting a pair of AE jeans for only $14.95. I may have been public schooled, which made me so worldly, but I did have frugal parents. BTW, I'm cool with some kick-back comments. But I don't take people seriously who use my self-deprecating humor to deride me. Unless they're laughing with me as they type :)

Now to Tim.

Bro, this is why I love fighting with you (usually we get to fight on the same team, per amillenialism). Your calm and cogent responses are a nice counter to my semi-informed, proud and often mocking verbal attacks.

RE: Deut 6- If you're using this passage to say that parents should spend more time with their kids- I agree. I'm grieved by the activity driven American homes. Most parents think tee-ball is instrumental in raising kids. It's amazing Jesus turned out as he did without AAU basketball! I'm not sure that's where you were going with it in our discussion in Turkey. But as long as you're not using "teach them diligently" to mean reading, writing, arithmetic, then all is well.

RE: "It is inappropriate (and immoral) to pretend that we can simply separate categories of knowledge into sacred and secular. Mark, are you saying that education systems that separate these categories are better? Do you have scriptural backing for this claim?"

This would require a Cafe Beaudelaire conversation around a coffee (That's Southern Baptist code for "imported beer.") to sort this one out. Let's start with the presupposition that "all truth is God's truth." A public school can say all they want about being a "secular" and not a "sacred" institution. But let's face it, based on what we said about truth- by teaching 2+2=4 and "The pilgrims came over in the Mayflower" they are crossing the line and teaching "sacred" truth. Even Hollywood cannot help but tell the Story (i.e. Creation/Utopia, Fall, Redemption/Restoration. You may say, "Oh, I caught you, Mark. They won't tell them the truth and the whole story about those Pilgrims- that most of them were radical followers of Jesus." My response is simple- what is the best book you've read about the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower? Where have you gotten most of your information on this topic? Is it not from the book Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick? Me, too. It was a great read. So our main source of information on the topic is from one of "them" (an unbeliever). Where have you gotten most of your history knowledge from? With the exception of inspired Biblical history, is it not from pagans? I can't wait to hear what my kids learn in third grade about the Mayflower, Lewis and Clarke, etc. I'll help fill in the gaps with my favorite historian Stephen Ambrose (Undaunted Courage is a great read on L&C). So all truth is God's, and so I'll let Ava's first grade teacher help me out. Do I need a scriptural claim for "all truth is God's truth"?

RE: Finally, unless you come up with compelling biblical imperatives that make it clear that public schools are the way for Christian parents to educate their children (and you haven’t so far)..."

Providing a biblical imperative for public schooling has never been my intent.

RE: "...I think we should position ourselves where we don’t just say we tolerate those who choose other education methods for their children, but we should actively encourage them as brothers and sisters who are pursuing God in the best way that they know how. Would you say that you’re doing that?

Yep. This discussion seems to be causing people to think about their decisions with regard to educating their kids. That's the point of the post. Some of our best friends home school and we love them for it. They have awesome kids. I bless their decision to do that. You may say, "But Mark it seems you're very much against homeschooling" Even though I make fun of homeschoolers playing with 9 sided dice and trading Lord of the Rings cards, I also make fun of public schoolers (i.e. myself). What I'm against is militant homeschool parents who want to use the Bible to "convict" people to join them.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of our thoughts about public schools come from our own memories of how it was back in the day instead of the reality of our culture and the state of public schools today. I would love to hear about this from parents who have actually volunteered in their children's classrooms recently and can give us a good picture of the quality of education and the social/peer pressures that exist.

Todd Wallace said...

Ok.. time to jump in.

My wife and I chose to homeschool our kids out of conviction ((I have 4 girls.. 9, 7, 5, 3). And before we started, we worked hard to clearly define the reasons why we would do so. I will leave it up to you as to whether you think these are good criteria, and if so, whether homeschooling best accomplished these desired goals.

(in the order of their importance to us)

1. The CHARACTER and SPIRITUAL growth of our children

When we school at home, we can work on these when our kids are frustrated with math, and help them to persevere. We can do this over lunch, with who gets the pink bowl, and teach them to think of others more than themselves. We do this when reading gets frustrating, and cast the vision about reading the Bible. We do this when their sisters interrupt and want attention in the middle of the school day. It happens... all... day... long... in every situation. That’s the kind of training I want my children to have these first years.

2. The relational UNITY of our family

We want our children to view their sisters as their best friends. We believe that the best thing for our girls is to be together... a lot!
They love playing together! (see point 4). We want to fight the pattern of the world to separate the family unit, and instead, to have it thrive.

3. The EDUCATION of our children

This reason was a distant third on our first list, but has moved up in importance as our children have grown up. My children are learning, that God made the stars, the logic of math, the beauty of language, the role of the church in history, and the importance of reading, writing, and speaking clearly and accurately for the knowing, loving, and sharing of God and his truths. I want them to know that “geometry” is the display of order, and that the “periodic table” is the blue-print of God’s molding clay. All of these disciplines together formulate our children’s worldview. Until my children are able to understand the active influence of an “education without Theistic reference,” I will do everything I can to associate EVERYTHING THERE IS with their Creator, including reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s not necessarily that the public schools will “ruin” my children by teaching “evil”... it’s that they CAN’T teach them how ALL knowledge reflects the beauty and wisdom and glory of their God! We want them to know no separation between “secular” and “sacred.’ It’s all sacred!

4. Allowing time for our kids to PLAY

We want our kids to be kids. We want them to play. We do 2-4 hours of school a day, and then they can play... and play they do! They make forts, collect bugs, play store, animal doctor... and just about any world that can be imagined.. they have done it. They are allowed to have the time to do what kids want and need to do.. play.


Learning is about time, quantity, and quality. These kids need all the time they can get... hence, Deuteronomy 6. It don’t think anyone could argue against this... homeschooling families have more time to accomplish these tasks.

In response to j and j masson, my kids are fully aware of the “badness” outside of our home, and the equal “badness” within it. We are a family of unclean lips, and we live in a land of unclean lips. My kids are in soccer 2-3 time a week... D6 on Wednesday... church on the weekends.. and play with their unbelieving friends everyday. They are socially very strong. There is no separation between my kids and the world. They know full well that they are just like the world. And... their hearts break for our neighbors who yell and scream at each other every morning and every evening.

The bottom line question is not “Is the Bible pro-homeschool?” nearly as much as it is “Based on the God given, biblical roles of the parents, what is the best way to steward the responsibility of training my children while still being active in reaching our community?” The Bible does compel "our family" to conclude that homeschooling best facilitates this goal.


Metropuritan Mark said...

Well said, Todd. I think you and Ranel are doing a great job raising your kids. I can't think of any parent who is more purposeful. What I love about your post is that it's not as polarizing as mine :)

Thanks for the input. I think parents will do well to follow your example of being D6 moms and dads.

- Mark

Anonymous said...

Good article on the subject

Anonymous said...

If the Bible is not "pro-homeschool", is it "anti-homeschool"? You might want to rephrase your stance that causes you such frustration. Is the Bible "pro-public school" either? I think the Bible is "pro-family" but why are you so defensive and attacking on homeschoolers? Can we not just agree to not judge each other's family decisions? It would be nice to come to a point where we respect and appreciate each other's decisions that are not rooted in sin. Perhaps you need to wrestle through your own stance on schooling for your family.