March 22, 2010

Five Values of Successful Homeschooling

Written By Cary Schmidt

Educating Your Children with a Winning Philosophy

Recently I had the privilege of meeting with a wonderful group of families in our church that homeschool their children. I fully believe in the value of traditional, Christian education and schooling, but I also have respect for Christian parents who, out of necessity or by preference, choose to homeschool. I shared with these families a short list of values that I’ve seen in successful homeschool families.

This list flows from family counsel, studying the home, and seeing both the blessings and pitfalls of homeschooling. I’ve known many success stories in homeschooling, and in every case, the family had these five basic values in place:

1. The Value of Biblical Curriculum—Successful homeschooling places a premium on the selection of curriculum. When it comes to the choice of either saving a few dollars or having a truly biblical curriculum, these families place a high value on a biblical education. In addition to this, they select Christian curriculum carefully. Not all “Christian” curriculums are the same. In fact several are just plain dangerous.

Selling Christian curriculum can be big business, and wise families ask the Lord for discernment to see beyond the sales pitch and really inspect the biblical validity of the philosophy and approach that a particular publisher takes. Some providers go to unbiblical extremes to build a loyal customer base—including driving a wedge between the family and other biblical institutions.

2.The Value of the Local the Church—Successful homeschool families always place a high value on the local church, in keeping with the clear, New Testament pattern. A few curriculum and resource providers in the homeschool movement are clearly anti-local church. For some, this sentiment is an over-reaction to the failure of the contemporary church. For others, it flows more from their own past family relationships. For some it’s an inner rebellion and aversion to authentic, biblical structure and authority. Often it is due to fear and over-protectionism. (Becoming reclusive from God’s institution isn’t protective for our children, it’s harmful.) Wherever the withdrawal originates, this anti-local local church philosophy is purely unscriptural and therefore, dangerous to the family.

Sometimes this is referred to as a “home-church” philosophy. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a church in a home (as churches began in the New Testament), the modern-day typical “home-church” is somewhat morphed and mutated from the New Testament pattern.

Biblical churches have pastoral leadership, structure, order, giving, Biblical preaching and teaching, and authentic outreach ministry. They have pastors, deacons, new life, and missions efforts. But the “home church” philosophy tends to be, more or less, a few families gathering for loose-knit fellowship. It’s more exclusionary and reclusive. The daily operation, outreach, ministry, and administration of an effective local church is quite different.

Here’s the core point—successful homeschool families understand God’s structure of authority and submit to it. These parents don’t demand submission from their children while simultaneously rebelling against God themselves. They place themselves under God’s authority and model the submissive hearts they teach. In addition, they don’t redefine church according to their own terms—like meeting with a few families to play soccer once a week. If I despise God’s biblical authority in my life—church and pastor—I’m teaching my children to eventually cast off authority themselves.

Finally, these families place para-church organizations in proper perspective. They don’t allow curriculum or resource providers to usurp the local church and their commitment to gathering, growing, serving, giving, and participating with a local, called out assembly. I’ve seen God bless this commitment over and over.

3. The Value of Avoiding “Extreme Family Exclusivity”—Sometimes it is born out of fear—fear of exposing our kids to the “outside world.” Other times it is born out of pride—refusing to recognize that God has ordained other institutions to cooperate with the home in spiritual development and support. Some fringes of the homeschool movement tend toward reclusive family tendencies—withdrawing from church-family and biblical support relationships or structure.

As a “grown-up” child, I will be forever grateful for parents who kept my heart tender towards the lost, toward a godly pastor, and towards other growing Christian homes that weren’t “just like us.” In addition, they helped us to refrain from being judgmental or arrogant towards the lost or those who were growing in grace in our church family.

The successful homeschool stories that I have witnessed have always maintained a strong social and relational connection with healthy influences. They teach their children to avoid “peer dependence” while still meeting the need for peer interaction. They make sure their family is participating in the great work of the gospel with a vibrant church family. These parents have helped their children have a heart for the lost world, not to merely withdraw from it. As one friend of mine said—these families are not just cursing the darkness—they are punching holes in it with the light!

4. The Value of a Structured Format—Every parent is gifted by God to train up their child, but many struggle with the academic and structural side of daily education.  Homeschooling is a huge commitment on the part of parents. It requires the shouldering of a massive schedule and academic responsibility, in addition to the already overwhelming responsibilities of nurturing and parenting our children and managing the household.

I have counseled families who, not long into the effort, find that they are falling behind. On occasion I’ve had moms or dads admit to being a year or more behind in their child’s education. Homeschooling is a serious commitment to a disciplined regimen—a structured schedule and format. We can’t afford to allow our children’s education slip because of a lack of discipline or academic training.

Success stories always include parents who were passionately committed to providing their children with the very best education possible—and that always includes a structured schedule and the daily discipline of school routines.

5. The Value of Family Balance—This final value speaks to the opposite extreme of the previous. While some families struggle to establish the discipline and routines necessary to stay on schedule, others can go overboard on rigidity. It really depends upon your nature. But some parents would tend to err to the side of over-structuring and bringing all of family life into some sort of system and order. This can be overwhelming to a child.

All of our homes need the balance of rules with relationships. Our kids need time with us outside of a routine. They need to laugh, play, connect heart-to-heart, and experience our genuine warmth and compassion as parents. That’s hard to experience while sitting in a school desk. And as a parent it can be difficult to balance the role of school instructor or administrator, with the role of parent.

The success stories always include parents who wisely struck the balance with the help of the Holy Spirit. Remember there is something far more important than your child’s education (as vital as that is!) Their relationship with you and ultimately with God trumps everything else! Through all of the efforts to give them a solid education, be sure that the relationship—heart to heart—is healthy and growing.

Every now and then, break protocol and be a parent. Fall in love with your kids and meet the needs of their heart as well as their minds.

In conclusion, again, I believe wholly in the value of traditional Christian education. Whenever possible, a godly team of teachers in the right Christian school environment is a powerful compliment to the Christian home and local church. However, for many families, Christian school is just not an option for a variety of reasons. When these parents courageously shoulder the responsibility of education rather than taking the easier paths of public options, I respect their choice.

I pray that these values will be strong in your home and will help your family to be one of God’s great success stories!