I’ve spent two blogs talking about the potential dangers of homeschooling. Now I want to follow up with a blog talking about the potential benefits of homeschooling. If you’re new to this discussion, you’ll need to read my first two blogs in order to get a better perspective of where I’m coming from.
As previously stated, my wife and I (cough, cough) homeschool our four children—and we love it. I mean, it’s incredibly demanding and at times exacerbating, but every year we keep returning to this educational method. As you should know by now, I don’t believe homeschooling is the only way. I don’t even think it’s always the best way for every parent to school every one of their kids. I think you should take it case by case, child by child, situation by situation, and parent by parent. Some parents would rather roll around naked on broken glass than homeschool their kids. If this is you, then I don’t think you should feel pressured into homeschooling them. And if you’re the one pressuring (explicitly or implicitly) every other mom into homeschooling their children, stop it. It has to be a good fit both for the parents and the kids. After all, homeschool is not the goal. Discipleship is the goal, and I’ve seen parents do a darn good job discipling their children through public school, and I’ve seen parents do a terrible job discipling their kids through homeschool.
The goal is that we would raise our kids to be more like Jesus. In our situation, we’ve found that homeschooling provides a good avenue for this for several reasons.
First, it gives us much, much more time with them. All the parenting passages in the Bible (Deut 6; Prov 22; Eph 6) focus on raising up kids in the Lord, saturating them in the word of God, imparting to them wisdom of life. Again, I can’t reemphasize enough: homeschooling isn’t the only way to do this. But we’ve found that for us it has been a very effective avenue for pouring into our kids. My wife who actually schools them (I’m just the “Principal,” according to my kids) tells me about the dozens of life-lessons that come up every day while they are at home.
Second, more time with our kids means more time for ministry. We love to have people over and entertain. And since we homeschool, our kids don’t feel neglected when we do. After all, my wife has been with them all day, so to have people over at night is something we all look forward to. If we didn’t homeschool, I personally would be less eager to do more ministry at night or on the weekends, since I’d want to have more time with my kids.
Third, from an educational perspective, there are many benefits to homeschooling. As an educator, I’ve seen that people learn differently, and they have different passions of what they want to learn. Most of my kids are very creative and less analytical. They love music, art, writing fiction, and building stuff with their hands. If you try to stuff my kids in an analytical box, they’re going to scream. They need to create, and touch, and smell, and shove their hands in the earth. For us, home schooling allows for a wide array of educational avenues that tailor learning to the specific passions and gifts of each child.
Fourth, since I travel a lot, homeschooling allows for the flexibility to bring a child—or sometimes the whole family—with me. For some families, this might be irrelevant. But for us, there are many things we could never have done or seen if our kids were tied to a school schedule. There is so much learning that goes on outside the classroom, and homeschooling provides tremendous flexibility to engage life holistically. Our kids, for instance, have started an egg-selling business around the neighborhood (we have a lot of chickens), which, to my mind, will give them life lessons that will last a life-time.
Fifth, homeschool can actually expose them to the world and culture. Some homeschoolers want to keep their kids from the world (this is the stereotype, right?) but we try to do the opposite. Our kids are in all sorts of extra-circular activities—some of which wouldn’t be possible if they were in public school. And we try to go out of our way to teach our kids about culture and the world around us. On any given day, you’ll probably hear Mumford and Sons or Cold Play or Arcade Fire or Red Hot Chili Peppers blaring through our hallways. I want my kids to learn about the world, to be in tune with what’s going on, to be angry at the evil that blankets God’s beautiful creation and cry out in protest with Axel Rose:
The wars go on with brainwashed pride For the love of God and our human rights And all these things are swept aside By bloody hands time can't deny And are washed away by your genocide (Guns N' Roses, Civil War)
Homeshooling doesn’t have to shelter children. It doesn’t have to turn a blind-eye to God’s general revelation bursting through everyone who bears God’s image. It can be a way to introduce them to the world, even learn from the world, in such a way that cultivates a passion to want to change it. I’ll admit that public school very well could be a better avenue for this in most cases. However, I don’t think it has to be a false dichotomy; I think homeschooling can produce Jesus-loving, sin-hating, compassionate kids who are broken for the world, which can only happen if they are exposed to the world.
In the end, all of these reasons are somewhat subjective and aren’t meant to be directly transferable to every family in every context. But it has worked well for us. But in the end, we fail. Our kids fail. We fall short of the ideals we’re shooting for. And for this, we all—home-schoolers, Christian-schoolers, public-shoolers—can join hands around the cross where all our parenting failures have been paid for and redeemed.
It’s an offense to the cross and it grieves His Holy Spirit when educational methods foster disunity and judgmentalism in the church. May we all repent from the creative ways we’ve pushed others away from Jesus by erecting man-made standards of righteousness.