Apr 9, 2014

The problem with homeschooling

(this post is written by a homeschooling mom. please read to the very end before commenting)

When I was 14 years old I was going through one of the hardest years of my life thus far. The world as I knew it had completely been turned upside down. My mom had moved out and my sister and I were left with our dad. A man who was emotionally distant and even though we lived with him, we barely knew him.

I was entering high school, my parents were stuck in the clutches of a bitter divorce and I was left questioning the reason for my existence. Leaving this world seemed so much easier than trudging hopelessly through the mire alone. It was such a dark time in my past. 

My dad is a man's man, rough around the edges but more sensitive than he'd care to let on. He grew up in the country and at that time we were living on the very ranch his dad built with own two hands for my grandma. Living on a ranch is a hard life. There is hardly any time for rest. My dad too was going through the hardest time in his life as he had to say goodbye to his marriage of 18 years and now was raising girls. Growing up the youngest of three boys, girls were emotional creatures he knew nothing about and God gave him three. Staying at the Ranch after my mom left was hard. Everywhere we looked there were memories of the family that used to be. 

My dad got up before the sun to make it to his blue-collared job working an assembly line in a town an hour away. He was a hard worker and was doing everything he knew how to do to provide for us.

During that time we had a lot of christian homeschool friends that we spent time with. I was drawn to their homes like a moth to light. There was such peace. I can't tell you how many times I would curl up on their couch and just sleep. The sounds of a home filled with laughter, love, family and most importantly a home where Jesus resided in their hearts was enough to lull my restless aching heart to sleep. Sleep was something I was not getting in my own home. There was too much turmoil, too much pain to feel safe enough to rest. 

I longed for a family like their family. I looked to them to point me towards faith, hope, comfort, friendship and love. 

But what I soon discovered is that this family was a little unsettled to have my sister and I spending so much time with them. We were "foreigners" in their eyes and looked at as people that their children should be protected from. This was made clear to me when one of their daughters made the comment that their parents told them to "Watch out for us. Be careful spending so much time with us." 

Why? Well, she went on to share with me, simply because my sister and I had been public schoolers and went to a different church than them. (it was still an evangelical bible believing church) Because we wore jeans instead of culottes or skirts. I had "too much of the world" because I got my hair cut and highlighted, wore earrings, and makeup. I had a boyfriend at the time, if you could even call it that instead of the courting process they promoted. 

After hearing this, I excused myself to bathroom, where I wept. I knew they didn't believe in boyfriends so I refrained from talking about him. I was a good kid by public school standards. I didn't party, sneak out, have sex or cuss.  But to give their children pause because I was public schooled and had been exposed to "the things of the world" was incredibly crushing and isolating. 

And the ironic thing was I was so insecure about all the things they were fearful of. The clothes I was wearing were hand me downs because my dad couldn't afford much. My hair cut at the time was given to me by a stylist who had no idea what she was doing, the result was humiliating. The earrings I wore at the time were given to me by my aunt and were the only ones I owned. I was trying to teach myself how to wear make-up by reading teen magazines since my mom wasn't there to teach me. As for my faith, I kept questioning why God would allow things to happen the way they did in our family.

I wanted to be loved by these people. I wanted these people to show me Jesus because if anyone could it would be them. But they were being driven by fear not love. Fear of what could happen if their children hung out with a broken, weary girl wearing a hand me down Abercrombie and Fitch shirt. The world you are trying to protect our children from is the very world that contains the people we are called to love. Parents, in trying to teach our children to not love the things of this world do not forget to teach them to love the people of this world. 

Instead of saying "Be careful of those public schoolers" their conversation could have gone like this... 
"Kids our friends are spending a lot of time with us because of a hard situation they are going through. What a great opportunity to point them towards Christ. Ask them how they are doing. How we can be praying for them. God has brought them here for a reason, let's not waste this opportunity to love." 

After hearing a homeschool parent say "my kids are not supposed to be missionaries" my heart broke. If we are not teaching our children to be missionaries to their friends, neighbors, church friends, and other broken people that God brings in our lives then what the HECK are we doing?!

"The commissioning of the early church in Acts 1:8 includes taking this good news to every part of the earth outside our little family circle, especially into our neighborhoods. Let's face it: it's impossible to be a witness to unbelieving neighbors if we shun them because we are afraid they will pollute our holy family." - Elyse Fitzpatrick pg. 117 in Give Them Grace

I'm not saying throw them into a situation where they would be pressured to use drugs, send them to a rated R movie or any other situation that may be harmful. Yes, please protect them from those things. What I am saying is that our goal as Christian parents who want to homeschool our children, should be to teach our children how to love people like Christ loved the woman at the well. Teach them to open their eyes to the hurt that someone may be going through regardless if they go to the same church, wear the same clothes, or listen to music other than hymns. Stop letting fear control you. That is not of Christ, he did not give us a spirit of fear BUT of love. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Fear and control is what drives legalism in homeschooling and Christianity in general. What does legalism produce in those little impressionable hearts that God has entrusted to you? Self-righteousness. 

"I'm afraid that we are all too skilled at raising children in christian homes who feel no need for God's help. Who don't feel like they need grace, who actually feel like they're ok. One of the big issues for our kids is not unrighteousness but self-righteousness. " - Paul Tripp

 As a teenager I once had a homeschool mom refuse talk to me for several months because I disagreed with her about an issue. She could have used that scenario to teach, love on and pray for me instead she let her legalism and self-righteous attitude drive her actions. Actions that were not loving or of gospel-centered. 

Self-righteousness and legalism seem to be a big struggle in Christian homeschool circles. I have been hurt by it and I know others have as well. Your legacy to your children shouldn't be we are better than others because we homeschool or don't watch TV, don't listen to music with a beat, don't date, have whole books of the bible memorized, go on mission trips twice a year, wear nothing but skirts or don't cut our hair. Because God does not have a godly meter or love you more or less based on your rituals and legalistic rules. Your legacy needs to be humility and love. Teach them to seize opportunities to love and share the Gospel when they arise. If you have personal convictions on clothing choices, schooling , etc., teach them (when they are old enough to understand) that those things don't make them better or more holy, they are just that..personal convictions.

So what's the problem with homeschooling? Nothing. The problem with homeschooling isn't homeschooling itself. It's our intent and attitude behind why we homeschool. Is homeschooling an idol, creating feelings of superiority to another person that chose a different route of education for their children? Is homeschooling a way to shelter your kids from the world in an extreme way to where they are not taught how to share the gospel or love on the very people Christ called us to love on?

It may seem like I'm picking on home schoolers not all homeschoolers struggle with this issue. And it should be said that we homeschool and will continue to do so in their early years because I have a son that requires one on one attention and I LOVE homeschooling. We are very much a pro-homeschool family. So I am preaching to myself as well. The self-righteous, legalistic attitude is  an easy trap to fall into. We can't forget to teach our children to demonstrate grace to others as well as love others just as Christ did to us. This post applies to all Christians and all education options not just homeschoolers.


What are some ways that we can instill an attitude of grace, compassion and love in our children towards the hearts of others instead a heart that fears or feels superior to people different from them? What are some ways we can avoid self-righteous, legalistic attitudes?

Love y'all!

Monica


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7 comments:

  1. LOVE this! I like the point you made about fear driving decisions. I was thinking about this recently when I read Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Keller. He also spoke to the idea of fear driving our decisions as parents and our desire to make safe Christian kids when we should really be focusing on making strong Christian kids. Thanks for sharing our insights!

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  2. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your post! We put our kids in public school so that we can be a testimony of the gospel in our neighborhood. The blessing of seeing our kids have an impact for Christ on our culture far outweighs my fears that I had of putting them in public school initially. I with all homeschool families had your perspective, but sadly, I too see your description above as the norm. Blessings to you!

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  3. My hearts for you as a young girl. I live in a community that's often obsessed with looking the part and doing the "good works" without showing the love. I'm guilty of it too. Sometimes I forget about Jesus' sacrifice. He saved me first! So I need to show that same grace to others.

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    1. *my heart goes out to you as a young girl <-- [is what that should say]

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  4. Monica, I have missed your graceful way of saying such important things. You have a real gift for speaking the truth with love. Thank you for this great reminder to show love and give grace to those in need.

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  5. Thanks for your insight! I have many friends who are Christians, and when my husband and I made the decision to send our child to public school, not private or homeschool, were opened mouthed and "how could you send your kid to that place" response. My son's school is a lower income, and multi-ethnic school, and I love that he gets to see all sides of life. That he realizes that we are very blessed with our home, food, and basic needs. He realizes that not everyone lives with a hot meal on the table, and it helps him to appreciate and have a giving heart to those less fortunate. I agree that each family must pray, and make the decision that best suits them.

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