My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

09 May 2007

Here we go again

If you've been keeping up with the comments on the last post, this article might be interesting to you: Challies discusses the spiritual challenges of homeschooling. It is by no means a homeschooling-bashing party, but a pretty frank discussion of what potential problems can come from choosing to educate children at home. I think discussions like this are rare and important; homeschooling is often seen as "the answer" rather than "a good choice."

One of the common motivations for homeschooling is to keep negative influences away from kids - but this is both impossible and (even if it were possible) not a good enough reason. If they are Christians, parents are still sinners, quite able to exert some very negative influences upon their children (as well as the positive, righteous influences). Homeschooling guarantees nothing, though it is often chosen as a guarantee.

To take this a step further, it is God's good and gracious plan that we live life in a covenant community larger than our family. In many churches, when a baby is baptized, the church family enters into that covenant, promising to help the parents in the raising of that child in the fear of the Lord. To edit Hillary Clinton, It Takes a Covenant Village.

I am the federal head of my home, the one responsible for my children's education (what a weighty resopnsibility!), but I refuse to be the only one influencing them. I need their Sunday school teachers, other fathers and mothers, the elders of the session to come alongside and offset my weaknesses and negative influences. My kids need you and your kids need me. The family alone is not sufficient; the covenant community is. This is all to say, when parents choose homeschooling (often a fine and great choice!), they have a responsibility to make sure the natural insulation of homeschooling does not extend to their life in the church.

23 comments:

Apples of Gold said...

The thought in the linked article that made the most sense is similar to what I finally concluded for myself after struggling with the "guilt" of placing my daughter in a government school: "It is ironic that Reformed Christians, those with the strongest and most biblical understanding of God's sovereignty, are often those who most fear the consequences of placing their children in public schools. We should know that God's sovereignty is far bigger and far stronger than our educational decisions."

It was comforting to have this truth validated so that I can quit worrying that I've somehow done irreprable harm to my kid for sending her into the wordly educational system. God IS much bigger than that!

However, I do think the writer could have made his points in a much less offensive way and without insulting those who have strong beliefs about homeschooling. Offenses can go both ways, and I still think some people tend to get offended way too easily on the subject. At the risk of sounding like a moderate, I think people on both sides of the debate have made some valid points.

ellen olivetti said...

Well said, Jared. I believe, as parents, we will have to answer to God for the way in which we educate our children. And I believe God looks at the heart. There are some Christian parents who truly believe their children are better off in public school (salt and light). If they TRULY feel that way and that decision is made after prayer and careful consideration, and if that decision is not based on underlying selfish reasons (I don't want to spend the time homeschooling and I don't have the money for Christian School), then I beieve God will honor that decision.

Others decide Christian school is best. And some decide to homeschool. I do not think we can categorically say one way is correct when Scripture doesn't say that. What we can say is that this is an awesome reponsibility and parents need to examine their own hearts and seek God's wisdom in the making of this decision.

AND, the church as a whole needs to defend the parents' right to educate their children in the manner they choose, assuming they have chosen that manner of education after prayer and seeking God's wisdom.

Too often in reformed circles, I see requirements being put on other Christians that are not in Scripture, and it seems that sanctification is measured by those standrds. Things like homeschooling, and even domestic things like sewing, gardening, how well you cook, keep the house - these are the things by which we "judge" our own and others' sanctification. I think we need to be very careful when we start putting requirements on people that God does not. Within the principles God gives us to live by, there is also a certain amount of freedom to exercise. The principle is that we need to instruct our children in His ways and that we are ultimately responsible for our children's education. But, the freedom lies in how we fulfill that principle.

When I hear people talk about homeschooling as the only way, I think they are placing undue restrictions on God's people that He didn't see fit to do himself.

Jeff Kessler said...

If you want to warn someone of the dangers of gov't. ed., there is still probably no better book than Rushdooney's "The Messianic Charecter of American Education". But be careful how you warn someone. Just because there are dangers doesn't mean it is sin if one does it. Diana has done a good job of warning w/out crossing the line.

A good book on the importance of the cov. community in a cov. child's life is: "Heirs of the Covenant" by Susan Hunt.

One temptation many conservative believers face is to go too far in promoteing our beliefs. Or to put it another way...to go beyond what is written...or to try to be holier than God. I've heard Christian women almost do this w/ the subject of breast feeding. It happens w/ playing cards, R-rated movies, alchohol, dancing, etc., etc. And of course w/ home schooling. An important book on the subject is: "Who are You to Judge?" by Dave Swavely. This is not a book that calls for a loosening of standards as it relates to God's law...homosexuality, murder, theft, abortion, etc., but those types of things I mentioned above.

And to add a thought or two to the original Trueman article. Let's remember that we don't want wives who are haggard and always exhausted, but there is some balence to this as well. It is not a sin for a Christian woman to work hard. The command to work 6 days a week is for women as well as men. Sometimes I fear that we are swinging too far the other way (than what Trueman speaks to). A young Christian husband shouldn't feel he has failed if doesn't do the same amount of dishes as his wife or change the same amount of diapers. Remember, the Proverbs 31 woman worked hard. If any were to ask me what I appreciated about my wife...near the top of the list...she works hard...but within a feminine role.

Jeff Kessler

Kurt said...

Jared,

Effective voice, your linked article. It so wonderfully epitomizes your position. I would encourage everyone to also read all the comments after the article as you strive for the truth in this very important issue.

Alas, I covet such an article that so thoroughly represents my position, but I haven't found any. However, here are two articles that lay an excellent foundation:

"Warning! Public Schools Are Not For Christians! A Biblical Perspective " By Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler

"What’s Really Wrong With Public Schools? " By David Chilton

God bless you all in your journey for the truth.

David said...

Personally, I think homeschooling is a good option. There are limitations to it, and there are limitations to public schools and private schools.

It really does come down to the circumstacne of each individual family. I have found at Taylor, there seems to be more of a bad skepticism of homeschooling which, quite frankly disappoints me. Yeah, there are some unsocialized homeschoolers who stick out in a bad way, but then there are homeschoolers who are able to fit in, and are socialized people.

Homeoschooling still has a bad rap for developing people who are not developed well in social skills. And homeschoolind can do that, but less of it is happening, and I think it will further decline.

Kurt said...

Jeff,

There's an alternative book on this subject that goes beyond the surface of determining whether applications, such as card playing, are sin.

"Lutzer argues misguided tolerance plagues the Christian church today. That there is a disconnect between people who accept the authority of scripture and how they live their daily lives. Knowing the truth and living the Truth is paramount to the body of Christ."

"Who Are You to Judge? "  By Erwin Lutzer

We appear to need further understanding on how to translate our "orthodoxy" into "orthopraxy."

Jared said...

Kurt, I would doubt that Swavely's book and Lutzer's book come down on different sides. In fact, Swavely spends the beginning part of his book showing that keeping from judgmentalism is an aspect of "orthopraxy" - he would never argue with the quote from Lutzer. Both men are, I'm sure, convinced that Christ's church must live holy lives to His glory.

But the point of Swavely's book is an important one for this discussion: that judging other believers in areas where Scripture gives principles but not specifics (education being an important one) is a sin that Jesus hates. And that Paul hates. And me.

Folks in the "homeschooling-only" camp have staked out a position they cannot defend from Scripture; instead, they have to resort to "creative exegesis" (see Challies & Swavely on the outright abuse of Deuteronomy 6 to proof-text homeschooling. I used to get points taken off my tests in seminary when I did that!). This "creative exegesis" smells nice at first, and it sure is nice to have a list of rules to live by (that wisdom stuff is so tricky:)) - but in the end, it results in families being forced into someone else's application of God's law *or* it results in families being ostracized or lessened in the eyes of the church. This is why Challies made the point about how easy it is for homeschooling families to create an "elite" portion of the church to inhabit.

I simply will not stand by while anyone casts doubts upon the faithfulness of God's people because they aren't homeschooling. Homeschooling is, for many a great choice (we're starting this fall). But if you put an extra weight around the sheep's neck, you're going to have to deal with the Shepherd.

Kurt said...

...judging other believers in areas where Scripture gives principles but not specifics (education being an important one) is a sin that Jesus hates. And that Paul hates...

Jared, I'd love to see Scripture where Jesus and Paul hate discernment involving principles and call it a sin.

I guess, then, we can just ignore patterns and principles given in Scripture and only follow Scripture when it proposes a rule (precept)? That would sure make my life easier and much freer to do the things my little old heart desires! :>)

BTW, I guess I'll start worshiping on the true Sabbath (Saturday) as I see no precept (command) that changed the Sabbath to Sunday. :>)

Jared said...

Kurt, please, please stop putting words in my mouth and blatantly misreading me.

I never said Jesus hates "discernment involving principles" - go back and read my comments. For you to write that is quite unfair.

But, to answer: What I am specifically arguing against is taking one's personal application of God's law (i.e., we're not going to watch movies on Sunday) and making it a test of "orthopraxy" for the church around you. This is what the "homeschooling only" folks do.

The point isn't to free us all up to do what our heart desires, but to live in Biblical wisdom. Each of us are answerable to God for how we live holy lives according to His law. We have a responsibility to sit down with the Bible and decide, "How am I going to remember the Sabbath day? What movies am I going to watch and not watch? Am I going to drink alcohol or not? How am I going to educate my children?" For each of these, Scripture has important guidance and laws to apply - but every specific isn't listed (i.e., drunkenness is a sin - but what about a short glass of Maker's Mark?). Instead, we get the Holy Spirit who helps us apply God's law.

As for Scripture, please see:

Colossians 2:16 - "let no one disqualify you" regarding their own version of religion. Especially when their version presents a "more holy" way to please the Lord, a way not revealed in Scripture.

Galatians 2:11 - Paul opposed Peter because of Peter's anti-gospel actions (in fact, Peter's sin of drawing away from the Gentiles for fear of the "circumcision party" bears interesting parallels to this discussion)

1 Corinthians 4:5-6 - Do not pronounce judgments of things not revealed..."that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another." [Swavely does a great, great job with this passage in his book]

Matthews 7:1 - Judge not, that you be not judged.

Let me emphasize one more time (to prevent further misrepresentation): We all have a duty to live lives of holiness before God's face and for His glory. The way we know holiness is through His Word, especially through His law. But although the law of God speaks indirectly to every part of life, it does not fully inform every action, every decision of life. Rather, we have in our laps the law of God and in our hearts the Holy Spirit. With the wisdom of the Spirit, we are then requried to make our own "lists", our own "do's" and "don'ts". While we make these lists, we must keep in mind that other believers may differ from us on things not revealed in Scripture. (Hmmm, he watches movies on Sunday...I don't really dig that, maybe even I'll ask him about it...but I better be careful not to consider it sin.) It is good and right and necessary to use discernment and develop our life "lists" in service to God. But it will tear the church apart if we come to see our lists as tantamount to God's Word - or worse, if we pretend our lists are inspired by shoehorning them into the pages of Scripture.

Education, entertainment, Sabbath-keeping...we must decide for ourselves according to God's law and Spirit. Is it possible for believers to decide wrongly? Yes. And so we must be open to greater understanding of God's Word and the encouragement of the brothers. But I must never take my personal application of God's law (Scripture tells me to witness, so I'm going to tell my testimony to one person every week) and make it a test of orthopraxy for the church (Hmmm, Kurt hasn't shared his testimony in a month; boy, that iron needs some sharpening).

Kurt said...

Is it possible for believers to decide wrongly? Yes. And so we must be open to greater understanding of God's Word and the encouragement of the brothers.

Jared, you touched the heart of the matter, brother! May we all "be open to greater understanding of God's Word and the encouragement of the brothers." May we all turn from our selfish ways and seek God's truth for His glory and the glory of His Church. Amen.

Jared said...

No, Kurt, that isn't the heart of the (this) matter. Allow me to kick the dead horse once again: the heart of this matter is knowing the difference between God's law and our personal, non-Scriptural applications of that law. The "homeschooling only" advocates have not learned that distinction and it has and will bring harm to Christ's church. That is the heart of the matter.

It really seems I am not communicating clearly...does anyone else understand what I'm trying to say? Can you say it better?

Jared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Kessler said...

The Bible tells us to not take away or add to the Scripture. Libs take away and pick and chose. The temptation of conservatives is to add to the Scripture...hence prohibition or the home-schooling only philosophy.

Jeff Kessler

BamFam said...

Jared, I think what you have written is clear. I am not one who is good at analyzing arguments, so if I can understand what you are saying I think most of the other readers should as well.

On to my question. So I understand that there is not one correct way of educating (hs, Christian, or Public), it depends on the parents, what their kids are like, and their convictions. I guess what I am wondering as a mom is, what questions should we be asking ourselves to help decide how our children are educated? Are there specific things you and Lisa thought about? What about all you other readers? What are good questions to be asking yourself when trying to decide which way to educate?

Here in Oz there are the same choices as back home. There is a Christian school here that several people from church are involved in. Some are teachers, others are on the board, and still others work in admin. I think Brandon and I would consider that an option as well as homeschooling. So now how to go about deciding which is right for us?

Anonymous said...

As I've been keeping up with debate and I have noticed that most of the reasoning mentioned for why parents would send their kids to public school has to do with the parents needing to free up time in there schedules to do something else.

Jared made a good point about kids with disabilities. I would imagine (only because I'm not a parent and haven't looked over home school curriculum) that learning and physical disabilities would cause a problem for any parent without a lot of additions and modifications to said curriculum because the text books and teaching material is written with the assuming that the student is mentally all together.

However, I would like to add one more reason that hasn't been mentioned flat out (although Jared has implied it). What if the parent doesn't think (not the right word, knows) they can't do the job correctly. I don't mean worried, I mean they had problems figuring out the material when they went though school and although they feel comfortable helping their kids with certain subjects they know God has not given them that gift of teach those subjects and the others. Namely, they were and still are until they die learning disabled and they know if they are the only primary source of education for their children those little ones will be more confused then they were and are.

I'm not talking about some hypothetical situation. I'm talking about the decision my mother faced. It wasn't simply that she didn't have the time or couldn't make the time, it was that she knew she would do a better job moderating the school system than she would do teaching us in subjects she only passed by the skin of her teeth. She also knew that she had no business teaching and all those years of the natural experience of just living under her belt didn’t change the situation.

I know that learning disabilities make up a small percentage of the human population, but people with them do exist. Why do I bring this up if my situation only affects a small part of the population? I bring it up because the home-school only crowd on this blog seems to be making the argument that every time a parent sends their kid to a public/private school it's a reflection that the parents are being neglectful in their responsibility as parents or that spouses are not living up to their vows to one another. In my mother's case she thought she'd be the one doing us the disservice. We’ll never know because God only gives us one walk around the park.

My mother was horrified that she would make the wrong decision. However, in her case the horror was on both sides of the scale and given that we were low on funds private school was out of the question among other factors against private school. I’d just thought I opine this once then fade back into the stands.

ellen olivetti said...

Jared wrote:
"I simply will not stand by while anyone casts doubts upon the faithfulness of God's people because they aren't homeschooling. Homeschooling is, for many a great choice (we're starting this fall). But if you put an extra weight around the sheep's neck, you're going to have to deal with the Shepherd."

And I say, "Amen." This has been my position for years, but I couldn't have said it better.

Kurt said...

God, the Father; Jesus Christ, the Son of God; sons of God; sons and daughters; adoption of sons; adoption of children; suffer the little children to come unto me; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; teach your children……

Identified in Scripture…. “Child” over 200 times… “Daughters” over 200 times… “Mother” over 300 times… “Daughter” over 300 times… “Fathers” over 500 times…”Sons” over 1,000 times…”Father” over 1,000 times… “Son” over 1,500 times…”Children” over 1,500 times…not to mention parents, husband, wife, brother, sister, all pointing to the family unit as the ultimate in types of our relationship with God and each other.

There is so much to learn if we seek first, and truly embrace, the covenant family.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phillipians 4:8

This is in my heart.

Jared said...

Kurt, brother, can't you see how offensive your words are? How have you come to the conclusion that people who disagree with you on homeschooling do not embrace the covenant family?

If one were consistent with this type of thinking (covenant family necessarily means homeschooling, both logically and Scripturally), how could that person live in peace with a local church who differed from him or her?

Whether or not you believe us - many in the church who (a) don't homeschool or (b) homeschool out of choice rather Scriptural conviction, we have fully embraced the covenant family! The difference is that we have also embraced the authority of Scripture and aren't willing to impose our ideas onto it. And the difference is that we have also embraced the covenant church as well as the family.

Kurt said...

Jared,

Your accusations that I have superimposed my ideas on Scriptures, and that I have not embraced the covenant church are very hurtful.

My desires, words, and deeds have always been for the encouragement of the family and the ekklesia; and when necessary, as Scripture says, for the brothers and sisters of the local congregation, not government institutions, to come along side to bolster the body of Christ (Gal 6:2,10; Tit 2:4, etc.). Your words, no matter how well intentioned, serve to induce unnecessary separation between my ekklesian brothers and sisters and myself.

Jared said...

Kurt, I'm not happy that my words were hurtful. Perhaps they need more explanation.

I believe those who advocate the position that Scripture mandates homeschooling have found something in the Bible that isn't there. This has been proven by good scholars and my own studies. Further, I believe this supra-Scriptural position is a recipe for conflict within local churches.

I also believe that, in Christ's plan, the church is as important as the family. And it has been my observation that "homeschooling only" advocates emphasize so strongly the centrality of the family that they have lost the centrality of the church. I would point out the hesitancy some of these folks feel to allow any others within the church to teach and train their children - despite claims to have embraced the covenant community. I would also point out the tendency of the more radical in this group to start "home churches."

I do not (cannot) doubt the intentions and motivations of those on the other side of this debate. They surely love Christ, the family and the church. But I really believe they're wrong and that their error isn't a little one, but one which necessarily leads to greater conflict and ostracization within the church.

If I have mischaracterized their position, please let me know. If their position isn't your position, great!

Shannon Koons said...

Jared

I didn't get the chance to talk to you today, so here's an extra comment on your blog...

1) When approaching homeschoolers in youth ministry, we do need to understand the different schools of homeschooling that are at work and influence. And not just different curriculum, but the vastly different doctrines that drive them, even within Reformed churches. Part of the role of teaching doctrine in the church I think is to point out the fallacies that are overlooked in various homeschooling curriculum.

2) People need to remember that (for the majority) homeschooling was started by first generation Christians/or conservatives who were reactionaries to their culture, and who weren't homeschooled themsleves. Like you said, homeschooling is no guarantee, and those starting the movement were experimenting and had no idea if it'd work or not. I'll venture to guess that those who continue the tradition, the second generation homeschoolers, will be better equipped to work out the kinks.

3) I believe that a truly conscientious Reformed believer will not claim the superiority of one schooling model over another. The sovereignty of God is at work in education, regardless of means. Doing the will of God is not creating a utopia of the perfect ideal, but doing what's in front of you, and for some, that means non-homeschooling education.

4) The point of the matter really boils down to what is being taught from the pulpit. Doctrine is crucial.

Thanks for today - it was excellent!

Josh S said...

A few short thoughts... As a product of the home-school environment, it certainly has it's positives. When coordinated with appropriate worship in church and Biblical spiritual guidance from parents, it can be a good experience.

That said, home-schooling can also result in a rather narrow Christian world view. By it's very nature, parents may knowingly or unknowingly limit or stunt their child's spiritual growth by the own actions or limitations.

I went to high school (with Jared) after years of homeschooling. Based upon personal experience, being surrounded by a variety of personal variations within the Christian faith expanded my own experience. Through it, I found God solidifying my own spiritual relationship and foundation as I was forced to think on my own. I found myself seeking the heart of our Master.

Perhaps these thoughts weren't as short as I originally intended. As a parent now, I believe we must pray and come to our own decisions for what may be best for each of our children. That may be a different educational method for each child. Short answer is that we should pray for our children's salvation. Beyond that, we should pray that our children can develop a ministry and witness for the other children around them and point to our Savior!

MarkPele said...

I thought I had left a comment on this, but must not have. Since I like leaving well-after-the-fact comments, it seems appropriate to talk here:

1) In the comments about homeschooling, no real mention is made about the authority/responsibility for education. We are now at odds with the state, which has now declared from the Supreme Court that public education is the responsibility and domain of the state and not the parents. Philosophically, the state has now usurped the role of the family in education, and that has to count for something.

2) While I fully believe that it is God alone that saves our children from their own worldly heart, I'm not driving by the adult store on my way home to buy the latest filth for my family. You see that there is something to be said for "I will permit no base thing before my eyes to be" - Psalm 101. Thus, as parents, we are accountable not to throw our children into situations where they will be bombarded by filth.

3) That said, our reasons for homeschooling primarily reside in the QUALITY of the education rather than the philosophy. I was public schooled, and I personally don't feel like my religious views were affronted everyday. Yeah, I had the token evolutionist Biology teacher, and my friends all swore, but the biggest problem I had was that the school was a factory of mediocrity.

4) I think the best system is a parent-directed system, whether it's public, private, Christian or home. I agree with the author that homeschooling isn't the ONLY answer or even the BEST answer, but it sure excels in being parent-directed.