Several times a year, I reflect once again on why we homeschool. It’s become important for me to keep it at the forefront of my mind because if I lose sight of the goal, I’ll get burned out quickly.
Two years ago, I was ready to throw in the towel. A local magnet school had testing in a few weeks and I strongly considered getting my child tested to enter the elite public school. Did I mention I was only 3 months into the school year and my child was only in Kindergarten??? Seriously! I was ready to give up and we had just started!
But then I remembered why we homeschool. No elite science and engineering school could possibly resolve the why for my family.
The why is different for every family. I hear so many reasons–perfectly good ones–for homeschooling. Some are pursuing academic excellence. Some want to encourage free thinking. Some want more time as a family. I love these goals. They’re all admirable and are perfect reasons for homeschooling. But for my family, they are just the icing on the cake.
We homeschool because of the heart.
I would be the last one to bash a public or private school teacher. I was one. I taught 9th grade English to at-risk kids and wealthy kids alike. I can tell you all about a teacher’s love for her children and how she prays for those kids. I had scripture taped to my computer to remind me that my primary job was to glorify God as a teacher.
But you know what? No matter how much she loves those kids, teaching Christ is not on her scope and sequence. It can’t be. It’s really not even appropriate, and if it were, we would have no guarantee that teachers would teach Scripture accurately. So no, teaching Christ is not on the scope and sequence. And that’s good, because as a parent, it’s my job anyway.
My husband and I believe that our primary goal as parents is to disciple our children for Christ. That means we want to teach them how to follow Christ. We want to impart Biblical principles and we want to encourage Christlike attitudes towards work, family, finances, and every single area of life.
We want our children to treasure Christ above all things. We don’t want them focused on which kids are cool and which ones aren’t. We don’t want them focused on things that are temporary. We want them to love Jesus.
When we see issues come up (daily), we can address them. We see pride when one child lords it over another that she did not disobey. And while her outward behavior was great (she obeyed her mommy), the heart attitude is a sinful one that we just can’t permit.
We want to encourage Christlike character. When I talk to someone who isn’t a Christian and they ask us why in the world we want to homeschool, I simply explain that it’s a matter of character. This makes more sense to them than explaining the Biblical idea of discipleship, though sometimes it’s important to tell them about that as well. Character issues are important to us, but they’re important to us in light of Scripture, in light of the fruit of the spirit.
For our family, we’ve decided that the easiest way to accomplish these goals is by homeschooling.
But is it the only choice for a Christian family?
Is it possible to disciple your children for Christ in public school and private school? Yes. Maybe. Sometimes? I don’t know. It depends on tons of different factors, such as the child, the school, the teacher, and the parents’ approach. But I think in many ways, as schools change and society changes, it’s becoming an uphill battle. It just might be easier to achieve those goals by homeschooling.
Don’t get me wrong–homeschooling is hard. It’s incredibly difficult to parent, cook dinner, clean house, and educate the children while puking during morning sickness. It’s a difficult process, yet it’s the easiest way to disciple my kids for Christ. My kids can see my battle with patience and my own sin even as they battle theirs. We can focus on heart issues together, as a family. I’ve seen so many families do this in their homeschool and it’s a beautiful thing to see them graduate high school as homeschoolers with a love for the Lord that is all their own.
At the same time, I do know families who manage to make it work in other settings. For an opposing perspective, here’s an article by Tim Challies that explains a little on how and why they choose public school. I think he brings up some good points, but we feel like homeschooling is the simplest way to achieve our goals for our children. And even Challies encourages parents to explore other options–he says “We public school best when we are willing to not public school.” As a public school teacher, I watched my Christian students struggle more and more with their faith as their high school career progressed. It’s a hard battle when everyone around you is contradicting what you’re taught at home and at church.
To me, putting my children in public school would feel like swimming upstream because there would be a constant litany of issues that need to be addressed. By homeschooling, we can eliminate a lot of the issues and focus on the core issues of education and the heart. We can help our children see the way the Lord works in history, His perfection in mathematics, and his beauty in literature.
I also see this same focus in a handful of private schools. But I also feel that not all private schools are created equally, especially when it comes to focusing on the supremacy of Christ in all areas of education. It’s a perspective that’s hard to find. And even when we do find it, we still should recognize that it’s a parent’s job to disciple, not the teacher’s. We have to partner with teachers.
For our family, we are following the advice of older, wiser friends of ours who said they take it “year by year and kid by kid.” For right now, homeschooling seems like the best and easiest way to disciple our children for Christ. I can’t say where my children will be in 10 years, but I hope my desire will always be to encourage and disciple my children in their relationships with Christ.
I find that 1 Corinthians 10:31, the same scripture I focused on as a public school teacher, can be applied here, just like every area of our lives. Whether you choose to homeschool, private school, or public school, do it all for the glory of God.
Why do you homeschool? Do you think it’s possible to disciple our children in other settings? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. And if you’re a Christian friend of mine who does not homeschool, know that I understand you approach this issue just as prayerfully as I do.