Christian Homeschool Resources & Homeschooling Advice

Affirmation Versus Abuse

  • Zan Tyler Editor of the HomeSchool Channel
  • 2002 3 Feb
Affirmation Versus Abuse
We live in a nation of abused and neglected children. Peter Yarrow - of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame - says 160,000 children are afraid to go to school every day because of psychological and/or physical abuse.

Two weeks ago I had lunch with Peter Yarrow. We were speaking at the same event. Peter was there promoting a new initiative of his called "Don’t Laugh at Me" ( The program is designed to encourage peacemaking, understanding, and tolerance in classrooms to end the effects of bullying - both psychologically and physically.

We discussed home schooling for about 30 minutes over lunch, before he got up to sing and speak. I was able to share with him how home schooling is a natural vehicle for raising a child with dignity and affirmation.

Three or four months ago, I had the privilege of spending more than an hour interviewing John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year and author of the book The Underground History of American Education. It was a life-changing conversation. His insights about teaching, learning, and schooling are compelling. Gatto says, “One in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them in school."

Both Peter Yarrow and John Taylor Gatto are devoting their influence and resources to repairing this societal breach—this pervasive abuse that is sucking the life out of many of our school children. Peter’s response is to work within the school system. He made the comment that he had spent his life working with dysfunctional adults; perhaps he would have more success working with children. John Taylor Gatto’s response to the problem has been to educate parents and the public about the abuses he perceives within our public school system. He wants to empower parents to take charge of their children’s education.

Two men, two missions, one problem. After spending time with these two men - both of whom are heartbroken over the abuse that occurs daily in our schools across the country - I was heartbroken for the children who must endure and suffer the daily consequences of abuse, when the opposite should be occurring. I had never really thought about it before, but affirmation is the opposite of abuse. Our goals in education should be to inspire, coach, affirm, correct, direct, redirect, teach, and inspire some more - in a safe and secure environment.

Safety, love, and affirmation. Enabling a child to maintain his dignity and individuality. These are things money can’t buy. And, yet, every time our schools hit a snag, the first political impulse is to throw more money at the problem. Joel Belz, publisher of World Magazine, reminds us, "The best education is not measured in dollars and cents."

Children can’t learn optimally when they are scared and intimidated. Parents must take hold of the reins of their children’s education. The number one factor for success in education is parental involvement. My husband and I have chosen to home school. Through home schooling, God has provided a way for us to give our children a rigorous education, while keeping their dignity intact.

Many of our close friends have chosen private and public schools. Whichever alternative we choose, we must realize that gone are the days of “drop-off” schooling. We can’t drop our kids off at the school door and expect someone else to take care of their deepest needs for belonging, intimacy, and affirmation. None of us can afford to be disengaged from our children’s education—wherever it is occurring. This psychological abuse we force on children today in the form of neglect and indifference may not leave visible bruises or scars, but the hurt and pain is just as real, just as enduring, and just as festering as physical abuse.

We can no longer view education as a spectator sport. We have to get involved and participate in our children’s schooling. We must realize that sweat equity, rather than cash equity, is the best educational investment we can make. Education costs a lot. If done properly it costs parents blood, sweat, tears, and self-sacrifice. We have to get involved. The preservation of civilization—and the hearts of our children—hangs in the balance. May God encourage us and strengthen us as we seek to invest our lives in those of our children.

Zan Tyler is co-author of the book Anyone Can Homeschool and senior education editor for She and her husband have three children and have been home schooling since 1984.