Back when our local, “very good” public school failed to serve my second-grader academically, I sought God’s counsel. What should I do, God? Shall I continue to support a failing system simply because it’s what I grew up with, all because I felt inadequate or just plain lazy?
Teaching requires a great deal of patience, by all accounts, and I certainly had no degree in early childhood education. Why should I even consider it?
God answered me in Deuteronomy 6:6 with, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. . . ” and Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
God gives us our children to raise, not to farm out to the government, or the church, even, to educate. Nowhere in the Bible is an admonition to form governments or any institutional bodies to educate our progeny. But, because most of us went to public schools, departing from that paradigm takes a special kind of courage and conviction.
Armed with the understanding that my “very good” local school was missing the mark and that across the boards our institutions aren’t getting it right, I began a journey into independence (from public schools) that has culminated in wonders I never dreamed I could have! Here are my top five things to remember as you consider embarking on your homeschool journey.
1. You Do Not Have To Go It Alone
Go online and find your local home school communities. The web offers resources that our frontier homeschoolers never imagined. There are myriad ways to connect with people, and home schoolers tend to be quite embracing. We believe in building and growing our ranks – particularly Christian home educators. Reach out for help.
2. You Do Not Have To Know Everything
Most people who don’t home educate erroneously believe that to teach something, you must know the subject inside-out. This is one of the fallacies promoted by our institutions. Who could blame them, as it is the very definition of job-security. The joy of home education is that the parent-as-teacher need only be “lead-learner.” In fact, it may be even better if you are not expert at all the things your child wants to learn! This gives you the tremendous opportunity to model for your student how to learn, where to go to find answers, what kinds of questions to ask to be certain of your knowledge. What a gift parents can find in the chance to show their child interest in something they don’t already know about.
3. You Do Not Have To Recreate Public School At Home
The schools are failing our children. There is an over-emphasis on standardized tests. Education should be fun. Discovering God’s presence ought to be the focus of every Christian. And the parents’ responsibility would be to encourage and engage that innate curiosity in their children. The worst thing that a parent could do is to go buy little desks, put up a blackboard, and stand in front of their children lecturing. Education looks like curiosity turned loose upon the world. Sure, books, paper, pens and other tools are essential, but studying or reading in the great outdoors can be more beneficial than sitting at a desk.
4. You Do Not Have To Get It Right All The Time
For some reason, many parents believe that every year of school is crucial to the proper educational progression of their child. Remember, all children are not the same, despite what our institutions seem to believe. The fact is, especially in the younger grades, there is a great deal of repetition. So, if your child misses a year of classes, even, there might be a bit of catch-up, but it shouldn’t be absolutely devastating. Think about premature babies. They take some months to catch up on the spectrum of “normal” child development, but typically, within the first year or two, they end up in the range of average children. Missing a year of institutionalized education won’t necessarily “break” the child’s ability to learn.
5. You Do Not Have To Choose Between Your Child’s Spiritual And Intellectual Health
The public school’s confessed goals of college prep and career readiness betray an obedience to the fiscal health but not the spiritual health of your child. As Christians, we ought to be primarily engaged with the spiritual growth of our offspring in Christ. Our institutions typically disregard or even disdain this dimension of development.
You don’t have to. As a parent, you can have the relationship with your children that you desire, as well as foster their love of God and His providence in their lives.
If you are at all curious about home education, try it on, like a new pair of pants. You might be surprised at how well they fit, and how flattering they are. Commit for a single semester. Go online and find some support. Ask them about curricula, read some books on it, and take your power back from the institutions to care and educate your children.
If your child is in middle school already, you are possibly experiencing some of the damage to the parent-child relationship that results when parents unwittingly relinquish their authority to the school. If this is the case, lay off the “homework” assignments. Again, don’t try to be “school.” Start by just requiring reading of classic literature, and having discussion with your child. Classical literature deals with timeless themes and conflicted characters, who behave in ways that demand deep discussions and even difficult deliberations. Have those precious conversations with your child.
Whether your child is six or 16, it is never too late to start restoring the parent-child relationship and reinvigorating your child’s relationship with God. You can be your child’s lead-learner and central educator, as God designed. Start simply, remember it’s about relationship (not a job) and have some joy in the blessing from God that your child is to you.
Sam Sorbo is an actress, film producer and home schooling mom. She has authored “They’re YOUR Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate,” and “Teach from Love: A School Year Devotional for Families,” (Broadstreet, August, 2017). She also starred in the upcoming “Let There Be Light” and is in production for a the new film “East Texas Oil.”