Remind me : Why am I encouraging our family to Homeschool?
In the course of our daily routine, sometimes seemingly overwhelmingly so, it can be hard to remember why we committed to homeschooling in the first place. Was it to give our children a Christian atmosphere, was it to be with them for more hours, give them better academics, or am I just too tired to remember the reason?
In reminding ourselves, it is always beneficial to remember our goals for our children. In setting these goals, it is natural to keep eternity in mind. So what can we learn from God’s word and from empirical observations?
I like to start with God’s invention, the family. When God put together the family, He put together the father and mother and when children come, they normally come one at a time. He made children to bond closely to the adults they know best, in normal circumstances these are the biological parents. At the same time, the parents bond to their children. These are essential emotions that God has blessed us with.
If we compare the family to the typical school, we find that each classroom contains a very limited age group spanning about 1 year. Depending upon the school and the age, there are many more children in this one class than most families have children. In fact, there are so many children, that the dynamic of the class can be controlled by the children, rather than the teacher, even while the class is in session. During recess or times when the teacher is not around the dynamics are most certainly controlled by the children. In this environment, it is natural for the bullies to become the dominant force in the class dynamics. It is important to remember that these dynamics can be equally present in Christian schools as in public schools, though it varies from class to class. It is a natural result of age-segregated classrooms.
The first school I went to, had some similarities to both the family and to the age-segregated classroom now so common. It was a one-room school house with most of the grades from grade 1 to 8. My older brother was in the same room, so it was not scary. It lacked my parents however. In my third grade the central (age-segregated classroom) school was being built and would be ready by Christmas. In anticipation the classes were age-segregated, and each grade was bussed to a different one-room school house. This was the first time I was separated from all members of my family. I can remember that each day, I would cry at some point for that very reason. Once we settled into the central school, I don’t recall this same level of loneliness, perhaps because some of my siblings were in the same building, if not the same class, or perhaps I had acclimatized to the new state of affairs.
When we read about raising children in the Bible, it is usually in the context of the home. This is implied in Duet 6:4, the 4th commandment, throughout Proverbs, Psalm 78, and Galatians 6:1-3. Since we live in a fallen world, it is sometimes not possible for parents to take on this role, through death or a variety of other reasons. However, it is definitely considered the norm.
Turning to empirical research, the Southern Baptists find that 80 -90 % of children from church-going families leave the church within a couple of years of leaving home. Additional research performed by Ken Ham, suggests that these children emotionally leave the church while still living at home, but when they leave home, they also physically leave the church. On the other hand, it is closer to 95% of children from homeschooling families that maintain the faith of their parents. Probably the best research I have seen in this regard if from Brian Ray at NHERI. I find page 12 of the Gen2 survey particularly enlightening. Here we see the relationship with Mother and Father correlate the best with positive outcomes, followed with attending church and being homeschooled. The most negative correlation was attendance at public schools, followed closely by private and Christian schools.
With the proviso that these types of statistics are only valid for drawing correlations, not causality, I still like to attempt to put the results in a causal framework that both fit the data and fit scriptural norms.
My starting point is that God is a relational God, He wants relationship with each one of us, that is with us as the parents and with our children, and every other person in His creation. Not only is God a relational God, He created us as relational beings as well. Each one of us desires close intimate relationships. Developing these relationships can only come with lots of time. At birth, it is natural for a parent to spend a lot of time with their child. As a child grows up in a natural setting, ie home school setting, parents continue to spend a lot of time with their children, and the parent-child bond remains close. They see what is important to their parents, and church attendance is very important for nurturing our faith.
When our children are small, we as parents are essentially like god to them. If it is time for bed and they don’t want to go, we can just pick them up, bring them to washroom to brush their teeth and carry them to bed. Once our children are 10 years old, they are well aware of our shortcomings. If they see us trying to get away with a little sin, their natural response is that if my parent can get away with it, I can get away with more. If we set ourselves as their example, then that is what will happen. It is our job as parents to teach them that we are not the example, but Christ is. Christ’s example is perfect and if we are any less, we miss the mark. At the same time, we teach them that, in humility, we must accept Christ’s payment for our shortcomings, so that when God looks at us, He sees Christ’s perfection, not our imperfection. And by the time our children are 20, we are both in the same boat, sinners, saved by the grace of God. As parent’s we may have more wisdom, but before God we are the same.
The world, and much of Christendom around us, does not recognize the crucial nature of the family bond, the relationship between parent and child, and how this points to the relationship between parent and God. This point is consistent with both the importance of family and parents in the Bible, and the importance of relationship with father and mother in the Gen2 research.
In conclusion, seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you. One of the most powerful ways to seek the Kingdom of God is to homeschool your children. This gives you time to nurture that relational bond between you and your child. And God will richly bless that endeavour.