Friday, April 23, 2010

homeschooling and unschooling

recent discussions with friends on homeschooling have forced me to clarify my stance on the matter, and really get down with what i believe about this subject.

i used to believe that homeschooling was a neutral matter--could be good, could be bad. then i believed one should pray about it for each child and decide that way. then i believed that it would definitely be good for us, because the education one can receive at home can be so much superior (with less time-waste) than the education one would receive in CA public schools. (thinking, "i wouldn't mind sending them to montessori school, but since we can't afford that...) now i have come to believe that it is pretty much a must for Christian parents in a secular age.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says,
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

if we are to be speaking to our children of the Lord's commands all day long, yet we are only with our children in the evenings, or afternoons, we are only partially fulfilling this command of God. He also puts the responsibility of the teaching on the parents, and there are many other places in scripture that affirm this. (see end of paragraph for further study) So I believe that even if children are at a Christian school, the Deuteronomy 6 mandate is not being obeyed.
(Deut. 4:9-10, 4:21-24, 6:1-9, 20-25, 11:18-21, 31:19-21, 32:46-47.
Psalm 45:17, 48:12-14, 71:18, 78:1-8, 79:13, 145:4-5.
Proverbs 6:20-24, 31:1. Isaiah 38:19, 59:21. Joel 1:3)

i can see why not all Christian parents would want to accept this. they might send their children out in order to "be a light in the world" or to "challenge and grow their faith." Nowhere in scripture does it support either of these ideas. Christian mothers may also fall into the trap of wanting to get some time during the day to be involved in ministry or help earn income for the family (which God clearly puts on the husband. will He not be faithful and provide enough with the way He has set things up?) and while the scripture does not directly say "thou shalt homeschool," i think it does give parents full responsibility for the godly education of their children and it does make sense to me that when they are gone in a secular environment most of the day, one has to backpedal very hard to make the godly education still THE biggest factor in their young minds. not to mention that the implied things of scripture need not be deemed unimportant. let us remember that the trinity itself, a foundational doctrine, is not spelled out in black and white in the Bible, but implied. because i believe that God has set up children to be with their parents at all times during their early years, and most of the time during their growing up years, i personally do not think that young children need to be sent out into the world to be a light or to have their faith challenged just yet. we must use the years of impressionability to form their minds always toward God. the most important thing the Lord wants us to teach our children is to fear Him. Can we do this as effectively with the school teaching them otherwise? the Lord does call US to be a light. He calls US to be a witness for Him. i believe it is a sad disservice to our children if we put them out there as if they were an arm or a leg of ours, expecting them to shine the light for us, when they have not reached the age where we would consider them "accountable." the Bible seems to favor long preparation times for ministry and service. Jesus himself officially began His ministry at age 30. i hope we don't think His early life was a waste of time!

one friend of mine argued that some parents would be just miserable homeschooling, and it would be better for them to send their children to public school. really? what is parenting? what is motherhood? the Bible says that women will be made whole through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15)! this speaks of the fact that motherhood is a great sacrifice, and it is through this death to self that we grow and are made whole in Him. i would not describe myself as a natural homeschooling mom. i would have much preferred, at one point, to have most of the day to myself again, to work at my own thing, to get my "down" time, and to "recharge." but is that the kind of wholeness God wants me to have? i find that if i am convicted about something in the Lord, He gives me the strength and the joy to carry it out as well. of course this cannot be recommended for a non-Christian, who might actually go crazy! but with the Holy Spirit, i will never be afraid of the sacrifices He asks me to make, or the path He decides to send me on! submission is a beautiful thing.

i realize that most children in public school who have involved, sincere Christian parents at home, do end up following the Lord when they grow up, but i think a lot of confusion and time-wasting frivolity comes in in the meantime. (it did for me.) also, along with homeschooling, i think early child training is totally key, and parents must be loving and gentle as well as firm in their approach. (the Bible teaches gentle and total communication with children, it is not just "spanking is the only thing to do.") i am seeing now that i did not have consistent and insistent early childhood training in respect, thankfulness, cheerfulness, immediate obedience, listening, etc. what i want for my children is to be able to follow the Christian path without that too-commonly-seen-as-necessary period of rebellion. i reject the idea that the period of rebellion is inevitable and that it is even good. i think God would rather have that we never rebel. it IS possible to experience His goodness and be on fire in spirit faith without that experience. and that is why i look to families who have raised children to adulthood who 1) are contented, sincere, brave, joyful, on-fire christians making a difference (NOT separated from society as adults), and 2) haven't felt the need to rebel. all of the families like this i have researched have homeschooled. so i see it not only as encouraged in the Bible, but also supported by real life, modern day examples that i can observe for myself. now i think for me one of the hardest things has been to humble myself and get the stereotype out of my head that homeschooling families are boring, or that the life devoid of rebellion is boring. yeah. that's been a challenge.

the other concept i've come across recently is "unschooling," which is basically an extension of modern psychology trends crossed with new-age humanist beliefs about how to raise "free" and creative children. my friend pointed me to a blog (walk slowly, live wildly) that expounded in some depth about the theory of "unschooling," though i had already come across the concept in real life situations.

i sort of love it, sort of hate it. like the ideals behind it, love that they (and we!) live in a country where this is (still) allowed, and i agree with what the author says about socialization, reading, and math. however, i think this is a really misguided way to raise a child, especially for Christians. God gave us specific roles for a reason. and the specific roles are only for specific seasons. one need not feel sorry for a child for having parents that raise him up toward godly goals, restricting his choices especially while young, because this child eventually becomes an adult with his own children, and will get his turn to make all the choices! the parents have equipped him to make the right ones. i think it is wrong to teach a child that they are on par with adults in all ways. of COURSE their value is the same, but their roles are different, and their level of knowledge is very different. God put parents in the seat of authority over the child to teach discipline, self-denial, and self-control, (doing so with great love, constant communication, and gentleness,) and a love for learning. Proverbs 22:6 says, "train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." are the parents in the unschooling world doing anything resembling training? if anything, they are training the child to believe he is his own master, needing not to answer to anybody. parents should never feel bad for training into a child Biblical concepts and values. the Bible says that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7), and we should start from scripture when it comes to education theory, not just throw it in there somewhere as one piece of the pie, should the child ask. there is much depth in that concept of training. it is not just pointing them in the right direction. it is consistently and continuously reinforcing things to children to teach them "the way they should go." not letting them go their own way, or choose their own path from childhood, but showing them the right path and training it into them.

I find that a lot of the time, as i used to be, parents are afraid they will crush a child's creativity, or spirit, if they give too much direction or restrict choices. the Bible speaks directly to this concept as well, and thankfully i came across this verse and was freed from the wavering lack of confidence i had in the way to go about child rearing: Proverbs 15:4 says, "A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit." this dispels the notion that one crushes the spirit by training a child or limiting choices early in life. instead, the way to crush a spirit is to have a manipulative, harsh, or "perverted" tongue: speaking things in rashness, irritation or anger, or speaking things that are distorted or untrue. personally, i found that when i let my youngsters have their choice of everything, it would lead to stress and be so unworkable that eventually i would get irritated and snap at them. giving toddlers a lot of choices or trying to accommodate their wills as much as possible is doing them a disservice. they don't even KNOW what they want, poor things, they are given over to the whims of their flesh! sometimes i would find that sparrow had asked for twenty things (some directly contradicting the others) in the space of five minutes, and no matter how much i tried to give her them all, she would still go on wanting, and being unhappy! i'm sorry, but a child is NOT a mere "guest in your home." a child is your God-given responsibility, to raise up in the ways of the Lord. let us take up our task with fear and reverence, that we might present our children to Him whole!

the family of "walk slowly, live wildly" will raise a very self-confident and independent child, and that is where i think they've gone wrong. nothing in the scripture indicates that we should focus on self-confidence nor independence. indeed, the scripture decries these "qualities." i am not speaking of God-given self-worth here, but society's interpretation of self-confidence, which really boils down to self-love, something quite ugly. i know it is a total social no-no to be down on self-confidence, but it's TRUE. well, time will tell, will it not? i have found that the families who have used a style of parenting that originates in the Bible and doesn't sway to current social trends, have ended up with children who ARE very capable and smart and innovative as well as able to follow the Lord obediently, not stifled and boring, if you can imagine! (gasp!) and then there is the practical factor: the family in the above-mentioned blog, has a mere two children. would their parenting style work with three, four, ten children? Nooooooo.... and yet, God somehow (mistakenly?) made our wombs to work over, and over, and over again. it seems that God designed us to have big families, and it would therefore be wiser to adopt a parenting approach that would work with many children, whether you have one or one dozen.


esther said...

"but with the Holy Spirit, i will never be afraid of the sacrifices He asks me to make, or the path He decides to send me on! submission is a beautiful thing."

hmmmmm... :)

Doris M McDonnell said...

i heard yet another pastor the other day speaking of putting his children in public school as a witness... many pastors in this country do that routinely. adults should be the ones taking responsibility for witnessing to others without putting it on their children so early. WE can invite children into our homes, start after-school singing hour, or and maybe some of us have husbands who are teachers and are also representing Christ to society's children. note that american pastors also have a very high incidence of rebellious children... of course it is clear to me that this is linked to the lack of training and keeping them by side early on, washing them in the word as the Bible says: while walking, sitting, going to bed.