Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Long Post On A Soapbox

Last week we went on a whirlwind Memorial Day beach trip to the Oregon Coast, then off to D.C. for house hunting (we move in less than two weeks...yikes!), and then back home. On our trip home, we stopped by my friend's house and stayed a couple of hours to let the kids out of the car and catch up with chatting. She is just beginning to home school her oldest and our conversation on the topic got me thinking of all the reasons that I want to home school my boys.

I believe my boys deserve, and God commands, that they receive a Christian education. I know that this is possible without home schooling them, or even sending them to a Christian school. However, I'm pretty lazy. I really do not think that I have the energy to "un-teach" the values, behaviors, and morals that are currently taught in government schools. I just don't. Not to mention the fact that they won't be old enough for quite some time to fully report everything they learn in school (including behaviors and words learned at recess). So how can I address lessons they may have learned if I don't know what they are? And, how confusing would it be for my young child to go off to a place that I have sent him to, to learn about many things, and then to come home, only to be told that the things he has learned about who made the world, who is his ultimate authority, etc., are not true? It is confusing for me to try and think of a way to explain to them why I think Christ is the center of our lives, yet I send them to spend the majority of their days at a place where he is at best not mentioned, or at worst ridiculed.

"How can an education that proceeds in part on the assumption that the child is the image-bearer of God and in part on the supposition that it bears the image of the animal, an education that is partly religious and partly irreligious, i.e., anti-religious, ever result in a life that is truly unified? It can only lead to one thing, and that is a divided life so strongly condemned by our Savior (Matt. 6:22-23), a life with scattered energies and dissipated powers, swayed and torn by conflicting opinions, lacking in singleness of purpose, in stability and strength, and in that true joy that fills the soul which is consciously moving in the right direction." -- Mortimer Adler

Some might argue that in lower grades, children aren't learning about complex issues that require God to be addressed in school. Kindergartners aren't debating evolution, right? They are learning the basics, and the basics don't involve religion, right? I wholeheartedly disagree! From the very youngest age, Scripture and God and the order of His universe should be the central point of our children's education. Some people think that government schools are neutral on the issue of religion, and therefore our children aren't getting a religious education while they are in them. But if they aren't taught that God is Lord over all things, if they aren't taught that they are His image-bearers, then they are getting a religious education, albeit one that Christian parents don't want them to have.

"An education that denies God and His Word as the interpretive principle of al all things, including academic disciplines, is an education that implicitly denies the whole of biblical truth and the validity of the Christian faith." --Stephen C. Perks

I myself went to public school and private school. I know the difference having God involved in each and every lesson makes. That isn't to say that every math problem in my Christian school was a word problem including Scripture. But we did pray before each class, and it was understood that the order in the universe represented by the figures in our text book was divine. In science, we studied life and cells and microbiology with the presupposition that the wonder in the creation we saw was from the Maker.

The other thing that prompted me to write this post was a posting over at The Common Room. The issue of socialization came up in a post she had linked to (as it always does in home schooling discussions) and there were many amazing comments from home schoolers about the issue. This one truly stood out to me:

"Thus I find myself asking yet again: Does anyone find it a tad disconcerting that we all so willingly and unquestioningly accept the state as the primary agent of socialization for the child? "

My answer to that question is yes! And more than just a tad! The home schooled kids that I know are far from isolationists. In fact, they experience more varied groups of people than I did when I was in school and spent all day in a room of kids from my age group.

Some Christian families I know have put their children in public schools to be "salt and light" or "missionaries" to their classroom. While I respect their choices for their family, I do disagree with this position. In general I feel that missionaries require many months, if not years, of training before going out into the field. In most cases, kindergartners are just beginning to arrive at a saving knowledge of their faith...certainly not equipped to defend their beliefs or explain them in school with an authority figure who is charged with keeping religion out of the classroom. If their teacher tells them something that they believe is untrue, how are children to defend themselves? Who is going to have a bigger impact on the classroom: a child/student who has one small voice among many and no authority, or a teacher with all of the power and authority? I submit that children should not be put in a classroom in order to evangelize until they are at least in their teens, and even then it depends on the child.

I confess that I'm often a bit wistful when friends speak of sending their children off to school some day. I think about what it would be like to have a quiet house for 6 hours per day. And yet, I don't think I can do it, for all the reasons I've listed above. If I found a school that was able to cater to my children's individual learning needs, taught a classical curriculum focused on Christ as the Center of all things, and held high standards of discipline...and I could actually afford it? I'd definitely be sending them off to school. ;)


Kristen said...

I really like your point of view. I think above all the most important thing we teach our children is about God and His sacrifice, love, salvation, grace, mercy.... It is my constant prayer that God draw my children to Him whatever it takes, and I wholeheartedly mean that.

I cringe at the idea of people sending their children off to school in order to be missionaries. I just cannot imagine most children are ready for that until, like you said, their teens, and even then I think that shouldn't be the focus until they are adults whether they are equipped or not. Because until they are adults, they are basically still under our tutelage, and we are to be still teaching them the ways of God.

What I found really interesting is how you said you are too lazy to reteach them. I totally see your point. The thing is, I'm know that if I was teaching them academics all day, I would tire of teaching them spiritual things, even if it was incorporated in their learning. I know I would be too focused on meeting all the requirements for their education. And I want to spend my energy teaching them about God.

We started out thinking we were going to home school and now feel led to send them to public school. I'd love to send them to the private Christian school here (where they will attend preschool) for all of their schooling, but financially that is not an option. We are not sending them to public school so they can be salt and light, like some people would think. We honestly believe (at this point) that's what God wants us to do. We know that can change at any time or be different for each child. But when we really think about it, our motivation for homeschooling would be out of fear of the public schools, which is the wrong reason to home school. (I know that's not your reason.) And when we look at it all logically, it makes sense why God is leading us this way. For one, He has ordained that I have some serious physical limitations (especially at the moment). That is what He has chosen for us, and that means a different lifestyle for our family. And, honestly, I would be a terrible mom if I home schooled! I do not have the energy to educate, parent, teach spiritual matters, clean house, and be the wife my husband deserves. I want a good balance for all these things, which means finding priorities and cutting extra things out. Most people do not have to choose, though I'm sure no mom can do everything 100%!

All that to say, I totally appreciate your point of view and love that you value these things for your boys. They are fortunate to have you and Steve for parents.

Jodi said...

Oh Kristen, I hope I didn't sound too preachy or critical about Christians that don't homeschool their kids. I just had a lot on my mind after a few days of mulling things over and conversing and reading a lot. I had to get it out. :) Plus I am writing from an area where the schools have taken the kids to see the Dalai Lama and learn from his wisdom as a field trip when he was visiting Seattle. :/

I know you guys have a unique situation with your health and everything. I admire you for your strength working through all of that with three kiddos!!

I did want to address this one thing, mainly because I definitely don't plan on doing school all day:

The thing is, I'm know that if I was teaching them academics all day, I would tire of teaching them spiritual things, even if it was incorporated in their learning.

The reason I found home schooling doable for us was because most families I know that homeschool don't do academics all day, or even anywhere close to it. The little ones who are just starting do about two hours max, and even the older kids are usually done between noon and two p.m.

I'm not trying to convince you to home school (I hope it doesn't sound that way), and I totally get why you guys are going to do public school for your kids. I just wanted to put it out there that I really felt overwhelmed by the prospect until I saw some home schooling families in action and saw that it allowed the mom to be much more flexible with her time not having to deal with school schedules. And the families were really spending a small percentage of their day on academics.