Friday, November 08, 2013

A Christian Homeschool Trap – Part 2: Some Solutions

I really meant to write this closer to the last article but that is life, it sometimes gets in the way of writing.

This post is in answer to a trap I have observed in Christian homeschooling circles, you can read that article here: A Christian Homeschool Trap – Part 1: A Problem.  The truth is it is often easy to find a problem and it can even be, at times, easy to provide quick solutions.  However, to find solutions that align with God and His Word often take some effort.  Not always to find the solution but definitely to discern the manner in which one accomplishes the desired ends.  So, here is an attempt to offer some solutions and if I do not answer every question at least, I pray, I have sparked some thought on the subject so that Biblical solutions are sought after and derived that best disciple ones children to glorify God in all of life.

If our culturally ingrained view of education tends to lead us in a wrong direction then what are we to do?  In Christian Homeschooling one of the greatest trials most parents face is in choosing ones “curriculum.”  It is even one place that can lead people to balk at homeschooling all together as they are just so overwhelmed at where to go and what to do.  If you have been to a homeschooling conference you will know what I mean. I believe this trial comes from what I think is a misguided view of education, or better yet discipleship, that has been ingrained in us by our current educational system and where it came from.  We have been taught for so long that our job as parents is to “educate” our children for their future, a future that is “better” than ours.  The problem with that premise, or perspective, is that we begin to partake in “education” and lose sight of our call to “discipleship” as well as often neglecting to ask God what we are to prepare our children for, serving Him.

If our call, our mandate, is to disciple our children, and it is, as we see in such passages as Deut 6:4-7; Prov 22;6 & Eph 6:4 then we need to be focused on that discipleship.  On discipleship that prepares our children to walk with the Lord and glorify Him for the entirety of their lives.  You will be hard pressed to find passages in scripture that tell you that your child needs to read by “X” age and/or be able to excel in Math but you will find that it is a child that honors God that most glorify Him.  For too long our focus on education, as Christian parents, has taken us away from what should be our primary purpose, that of raising children to honor and glorify God.  Yes they may do so in the current educational paradigm but I think if we are honest we will have to admit that glorifying God as He is wants to be glorified is often not done as it should be and we need to realize that how we disciple our children is one of the causes of this.

Let me add here that this does not mean we should not train our children to read, speak or even be able to add and subtract.  The Puritans, before they let their focus on education get the better of them, saw that training children to read was for the primary purpose of them being able to read God’s Word and understand it and thus called for by God. Just as reading is important so as to be able to read God’s word writing and speaking (speech) is important for the clear communication of the Gospel and the defense of the faith.  I should add here that when I say “speech” I am not talking about formal events or debate but that through the reading and use of God’s word we can teach our children how to communicate in both written and verbal forms.  We need to regain that focus.  So that when it comes to reading, speaking and truly any thing we teach, we see the true purpose of all teaching is to lead them to best glorify God.  The primary purpose of discipleship/education is not so our children can have a good job or so they can get into a desirable college and when we become focused on that goal we have lost our way and truthfully we will in the end often lose our children to the world.  One of the main reasons we often lose our children to the world is that they learn early that worldly standards are given precedence over God’s glory, even if not done purposefully, and this stays with them.

Is there a place for math and the sciences in our teaching?  I guess that is a yes and no question.  I do not want to sound like I am necessarily anti-technology but we really do need to remember why we do what we do.  If math and science add to ones appreciation and devotion for and of God then what greater joy could there be than that.  However, all too often, even in Christian households, that focus, if there at all, is often lost in the routine of the process.  I will also add here, and will touch on this more later, that we also need to begin to rethink what we view as desirable futures for our children.  The future of many children in Christian Homeschool families is little more than sanctified humanism with goals being very much the same as those in the world, but with a Christian veneer.

So, what about curriculum?  Well, much has been said by many about the subject and much more money has been spent, and lost, trying to find the “perfect” one.  Many simply want to give up because they cannot choose between one “Christian Based” curriculum and another with each one telling you it is the best.  I want to add here that often the intentions of the people that put out curriculum are good but I think they too have often been indoctrinated by a faulty worldview about what a “Christian Curriculum” should be.   I am sure that many that are “professionals” in the area of curriculum may scoff at this but I have a simple plan for a curriculum for at least the early years, maybe up to 8-10+, of a child’s discipleship.  We are a people that have been guided to turn over what we need to do ourselves to “professionals” and this happens in how we disciple our children as well.  So what is this revelation I think we need to get hold of – The Bible.  Yep, you heard it here, the Bible.

Just think about it for a moment.  What do your children need to learn so as to walk in the way of the Lord, God’s Word.  Where do you learn the Word of God?  Well, in the Word of God.  Before there was curriculum and most every family had a Bible, or pieces of it, that is what they used to train their children.  Yes there may have been small books people used but they were minimal and mostly biblically based.  Stop and think about it for a moment.  You can teach your child to read, spell and, yes with some ingenuity, even do math using God’s word.  The great benefit of using the Bible is that not only will your children learn to read but also they will be sealing God’s word in their heart.  That cannot be said about reading “Cat in the Hat” or “Jack and Jill”.  Again, I think it is a fear that our children will be different from others around us, yes even in the church, that tends to make us balk at such a simple curriculum.  But different from the world is what we want.

With regards to how long you use just the Bible, I am not sure and would not to set out a time.  In one sense it does not end and I also realize for example at some time one may want to teach other subjects such as maybe geometry as it is greatly helpful to carpenters and other such trades.  The issue then is not necessarily what is taught but how and for what purpose.  Thus, as one moves to possibly other subjects the child has been well grounded and knows the goal of all education.  This understanding will greatly benefit whatever direction one is led in the lives of their children, however never leaving the Bible as the foundation for all that is taught.  My hope is that by starting with the Bible we will progress from there keeping the Bible as the center of all that is done.  As I said in the beginning I do not have all the answers but any answer has to start and end with God’s Holy Word.  

Let me add here that as a family we did not do this with our children.  Others we looked to for guidance at the time did not lead us in this direction.  Also, even when we, well my wife, sensed we should go this direction we let peer pressure get the better of us.   Looking back I truly wish we had gone in this direction and fought the fear of doing so. I can tell you that if I could do it all over again we would follow this plan and I am encouraging my children to follow this path with their children.  

Now to the next step, as I touched on it in the last post, what do we do about college?  Let me start with our mindset because as Christians it needs to change with regards to college.  For far too long we have taken on the world’s perception that it is not only a right but also a necessity for everyone to go to college.  Without dealing with the issue of whether one needs to go to college we should agree it is not a right and it is not for everyone.  We often talk about how great, and productive, America is but that productivity came from a strong work ethic often displayed in trades rather than degrees.  In the early years of the US, and even today in some countries, a youth’s direction was set early in life and a trade was sought after and they were trained in that field.  This direction led people to be trained to produce and not simply consume.  Unfortunately many of the educational choices that many make in secondary education today end up creating consumers and not producers.

I think another issue is that we have become a people that seek to avoid work, especially hard work, even if we do not want to admit it.  Many farmers do not want their children carrying on with farming because it is hard.  Much of the direction of industry is to make work “easier” and many degrees that are sought after are the ones that avoid strenuous work.  I am not saying we need to work in a way that is not intelligent and wastes energy but when we seek to avoid hard labor in work we often end up moving in a direction that avoids hard work all together.   As Christians we need to see that working in a trade is not below us or our children and we need to move them in that direction as God leads.  Once we see that being a farmer, carpenter, plumber or some other tradesman is an honorable profession college becomes less necessary and we have then dealt with a large part of the “What about college?” question.

For those that are called to such things as medicine and such where college may be required then we have to work at rethinking how we accomplish that.  I am not sure there is a quick fix answer in this case but we need to be working towards one.  We as “the church” need to work towards creating truly “Christian” institutions.  Not just institutions that have “Christian” in the name but also have it in focus and doctrine.  Presently most, if not all, universities, and even some labeled “Christian”, that one may need to go to gain the degree they require for some professions are laden with evolutionary thinking and humanistic philosophy.  To send a young person to such a place is in most cases very dangerous and unwise.  We often think we have prepared our children for the challenge of college but in truth I have found very few young men that are ready for the challenges facing them by the onslaught of humanistic pressures and teachings facing them.  As I touched on in the last post if a more classical educational approach has been taken it is even possible we have primed them, albeit unknowingly, to be greatly influenced by the humanism that will surround them on the college campus.  I am sure there are some that can face the struggles and survive but from what we see of youth in the church today those numbers are very few and far between.

So you may say I have not given an answer with regards to college.  But, in some ways I have and that answer is to lead our children in directions that do not need college, and there are many.  I could add that many people, while maybe starting off at less pay and at a lower starting level, have been able to do the same jobs as the college educated – often better.  So if you change your mindset so that monetary gain is not a prime objective then college again becomes less important.  If a trade is the direction of your children then college again becomes a non-issue.  Then, if at the end of all this you still think college is necessary you must spend much time in prayer and then decide what is best for your child’s spiritual welfare, over their financial welfare.

I want to add here that I am not dealing with women in college as I think that is a topic for anther day, not sure when.  But sending ones daughters off to the halls of humanistic academia is extremely dangerous and I have to say unwise.  I am sure that does not sit well with today’s understandings of things but it has not always been so.  My encouragement in this area is to study God’s design and direction for women and I think if we are honest we will find something that looks decidedly different than we see in the professing church today.

If I have not answered all the scenarios I did not plan to.  I hope I have left you with some food for thought and that first thought is one that leads you to take a serious look at how we educate/disciple and what the focus and destination of that education is to be – The Glory of God.  No matter the occupation that ones children are led to if they are discipled to be godly and to glorify God in all things (1 Cor 10:31) the work will deal with itself.  If ones children have to work hard, by the world’s standards especially, for all their life that is not a bad thing.

Maybe the gist of this post is not just about discipleship and how we train our children but is also about working on having a biblical mindset with regards to work and vocation.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Tony, great thoughts here which echo my sentiments. Our family has thought and prayed about the college and vocation issue for a while. I've written several posts regarding our conclusions at Your readers may be interested. Thanks again, Mark