Monday, January 16, 2012

Home Education based on Matthew 6:33

We were recently asked to write up something describing our method of homeschooling. We thought we'd post it here, too!


We have homeschooled for about 19 years. We began almost entirely out of academic reasons, but gradually have come to recognize that the Bible has a lot to say about how to train children.

We started off with a desire to have a biblical foundation for our teaching, and used a unit study approach which taught academics loosely related to selected Bible verses. As we parents began to dig in more to the Bible, we began shifting to a biblical focus (rather than just foundation) for our teaching and recognized our vital responsibility to disciple our children.

Because serving the Lord requires more than just reading the Bible all the day long, we seek to use real life as an opportunity for discipling our children and teaching character and skills which we anticipate will prepare our children to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another thing which has helped us in our pursuit has been to skip many popular children’s and youth activities, making our time more available for opportunities that keep our family doing things together. We tend to function as a 30-legged entity much of the time.

We believe the strengths of this approach are:

  1. We have a lasting, strong reason to continue homeschooling. Our goals are not academic but eternal (that is, aiming our children to value the eternal things rather than temporal). When things are hectic or depressing, we know that it is not a sign to quit, but merely a reality of the spiritual pursuit and battle we are in.
  2. Real life is not an interruption to teaching our children. Broken doorknobs, toilets and vehicles are real-life events our children will deal with as long as they live. We hope to deal with them both practically and through employing James 1 and other relevant scriptures!
  3. There is simplicity because we have a tangible goal for our children. It is not impressing the grandparents, college entry requirements, or acquiring marketable skills, but aiming our children to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. Aside from the cost of new toilets, educational expenses are pretty low and usually one-time purchases (except for well-worn books). Impulse buying at conferences is rare. In fact, we seldom shop for new homeschool-specific resources (though we frequently add to our family library).
  5. We are preparing our children for the likelihood of them having their own families someday. The family today is in trouble. Much of this is because parents and children learn to be accustomed to self-seeking pursuits, which soon crowd out opportunities for relationships. Our weekly schedule includes mostly things we do together.

The biggest challenges to this approach are:

  1. The constant pull, when dealing with broken things, messes to clean up, etc, towards expedience rather than seeing the valuable learning opportunities.
  2. The ongoing struggle with our flesh as parents in becoming that which we wish for our children to become: more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

A little more explanation

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t worry about the basic necessities of life, such as food and clothing. He reminds us how the Father clothes the plants and how He feeds the birds and how He cares much more for us than for them.

He concludes that section with this: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33

Our culture doesn’t really encourage us to live that way and it is a constant struggle for us adults. We are endeavoring to help our children get started with this mindset, hoping that it will make it easier for them as adults to continue to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

To do this, we have tried to make the study of God’s word the focus of our children’s education. It is the most important thing they can learn, so it is the thing they spend most of their study time on. We just figured that it makes sense to spend the most time on what is most important.

We use the Bible as a tool for teaching our younger children to read. We have them copy Bible verses to learn to write. Then when they are able, we start them on copying the Bible into notebooks. Besides being a great way to work on writing and penmanship skills, it is also an excellent method of learning the Scriptures. It is also the method that the Lord prescribed for the kings of Israel. In Deuteronomy 17: 18-19, where God is giving instructions for the time when Israel one day has a king, we read: “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.”

When helping our children gain other knowledge and skills, we try to do all of it in the context and for the purpose of serving the Lord by serving others.

For example, we teach writing and language arts primarily by having our children write letters to family and friends. We emphasize that the goal of their writing is to be an encouragement and to convey information. Because of this, they should do their best at writing for the benefit of the person to which they are writing.

We encourage our children to learn practical skills that will help them to serve and we place more emphasis on these skills than on academics. In our training plan, academics have their place, but only as building blocks to enable them to better study God’s word and to equip them to put it into practice by serving others.

In acquiring general knowledge outside the Bible, we feel that we must train our children to acquire a taste for that which is beneficial for us to know. That is, for the most part, if learning a thing is of little benefit to us (as parents), it usually isn’t of much benefit to them. Exceptions would be in the area of skills: fixing the bus or learning Swahili. We feel it is a strength to the family for different of us to have different skills and areas of expertise. However, in areas of history, science, math, etc, we are aiming our children for competence in the things which we feel they will most need, realizing that there is no cut-off date for acquiring knowledge. These areas we try to pursue as a family through our family library of books and videos and the everyday occurrences that demonstrate the need or benefit for such knowledge.

To make this a teeny bit more concrete, consider the issue of testing. Many homeschoolers object to standardized testing because “Whoever determines what is on the test also determines what is taught.” Many homeschoolers reject non-mandated standardized tests for this very reason.

So our thinking is that as Christian parents, we have a standard by which to judge what should be taught to our children. We feel our goal as Christian parents is to diligently search the Scriptures and see what God requires. In our progress so far, we see it is drastically different from that of the world’s standards. Why is that?

We believe that the reason is that the world rejects, even mocks, the Lord Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6:33. The world says, “If you don’t perform well academically, what will you eat? How will you be clothed?” The Lord has an answer to that:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God,

and his righteousness;

and all these things

shall be added unto you.”