Okay, even back then (whenever "then" was), that was a stereotype gone bad, but the picture today is really different. All kinds of people homeschool, from all kinds of backgrounds, for all kinds of reasons, and with all kinds of resources. Homeschooling is so mainstream that museums, bookstores, craft stores and more genuinely reach out to homeschool families with special programs and bargains.
But even with this being the case, I get the idea that a lot of people look at homeschooling as something that is okay...if you do it "right", using a curriculum that is good "enough", and getting your kids out in social situations "enough", and exposing them to new ideas "enough" - and that fear of not being "enough" is what holds a lot of parents back from making the jump to homeschooling.
Where some of that starts is with our reasons to homeschool, which is one of the first areas a homeschool parent can feel attacked and get defensive, but is also one of the first areas we need to be sure of if we are going to stay the course for as long as God calls us to teach our children at home.
I've shared before what some of our reasons for homeschooling are, but today I want to share a different kind of "why" - our purposes or goals. Maybe some of them will resonate with you, too.
Yes, protect. I said it. Protect, shelter, whatever else you want to call it. I hear many other homeschool parents protest, "Oh, we homeschool, but not because we want to shelter our children," as if there is something shameful about it. But there isn't. It's right and good and natural to want to protect and shelter our children. It's why we live in a house and not out in the elements, why we make them wear warm coats in the winter and ride in a car seat and why we choose to vaccinate (or not). Parents are supposed to protect their children physically, and we should protect them emotionally and mentally, too. For our family, part of our purpose in homeschooling is to protect them from exposure to both ideas and experiences that run counter to the biblical command that we “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), or ones that they are not ready for yet. What we feel is inappropriate at different ages may be different from what you or your friend thinks, and that is okay. That is what makes parenting your own unique journey.
Now, let me say two things about this purpose.
First, you don’t have to homeschool to protect your children. That should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. There are lots of ways to protect your children. We just happen to find homeschooling to one of the most convenient ways, where we are the ones controlling what they are learning and, consequently, what ideas they are considering, especially in these very vulnerable and formative years.
Second, homeschooling is not the silver bullet. It won’t protect your children from everything. Some parents do have the idea that if they homeschool just right and discipline just right and teach them just right, their children will turn out just right. Only that ignores the fact that each one of us struggles not just with influences and temptations from without, but also the sin that resides within. Homeschooling is not the cure (Jesus is), but it can be a useful tool in a parent’s toolbox.
We want to give our children an excellent education, one that sees God as central to all areas of study, and also sees Him as the purpose in all that we learn. We have adopted and grown to love the classical approach to education, which emphasizes memorizing important facts and acquiring basic skills in the elementary years, making connections among those facts in the late middle school years, and, in their high school years, learning how to express what they have learned in a way that will convince others to follow the truth. It is an approach that is not embraced by most modern education systems, whether public or private, and one that we have found easiest to implement at home. At home, we can also include at the forefront instruction in the Bible and theology – yes, theology for preschoolers through teenagers. And with the time we save by homeschooling, we can also provide them with instruction in their talents and interests, whether music or sports or something else.
All parents want to prepare their children for the future, for that moment when they leave the nest. Part of that preparation will be a natural byproduct of the classical approach that will prepare them to both listen and argue well (and respectfully) when confronted with ideas different from their own. Part of it goes back to the goal of protecting them from things they are not ready for yet, and as they are ready, gradually exposing them to those things in a way that helps them evaluate them according to the Bible. Part of it will come as they interact with people of all ages, through our homeschool and other community groups as well as our family activities and modes of service. We want to prepare our children to not only be contributing members of society, but also wise and compassionate followers of Jesus Christ. For us, homeschooling is the best way to do this.
What about you? If you homeschool, what are your goals? I would love to hear from you! If you want to do more than just leave a comment, come join my Facebook group for deeper discussion!