Recently I posted an article from the Cape Home Educators featuring FAQs about homeschooling. The article included a section focusing on perceived advantages of homeschooling which parents listed as among the reasons they choose to homeschool. In an enlightening discussion with a non-homeschooling friend, I came to realise a) how easily statements are misinterpreted, depending on one’s own life experience filters the information and b) how carefully we need to word things so that intended meaning and actualities are conveyed clearly. I thought it worthwhile to run through some of the factors of homeschooling that the pamphlet touches on, and, where possible, deal with some of the objections raised. Hence this post which is part of a series called Querying Homeschooling. I hope that my explanation is not only clear, but that it is also received as honest and gracious.
Many parents who home school have issues of faith as their primary reason. While views on how faith fits into education differs vastly from person to person, it is not unusual to find that many homeschoolers agree that homeschooling creates an environment favourable to teaching kids about the faith of the family. Do they believe that mainstream schooled kids don’t get a good enough education about their faith at home, however? Let’s examine this thought further – starting with an excerpt from the CHE pamphlet:
WHY HOME SCHOOLING?
The following are some of the advantages of home schooling and are among the reasons given by parents who’ve decided to home school.
1) Parents can educate their children in their faith.
My children are being educated about Jesus at home and at church, and will attend a predominately Christian school. Why would it be important for me to educate them in my faith more than that? (I’m asking seriously)
Parents who mainstream school their kids can educate their children in their faith. Homeschoolers do not have the “faith-education” monopoly. And it is certainly not an either/or scenario. The statement “parents can educate their children in their faith” is ambiguous and therefore subject to their reader’s interpretation.
I can see how annoying that statement could seem to a non-homeschooler. As if their children are going to be 100% brainwashed by the secular humanist viewpoint of their school teachers from the moment their little Grade 1 toe steps over the threshold of the classroom. All evidence of their parents’ teachings prior to this being washed away, and all further attempts rendered impotent. Yes, that would annoy me too. But is this the statement’s intended meaning?
From a homeschooler’s point of view, that statement can be read as innocuously as saying “homeschoolers can get up later in the morning”. It’s a general statement about two general principles that apply to all areas of homeschooling.
Namely: the freedom of time and the freedom of flexibility.
Homeschooling generally allows parents more time for the opportunities of engaging with their children about faith-related issues. The very nature of homeschooling means more contact time between parents and kids and therefore more opportunities and time to read the bible (in our case); talk through issues; read biographies and missionary stories et cetera.
Some families homeschool specifically for religious reasons. I know of at least one family in the Western Cape who homeschool their child so that he can learn the Koran off by heart. Attending a mainstream school would mean that he wouldn’t have the time to commit to this exercise. Some religions require that children learn a different language, so parents choose homeschooling because it better facilitates this learning. Many Christian families who choose to homeschool primarily for faith reasons do so because they want to teach their children about the world only through a biblical worldview, rather than feeling pressurised to combat a secular humanist worldview that many of the schools teach (which, incidentally, seems to be what the new curriculum requires of teachers, since it now contains a heavily secular humanist religious education component).
My personal experience:
Personally, “faith education” is not my primary reason for homeschooling. But it is a big reason. I’ve taught and have been taught in a secular humanist environment. I know how easy it is to be “tossed about on waves” as a young and immature Christian. Having been a teacher, I’m also aware of how powerful the teacher’s word is, especially to littlies. For some reason, kids have it in their heads that their teachers are better authorities on knowledge than their parents. Knowing what power I had as a classroom teacher, and how I could tell my class just about anything as the autocratic ruler of my class, kinda scares me today! Especially since only a fraction of what I said would ever reach the ears of the parents. I am wary of the messages that my kids will receive – messages that I may never hear about myself – messages that they may take on board without question, and without my ever being able to help them think critically and biblically about these messages. Of course, I reason with myself, God is in control and so I need not be neurotic. But at the same time, I would like to teach them as much as I can, in as much time as I can, while they are still our responsibility.
I’m also abundantly aware of my own weaknesses. One of which is how easily I abdicate responsibility. If something is not squarely on my lap, I can very easily let go of the responsibility entirely. It’s probably the sin of laziness (and I should probably investigate that a little more deeply!). When I examined myself during those “should I homeschool?” days, I realised that I didn’t think I would have the motivation and sense of responsibility to teach them as much as I would like to in the after-school hours. Knowing that, by homeschooling, I could follow a curriculum that mirrored our faith and taught things from a biblical perspective meant that I would be “forced” to fulfil my responsibility. And, it’s an absolute added bonus that I have more relaxed time with the kids to talk through their many questions about faith-related issues.
So, while I understand that there are many wonderful opportunities for children to share the gospel with their friends at school and this is often a motivating factor for Christian parents to send their kids into a secular environment, I’ve felt that I’d prefer to let those gospel-sharing opportunities happen in their extra-mural activities, while we focus on spending the bulk of their day reading inspirational biographies; talking through ethical issues; learning bible verses and discussing the bible passages we read as a part of our curriculum.
A suggested rewrite:
To avoid the confusion that the quoted statement under discussion in this post can so easily generate, I would like to suggest something less ambiguous. Perhaps, in this arena of homeschooling for faith reasons, the pamphlet could say something like this:
WHY HOME SCHOOLING?
Primarily parents choose to homeschool because it allows them more time, freedom and flexibility to…
… 1) educate their children in their faith.
… 2) …
How have you experienced the tone of the posts from the Querying Homeschooling series? Please participate in this anonymous poll to help me gauge whether I am hitting the intended mark: Polling the Querying Homeschooling Series.
Posts in this series: Querying Homeschooling
- Homeschool Q&A: Digging Deeper (outlines reasons for this series)
- The parent factor
- The time factor
- The flexibility factor
- The freedom factor
- The faith factor
- The tutorial style factor
- the love for life learning factor
- The academic factor
- The sports and cultural activities factor
- The socialisation factor
- The qualification factor
- The pitfalls