On this unseasonably mild winter morning, the children are playing in the woods. The last time I looked out they were building a fort, climbing trees and exercising their grand imaginations. Being a weekday, this is not a typical morning for most school aged children and in fact it isn’t typical for us, but because we homeschool our children, spontaneity is crucial for learning. This is today’s sampling of the joys of living and learning together. In a couple of hours the temperatures are forecasted to drop and we will be huddled over our books by the fireside.
This is a cameo of a family life unfettered by the artificial demands of modern life. It is a life that promotes simplicity, dependence on God and hard work. What should be made first in our lives, can be made first. It has been the way of life for this Christadelphian family for over a decade and it is a way of life many brothers and sisters are seeking.
There is nothing new about home education and it is a great relief to remember that the institution of school, as we know it, is a modern phenomenon. Godly parenting has always meant spending time talking with your children when you sit in your house, walk down the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. The parenting of Deuteronomy 6 is conscientious and demanding in any age or civilization but especially so in these perilous last days.
Homeschooling affords parents the crucial time to talk and walk with their children when the world has such an unfair advantage on their impressionable minds. The nihilistic message of the media and entertainment industry tends to distil in the classroom and the apostle Paul quite aptly describes the outcome in 2Timothy 3:1-5. These are the days of self-absorption, money grabbing, undisciplined living and abuse. A child is hardly equipped for the stream of negative cultural conditioning and the toll can be spiritually numbing. The toll can sometimes be a hostile attitude to learning and a loss of respect for the natural authority of parents. This too Paul identifies as a very real problem in the last days.
For many families in the truth, the motivation to teach their child at home is clear. But what makes it possible besides sheer determination and trust in God? Is it the economic freedom enjoyed in western countries? Could home education be taken on by parents in developing countries? Interestingly, a private school in Baltimore offering a formal homeschool curriculum was inundated with inquiries from concerned Russian parents after the Baslan school massacre.
Some of the questions about whether or not to homeschool are universal. For example,
Can the family manage on one income or can two parents arrange a work schedule to provide the care and instruction needed?
Are textbooks and school supplies available and affordable?
Am I, as a parent, qualified to teach?
A very real concern for parents in developing countries is the problem of poverty. How can parents with long hours, low wages or intermittent work consider any alternative to public education? If lack of employment is due to the collapse of the social and economic fabric of a country, the school system may also be in ruins. In such cases, is it possible to imagine that believing parents could embark on the daily education of their children? One observation homeschool parents have made is that what takes a class of 20-30 students six hours to perform, takes a parent and children at home about three. A morning of concentrated effort is all that is needed with no travel time and no waiting in lines. The challenge is unimaginable but we have known a woman who is single-handedly homeschooling two sons with income from taking care of other people’s infants. She was motivated by the belief that with God all things are possible. Poverty and hardship can strike in any country and we all would be wise to improve our skills of old fashioned frugality and homemaking strategies in order to manage with less. These are the life skills we pass on to our children and it is all part of their education.
But what about educational resources and the availability of textbooks and school supplies? First, it is a comfort to remember that brilliant men and outstanding women were raised with only the Bible as their textbook in their formative years. In contrast, today the availability of resources in North America can be almost overwhelming. Many homeschool parents have fallen into the net set by big business using glossy catalogues advertising their textbooks and offering fancy packages. The simplicity of past generations still works best and consists of three ingredients: academic study, physical work and home or community service. Bookwork is only one part of the formula and although the Bible is not the only text, it is the most important. It is the first book to be read from together each day. Without the rush of getting out the door, the daily Bible readings can be enjoyed every morning. Even before they can read, children can join in the readings by repeating a few selected verses. This alone gives them a great jump-start into reading.
Resources may be as close by as grandparents or family members practising a trade or running a small business. Education in godly living begins with a desire to learn and when that desire is kindled the opportunities are everywhere. One great resource not to be overlooked if it is available is the public library. Learning in the social studies is especially well supplemented by the use of the library. Children at home will need a good, age-appropriate math text. In the upper levels, a simple answer key is very helpful for parents. There are many user-friendly workbooks available for grammar, language arts, science, history and geography. If there are not libraries, or if such texts are not easily available, it certainly seems possible that those who have an over-abundance ought to be able to provide for the needs of those without enough, in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 8:14-15; 9:10-12.
The last question to be addressed is, “Am I qualified to teach my children?” Do you read with understanding? Do you write and speak clearly? Can you add, subtract, multiply and divide? Do you love and respond to your children? These are the qualification that you need to be a good teacher. If it is any comfort to you, most parents who are considering homeschooling think that they can’t do it and feel intimidated by the prophecies of failure. We must confidently remember that with a good, basic education we are more qualified than any teacher to bring out the natural talents and creative capabilities of our own children. No one is more qualified than a parent to know a child and provide for that child’s learning needs.
Education is a large part of responsibility as parents. The responsibility remains whether we are actively involved, or entrust our children to others. One way or the other, there is a large component of trust involved; parenting is a journey of trust. We learn to trust in God’s constant presence and care, and to have confidence that our inadequacies need not overwhelm us:
2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”.
As brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ it is so important that we open our eyes to the needs of our children and the needs of each other. Prayer to the Almighty and careful reading of His word are the sure ingredients for success. Childhood is a precious and fleeting time. The opportunities to walk and talk with our children go by quickly. What sacrifices can we make now for ways to provide for parents who want to school their children but need books and supplies. Above all we believe that with God all things are possible: He will bless our efforts.
Sis Carol Link (USA.)