Why I Homeschool

I get asked some why we homeschool our children. And I put up with a good bit of attitude from people who have very strong (and very wrong) preconceived notions about homeschoolers and homeschooling. So, here is my list of reason why we homeschool.

** Disclaimer** These are MY reasons. I do not believe that homeschooling is the only way to educate. I do not believe that it is wrong or immoral to put children in school (public or private). I do not believe that everyone should homeschool.

~ I homeschool my children because I want to do it. I really do enjoy teaching and learning with my children. It’s fun.

~ I homeschool my children because I can. Yep, it’s legal in Texas. I have the time and resources to do it.

~ I homeschool my children because I think I can give them a better education than any school out there. This is not to say that I am better at teaching, but rather that I can give my children one-on-one tailored education.

~ I homeschool because I don’t like having my life schedule dictated by someone else. My days are not set according to the school’s schedule. My vacations are planned when they are convenient to my family.

~ I homeschool because it’s what I would have wanted as a child. While I know that my children might or might not have similar experiences to mine, school was a place of torment on the bad days and an extreme waste of time on the good days for me. I bear scars that are very deep from my time in school.

~ I homeschool because I don’t like “forced socialization” of children. I get to decide who I want to hang out with and spend time with. Why shouldn’t my children? Yes, we all have to learn how to get along with people who are mean to us or who we disagree with, but generally speaking as adults we have a lot more control over who we associate with. My children are active in various groups with other children from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, colors, etc.

~ I homeschool so that my children get to experience the world in greater depth. I want my children to experience the richness of other cultures and locations, not just read about them.

~ I homeschool my children because I feel called to do it. There really is nothing I would rather do with my days.

Here are some misconceptions that I think are necessary to address.

~ I do not homeschool because I think public school is evil. There is plenty of evil in the world. I do not believe that public schools are the source of it. I do not believe that parents who send their kids to public school are abandoning them.

~ I do not homeschool because I want to shield my children from ideas different from my own. My children learn about other religions and beliefs that we do not adhere to. They read popular books and watch tv/movies that are age appropriate.

~ I do not homeschool because I want to protect my children from difficult or painful situations. I do want my children to have a firm foundation in their faith and a strong belief in their abilities. I am preparing my children to stand strong and provide a good defense for their beliefs.

~ I do not homeschool my children because I believe I am morally-superior to other non- homeschooling families. Every family has to make their own decision about what is right for them and what they believe God is calling them to do. My decisions are just that, MY decisions.

~ I do not homeschool my children because I want to “disengage” from the culture around me. My family interacts with many people from all walks of life. We are active in mercy ministries. We are participants in much of what the popular culture offers.

I hope this helps others understand why we do what we do.

Why Boys Don’t Read

While it’s not been my experience with my own boys, there has been much discussion over the fact that boys aren’t reading books. There are also many theories about how to help boys learn to love reading. One of my friends, a mom of three boys, sent me an article this week by a man with a very interesting theory.

Martin Cothran writes:

The entire educational establishment has tried for over 50 years to force boys into their effeminate mold, and in the process, they’ve succeeded in evacuating literature of all the things boys like in books: action, adventure, danger, bloodletting—and an iron moral code that is taught, not by smarmy sermonizing, but by immersing them in the moral universe of a story about a hero who not only believes in this code, but enforces it with a vengeance.

Because boys are longing for real heroes and real adventure, many are drawn to superheros and comic books:

The entire educational establishment has tried for over 50 years to force boys into their effeminate mold, and in the process, they’ve succeeded in evacuating literature of all the things boys like in books: action, adventure, danger, bloodletting—and an iron moral code that is taught, not by smarmy sermonizing, but by immersing them in the moral universe of a story about a hero who not only believes in this code, but enforces it with a vengeance.

He goes on to say:

Boys are not interested in getting in touch with themselves, and it is particularly off-putting when they are told that it is good for them. The minute the politically correct schoolmarms approach, they head for the woods, where they are free to pick up sticks and pretend they are swords and fight monsters and hunt frogs and swing from trees—anything but to be preached at by people whose sermons consist of high-minded meaninglessness.

Most boys are born cynics and are rightly suspicious of moralistic platitudes. They respect words only to the extent that they see them followed by actions. Tell them (in mere words) what the right thing to do is, and they will look at you suspiciously and walk away. Do the right thing—preferably at the risk of your own person or reputation, and they will follow you in zealous allegiance.

The older authors of books for boys knew this: they forsook the sermonizing for the story of men in action. G. A. Henty, Johnston McCulley, Anthony Hope, H. Rider Haggard, P. C. Wren, Howard Pyle, C. S. Forester, as well as Western authors like Louis L’Amour and Max Brand—these were authors boys not only didn’t avoid, but sought out. Even a few female authors were on to this secret about boys: Baronness Orczy, she of Scarlet Pimpernel fame, being the most notable, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder. Their books were once illumined by flashlights under bed covers so that, late at night, when they were supposed to be asleep, the young male reader could find out what happened next. To do the same with most modern therapeutic fiction would be a waste of batteries.

This is not a romantic discourse on the nature of the boy and how we should leave him to develop on his own, but merely a defense of the idea that he has a nature, and that it should be taken into account in how we deal with him. A necessary part of this (given that this nature doesn’t always lend itself to doing what the dictates of civilization require) is a straightforward and honest discipline, something which too often these days has been replaced by psychotropic drugs.

Boys needs to be tamed, not treated.

I completely agree.

Mr. Cothran concludes with a list of books he recommends for boys. My boys have already read many of these, but I look forward to introducing them to the others. Here is his list:

  • Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (and anything else Wilder ever wrote)
  • The Jack Tales, by Jonathan Chase
  • Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry
  • Robin Hood, by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • King Arthur, by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray
  • Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lost in the Barrens, by Farley Mowat (and anything else Mowat ever wrote)
  • Goodbye Kate, by Billy C. Clark (and anything else Clark ever wrote)
  • The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Mask of Zorro, by Johnston McCulley (and the rest of the Zorro books)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado, by Baroness Orczy (and the rest of the Scarlet Pimpernel books)
  • Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle (and anything else Pyle ever wrote)
  • Shane, by Jack Shaeffer
  • The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  • Old Squire’s Farm, by C. A. Stephens
  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
  • The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, by Allan French
  • Little Britches, by Ralph Moody
  • Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • A Texas Ranger, by N. A. Jennings
  • Penrod, by Booth Tarkington
  • The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • The Worm Ouroboros, by E. R. Edison
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien

What’s Wrong With Biblical Patriarchy

As a homeschooling family, we come in contact with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs. One of the groups that is fairly common within the homeschooling community is the modern patriarchy movement, or as they refer to it “Biblical Patriarchy.” Some of the big names in this group include, R.C. Sproul, Jr., Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, and Doug Wilson of Credenda Agenda magazine. R.C. Sproul, Jr. and Doug Phillips have put together a list of tenets to help define Biblical Patriarchy. They define the reason for the movement this way:

We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy, not because it is greater than other doctrines, but because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers. In conscious opposition to feminism, egalitarianism, and the humanistic philosophies of the present time, the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

While many, especially within the homeschooling and Reformed communities, would agree that feminism, egalitarianism, and humanism are wrong and should be opposed, Biblical Patriarchy is not the answer. It’s not Biblical. It is a dangerous distortion of the truth. It destroys families and can tear apart churches.

As Dr. Steven Tracy, a professor at Phoenix Seminary, wrote in his article,”1 Corinthians 11:3: A Corrective to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship:”

Donald Bloesch, a complementarian, astutely observes: In opposing militant feminism, however, we must not make the mistake of enthroning patriarchal values that have often held women and children in bondage and oppression. Similarly, in the context of noting the harmful results of egalitarianism, which he says are anarchy or matriarchy, he issues a sober warning: a very real danger in the patriarchal family is tyranny in which the husband uses his power to hold his wife and children in servile dependence and submission.

Biblical Patriarchy is also not the only option in opposing feminism and egalitarianism. I hold to the position mentioned above called Complementarianism. I believe that men and women are equal before God and that husbands and wives are made to complement each other. I also believe that men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families and that women are not called to be officers in the Church. I believe that I am to submit to my husband’s leadership and that my husband is to love me sacrificially like Christ demonstrated by dying for the Church. I also believe that my husband and I are both to submit to the leadership of the elders that God has placed over us.

Those who hold to Biblical Patriarchy would probably agree with everything I just outlined. However, this is not what Biblical Patriarchy is about. Instead of sticking to Scripture in defining the roles of men and women in the home, the church, and in society, Biblical Patriarchy starts with Scripture and then branches out into culturally biased opinions. It may seem odd to call it culturally biased, but it is. It owes a lot to the cultural ideals of the Victorian Era, especially the concept of separate spheres.

While it may seem like Biblical Patriarchy and Complementarianism are very similar, or even the same thing, there are very important distinctions between the two. One of the best examples of the differences between Biblical Patriarchy and Complementarianism has to do with women working or holding leadership positions outside the home, in the workforce, or in government.

Dr. Steven Tracy also addressed this in his article:

Male headship does not mean that females are not invested with any authority … . While complementarians by definition believe that God has given the man final domestic and ecclesiastical authority, the woman as the man`s equal is given significant and varied authority (the right or power to do something). … [W]e should note that in Scripture, godly women have authority to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8), prophesy (Is 8:3; Acts 2:17-18; 21:8-9), run a household (Prov 31:10-31), manage commercial enterprises (Prov 31:10-31), give men corrective accountability (1 Sam 25:18-38; Luke 18:1-8; Acts 18:26), and serve as co-laborers with men in ministry (Judges 4; Rom 16:1-3, 6; Phil 4:2-3).

In contrast, Vision Forum’s Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy outlines the following tenets:

11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.(1 Tim. 3:5)

And

13. Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home,” the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Prov. 31:10-31; Tit. 2:4-5)

14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14)

This is where Biblical Patriarchy goes far and away beyond what Scripture teaches. While wives are to be helpers for their husbands, and men are to be the officers of the church, Scripture does not teach that:

A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.

It also doesn’t teach that:

[I]t is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.).

The discussion of the domestic and public spheres of dominion comes not from Scripture, but from secular culture. The concept of men and women occupying separate spheres goes back to the ancient Greeks and Aristotle, but it gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution and Victorian Era. The idea is that men inhabit the public sphere which includes government, business, etc. and that women inhabit the domestic sphere of child-rearing, housekeeping, and education. A popular Victorian Era poem called “The Angel in the House” exemplified the ideal Victorian woman, and the image of the wife and mother who was pious and submissive came to be referred to as “the angel in the house.”

Unfortunately, this has next to nothing to do with the Bible. Aristotle’s idea, which carried over into the Victorian Era, and into modern Biblical Patriarchy, was that women are by nature inferior to men. Is this the picture of men and women who were created by God together in His image? Is it consistent with the Scriptures that teach that men and women are equal before God? Is this consistent with the description of the virtuous woman from Proverbs 31?

The underlying view of women as inferior plays out in very destructive ways. In Biblical Patriarchy, men are given the tools to dominate and rule over women in abusive and heavy-handed ways. One of the big problems, according to Biblical Patriarchy, is that women are prone to rebellion and need to be directed in submission.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I struggle with sin like all other daughters of Eve and submitting to my husband’s leadership is a challenge at times. By the same token, my husband struggles with sin like all other sons of Adam and loving me sacrificially is a challenge for him. This is not what Biblical Patriarchy is talking about.

Here is an example from an article by Doug Wilson, “Not Where She Should Be.” Wilson explains that husbands may find that their wives are rebellious in various ways:

Most married Christian men are not in this position, but at the same time we cannot say the problem is extremely rare.

The symptoms can of course vary. He may be distressed over her spending habits, television viewing habits, weight, rejection of his leadership, laziness in cleaning the house, lack of responsiveness to sexual advances, whatever. But however the problem is manifested, what should a husband do?

He goes on to explain what steps a husband should take to ensure submission from his wife. After confessing his own sins, a husband is encouraged to sit his wife down and explain to her that things need to change and that she needs to start doing her duties:

[H]is expectations for change should not be exhaustive, but rather representative. He should want to address the problem in principle, not in toto. The purpose of this discussion is not to present a twenty-year-old list of grievances–love does not keep a record of wrongs–but rather to help her learn to do her duty, and to lead her as she learns what is, for her, a difficult lesson. She can learn on a representative problem. She would be overwhelmed with a requirement that she change everywhere, all at once. If, for example, the problem is one of poor housekeeping, he should require something very simple, i.e. that the dishes be done after every meal before anything else is done.

The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.

He does this, without rancour and without an accusative spirit, until she complies or rebels. If she complies, he must move up one step, now requiring that another of her duties be done. If she rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.

Where in Scripture does it say that a husband is responsible for enforcing his wife’s submission or that it is appropriate to micro-manage her? This is a prescription for abuse. Notice what is included in the list of things a wife might be rebellious about.

Where in Scripture does a husband have any right to tell his wife how much she should weigh? I don’t want to imagine that conversation. “Honey, I realize that it’s my fault for buying the ice cream, but your current weight isn’t attractive enough to me. You need to lose a good 15 lbs, and if you aren’t willing to submit to my authority on this matter then I’ll need to call the pastor and elders in.” It sounds ridiculous and extreme, but that is the sad reality of many men and women caught in the lies of Biblical Patriarchy.

Another example comes from a discussion I was part of recently. The question was raised by a young husband and father: should a husband tell his wife how to vote? I was floored by the question, not so much by the topic itself, but by the underlying assumptions. A wife is assumed to need direction in how to vote. She’s assumed to be rebellious in her choices. She’s assumed to have inferior abilities. Her husband is assumed to have an authority that includes directing her even in this matter.

My thought was that if a wife is voting for a morally bad candidate and can’t be trusted to make a wise and godly choice, there are much bigger problems in the marriage than whether or not her husband has the right to dictate her voting choices.

According to my understanding of Complementarianism, a husband and wife will discuss and make decisions together. A husband will appreciate the insight his wife can give him, and a wife will appreciate the insight her husband can give her. This is the Biblical picture of help-meets.

Biblical Patriarchy is a perversion of the truth. It is not a corrective for feminism, but rather a culturally biased over-reaction. Instead of returning families and Churches to Scripture, it tears them apart. As Complementarians, we should be careful to voice our opposition to both egalitarianism and Biblical Patriarchy. We should not sit by quietly while women are dishonored and mistreated.

Matthew Henry gave a beautiful picture of the Biblical relationship between husbands and wives in his Commentary on Genesis:

[T]he woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis 2:22

That is something to remember and to strive for in our relationships.

Salt, Light, and Home Schooling

Most of us know when we decide to home school that we will face objections from friends and family who either don’t understand or don’t agree with our decision to teach our children at home. Recently, one of the objections many of us have heard is that by home schooling we aren’t allowing our children to be salt and light in the public schools. I ran across this article today by a home schooling dad who answered the objection really well. Here are a few excerpts from his article:

In short, if we send our children into the public schools we send them into an environment that is fundamentally unbiblical, though it may at times appear to parrot a traditional biblical ethic. Keep in mind, this is not an indictment of any particular school or teacher, rather it is the zeitgeist of the age―the water we swim in, the air we breathe.

As homeschooling parents we are not looking for a Christian gloss (or some moral equivalent) over an unbiblical foundation. Rather, we desire to live out an educational model with our children that begins with Christ and the biblical worldview. We will fail in many ways, but if we do not aim at that target, then at what are we aiming? It is our obligation before God and for the sake of our children to think this through. We have the privilege of homeschooling. We give up a lot to do it, but we still do it. Certainly there are many others, single parents for example, who find it much more difficult to homeschool. I do not discount public education as an option, but I am convinced that Christian parents must be particularly thoughtful about how their children are educated. We easily forget that we are much like sheep among wolves―how much more so are our children.

But what about the question of sending one’s children to school precisely because one is a Christian and feels the pressure to be missional? I believe Christians are called to be salt and light. And I believe the gospel is fundamentally both personal and social. We are to be personally transformed by the gospel, and we are called to take the good news to the world. However, I have concerns about feeling the missional pressure myself and then making my children take the brunt of responsibility for it. In other words, I do not want to assume it is the purview of my children to do something that is fundamentally an adult activity. And I do not want them to inappropriately get hurt doing it.

And

As Christians our first responsibilities lie with our covenantal relationships: with God, with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, and with our local churches. All these come before our responsibility to the world at large. We are to be salt and light to each other first, even to the least of us, and then to others. I applaud the goal of reaching out to one’s neighborhood, but I question whether putting one’s children into the hands of the state is the right way to do it. I realize that at the heart of the Christian life is the spirit of martyrdom (it has always been that way ever since the cross), but as parents we must be wary of thrusting our children into that role.

Finally, there may be more felt pressure on pastors to send their children to government schools as an example―to model “missional” for their congregations. I would argue that, perhaps, a better route is the one of modeling salt and light (to both congregation and the community) by not only extending oneself missionally into the world, but by extending oneself missionally to one’s children through a loving, Christ centered, biblical worldview-based homeschooling education.

As I said before, there are no easy answers. I believe that loving, Christian parents can, with a relatively clean conscience, send their children to public schools. But I doubt it can be done without at least some harm being done to the children. The questions are: what is the nature of the harm, for what purpose is this being done, and is the harm being offset by something of greater value? Just like a government should not mandate how one’s children are educated, neither should a church. Rather, one’s church should provide guidance, wisdom, and support in helping parents fulfill their God-given obligations of cultivating their own children in wisdom and virtue by nourishing their souls on truth, goodness, and beauty so that their children are better able to know and enjoy God. For us the choice is clear that homeschooling within a Christ-centered worldview and with a classical methodology best accomplishes this.