Letter to Pastor Dean

This is my reply to a pastor concerned about a ‘homeschooling syndrome’ in his community:

I sometimes look at the churches and I wonder whether there is a league table where the ‘homeschooling pastor’s wife is queen’.  I am sure there are many values that the homeschooling pastor’s wife embodies that can be found in the Bible, but I am suspicious that there is a clique mentality that legitimizes some of the behavior that I see in Junior High.  In some books it is called the ‘Queen Bee and Wannabe’.  A culture where an ‘in crowd’ and an ‘out crowd’ develops over key values is not, I believe, the way of Christ.  There is a subculture that runs women’s meetings at 10:00 a.m. and talks incessantly about family.  I think that fellowship and family values are essential to the life of the church, but there is an ego-centrism that ostracizes the struggling single-mother, or the infertile woman that such cliques ignore.

 

Good schooling is done for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of engagement.  The result of a good education is one where the student can engage in the world and be salt and light.  Salt is rubbed into rotting meat and light shines into darkness.  Some homeschooling raises children to engage, but much is a reaction to the world where the parents protect their children to the degree that they have no transformational effect.  It can be a fear of loss of control, fear of harm, or fear of the unknown that drives such a decision to home school. However, a parent’s schooling choices should be marked by faith not fear.

 

One of my main concerns about homeschooling is the undervaluing of training and teacher education.  The pupil frequently models themselves after the teacher and if the teacher is lacking the pupil will lack in those areas of weakness all the more.  Some of the curriculum used in homeschooling compensates for the lack of teaching skills by being very prescriptive.  The emphasis is on obedience and knowledge.  Of course, a child whose faith is grounded in what they have been told to believe(poorly reasoned)and think, ceases to think when the dominating force is gone.  It either leads to ineffective faith or no faith.  A teacher who can encourage thinking beyond a text is more in line with the Rabbi Himself.  Christ not only lectured his disciples, he sent them on ‘field trips’ without him, he quizzed them, he gave them hands on learning experiences.  The art of teaching is valuable – years of training have value.  I like to see homeschooling teachers who are grounded in the philosophical foundations of Christian Worldview, varied pedagogy, biblical knowledge, subject knowledge, integration, and creativity.  They do exist. 

 

What I have seen in Christian schooling is an influx of homeschooled children who test with peaks and troughs.  Their scores peak in reading and social studies, frequently.  The scores trough in mathematics, spelling, and science.  The parent will marvel at what a great reader their child is, but they lack the accountability or know-how to see that one area of development has been accelerated at the expense of another.  Wiser homeschoolers have their children tested on a yearly basis to make sure that if they are accelerated they are accelerated across the board.

 

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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5 Responses to Letter to Pastor Dean

  1. transphormed says:

    You hit this right on the button. From second through sixth grade I was home-schooled. At that time of life it was perfect for me. But, for as biblically grounded as my mom was, she lacked the skills to take me through the math and science as I progressed. In her wisdom I was tested every year and as her ability lessened, my dad was able to take over certain aspects of my education.Unfortunately, we were the “wannabe’s” of the home-schooling community. I’ll never forget the feelings of shame and inadequacy that I saw in the eyes of other “Queen-bee” home-school families. But I’ll also never forget the one or two families that stood by our sides and looked toward the kingdom. What I gained, more than any scholastic knowledge, was the fellowship of believers in Christ-centered community and the witness of my parents’ life in Christ modeled day after day for five years. I consider myself one of the lucky ones who was home-schooled and came away unscathed. I bear no social scars, and no one’s ever said, “Oh, it’s obvious you were home-schooled.” Instead, before I had a chance to dig troughs of inadequacy I returned to school and competent educators. Before I became proud of my status as the city on a hill, I went out and engaged the public school system as salt and light.I hope your post prompts the minds of all your students. Your observations are NOT idle musings.

  2. The dynamics of homeschooling have always been extremely interesting to me. From what I had heard in my church, it sounded like a great way to escape the belittlement and ridiculing I received at school for my faith. In my freshmen year, everyone seemed to be a Christian. But as we reached our senior year, anything Christian seemed to become shunned by my peers. This became extremely apparent in my senior social studies class, where we talked about issues like the death penalty, abortion, and illegal immigration. Every debate felt like a showdown in an old Wild West movie, except there were two of us on one side, and fifty on the other. To be honest I was jealous of the homeschooled students, because they didn’t have to deal with what I was going through.But looking at those experiences and hearing from other Christians/non-Christians about how they viewed me. I’m glad that I went through all that… stuff and experienced some hardships in high school. I’ve come to the point where I would even consider these experiences a blessing. If I hadn’t gone through those things, several people might not have made decisions about Christ down the road. Although homeschooling parents want to protect their children, I think it’s much more beneficial to put them in an environment where they can live out their faith and experience some persecution. As crazy as it sounds, I think being persecuted is a great way to grow your faith in Christ. It really makes you rely on Him more.I agree with you that “Good schooling is done for the benefit of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of engagement. The result of a good education is one where the student can engage in the world and be salt and light.” I don’t think that public school is for everyone, but I do feel that putting your kids through public school teaches lessons about faith that you can’t learn from a textbook.-Charles Brindlemyspace.com/ninjapipes

  3. servantofone says:

    I’ve thought on and off about whether or not I would do homeschooling if i ever had kids, and I still really don’t know. My question comes in knowing that if I’m going to be traveling a lot, rather than pulling them in and out of a couple of schools each year, it would probably be easier if we were doing homeschooling. But i never want to raise children who can only think in certain situations or only have predetermined answers to life’s questions and are thrown for a loop when something isn’t in a handy little book. Also, though, I think that Christian education can sometimes get to be this way– we end up teaching the material instead of teaching the students, and it does just as much of a disservice. Then I run into a different kind of problem… How do you move to a place and find teachers who will teach beyond the text? I went to a public school through eighth grade and was then in a Christian school for high school, and some of the teachers in the public school brought passion and life to what they taught in a way I never saw from some of the profs in my Christian school. How do i try to make a decision for my child’s schooling based on trying to know all these different teachers in the public and the private schools?can’t it just, at some point, just be more practical to get together with some passionate but differently-gifted friends and all of us run a mini homeschoolish sort of school for our kids together? Sometimes the thing that keeps me most away from homeschooling is the kids I’ve seen come out of it, second only to their parents. What do I do with that? I don’t want to be a part of the “homeschooling moms group,” and I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t want me there either. But given proper training, is there a place where homeschooling is going to take fewer risks than entrusting your children to people who might be doing a worse job than my friends who I could guarantee would provide a well-rounded experience?and if there’s not, then isn’t public schooling just as valid as christian schooling? because i can teach christian ethics in the home, and my experience has shown an equal risk in teachers in the public schools as the christian ones… ….mmm more to say, but i’m going to be late for class soon

  4. servantofone says:

    when you get the chance, check out this post interesting blog and let me know what you think, yes?

  5. The quality of various homeschool educations vary, just as the quality of any public or private school would. It is certainly different, both in the social interaction, the educational quality, and the quality of Christian content.I would agree that homeschooling parents probably should do some sort of testing so that they know where their child is at… although I don’t necessarily believe that you need to accelerate your child evenly. I currently homeschool my six-year old, and her skills vary across the board. She is not as capable with her fine motor skills as she is with her ability to read or solve math problems; she is ahead by one grade level in math, reading, and English, but is exactly at grade level with her handwriting. That is one of the advantages of homeschooling… I don’t have to hold her back in areas that she is good at, and I can allow extra practice in areas she has difficulty in. However, I do think that some homeschoolers don’t objectively evaluate their child’s progress… you do need some sort of measure to see how well they are retaining information (not necessarily a standardized test). Some people do not test at all, figuring that they can tell where their child is at. Without some sort of periodic evaluation, that can be a little biased.Homeschooling is also vastly different than it was even 10 years ago. It is not necessarily the life of a hermit, as it often was in the past. On any given week, you can see (presumably homeschooled) older children in our local library, often interacting with other children they meet there. Homeschooled children can be found in gymnastics, soccer, football, and wherever non-homeschooled children are found after school. My daughter can be found being salt and light out in the community at least 6 days a week, as those are days that we have something scheduled outside the home in the afternoons. Most of the other homeschool families that I know get their children out several times a week as well.Around 90% of children leave the Christian faith after high school. This is a huge failure. Can a quality, Bible-based homeschool situation help? In order for a Christian to share their faith with others, they actually have to be a Christian. If public schools have a 10% success rate in what matters, it’s doubtful that homeschoolers can do much worse.

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