Wasting the Opportunity of Homeschooling

By David Crank

Homeschooling parents: Are you wasting much of the opportunity which homeschooling provides?
Think about what you are doing and why!

Why are you Homeschooling?

There are many reasons families choose to homeschool. Often the initial prime motivation is one of either protection or of crisis resolution. Most parents are concerned about drugs and violence in the public schools. There is also widespread concern about the quality of education provided in many of the public schools. Christian parents are also often concerned about the influences of both peers and teachers, knowing the godless philosophies taught and the extent of alcohol abuse, immorality and filthy language among many students. These concerns can be a prime motivation for considering homeschooling as an option. For other parents, there is an immediate crisis for which homeschooling seems to be part of the answer. This may be a child with serious learning problems, a child that is being bored and turned off to learning, or a serious social problem or situation or friends that your child needs to get away from. All these reasons are very legitimate and very good reasons in themselves, but they fail to get at the real potential of homeschooling. Though these may be our primary motivations to begin, when we later understand the full potential of homeschooling, they seem more minor in comparison to other reasons.

Goals in Raising your Children.

To get a better perspective it helps to step back from the issue of education and look at your total goals in raising your children. For example, we might generalize and say we want to prepare our children well for life and prepare them well for serving God. We want to be good stewards of the treasure God has entrusted to us. So, if this is our goal, then we want to achieve a lot more than just a good education and likewise to achieve more than just protecting them from many of the evils present in public schools! We want our children to come to Christ at a fairly early age and then to grow in godliness and character to become mature men and women of God. We also want to impart to them as much wisdom and understanding as possible and to prepare them well for their future roles and responsibilities (having the knowledge, skills and abilities needed). Besides all of this we desire a close and loving family, in which the children love and enjoy each other and their parents - a family that will remain close even after the children are all grown and on their own.

The Opportunity of Homeschooling.

So what is the true opportunity of homeschooling? When your children are in a public or private school, they are away from home under the care and teaching of others for the better part of the day. In effect, you have delegated most of your children's training and instruction to others - others who are not taking direction from you as their parents. As parents you must pretty much accept what you get. You can perhaps try out another school (particularly if you are willing to move), but your options are pretty limited. Nor does the school leave you much opportunity to correct or supplement their training efforts as so little time is left (there is often homework and related after school activities) and your children are not very receptive to more training after a whole day at school. So it is easy enough to see the problem parents face in the raising of their children with the "help" of the schools. But homeschooling offers a way out of this dilemma by providing the opportunities of: 1) control, 2) influence, and 3) flexibility.

God has given parents the full responsibility for the care and upbringing of their children. God also meant the parents to have the authority with which to fulfill this responsibility. Homeschooling returns this authority to the parents.

1. Opportunity of Control. Homeschooling offers parents the opportunity to truly control the education and training of their children. Parents can decide what their children need to learn, when they should learn it and how! Parents may select and deselect textbooks, materials, or teachers for certain courses. Homeschooling puts the parents back in the driver's seat in terms of deciding how their children will be raised and what and how they will be taught. God has given parents the full responsibility for the care and upbringing of their children. God also meant the parents to have the authority with which to fulfill this responsibility. Homeschooling returns this authority to the parents.

2. Opportunity for Influence. Homeschooling puts the parents back in the position of being the primary influence in their children's lives. When children are in school they are subject to the influence of ever so many teachers, textbooks and peers - none of whom were selected by the parents. They are forced into an environment where peer influence rules and foolishness is rampant, quickly spreading from child to child, however good each child's home upbringing is. With returning control over the children's time to the parents, homeschooling gives the parents the greatest possible opportunity to really impact their children's lives for good while sheltering them from many potentially negative influences.

3. Opportunity of Flexibility. Homeschooling provides the flexibility to do things totally differently! Parents can focus on their goals and the desired results for their children rather than being locked into one particular approach. Parents do not have to follow the educational and child training fads of this decade, the last century, or any time! You can start teaching academic skills much earlier or much later than the schools do. You can school year round or every other month or whatever works best in your family. Academic school work can be in the mornings, in the afternoons, at night, on Saturdays, etc. School can consist of a lot more than just academics. You can teach sewing, cooking, childcare, carpentry, mechanics, homemaking skills, farming, etc. You can teach your children what they are ready to learn without regard to where they are supposed to be in each subject for their grade level.

How We Waste This Precious Opportunity.

There are many ways in which we can waste much of this precious opportunity we are provided by homeschooling.

It is not just a question of what we are taking out of our children's lives, but of what we are putting in as well!

1) By assuming that godliness and good character will result automatically. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that removal of our children from all the negative influences of school and school peers will produce the desired result of godliness and good character. The protection from these influences is very important but is insufficient in itself to produce the desired result. It is not just a question of what we are taking out of our children's lives, but of what we are putting in as well! If we are not teaching them the word of God, if we are not teaching and exhibiting good character, how can we expect them to catch it? Protecting your children from evil outside influences alone does not deal with their inborn selfishness and sin nature.

2) By working against ourselves in what we allow: influences in our home & without. There is more than just the public school to protect against! Ours is a culture steeped in sensuality, immorality, materialism, humanism, relativism and a host of other "isms". The schools are not the only places where your children are taught these things. Many books, magazines, videos, recorded music, TV shows, video and computer games are full of this stuff! Carefully consider how much your children are being exposed to these. Evaluate and be selective about what comes into your home and influences your children. Though you can (and should) teach your children to recognize the lies being presented, there is a limit beyond which they (and even we as their parents) become brainwashed without even knowing it!

There is more than just the public school to protect against!

And are you protecting your children from peer and teacher influences other than in the schools? Are your children in some form of a youth group? Or even in a Sunday school class separate from you? If so, consider those they are with and how they are likely to be influenced. Do many of the other children there attend the public schools? Do they share the same values and convictions as your family? Your children may not be exposed to these influences for nearly as many hours as in a public school, but they can still be heavily influenced - perhaps before you have a clue what is happening. Nor are your children immune from Sunday school or youth leaders who hold to different values from your family (whether concerning dating, music or whatever). And when these influences are coming from others whom your children regard as good Christians, they are that much quickquicker to accept them without questioning.

And don't forget about neighbor kids, sports teams, musical groups, scout troops, visits with cousins, etc. All can be sources for leading your children astray and in rebellion against their parents. (We encountered significant problems with a church children's choir and with some neighbor kids - problems that we did not identify or realize their seriousness until later.) Consider the character and values of those your children are with, the amount of time they are together and not under your supervision, and the susceptibility of each of your children. (Some of our children are naturally very independent and not easily influenced, others are much more desiring to please and ready to imitate).

You need to be prepared to possibly take your children out of various organizations ...prayerfully consider the influences your children are exposed to ... have the courage to take action where needed!

Sometimes the more subtle influences are the more dangerous and difficult to deal with. Consider the subtle influence to begin seeing oneself as part of a group known as "teenagers". Our culture expects teenagers to have their own type of music, to dress their own way, to follow peers and rebel against parents. Buying into just a little bit of this lie can make your job as a parent much more difficult.

So what do we do? We cannot, nor should we try to, totally remove our children from this world. Our protection can never be perfect. We need wisdom to understand and properly assess each of these dangers. We need to limit what we allow in terms of books, magazines, music, etc. which comes into our home. We need to carefully consider where our children interact with both peers and other adults. Peer activities are best limited and supervised - preferably by you, and if not, then by someone with similar convictions and concerns whom you trust.

You need to be prepared to possibly take your children out of various organizations, out of youth groups and/or Sunday schools, or perhaps even change churches or move away from neighbors.These can be hard decisions and every situation may be a little different. But you need to prayerfully consider the influences your children are exposed to and how they are being or are likely to be affected. And then you need to have the courage to take action where needed!

3) By leaving little time for family (activities, devotions, instruction, talking). The culture most of us live within is a very fast moving one. Everyone is expected to be incredibly busy and constantly going places. Children participate in a multitude of sports, organizations, lessons, etc. Parents likewise have their hobbies and sports and everyone wants to maximize recreation time. And for so many churches also, the onslaught of programs is endless! There is something going on for some age group at the church every night and every weekend!

So how does this impact your family time? Or the time available for Dads to teach their children or work along-side them? It often means that the precious opportunities are lost. And all the running can also produce a lot of stress in the whole family, which damages family relationships and hinders the wise use of the family time available.

You need to say "no" to a lot of good things in order to reserve time for the best things!

If this is your family, stop and examine what you are doing! Sure you would like for Johnny to play baseball and learn piano, etc., etc. But what is really important? Time is very precious and must be used wisely. You cannot do it all. Don't throw away the opportunities of homeschooling and fail in your parenting because you gave little league priority over family devotions! You need to say "no" to a lot of good things in order to reserve time for the best things! Plan to stay at home more with your family and make those times count!

4) By neglecting to teach practical skills and provide work experience. It is so easy to focus solely on academics and neglect teaching the practical skills. We have been conditioned to think that learning the academic subjects is far more important than learning practical skills. And it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we must teach the same way the public schools do - repeating much of the same material year after year and filling up seven or more hours a day on academic subjects alone.

But with homeschooling, our teaching environment is entirely different and our priorities should include other things besides academics. We need to teach practical life skills to our children. Such skills will make them more effective in their daily lives. They will be able to meet more needs themselves rather than always having to hire others. Also important is learning how to work and carry responsibility. Part of each day should include chores around the house. And as your boys grow older, they should have other work experiences. They can learn much from projects around the home place, or assisting with a family business, or working with other trusted Christian men. With homeschooling there is more flexibility for a young man to have a degree of work responsibilities while continuing study at home. For example, working one day a week assisting a carpenter or A/C repairman can teach valuable skills and provide a taste of what those occupations are like (This is something our sons did during some of their high school years - working with other Christian men from our church).

5) By lack of clear goals and direction. Without clear goals and direction, the very flexibility homeschooling provides can become your enemy. Your effectiveness can be hurt by too much change and too little consistency. You both (husband and wife together) need to regularly assess your goals, make a plan and then stick to it for a while (unless it proves to be a disaster). To be constantly changing curriculums, approach, schedule, etc., can really hamper your progress. Without clear goals and direction, you don't know where you are likely to end up! Make the time at least annually to reassess your goals and plan for the year (See Article in this issue on "Setting Family Goals" for suggestions on how). Then work your plan consistently and give it an opportunity to succeed.

6) By quitting before the job is done. Use the opportunities of homeschooling to the maximum. Don't think you have accomplished all that is needed by the time they are 13 or 16. Don't be intimidated by the high school subjects - you can teach them in spite of your academic shortcomings (assuming your children even need teaching by this point - after a few years of experience, many kids are well able to teach themselves the high school subjects strictly from the books with just a little supervision). And don't be taken in by lure of high school sports and social activities. Remember your goals and what is really important to your child's future life. There is probably no worse or more dangerous time to put your children back in school than in the junior high and high school years. You are really "rolling the dice" in doing so. You risk losing all you have worked for by putting them in such an environment where you cannot supervise their activities or friends, and at the age of their greatest vulnerability for peer influence.

And what about after high school? Remember you are preparing them for life as an adult. When they have finished the normal high school subjects you must consider what further training or experience they need. For daughters committed to being homemakers, this might be further training at home or from other women in such things as: homemaking skills, home crafts, practical home health care, and midwifery. Further preparation should also include real experience in serving and ministering to others (such as caring for children or the elderly, etc.).

For your sons, some form of further training or apprenticeship will likely be called for, depending on their career direction. Your personal role in their training may decrease at this point, but you are still responsible. Beware of sending your children away to college! College training may be needed by some as the only good option to prepare for a chosen career. But realize the dangers - they come from two sources!

First there is the danger of the philosophies and lies contrary to God's word that are forcefully presented by teachers, textbooks and classmates. In the technical fields, this is often less of a problem - but watch out for majors in the humanities (and particularly honors classes in these areas - where they make their best efforts at winning converts). Counsel your child well on what sorts of classes to try to avoid and prepare him in advance for false philosophies he will encounter.

The second and much greater danger is that of living in the college environment. It is an environment without accountability, surrounded 24 hours a day by mostly unbelievers (if at a secular college, and even at Christian colleges there will be many carnal Christians who are not fully living the faith) and many temptations. If at all possible, keep your child living at home during this time. Correspondence study from home is like a continuation of the homeschooling your children have been accustomed to. Next best is commuting to and from school each day. This keeps your son out of that environment and gives you regular opportunity to talk about what he is learning and the people he is in contact with. It also allows you to continue to regularly teach and reinforce things you have taught earlier. Don't let your labors be in vain due to influences in those final years before your child becomes truly mature.

Conclusion.

Don't be satisfied with merely protecting your children from the public school environment. And don't make the mistakes mentioned above of: 1) assuming godliness and character will come automatically; 2) working against yourself in what you allow; 3) allowing your children to become so involved in activities as to leave little family time; 4) neglecting to teach practical skills or provide work experience; 5) not establishing goals and a clear consistent direction; and 6) stopping too soon, before your children are truly ready to begin their own families.

Homeschooling provides an incredible opportunity for parents. Don't waste it!

 

Volume 1 Issue 1: May / June 2000, Unless The Lord ... Magazine

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