Evangelical Update

A resource for lefties who want to understand conservative Christians.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Homeschooling

Like feminism, this is a huge topic that I will do my best to distill, citing examples from The Cast.

One of the very first encounters I had with Evangelicals via my blog was with Shannon. Shannon posted in February about her intent to homeschool her children and the resistance she was getting from family and friends (unfortunately the comments have been lost due to a switch to Haloscan commenting). She says,


We [Shannon and her husband] believe with all our hearts that God gave parents the command to teach their children. We need to be the ones deciding what they learn and when. There may have been a time when a parent could send a child to school to learn the three r's - no more, no less - and trust that they would still be the ones to teach their children about God and morals and what we now call a worldview. But that's not true now. Schools are no longer neutral. They are socializing our children to be part of a culture that is decidedly anti-Christian. I don't want to have to de-program my kids every afternoon. "No, it isn't okay if Heather has two mommies." "No, we didn't all rise up out of the 60 billion year old sludge." "Yes it is okay for you to pray before you eat." "No it's not all right for you to have sex with whomever you please as long as you use protection."

After writing back and forth in the comments sections, I came to understand that Shannon is more comfortable being a member of mainstream society, but has chosen to not be mainstream in this regard, even if the in-laws disagree.
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Samantha, mother of 3 with another on the way, also homeschools. In a post representative of her views, Samantha describes her views on government education. Her reasons for homeschooling stem from both her religious and libertarian views:


It is an unpleasant realization to come to, but our public school system serves the same purpose as that of Communist Russia or China, of Nazi Germany, of Fascist Italy. Of course, on the surface the indoctrination taking place today does not seem to be wrong or damaging. After all, self-esteem and tolerance of others are the order of the day, with a little environmentalism and multiculturalism thrown in for good measure. Who could possibly object to such kind-hearted and feel-good curriculum? Yet there are many, many parents to whom self-control matters more than self-esteem...

Samantha then envisions a United States where homeschooling prevails in the battle between Christians, homeschoolers, and libertarians vs. teacher's unions, social workers, behavioral psychologists and politicians:


...both independent thinking and real learning would see a renaissance in America, such as existed in the early part of our history. Homeschools, private schools mentorships and apprenticeships would flourish. The intellectual and moral life of Americans would be revitalized. The slide towards collectivism would be halted, and both individual liberty and responsibility would increase. The State would shrink to a minimal level (or ideally, wither away entirely) as people would once again realize they are able to provide for themselves, protect themselves and think for themselves.

This is followed by the gloomy libertarian prediction of what the United States will result in should government schooling continue:


...Americans will continue to give up their liberty for perceived security. We will continue to watch television instead of reading, conversing or simply thinking; allowing ourselves to be dumbed down and numbed down to the point where we will be content with the mere illusion of freedom. We will get up every day and fill the job slot chosen for us in the Federal School-to-Work program, enjoying a beer (but not a cigarette, for tobacco has been banned) and what wages we have left after the State extracts its share. We will sit behind locked doors in our rented apartments, living vicariously through action thrillers, admiring those men who can be trusted with firearms. We will pay the speeding tickets we got because we forgot the surveillance camera was on First and Maple, and we will wait patiently until it is time to exercise our Right to Die.

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Ed has three children, and he and his wife have chosen to not homeschool. In a recent post, Ed justified his decision thus:


We considered home schooling, but by God's providence moved into a school district which is not slanted away from Christian values or teachings. Until a lawsuit a couple of years ago, a weekly Bible class was offered for elementary students and assemblies sponsored by the Parent's Club began with prayer! I figure I should support a school system like that. And I've kept a close eye on what is taught and how it is taught.

Ed then addresses the issues that readily come to mind when thinking about homeschooling:


I'll admit that I would have fears about home schooling if I were considering it. My boys are at the age where almost all of their sports activities will be through the school. Then there's the realization that I would have to relearn some of the things I forgot years ago! Other families I have talked to have had more radical fears about home schooling, especially in getting their children to interact with other kids, and a lack of the "gift" of teaching.

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Amy has four children younger than eight years old and homeschools. In a recent e-mail (which I cite with permission), in which Amy states that she does not believe that she is a typical Evangelical, Amy touches on her philosophy toward Christianity and education:

...it is one thing for me to blog against secular humanism. It is quite another to put my money and effort where my mouth is and not send my covenant children to government indoctrination centers. My faith causes me to make different choices than most mainstream Christianity.

In a recent post, Amy noticed that other people's websites peg her as either "Reformed" or "Homeschooler." Her comments show that she is uncomfortable with such a label because she does not view schooling and Christianity to be separate endeavors, as many may:


Labels don't always encompass what you're labeling, and they often include things that don't belong with what you're labeling. For instance, we "homeschool," but we don't do school at home. That is, we do not replicate the institutional model that comes to mind when one says the word "school." Most education passes on to the learner by means of conversation. This has been the most effective model for centuries, and more importantly, the Bible uses this method in Deuteronomy 6 when it instructs parents on what it is that we are to teach our children (to borrow a paraphrase): who God is, what God has done, and what God requires of us. Notice that algebra is missing from this list.

We teach our children academics, but we pass along quadratic equations in the context of a Biblical worldview. Perhaps a better label of what my husband and I are doing would be "discipling."

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And finally, Carmon. Carmon homeschools 8 children (2 of her 10 children are older than 18; they were also homeschooled). She is an extreme bibliophile, as evidenced by the library which I saw firsthand when I visited the Friedrich family and home last month. The library has well over 10,000 volumes, and is by no means a "Christian-books-only" library.

Carmon teaches using the 3R's: 1-1/2 hours of reading, 1 hour of writing, and 1 hour of math each day. Subjects such as history, philosophy, sociology, etc. are picked up through reading. My best guess is that most of the children spend more than 1-1/2 hours of reading per day with such a collection at their disposal.

Carmon is active in the homeschooling world. She occasionally contributes articles to a homeschooling magazine, coordinates with other homeschoolers for special lessons (she recently taught a unit of Shakespeare), and will speak at a homeschooling convention in June. Like Samantha, Carmon wants the government to have no influence upon the education of her children (link to post):

What in tarnation do homeschoolers want with corporate or government underwriting of their educational endeavors? In 17 years of teaching my own children, I've seen some major changes in the philosophy department of Homeschool U, but when we see parents lining up in droves with their hands out for largesse to put in their private coffers, the death knell has sounded and the musical ends with a dirge. If we think we need to be subsidized to give our children a biblical education (even including the 3 Rs as part of the curriculum), then we have swallowed the world's educational philosophies hook, line and sinker.

How did those one-room schoolhouses manage to produce literate, productive citizens without internet hook-ups and gymnastics lessons? Instead of trying to get a bigger piece of the educational pie, homeschoolers need to go back to the kitchen and make their own pies from scratch, using simple, healthy ingredients. I remember when such a challenge was right up the alley of the average homeschooling family. Throwing more money at the government schools has certainly done them a lot of good, hasn't it (insert sarcasm here)?

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SUMMARY

Carmon probably best sums up the feelings of those above with this quote: "How did those one-room schoolhouses manage to produce literate, productive citizens without internet hook-ups and gymnastics lessons?" Many conservative Christians are frustrated by the role that the public schools have taken in teaching public citizenship, which to them is viewed as an alternate and incorrect view on morality.

When public schools teach about tolerance, environmental problems, and the consequences of unsafe sex, many conservative Christians feel that the government steals the morality role out of the parents' hands and replaces it with secular humanism. This educational method is, in their view, patently anti-Christian and un-Christian.

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