Introductions Series #2: Why We DO Homeschool

In last Monday's post, I gave you a number of reasons that were NOT why we chose to home educate our children.  Today I hope to articulate the reasons why we DO, although honestly, these reasons are more difficult to put into words.  In some ways, our reasons for home educating have grown, developed, and changed over the years.  But the essence of the reasons behind that life-altering decision has remained the same.

At the heart of our decision to homeschool is really a desire to return education to its very foundation: a knowledge of God the Father, incarnated in His Son Jesus Christ, as revealed to mankind through the Holy Spirit.  That is a tall order for any educator, the gravity of which we feel on a daily basis.  Education is no mere filling up the mind with facts and training the hands with skills.  It is an ordering of affections, a nourishing of the soul and broadening of the experience of the mind that leads the student into fruitful involvement in the world around them.  Ten years ago I probably could not have put that heart for education into words, but it was what I sensed in my heart to be true.  I knew that my own “school” education had somehow been lacking; the moments that shaped and defined my life happened outside of what I consider my “formal” education.  Thankfully I had people and experiences in my childhood and teen years to give me a glimpse into the divine--to create in me that desire for something richer and deeper.  Sadly I know this is not the case for the overwhelming majority of today’s students.

I was only 22 years old when I gave birth to our first son, Micah.  I was a fresh graduate of Spring Arbor University, a small Christian school in southern Michigan, and I was pretty clueless about what it takes to raise a child!  (Isn’t it a miracle that anyone survives past infancy??!)  But somehow my husband and I knew we would homeschool our children even before it was a question we had to consider.  Perhaps it was a divine direction; or maybe it was just us “bucking the system."  We knew we wanted our children to have an education rooted in 2 concepts: that of the Imago Dei (the divine image imprinted onto man) and in wisdom as opposed to utilitarianism.  Both of these ideas warrant their own full exposition, but I will elaborate on them briefly here…

Imago Dei

“So God created man in his own image;
In the image of God he created him;
Male and female he created them.”

As you have probably noticed, we humans are the only creatures made in the very image of God.  We have the abilities to use language meaningfully, create things for purposes other than their mere usefulness, and have been given dominion over our world.  

Anything that calls itself “education” but at its core denies the divine image in man is not merely misguided, but diabolical.  Why was it that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so tempting to Eve and Adam?  They were already created in the image of God--they could even walk with God right there in the garden!  Why was this apparently not “enough”?  I would argue that Satan managed to convince Eve that she was not really made in God’s image; that what God had put into her of Himself was not enough.  Why else would he tell her that if she ate of the fruit, she would “be like God?”  Wasn’t she already like God?  But no, Satan told her, there was more she was missing.  She could know good and evil like God.  

So much of what we call “modern education” is guilty of this same trickery.  “You can master your own destiny,” it tells us.  “It's not enough to walk with God and listen to His voice, being the person He made you to be.”  The serpent led her to believe that "the tree was to be desired to make one wise."  Satan wasn't just offering Eve a piece of tasty fruit, he was tempting her with the illusion of being a "self-made woman;" of knowing better than God what was best for her own life.  And God knew that the "wisdom" Adam and Eve would gain from eating the fruit was wisdom that leads to death.

This leads to the next idea: that of wisdom over utilitarianism.

Wisdom v. Utilitarianism

Something that is “utilitarian” is made to be useful for some the expense of any other virtue.  Beauty, goodness, truth...all these virtues become meaningless in utilitarian thinking if they do not serve the purpose of the “usefulness” of the thing.  Sadly, this is the type of thinking that dominates educational thought in our day.  Don’t believe me?  Just take a look at the type of "education" that consumes much of our time and resources in the public schools: an abundance of vocational training centers, the overwhelming amount of time spent teaching to and administering standardized tests, “benchmarks”, paperwork, and today’s “holy grail” of education: the insistence that everything MUST be tied to a STEM objective.  

Now, am I saying all STEM activities are bad?  Or that pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or math is bad?  Or teaching those subjects is bad?  Of course not!  But the idea I see taking hold in our educational system is that if an activity does not meet some criteria on a checklist, then that activity doesn’t make the cut, be it intentionally (no time for “useless” activities) or unintentionally (because “useless” activities don’t get funding and therefore end up getting cut).  When a school system is tight on funds, what almost always gets cut first?  The arts.  Why is this so bad, you might ask?  Because it’s the arts that make us human.  We are not machines to be programmed; robots who can be uploaded a set of instructions and then turned out into the world to work as cogs in a machine.  No!  What makes us human is our God-given capacity to create; to appreciate beautiful things for their own sake, apart from their utility.  I’m not saying we don’t need engineers, factory workers, mechanics, builders, etc.  What I am saying is that we will have better technical and skilled workers if they have learned to cultivate and appreciate wonder and beauty, to think creatively, and to understand the arts and humanities.  

"The function of the sense of beauty is to open a paradise of pleasure for us; but what if we grow up admiring the wrong things, or, what is morally worse, arrogant in the belief that it is only we and our kind who are able to appreciate and distinguish beauty?  It is no small part of education to have seen much beauty, to recognize it when we see it, and to keep ourselves humble in its presence." -Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

Ok, so we reject the notion of utilitarian education.  Why do I oppose this view with wisdom?    

When we approach education from the point of utility, all we are looking for is usefulness.  But when we approach education from the point of fostering wisdom, we are looking to the good.  Wisdom seeks that which is true, good, and beautiful, but it does not stop there.  True wisdom produces right behavior as well.  In the words of Andrew Kern, “We are what we behold.”  Instead of focusing on a “career path”, test requirements, or college entrance exams, we choose to focus on that which is worthy of our love and time.  By learning to love that which is lovely, we hope to shape our character and, in turn, direct our actions.

Karen glass says,"When the affections are involved - when we care about a place, a person, or an idea - we are more likely to behave virtuously."  [Consider This]  She goes on to quote John Ruskin from The Crown of Wild Olive:

"The entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right things, but enjoy the right things - not merely industrious, but to love industry - not merely learned, but to love knowledge - not merely pure, but to love purity - not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice."

As you can probably see, our list of reasons for homeschooling is...short.  But that does not mean our reasons are weak.  Those two reasons I gave you: honoring the imago dei and seeking wisdom; they alone are worth more to me than a hundred other reasons!  Of course, there are other “perks” to home educating: our schedule is very flexible, we get to be together a LOT, it’s cheaper than a private school, etc.  But at the heart of it all is what we value, what we love.  I believe it’s this full, well-rounded, generous education that can truly shape the hearts and lives of our children, and us parents too, while we’re at it!

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." -Philippians 4:8

Next week I will be diving into how we actually attempt to get this done.  It has been a journey for us, and have not always used the methods we do now.  So take heart if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing...because that is how all of us start the homeschooling adventure!  

Take the next step:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you homeschool (or why you don’t!)  We value differing viewpoints here...just remember to be kind and to respect one another!

You can also find this post at Hip Homeschool Moms!