Perhaps you’ve read the articles and are pumped about the possibility of donning professor robes and providing advanced tutelage in biochemistry and British literature to your eager two year old.
Maybe you’ve already started homeschooling and realize that preparing your kids for college by the age of twelve is proving to be harder than you thought.
Whether you’re new to the idea or a veteran home educator, I’d like to ask you to reconsider your reasons for homeschooling.
The Rise of a Homeschooler
My parents joined the second wave of parental pedagogues. They had to fight the flagrant researchless bias, paranoid government oversight, and baseless social stigmas. I, therefore, was part of the second generation of homeschooled kids who didn’t realize how weird everyone else thought we were.
Sure my grades were better than 99% of the nation’s children, but I got to do my homework in my PJs! I could handle the fact that people were too silly to understand that mine was a win-win situation.
As I matured and began to grasp the educational climate, I took more ownership for my family’s choices. I read a lot and debated even more. By the time I was in grad school, I’d written numerous papers on the spiritual, mental, emotional, and social benefits of homeschooling . . . and my grades were still exemplary.
I was one of those homeschooled graduates who couldn’t fathom why I would even consider depriving my own children of the massive educational benefits of homeschooling for the burned-out, flavorless, cookie-cutter byproducts of “traditional” schooling. So, when my son was born, he pre-registered for the third generation of misunderstood geniuses, and my daughter received her owl two years later.
But then I received the news.
The Quandary of a Homeschooler
You see, by this time I’d been working at a Christian school for seven years. I was on faculty for all that time and two years earlier been promoted to assistant administrator. I loved my job. God had given me a robust ministry that utilized all of my passions.
Then it happened.
“I’m sorry, Aaron. You’ll have to enroll your children in our school if you’d like to continue working here.”
Don’t you understand? I’m the poster child for the homeschooling movement! In sixth grade I not only had a post-graduate reading level, but I’d also finished algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, and in my free time managed to pass the California teacher certification test! Now, my own six-year-old is successfully doing 4th grade math, and you want me to enroll him in our school where he’ll only be allowed to do 1st grade math?!
All of the papers I’d ever written and all of the studies I’d ever researched splayed out in my mind like a graduate school book list. How could this man ask me to purposefully give my children less than my best?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Christian school movement. I loved our school. I dedicated nearly a decade of my life to it. I figured that since not everybody can (or should) teach their kids at home – those children really needed to be in the Christian school.
But what about people who have the wherewithal to homeschool? The benefits of homeschooling form a massive precipice of avalanching positives no one can outrun! Who wouldn’t homeschool their kids if they had even half a chance?
So, I wrote out my list of reasons.
I presented my position.
I was kindly and lovingly denied my request.
I was crushed. Men I respected, men I counted to be my spiritual mentors were telling me I was wrong. Was I wrong? I sought counsel, I went back over the research. I played Devil’s advocate and thought outside the box so much that at times I wondered if I’d been living in the wrong box. I even contemplated the possibility that my parents were some fringe weirdos intent on producing poorly socialized wallflowers.
But in the end, I realized my data wasn’t wrong, and if that’d been my parent’s goal, they failed miserably. The research really is undeniable. When done correctly, homeschooling is the best educational model available.
Nothing can compare.
But through the ordeal, I came to realize my reasons for homeschooling weren’t as fantastic as I thought they were.
The Rise of a Parent
Never having to study mathematics after elementary is great. Graduating from high school at twelve is pretty cool. Avoiding the panoply of negative social influences in the classroom is awesome. But are any of those really the best reason to homeschool?
There are thousands of unsaved parents successfully homeschooling their children. There are millions of homeschool graduates daily proving that home education works. But as a Christian I finally realized my goals weren’t grand and glorious enough; in fact they now seemed to toddle around like a tipsy two-year old.
I remember the day I explained it to my wife. I remember admitting that I’d been looking at it all wrong. We shouldn’t have wanted to homeschool our kids just because they could receive a better education.
We needed to homeschool our children because we believed that was the best way for our family to glorify God.
God hadn’t commanded me to teach my 1st grader 5th grade math. God hadn’t instructed me to teach my son to write poetry. But He did demand that I be a full-time, intentional, disciple-maker.
Let’s take a closer look in reverse order.
Discipleship is a word most Christians use to define their church ministries. Don’t attend a church that isn’t working hard on discipleship.
But what does “discipleship” really mean?
Seriously, do we actually have a modern day equivalent to the idea that was first-century discipleship? Unless you know someone working and living alongside their mentor as an old-school apprentice . . . I think we’d be hard pressed to find a comparable relationship outside the home. I argue the only legitimate parallel we have is parenting. Disciples lived, worked, and ate with their masters. It required large amounts of time because of the large amount of information and the large amount of practice required. It took Jesus at least three years of nearly hourly contact to prepare His disciples.
I’m not saying that a once-a-week-for-an-hour-small-group can’t call itself a discipleship class, but I am saying that our contemporary understanding is far from the biblical precedent.
The first institution God created was the family. It exists to mirror our saving relationship with Christ, be a model of the Trinity, and equip children with the spiritual Truths necessary to be shot out like an arrow in order to make their own disciples. It’s the parents’ responsibility – not the pastors, not the school teachers, not the coaches . . . the parents.
If you’re a Christian who wants to homeschool your children, I propose it had better be because you take your role as a God-ordained disciple-maker seriously. And if that’s true, you’d better not be skimping on Bible class to squeeze in another elective.
If nothing else, intentionality is a massive buzzword. We love it. It’s so . . . intentional.
But it’s also a powerful word because disciples cannot be made accidentally.
No one inadvertently makes disciples. If you’re not purposefully taking time with your children to lead them in the ways of righteousness, it’s not going to happen. If you don’t deliberately plan daily time between dinner and bedtime or practice and homework, you’ll be a fire-fighting parent who does little more than improvise his time with his kids. And very few of us are any good at improvising intelligible, Bible-focused, life-on-life Truth.
And even though I’m a professional Bible-teacher, counselor, and speaker, my wife and I chose the full-time option because we don’t improvise well in fractured moments either.
If my highest goal is to be a full-time, intentional, disciple-maker then homeschooling becomes a vital part of life. But it’s just a part – a facet. It’s not the main goal.
I suggest that the best reason to homeschool is that you don’t want to delegate vital discipling time to anyone else. It’s not necessarily a sin (and is sometimes advisable) to allow other men and women to share in the discipleship of your children. But our current educational system herds our kids for 8-10 hours a day. Then once you subtract lessons, homework, practices, and rehearsals, how much time does that leave mom and dad?
My wife and I chose the full-time method of discipleship because it most closely reflects the biblical/historical model. Whether it was God in the garden with Adam and Eve, Noah and his kids, Moses and Joshua, or Jesus and the twelve, exponential amounts of time were dedicated to the task.
Take a look at the kids who go to school. Who do they resemble most – their teachers or their peers? Surround a child with twenty others kids just like him and then ask him to emulate the only adult in the room, and what do you get – frustrated teachers and immature children.
But take those same kids one-on-one in extra practices, tutoring sessions, and weekend help-classes and what do you get – greater success and maturity. That’s why even hard-core proponents of public schooling make time to tutor. Intensive focus with one student always works better! And who better to speak Truth into the life of your kids than you?
And though small group education is what homeschooling’s all about, we Christians had better not dive in merely so our kids can get good grades so they can attend a good college so they can get a good job. Then we’re just discipling our kids to be hedonists. Homeschooling only becomes necessary when we embrace the calling to teach our children how to live in God’s economy whether it’s lesson time, lunchtime, or leisure time. Then everything we do will be part of Christ’s discipleship model.
And that’s why I homeschool.
How about you? Please share your thoughts below!