We have just embarked upon our first full year as committed homeschoolers. We made our first attempt after moving last December, and while life for those few months was filled with crisis and chaos, our homeschool experience was generally pleasant. We’re not ready to give up quite yet.
As part of my preparations for the year, I spent some time writing down why we homeschool. It’s a question I am asked often, but, more importantly, it is one I am sure I will ask myself as we go throughout this year. I need to write it down so I can revisit it on those days I am ready to pull my hair out. (Every day?)
But before I offer our list for why we homeschool, I need to preface with a list of things that are not reasons we homeschool.
We do not homeschool because we believe it merits us favor with God.
The only way to merit favor with God is to be united by faith to Jesus Christ, accepting his righteous life and atoning death in our place. We do not in any way believe that homeschooling makes us extra-special-holy. We are not banking any bonus points. We have determined that, right now, this is what it looks like for us to obey God in faithfully parenting our children. We do it messily and imperfectly, desperate for grace and overwhelmingly grateful that Jesus paid for our every failure in full.
We do not homeschool because we think it is the only way to be faithful, obedient parents.
Please notice that I said this is what it looks like for us to obey God in faithfully parenting our children, right now. As Christians, we have this obnoxious tendency to form a conviction and then try to impose that conviction on everyone else. We elevate opinions to laws and then look with contempt upon those who do not live up to our standards. I am certainly guilty of this, both in thinking my way is the only way, and in trying to live up to the standards of others. This is sinful self-righteousness and Jesus condemned it over and over again in the Pharisees.
I firmly believe that educational decisions for your children fall under the area of Christian freedom. In sharing my family’s decisions to homeschool, in no way do I seek to bind your conscience to my conviction. I share our decision because it is a common question I receive, and if hearing how we landed where we are is helpful for you in making decisions for your family, great! If reading about my decision to homeschool makes you feel condemned, please stop reading! Who am I to condemn you? It is God who justifies both you and me in Christ (see Romans 8:33-34).
We are all messy, sinful moms trying to figure out this parenting thing together. Let’s not let homeschooling (or health decisions, breastfeeding decisions, disciplining decisions, and a million other things) be reasons we stand over one and another in judgment. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)
We do not homeschool because we think the public education system is evil or because we are scared of what our children will be exposed to in public school.
Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, suffering harsh persecution at the hands of an evil government, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Isn’t that staggering? God can accomplish his purposes even through a jacked up government institution. And in the case of our education system, I’ll admit I’m not even totally prepared to call it “jacked up.” Yes, we know it is not just possible but likely that in a public school (or even Christian school) environment, our children will be exposed to sin and to ideas that we may disagree with.
Here’s the thing: they are exposed to sin in our home. Hello, have we met? I’m Kendra. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
But even more than having sinful parents, siblings, neighbors, and friends who will do our fair share of sin-exposing, Jesus taught that it is not what’s outside of us that defiles, but rather what’s within. Our children were born with sin in their hearts. And no amount of sheltering will keep it from making its ugly debut.
Yes, of course we seek to protect them from being sinned against, from being exposed to that which exceeds their age and maturity. But what I value more than sheltering is discussing. Jen Wilkin had a great blog post awhile back where she wrote about teaching her children about swear words. In it, she wisely observed that if she did not welcome her children to come to her with their newly-learned bad words, they would go to their friends–or worse, Google.
The same can be applied to topics that may be taught in the public school. We want to foster conversations with our children regarding science, social, and political issues where they must learn and practice discernment. We can tell them what to believe, but if it is never questioned in an environment where it is safe for them to question, to disagree, to ponder, to explore, then they will not stop asking the questions, they will simply go in search of a more welcoming environment.
We do not homeschool to protect our children from the evil they will inevitably face, nor do we homeschool to keep them from hearing things with which we disagree. We homeschool to build a relationship with them that will help them to come to us when the evil and the questions arise. Homeschooling is not the only way to build such a relationship, but it is the way we have chosen for us, right now.
One year at a time
Because these things are true of our decision to homeschool, we are committed to evaluating this decision year-by-year, child-by-child. We are not prepared to declare an undying commitment to homeschool forever and ever, amen. We know we may change our minds or our methods, and so we pray for wisdom as we seek to know our children’s unique personalities and needs and we trust the Lord to make level paths for our feet.