Home Schooling: An Opportunity to Go Against the Flow
- Nathaniel Knight The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- 2006 5 May
Home education is never conventional. Any parent who has accepted the immense challenge of instructing his children at home is familiar with this truth. It’s one of the stumbling blocks parents often encounter when they are deciding whether to homeschool or place their children in public or private institutions. Many of these questions arise: How can my children properly learn outside the confines of a traditional classroom atmosphere? How can they receive a decent education without the care and attention of a college degree-bearing professional? How can home education prepare my children for a world in which most individuals receive their education through public institutions?
Such questions are commonly raised by parents who have reservations about the unconventional nature of homeschooling. To them, the method goes against the flow of what our society accepts as correct and incorrect educational experiences. But what such parents fail to realize when debating whether to continue teaching their children at home or commit them to the public education system is that unconventionality is oftentimes a good thing, especially when it means going against the flow of what secular culture considers acceptable.
That has been the story of my homeschool experience. Guided by parents who devoted years and years to instructing my brother and me, I learned during my educational sojourn that doing things differently is not an evil to be avoided at all costs but a method that opens up great possibilities. While many public and private schools maintain a rigid schedule that makes learning a chore, home education recognizes that no two children learn alike and offers the chance to institute a loosely structured environment in which gaining knowledge is actually enjoyable.
But more importantly, home education creates a setting where parents can truly teach the most critical educational curriculum their children will ever learn—the message of Jesus Christ. It is not a message heard for one hour on Sunday morning; it is not a standard played out by a 10-second prayer before meals. It is an ongoing evangelizing effort that seeks to fulfill the words of Deuteronomy to instruct children in the ways of God "when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
That’s the core of home education. Like the Puritans fleeing religious persecution in the seventeenth century, the pioneers of the homeschool movement largely objected to public education because of its unvarying conformity to the ways of secular culture. In the beginning, home education was not necessarily about achieving better standardized test scores or winning a national spelling bee. Instead, it was focused on creating an atmosphere in which children were free to express their religion without being reprimanded and learn about the Bible without being persecuted. In essence, the movement was about going against the flow—not in a rebellious fashion, but in a way that honored God and upheld His ways.
For me, home education not only afforded greater opportunity for spiritual growth and a chance to develop strong ties with my family but also the freedom to concentrate on the subject I loved most—writing. Interestingly, my passion for the written word did not stem from having my nose crammed into a grammar book at a young age. While my mother made certain we kept to our learning schedule, she didn’t push me to become an expert essayist or reader of Plato by age 5. She let me be a child first. I didn’t learn to read until I was 9 years old. Had I been enrolled in a public institution, the bureaucracy would have declared me a failed student and requested more federal money to correct the problem. But there was no problem. The very fact that I was not pushed to read at an early age actually made reading more enjoyable. I came to appreciate the depth and creativity possible through the written word because I discovered it on my own, without having undue expectations foisted upon me. My father spent endless hours reading to me, immersing me in literature and helping me to want to learn to read on my own. Had I been subjected to a rigid schedule telling me by what age I should be able to do certain things, I would never have come to love the art of reading, writing, and creating nearly so much.
My older brother had a similar experience. He was introduced to computers at an early age, and the flexible style of our educational surroundings allowed him to learn the ins and outs of our family’s personal computer. He actually wanted to learn more about computers and how they operated, and our schedule was constructed in such a way that he was given plenty of time to pursue what he enjoyed most. He cultivated his interest in computers over the years until it eventually blossomed into his current career path. How was that accomplished? By being willing to turn down our culture’s accepted standards and looking for better ways to do things.
By the time we reached high school, we both had a firm grip on the areas of study we enjoyed the most. We soon turned our attention to college and potential careers. But as we began considering university applications and possible majors, something struck us: was there any legitimate reason to ship off to another state and throw tens of thousands of dollars at a secular university merely to procure a scrap of paper called a diploma? Why should we throw away the flexible method that had been so successful? If going against the flow of secular culture worked for grades one through twelve, why couldn’t it work for higher education as well?
Ironically, many of the same homeschool parents who question public education instantly accept the college system as a suitable institution for their young people, even though the university system is known to nullify or destroy the faith of most Christian students who attend. Secular colleges are universally recognized bastions of humanist thought. Christian students are often placed under the tutelage of atheistic professors before having developed the necessary spiritual maturity and experience to truly be salt and light in such an atmosphere. Even more, students are faced with countless new temptations without the spiritual and emotional support offered by a loving family.
Is God’s perfect will for young believers to intentionally place themselves in such a compromising atmosphere at such a sensitive age? Our answer was no. Obviously, the post-high-school years are a time for maturing and growing into an individual distinct from your family in preparation for marriage, but is partially severing ties to your loved ones, moving to another state, and living in the polluted atmosphere of a university really the best option?
We saw a better way. Rather than take the traditional route, we elected to pursue our degrees through distance education over the Internet, which allows us to remain close to our family and grants us the freedom to take advantage of numerous other opportunities that would have been unavailable had we fully enrolled at a traditional university. Like home education, distance learning allows you to set your own study schedule, freeing up time to gain real-world experience in your chosen career path.
Our society adheres to the Greco-Roman style of learning in which students listen to a teacher at the front of the classroom. Interestingly, the Hebrews took a vastly different approach—they learned by actually practicing the occupation they planned to pursue. Studying about journalistic writing is important, but actually having an article published by a newspaper or magazine teaches ten times more about a career in freelance writing than abstract learning ever could. Likewise, merely practicing how to play an instrument and actually performing before a huge audience are worlds apart. It’s the difference between simply studying about something and actually doing it.
There is no substitute for gaining experience through apprenticeships and internships. Not only do they give you a solid indication of what a career in the particular field you have chosen would be like, but they also offer the unparalleled opportunity to make connections with those already working in your field, which definitely comes in handy when you graduate and begin looking for full-time work. The structure of our academic society strongly suggests that gaining a college diploma is all you need for future career and financial bliss. But the fact is that such a notion is grossly impractical, especially in our current job market. Both biblically and "commonsensically," gaining real-world experience in your field before graduating is the best way to ensure a better future.
God designed the family for many reasons. One is to provide a solid foundation for young people who are preparing to move out and begin their own families. Our home education adventure taught us the worth of slowing down and taking a minute to consider the options before plowing ahead with life decisions. Solely because everyone else is doing it is not justification for joining the crowd. The Apostle Paul beautifully illustrates this truth in his epistle to the Romans: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2).
Parents and children who homeschool are called for a distinct purpose to take a stand for God’s ways in American culture. Some consider child rearing and home education a curse; I like to think of them as one of the greatest blessings God has given us. By remaining strong in our convictions and going against the flow of secular culture, we show others by our actions that there is a better way to live. After all, God has called us out of the darkness of this world into the marvelous light of his Gospel. To have any legitimate influence for good in our modern day, we must be willing to let that marvelous light brilliantly shine.
Nathaniel Knight was homeschooled by his parents K-12. He is a freelance writer pursuing a career in journalism. In addition to attending college, he is currently working on a novel.
Copyright 2006. Used with permission. Originally published in the Spring 2006 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Right now, 19 free gifts when you subscribe. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com