Monday, May 07, 2007

More about homeschooling

Daniel sent me a link to an article on about homeschooling and I wanted to share the link and a couple of quotes here because I think that his article makes a very good point. I especially wanted to post it in light of what I've been writing about our decision to homeschool because, like Tim Challies, I believe that homeschooling is not the only way to responsibly educate our children and should never be an issue of division within the church. If you read the article at I'd suggest you read the one he's responding to first. He does a very fair job of representing it, but it's still good to get the whole thing in it's context.

Challies writes: In short, I think it is disingenuous to suggest that Christians who elect to send their children to school, whether public or Christian, are somehow disobeying what the Bible teaches about raising our children to fear the Lord and that we are deliberately uninvolved in the education of our children.

He then goes on to list some of the "potential dangers" of homeschooling. He listed these dangers as (and I paraphrase) the potential for disunity and division within the local church over the issue of education, the potential for adopting an attitude of superiority, the temptation to develop a fear of the world and to attempt to overly insulate children from the world they will one day live in, finally that it may turn homeschooling families against teachers, educators and non-homeschoolers.

Challies writes: Statements like this one, "we are not trying to do school like they do, but better," are all too common and both sting and divide. Not only does it divide us into the two camps of "us" and "them," but it also suggests that homeschooling is innately, objectively superior and that it is always the right choice for all families.

I have to say, as someone who has been homeschooled, that I completely agree that this is such a dangerous temptation for homeschooling families! I don't believe that homeschooling in and of itself innately superior - you can homeschool with excellence and you can homeschool quite poorly - neither do I believe that it is always the right choice for all families. That is so key.

I have so much respect for the mom I met in Montana who let her older, school-aged children go so that she could invest in her younger (high-maintinance) pre-school aged children, but then I also know families who do so wonderfully at homeschooling with pre-schoolers. I was recently talking with an older mom who had homeschooled her children and when she was begining the high school phase her husband made the decision that it was time for their oldest to go to public school. With fear and trembling she submitted to her husband's decision but she said that it was a really good decision for their family and that she didn't regret their decision at all. I know that's not everyone's story but it encouraged me to look outside of my assumptions about homeschooling.

I also agree that it is dangerous to totally insulate our children from the world, I think that at some point I want my daughters to be in a position where they are experiencing the world but at a time when I can help them process it. Daniel teases me that I was raised in a clam shell - and there is a ring of truth to it - but when I got married I discovered that had to live in the world as it is and not as my parents wanted it to be. I wish I could give my girls a world without war and hunger and corporate (or church) politics, but that is not the world that is. I want them to be prepared for the reality of life and not have to face it alone.

There is so much danger in living our lives in a bubble. I don't want to live in a community that consists of only people who go to my church, I find that I am so much more well-rounded as a Christian and as a person when I am in relationship with people outside of my church circle. Although I think it's appropriate at my girl's young age to give them a measure of insulation against the cruelty and confusion of the world, at some point in their lives they are going to have to face it, and I would rather that it be relatively sooner than later.

I would also add to Tim Challies list two more dangers in homeschooling - one would be that we place inordinate value on education and academic sucess. Education is important and is a major factor in our child's development but is education the ultimate value in our children's development? I think that sometimes we can raise it to that level and that would be dangerous for our children. For instance the child who is brilliant but proud is much worse off than the child who is below-average but hard working and humble, and that had far more to do with the attidue and example of the child's parents then mode of education.

The second danger I'd add to Challies' list would be the potential for emotional non-presence of the homeschooling mom. If a mom is so overwhelmed by her "to do" list that she's running all day at 100 miles an hour and neglecting the emotional needs of her children then I think that homeschooling is doing more harm in that family then good. I don't think that homeschooling necessarily leads to this, I only think that it is a danger and one to be taken seriously. I've experienced both. As a homeschooled child I wanted a lot more time with my parents when the topic of conversation didn't center on shcoolwork, as I look back at my childhood the emotional non-presence, especially of my mom, is a warning to me. However with Beth I've really enjoyed the extra time and attention I've given her in the context of school and felt like that really enhanced our relationship rather than as a detracting influence. I felt like homeschooling helped me to be more present rather than less, but I don't think that would be true for everyone.

There is so much more that I'd like to quote from Tim Challie's article, but I don't want to steal his thunder. It is really worthwhile reading on a topic of such importance to every parent. I highly recommend it to you.

You might be interested to know that there is a second post of clarifications on the Challies blog and a short reply to Challies on Life in a Shoe.

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