Home Schooling and the Art of Making Tofu
"Home school my children? You can't be serious? Aren't they the folks who live in the woods, grow long beards, deliver their babies at home and make their own tofu? Sounds like a cult." Prejudice and ignorance about home schooling still run high, even in Christian circles. So, in order to get a more accurate picture, and perhaps help families considering this alternative, I interviewed our church's five home schooling couples.
How did you first get into home schooling? We had already ruled out the public schools because we didn't want our children to be systematically proselytized into an atheistic worldview. It didn't make sense for our children to get their "academic education" (taught from a man-centered perspective) during the week, and then a little added-on "Christian education" in Sunday school. We wanted all their education to be Christian.
Why not just send your children to a Christian school? The cost was a big factor, and (for some families) the crushing legalism of the local Christian school. But we chose home schooling mainly because of its advantages. It seemed such a natural thing to do. I was there when my child cut her first tooth, said her first words, took her first steps; I was also there when she read her first sentence. I'd never want to give up that joy. My teaching is a natural extension of parenthood, and it doesn't take special training; if you can read, you can teach your child to read.
What effect does home schooling have upon your family? Rather than our children going off in all different directions, they develop close bonds at home. Home schooling teaches responsibility; our 10-year-old helps care for our 10-month-old. So she's developing parenting skills and a close relationship with her siblings at the same time. We also have the flexibility to take field trips, travel together, and have a home business.
Does your home schooling deal effectively with sin, and the power of the gospel? Definitely! We're all sinners, so we have plenty of opportunities every day to live out the gospel with our children. When the child (or the parent) has a sin problem of some kind, we deal with it immediately. We're right there to correct, discipline, reconcile, and pray with our child. This is the great strength of the tutorial method: you can really disciple your children, teaching them:
when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Deuteronomy 11:19
And it's great to be able to stop and pray any time about anything.
The objection against home schooling which you often hear is, "What about the child's socialization?" The real question is: What kind of socialization? In a typical school setting children are socialized into what Raymond Moore calls a "peer dependence culture." We don't want that. We prefer to teach them ourselves how to speak and act, how to relate to others, how to live by faith. I want my children to learn to stand for what is right and true – and to stand alone if necessary.
But how can you teach him to face opposition if he's always in the protection of your home? He will learn how to face opposition in due time. But why put that burden upon him at such an early age, at the same time he's also trying to learn reading and math? Besides, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about godly relationships right in the family. When the kids have a squabble, we try to teach them principles of justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
What are the disadvantages of home schooling, and what have you done to overcome them? There's the danger of burn-out. Sometimes you feel like you're trying to juggle ten balls at once. A good support group can help deal with that stress. Group activities such as sports are more difficult to pull off. Ever try playing kickball with three people? The kids love it – home runs all over the place! You have to search for alternatives – little league, swim team, or working out a deal with a local school. Also, your resources are usually more limited for the study of languages, science labs, and fine arts.
What advice would you give to a couple that is considering home schooling their children? You have to count the cost, and both husband and wife must be willing to pay the price. Home schooling has meant cutting back on some church activities and other things we'd like to do. You need a block of relatively uninterrupted time, ranging from three hours to most of the day, depending on the number of children you have. If you decide to home school, it's important to have some outside adults in your children's lives. Create opportunities for this – like music lessons or team teaching with another family.
One other matter: families who home school do have a tendency to become isolated and self-sufficient, which is neither wise nor biblical. In the church we need one another. Make your home a center for missionary prayer and hospitality. Teach your children by your example that they exist not for themselves but for God's purposes and glory.