Homeschooling: A Haven For Discipling Your Children

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Sue came up to her pastor in tears. “I want to homeschool,” she said, but my parents…(and here her face fell and she curved her hand up against her forehead), my parents are just brutal.

She needn’t say any more.  Any homeschooler has either been in a situation like that, or knows of a friend who has.  Sometimes, it seems, the country that has been “schooled” on how to school by public schooling doesn’t understand the seemingly oddest of alternatives.

When homeschoolers list those who have enjoyed similar educational benefits at some point in their lives they include names like C.S. Lewis, the Wesley brothers, Jonathan Edwards, William Carey, Dwight Moody, John Newton, Hudson Taylor, Blaise Pascal and Booker T. Washington.

They are tempted to roll such names out because friends, family and church are all too ready to cast doubt on the decision to do the bulk of formal education in the home. No amount of data suggesting it is a superior option for both intellectual attainment and socialization stop many of these naysayers.

The more you discuss the growing option of homeschooling in this nation the more you begin to understand the real reason for reluctance. It’s the overused and overly dramatized “S” word that is frequently aimed at those interested in domestically-centered pedagogy – “Socialization.”

“Describe excellent socialization,” I have typically challenged the challengers. And once they describe it (we all want pretty much the same thing for our offspring) we then have to ask who the best socializers of children really are – hundreds of children with a 1-15 (or thirty) teacher-student ratio or parents in a home setting with one-on-one or one-on-few ratio? Homeschoolers agree that most cases, most of the time, parents excel over the alternative.

I challenge those who have young children and are interested in excellent disciples with socialization that makes sense to make an “Age 18” list. Search Scripture, use some common sense, think about the needs of the world and then list what you want for your child intellectually, spiritually, relationally, sexually and in terms of service in and beyond their culture. What do you want your child to look like behaviorally and measurably at the age of 18?

Do you want your child to be able to write well? Think well? To know Greek and Hebrew? Have read the “classics?” Algebra? To have a regular daily devotional life? To admire and love their siblings? To respect and be able to converse with their elders? To be a virgin upon marriage? To serve the poor and evangelize their friends, relatives and neighbors?

Make such choices (and dozens of others) and then choose your educational strategy from there. Truth is, it is remarkable once this “18” list is drawn up how the light comes on for many evangelical parents. If they have made a radically redemptive inventory quite a few begin to understand that giving up the prime disciple-making hours of the schooldays/weeks/months/years to people far less interested in their child’s spiritual well-being than themselves frequently becomes debilitating to their stated hopes and dreams for their children.

My eldest once asked why it was a bad idea to attend a tuition-free secular school. “Because,” I said, “I agree that education is the architecture of the soul. And no one at that school cares about your soul.”

Still, what most suggest with their query about socialization is that most homeschoolers surely must be odd, or inexcusably sheltered. Maybe, but a quick look at any schooling system will note a fair share of “odd” or underdeveloped, immature kids.

Still, if it could be biblically understood that even the word “holy” means “odd” or different, I’ll take that kind of peculiar. And if my “Age 18” list includes radical and Christlike character, service and community then my children will likely go sing hymns and counsel with Dad at the abortion clinic, or stand with us trying to pray outside the local strip clubs, or go with Mom to the nursing home to love on the aged, or help us plant a church (all, we can attest, great homeschooling activities). They also might join some ball teams, become a Scout, participate in the youth group or find a way to join the choir at school.

Even so, the great Shema passage of Deuteronomy says that we should teach our kids diligently as we sit in our houses, as we walk by the way, when we lie down and rise up.  We should bind the commandments of God on our bodies and write these laws on our houses and gates.  (6:7-9)

Homeschoolers seem to be saying this: a pedagogical method that is good enough for the most recited passage of the Old Testament is good enough for us.

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Dr. Matt Friedeman is Professor of Evangelism and Discipleship at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS, and pastor of DaySpring Community Church. His book Swallowed Up in God: The best of Francis Asbury’s Journal and Letters is available at Amazon.com.

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