Monday, June 3, 2013

Public School vs Homeschool

Unfortunately, I have noticed in the last couple of years, that homeschooling is as hot-button a topic as any other parenting decision. When I was pregnant, the raging debate was natural, unmedicated birth vs medicated birth vs c-section. Now, all these years later, does it matter? No, because we move on. The next debate is breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. Then attachment parenting vs traditional parenting. Cloth diapering vs disposable. Co-sleeping vs cribs. Homemade baby food vs store bought. Natural foods vs processed. Organic vs not-organic. Vaccines vs not. The list goes on and on and on and one would think that by the time our children reach preschool, kindergarten, grade school, middle school or high school, we would learn that every family is individual and makes the decision that is best for the family, right?! It appears, not so much. The hostilities on both sides of the "Public School vs Homeschool" debate are huge!

There are so many educational choices for parents today, that we should be grateful for the diversity of decisions parents can make to educate our children. You can choose public school, private school, charter schools, virtual academies, public online academy, coops, immersion, homeschool, unschooling........ {taking a breath} It is no longer "just" public school vs homeschool. It's so much bigger than that and we should be excited as parents by all the options that are available to teach our children! Choosing one way over another does not mean we love our children less, same as choosing to bottlefeed instead of breastfeeding means we don't love them. Or eat organic. Or not eat organic. Or cloth diaper. Or disposable diaper. Nor does it makes us a better parent, choosing one option over another.

I have noticed one difference in the schooling debate that, I believe, may very well be unique to schooling verses any other parenting decision. It seems that in almost all other debates, the moms are the ones who are the most emotionally-charged and can be the hardest on each other. That is not true with schooling. Moms are passionate, but so are dads. Dads can be as passionate and emotionally-charged about the education of their children as moms.

Our family went about homeschooling very gradually. I had toyed with homeschooling Austin from the time he was in 3rd grade, but was never confident enough to do it. I didn't do a lot of research on it, because it was just a thought and something I knew I couldn't really do. More of a pipe-dream really. By the time Aidan was in preschool, I knew I didn't want him to go to public school when he got to kindergarten, but still was a little uncertain if I could seriously educate him and how it may harm him socially (ha!). I prayed about it and had found plenty of scripture to back it up (will get to that in a moment), but my husband was not on board. Because I strive to be submissive, which for us is actually that we both agree on decisions, and that Steve has the "ultimate" decision, I was willing to wait on him. My prayer had to become that God would work on Steve's heart and move him towards that decision. That decision came when Austin was a freshman. By that time, we knew we would homeschool the others, but that we would wait until Austin graduated, so I could fully focus on his education. God moved quickly by the time Aidan was in 2nd grade and, by December, we knew we would be homeschooling all of our children the next year.

For us, it was never a decision we made lightly, and it was something we searched scripture and bathed in prayer. If it was only our will and not the Lord's, we would fail miserably. One scripture that was very important to us, and I am sure is important to many homeschooling families (but is definitely not exclusive to homeschooling, as it was important long before we did homeschool), is Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it."  Another important scripture about seeking the Lord that came to us was from Poverbs 3:6 "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Another important verse for us was Acts 5:29 "But Peter and the apostles answered, we must obey God rather than man."

In these verses, we found comfort knowing that we would be training our children the way that we saw the Lord guiding us to do so and in a way that was appropriate for our family. But to do that, we first had to submit to God to make that clear to us and have our hearts open to whatever He directed us to do, and, if that included homeschooling, it would be counter-cultural and we would be obeying God and not just "going with the flow" of public schooling. Which would be difficult in some aspects, but God does not ask you to do something that He has not equipped you for (Hebrews 13:21 "[He will] equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."). He is always there to guide us, if only we seek Him.

There are many other verses about educating your child. How you discern it for you and your family is how the Lord reveals it to you. For us, each of the following verses directs us to educate our children at home ourselves.

11:19 - "You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."

4:9 - "Only take care and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children..."

6:5-7 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your  might. And these words that I command to you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit down in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."

Isaiah 28:8-11 "To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from milk and those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little."

Psalm 78: 5-7 "He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments."

2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to elemental spirits of the world, and not of Christ."

Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

God showed us that each of these verses was, for us, about teaching our children at home, where we are able to choose the curriculum we desire to teach our children, and rely on Him. But not a single one of those verses says anything about only homeschooling. All of these same verses may be taken differently by others and speak to how they are to raise their children generally and not specifically to the education of their children. To us, it speaks to how we are to raise our family in general, which includes their education. Each of us has to rely on God to discern His will for their own family. God has made each individual person unique and each family unique with unique purposes in life.

Finally, a few verses for all of us. We all are created by God and it must break His heart to see such division among His followers. We need to remember Who we serve and why.

Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."  God wants us to do whatever we do - stay at home mom, homeschooling mom, work at home mom, working mom, divorced, single, married, everyone - to do it for Him, and not anyone else. If we do that, we are doing exactly what we are designed to do. Serve God in everything that we do, all the time.

2 John 1:9 "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son."  We are all to abide in Christ and the teaching of scripture - homeschool, public school, private school, coop, unschool, charter school.....

I am closing with 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 because I feel like sometimes we forget that we are all created by God for His purpose ultimately and we all must have love for each other. If we do not have love, how can we possibly love anyone else? How can we at all realize that we are not all cookie-cut people who are exactly the same and expect everyone to only do what we do and if they do not, they are wrong or don't love their children? When we love as Christ first loved us, we are able to see each other for who they are in Christ and not judge each other so harshly. Every single parent makes decisions constantly for their children that are based on what is best for their children. We all need to learn to respect each other and not think that one choice is "better" than another. Because it's not. Every decision made by parents for their children guided by the Lord, is the right decision for their family. Parenting is hard. Let's all come together and not divide ourselves so much, in every aspect of parenting. The Lord has given us fellow believers to have for fellowship here on earth...let's not lose that and divide it further!

1 Corinthians 13:1-8a;13
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on it's own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at the wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ... So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."