Homeschooling has been the brunt of societies jokes as far as I can remember, and for good reason. In many instances, these children are socially awkward and out of touch with reality. I can say that because I am one of them. Not socially awkward or out of touch with reality (though that can be debated), but I was homeschooled. That’s right. I spent 12 years in my early education in my basement trying to sneak in naps while leaning back in my chair and propping a book in front of my face. I could go to school in my pajamas and spend my lunch hour watching Hogan’s Heroes. And that’s pretty much what I did.
Without a doubt, there are some serious side affects to homeschooling. That’s why I was so encouraged to come across Reb Bradley’s article from Family Ministries. Bradley is a former homeschooling dad and pastor, and his story and exhortation have been shared all over the internet. He makes nine points about the downside of homeschooling and encourages parents from all over to task on the most important issues in parenting.
Here in this post I am only going to highlight a few of the drawbacks while going beyond Bradley’s article to point out some of the advantages as well.
Problem 1: Homeschooling is built on a dream. The illusion is that by controlling the circumstances around your child you can determine the outcome. I addressed this myth yesterday, but to reiterate my point I will quote Reb Bradley.
“The reason that our dreams for our children are so vulnerable to crashing is because they are our dreams, imposed on our own children. As homeschool parents we make great sacrifices and invest a great deal to influence how our children turn out. The problem is that love for children can be lost in love for personal success as a parent. Our concern for ourselves ends up overshadowing our love for our children.”
True parenting is about winning the hearts of your children, not their actions. When children are not given the opportunity to fall and get back up, when they are held to a higher standard than they can achieve on their own (holiness), they will inevitably begin to resent their parents.
Advantage 1: Homeschooling allows personalization. If you are a wise parent, you can see into the life of your child and figure out what they need. If you love your child, you will do whatever it takes to learn about them and supply them with the best opportunities. However, you should do this whether you’re homeschooling or not. The advantage to homeschooling is that you have more time to do it.
Problem 2: Homeschooling often demands outward conformity over honest inflection. So much of what is accomplished through homeschooling is done through the efforts of legalism. Bradley continues to say,
“In the homeschool community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming, respectful manners, music style, or an attitude of sober reverence in worship… we can model for our children outward changes and easily fall into molding their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts. In some circles emphasis on the outward is epidemic.
“Let us not forget that Jesus came against the Pharisees for their preoccupation with what they felt were legitimate expressions of spirituality. They measured holiness by what was avoided and by what would be seen by others (Mat 6:1-2, 5, 16; 23:5-6, 23-28; John 7:24). The Pharisees were earnest in their religion, but they were preoccupied with outward expressions of holiness rather than hearts of humility and love (Micah 6:8) that would bear genuine fruit. I find it fascinating that in the gospels there is not one mention of Jesus coming against immodesty, even though among his followers were prostitutes and the like. Jesus emphasized cleaning up the inside while the Pharisees were the ones preoccupied with cleaning up the outside. We must ask ourselves: Which are we more like – Jesus or the Pharisees? Even now do we justify ourselves, insisting we emphasize cleaning up both the inside and the outside?”
Advantage 2: Homeschooling breaks the mold of conforming to bad behaviors outside of the home. Kids will adapt to their environment. If they are in a public school or private school they are bound to pick up bad behaviors that will need to be corrected. Protecting your children from these behaviors is a valuable effect of homeschooling. But being at home they will probably pick up your bad behaviors, which may be harder to notice.
Problem 3: Homeschooling is built up as a system that cannot fail. Spirituality cannot be canned and there are no five steps to holiness. Values cannot be manufactured. They have to generate from within when quickened by the work of the Holy Spirit. More from Bradley.
“Homeschool parents often take a formulaic approach to parenting. Committed to achieving results with our children, we look for formulas and principles to ensure our success. Knowing the Bible is full of the wisdom and promises of God, we look to it for its self-working principles and promised methods. Yet, there’s a problem with that. We are commanded to trust in God, not in formulas (John 14:1; Ps 37:5; 62:8).”
Advantage 3: Homeschooling allows the parent to build on a biblical foundation. If you don’t go into it thinking that homeschooling is the holy grail of education, you can utilize the advantages of having carte blanche to what your children are learning. Instead of spending your evenings debunking the evolutionary theory they are learning in the public schools, you can start with a faith based foundation. However, parents must be careful that they don’t just teach faith as science and complain when secularist do the same. When teaching science, it is not good enough to build a definitive argument that God is real and then attack the myth that the world is billions of years old when they are both built on belief not scientific fact.
Problem 4: Sheltering children has catastrophic affects once they grow up. This is my major problem with homeschooling. I’ve watched so many parents literally smother their children so much that when they grew up and faced the real world, they were so far behind their counterparts that they had to either adapt by conforming quickly or they were ostracized and developed socially awkward behaviors.
Sheltering is the worst way of building an aversion to the devil’s attacks. Maturity is never marked by limitations but the ability to withstand an attack. If we never let them get attacked in the first place they will fall at the first dart.
Not only are these kids prevented from developing natural deflections to the onslaught of society, but their physical efforts to resist such temptations will prove powerless against the devil who uses spiritual weapons. Bradley covers this as well.
“It is not uncommon for homeschool parents to feel that since they filter whatever their children see and hear, they will control the results in their lives… I was absolutely certain that my children would be exempted from significant temptation and from developing particular bad habits because I was controlling what touched their lives.
“Growing up isolated from temptation can develop a child who appears spiritually strong, but the appearance is not reality. When I was in college… the “spirituality” I felt and the level of holiness I achieved was not real and could not endure testing.”
I’ve often said that if your child is old enough to be left home alone when you go to the grocery store, they are old enough to start making their own spiritual decisions. I know that is an extreme statement, but it’s a pretty good gauge to determine if your efforts are paying off while they are still in your house. If you wait until they are 18 and off to college, it may be too late.
Advantage 4: Homeschooling allows natural parental involvement. While sheltering and smothering is going too far, many parents aren’t spending enough time with their children. They either don’t have the time or won’t make the time. Homeschooling allows for time together as a family. I strongly recommend that if you homeschool your children, the father should be involved in one or more of the classes, particularly Bible lessons.
Problem 5: Homeschoolers are not saints. When I was a camp counselor I had kids from every walk of life. The inner city kids would act sinfully right in front of me and I would correct their behavior. The goody goody Christian kids, however, were the ones who I really worried about.
One afternoon I was taking a nap in my bunk when two of churched campers came into the cabin and started talking worse then I ever heard the inner city kids talk. I kept still for a long time to see how this would develop, then I just sat up to a silent room with two ghostly faces. They had no clue I was there. One last quote from Bradley.
“If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Eph 6:6).”
Advantage 5: Homeschooling parents are not saints. How is that an advantage? I honestly think that the best way to demonstrate the doctrine of grace to your child is let them see your flaws and how you respond to them. Being with your kids that much, they will definitely see you in light of your depraved nature. Take this opportunity to show them that you are a sinner saved by grace.
Reb Bradley’s article can be seen in full at Joshua Harris’s blog here.