“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Image by Karen’s Whimsy
Most parents are aware of those topics that immediately either shut down a conversation or become quite animated: Faith, politics, diapering choices (oddly), organic vs. commercial (again, oddly), and home/private/public schooling. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. When I start talking about homeschooling, I can expect any number of responses:
- enthusiasm and interest
- balking and eye rolling
- complete shut down and avoidance of eye contact
- intelligent debate
- unintelligent debate
- anger and accusation
- an exceptionally good or bad experience the other person has had with homeschooling
- a story about someone else that is “obviously” socially or intellectually inept as a result of either homeschooling or public schooling
- a monologue on why that person would/could never do that
It’s pretty fascinating. Most people run away from such conflicts but I tend to run headlong into them. Yah, I’m that kind of person. It’s interesting! It helps me get to know the other people in the discussion. And hey, I might learn something valuable.
Aaron and I are gearing up for the OCEANetwork conference in a few weeks. It is an Oregon network for Christian homeschooling. I am SO excited about it. They keynotes and workshops look amazing and we’ll learn a lot. They are giving free admission to parents whose kids are all preschool age (younger than 6 I think). Even though it’s a bit early for us to be doing any serious formal homeschooling (whatever that means), since it’s new for both of us, this conference is a fantastic resource. I believe you can still sign up if you’re interested. Just click the link above to find out.
Although we’ve always leaned toward the idea of homeschooling, it took us quite a while to decide it was definitely what we were going to do. A lot of researching, discussing, and praying. Even now, we’re being sure to leave open the possibility that God leads us in a different direction later on. But for now, we feel He is clearly leading us to this form of education for our kids.
I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of homeschooling in detail, but I recommend that if you have kids or are thinking of doing so, you thoroughly investigate private, public, and home school options. It’s fascinating and is an important decision for every family.
But what I’ve been thinking about even more lately is the idea of family discipleship. I don’t know if that’s a new term or not (probably not), but I picked it up from a recent article I read and it stood out to me as a great way of describing what I know to be even more important than choice of educational venue. I tend to believe that most of the problems – all the “cons” – you can identify for public, private, or home schooling is rooted in a failure on the part of parents to be involved and intentional in their children’s education. No system is perfect, and no parent is perfect, but it is simply true that a family that sees education as a whole-life experience and not just a part of the day is a more successful family.
The theme of the OCEANetwork conference this year is “Educating for Eternity” – not just K – 12. Not just a few hours of the day. Family discipleship or training is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where kids learn solid values and morals, gain a sense of belonging and identity, learn to manage relationships, and learn to navigate real life successfully. It is vital regardless of how you choose to educate your children.
One of my current favorite books on the topic is Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David Pritchard. It was intended mostly for Christian families leaning toward public school. However, it is really about family discipleship and training. I’m sure there are many other books out there that delve into this topic (open to recommendations!), but I read this one recently and it made an impact. I love the observations and advice they offer – most all of them apply to homeschool and public school options as well.
One thing that helped me was that they said that regardless of the pros and cons of all the choices, regardless of the research or statistics, or the experiences of the parents (although all of these things are important), it comes down to this question: What does GOD want for our family? Consulting others and reading books and discussing at length – all good. But vastly more important, and a much more important factor in success, is what God is calling you to do as a family. Pray pray pray! God’s direction is MUCH more comforting and reliable than the swirl of opinions out there. And keep praying for guidance and wisdom as you’re going along! I know many families, with God’s guidance, choose a way and then later God leads them in a new direction for a new season.
The book also talks about how we “train up” our children at home. I believe that through or alongside our child’s “formal” education, we are responsible for teaching what’s even more important, all with Christ and the Word of God at the center:
- Cultivating a heart for serving, compassion, empathy, social and environmental stewardship, personal discipline, and life-long learning.
- Teaching kids to be responsible, stand firm in their faith, have self-control, to show initiative, to stretch themselves.
- Teaching them how to manage money, conflict, relationships, disappointment, the workplace, temptations, attitude, decision making, and so on.
- Guiding our children in these ways and helping empower them to live for Jesus and the purpose He has given them while on the earth.
- Ultimately, loving the LORD with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving others. A passion for the Word and living rightly by it is critical.
These are the things that matter most, and these are the things that come from the home… from the parents. The dad plays a particularly important role, I think. AND the grandparents, if you encourage those valuable resources!
It is a humbling thing to consider, and even more humbling to take on. But we can take up this ministry because we know that “when the call is made the power is given.” (Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity) We also know that we cannot do it on our own strength, but that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Like I said, I’m excited about the conference and learning more from experienced parents about educating my kids for eternity. I encourage you to think about what that means for your family!
I’ll let you know what we learn at the conference. 🙂