There’s no denying that the face of homeschooling has evolved over the years. Four decades ago, Christian parents who were becoming increasingly concerned with the state of publicly funded education, risked losing their children by pulling them out of what was considered to be mandatory government schooling. Today, in North America, we currently enjoy unprecedented freedom to home educate. But, I fear this freedom may be coming to an end…and we may be bringing it upon ourselves.
Early modern homeschooling pioneers (I say “modern,” because homeschooling was the original form of education. Government-funded, age-segregated, compulsory upheaval of family life and cultural traditions by way of a standardized, one-size-fits-all government agenda is only a few hundred years old.) had no real statistics to verify their decision in court, no stacks of contemporary homeschool success stories to persuade the doubtful, no previous experience to bank on, and very few resources at their disposal. Co-ops, conventions, curriculum fairs, support groups, and online networks were unheard of.
To make matters more difficult, very few parents had a teaching degree, something most of society deemed to be a critical factor in successful education. How else would they know what to teach and how to teach it? How would their children learn to socialize? Homeschooled children would be at an enormous disadvantage, or so it would seem. Expertly rendered hypothesis’ determined that to be the case.
In the face of immense opposition and ridicule from government, schools, friends, and family, freedom-loving, God-fearing parents battled the odds, clinging to one hope: that parent-led, home-based, family discipleship was in accord with Scripture. If God had called them to it, He would see them through it.
And He did.
Homeschooling was (and still is) wildly successful in all the ways critics didn’t expect it to be. Children taught by “unqualified” parents scored far higher in every single subject than their public school counterparts. They grew up considerably more involved in social and civic activities – an estimated 14x more likely than the average student. Homeschooled children got into university and did well there. They held jobs, married, and started families. More importantly, the vast majority of children who were instructed at home by Christian parents held strongly to the same values and convictions they were brought up with.
There was no denying that homeschooling worked and was being blessed Supernaturally. Freedom to think outside the box and account for individual learning styles strengthens and weaknesses, flexibility in schedules and curriculum, and one-on-one instruction proved to be a superior method of education. Skeptics were converted and critics were silenced as more and more people warmed up to the idea of instructing their own children.
Before long, almost everybody knew somebody that homeschooled. Laws were made to protect the right a parent had to homeschool, and the risk of losing one’s children was no longer a factor to consider. Support groups began to pop up all over the place. Books and curricula written specifically for homeschoolers were published. Co-ops were started, conventions were organized, websites and radio programs dedicated to the topic drew millions of readers and listeners from across the country.
As word spread and evidence proved that homeschooling was successful, a paradigm shift began to take place. Parents began homeschooling for all kinds of reasons. Some homeschooled because they liked the idea of choosing a curriculum that fit their uniquely gifted children. Some homeschooled because they loved the flexibility it afforded. Some homeschooled because they saw the academic advantage of one-on-one instruction. Some homeschooled because they didn’t want their child’s interest in a subject to be interrupted by bells and whistles. Some homeschooled because they wanted to teach a child, not a curriculum.
Fewer and fewer parents began homeschooling out of the conviction that this was something the Lord was calling them to do.
Originally pursued as a method of family discipleship and the opportunity to instill biblical values into the children one was divinely entrusted with, no matter what the outcome, homeschooling morphed into an academic choice that benefited the individual. A decision that was once made out of obedience and a desire to glorify God was now being made for narcissistic reasons.
Secular home education advocates and philosophers researched and debated different ideas on how to teach, what to teach, and when to teach it. In the quest for academic excellence, much of the original motivation to home educate was lost. Departure from God’s Word as the ultimate guide and standard of education gave birth to unbiblical theories about children and how they learn.
One increasingly popular school of thought assumes that children are inherently good. They need no formal instruction. If we simply let them be wild and free, on the basis of their natural goodness and curiosity, they will learn everything they need to in due time.
Instead of being actively responsible for the training of their children, parents are encouraged to assume a passive role; to sit on the sidelines, as it were, providing a safe and rich learning environment, but refraining from providing deliberate instruction unless it is specifically requested on a child’s own terms.
“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by…paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions — if they have any — and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” – John Holt, pioneer of Unschooling and Youth Rights
“I choose to give my children freedom to speak their mind, dress how they want and style their hair however they please. I’m not interested in telling them who they should be in order to make myself look good to the outside world. I am their guardian. I am here to protect them while they remember who they are and what they came here to do.” ~ Unschooler, known as Barefoot Mama, from The Barefoot Five
This is called Unschooling, and while society has been taught several great lessons by its converts about how children learn and the kind of harm traditional, government education can endow, the premise behind Unschooling is based on bad theology. The whole tenor of Scripture rejects the notion that children are born good and need limited amounts of guidance and instruction from their parents.
- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17: 9
- “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” Proverbs 22:15
- “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” Proverbs 13:18
- “He who loves [his son] is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1
- “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
- “…a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Proverbs 29:15
- If we, like public schools in the past, remove God and His precepts from our motivation to home educate, how can we expect Him to continue to pour out His blessings? Since the beginning of time, God has graciously reserved His blessings for those who live in obedience to His Word. His judgment is executed on those who choose to follow after their own inclinations.
Sometimes God judges people by taking away their freedom. Remember the Israelites? Sometimes God judges people by hardening their hearts and letting them have their own way. Remember Pharaoh? Either position is a terrifying place to be. Homeschooling our children apart from a biblical worldview is no better than sending them to a state-sponsored institutional school devoid of the true knowledge of God. Perhaps they may still have an academic advantage; but spiritually speaking, if we neglect to use home education as the vehicle in which to impress upon our children the one thing needful, we have missed the point entirely.
Homeschooling is freedom, yes, but we’re not free to do whatever we please in regards to how we educate our children. Letting them run “wild and free,” neglecting our God-given responsibility to instruct, reprove, discipline, and train our children in the fear of the Lord, is evidence that we’re still held captive – and holding our children captive – to a life of sin.
Homeschooling allows us to teach our children about true freedom as it is found in obedience and submission to Christ (Proverbs 7:2; 8:32; 13:13; 16:17; 19:16; Luke 11:28; John 13:17). There is plenty of room within God’s design for a multitude of curriculum choices and teaching methods, flexible schedules and routines, and even the very relaxed approach to homeschooling our family enjoys, but if we cherish this freedom, we must honor the One who gave it to us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
- Homeschooling in America And Europe: A Litmus Test Of Democracy by John Warick Montgomery
- Homeschooling: The Right Choice by Christopher Klicka
- The God Imperative by Dave Dentel
- The Heart of Homeschooling by Christopher Klicka
- Upgrade: 10 Secret To The Best Education For Your Child by Kevin Swanson