Recently, a comment made by an acquaintance stoked our conversational fires for quite a while. This mother of two young boys said, with all sincerity, "We use public school as a tool to help teach our children how to interact in the world. But I homeschool in the evenings, since I really have a heart to teach children."

We could understand using public schools as a tool, albeit we would question the wisdom of that decision. However, the thought of homeschooling in the evening in addition to public school gave us pause. We wondered just what she meant. Did she focus on things like character training or Bible lessons that would be neglected in a public school setting? Did she try to engage in conversations or study that would compare and highlight a Biblical worldview versus the secular worldviews to which her children were being exposed? We didn't suppose that she spent those precious hours supplementing the math, history, or grammar lessons that were already an integral part of her children's academic education. The question we kept returning to was, just what does she think homeschooling is, and what is her motivation for doing it?

These are valid questions for all of us to ponder. In fact, many of the homeschoolers we know (ourselves included) typically revisit their purposes and plans for homeschooling in anticipation of each new academic year. When this comment and subsequent conversation were fresh, in fact, we were not far removed from our annual evaluation. So it was easy for us to answer the question, "Why are we homeschooling?" Let's face it, it certainly isn't convenient. Think about all the sacrifices we make to educate our children: very often financial sacrifices, and most certainly a multitude of personal sacrifices. So is it for academics? Character training? To shelter our children from worldly influences? Or is it for the purposes of Biblical instruction? For most of us, it's likely some combination of the above. But if we're honest with ourselves, just which of these drivers would we say is our greatest priority-and more importantly, does our homeschooling lifestyle reflect that assertion?

Almost without exception, the homeschool parents we've talked with all mention issues of peer pressure, secular worldviews, evolution, and the like. The comment we most often hear at the tail end of these discussions (and sometimes spoken a bit self-righteously) is, "Well, that's why we homeschool!" And certainly, sheltering to some degree can be a benefit of homeschooling. We love our children and have their best interests in mind. Teachers, in contrast, are salaried professionals who can never share the affection that we have for our children. More importantly, the public school environment is devoid of (and very often antagonistic to) the faith that we as Christian parents profess.

Sheltering can help us promote a more conservative worldview than is expressed in the public school environment. In particular, by homeschooling we can stand against some of the things that society says is best for our children, especially in terms of gender roles. Our daughters don't necessarily need to have high-powered careers; our sons don't have to go to Ivy League schools and prepare for enslavement in the high-stress corporate world. We don't need to prepare both genders to be able to exchange roles with ease.

As homeschooling parents, we have the privilege of preparing our children to function within their God-given roles when the time comes for them to have a family of their own. Our daughters learn to be loving and competent wives and mothers by helping Mom around the house; likewise, boys should have opportunities to work around the house or with Dad "on the job." Public school "home economics" or shop classes are no substitute for home-based training. Instruction can impart certain skills, but only our modeling and sincere encouragement will enable our children to embrace the traditional Christian lifestyle of faith.