Homeschooling, church discipline, and the education of our children...
[NOTE: The man who, along with his wife, does an excellent job homeschooling as I've observed for fifteen years called and said I'm largely wrong in what I've written here, so I stand half-corrected. Still, I'm not sure how I'd rewrite this given his criticisms so I'll leave the post up with this warning. Likely much of what I write here applies as much to Christian schooling and public schooling as home schooling, and the dangers I warn of are more a product of our times than a particular form of home schooling. That being said, no matter how you school your children, please listen to my concerns and take them to heart in the education of your precious children.]
Mary Lee and I put several of our children in public schools at various times, and we also homeschooled one son for three years. Most of our children's schooling, though, was done in Christian schools and this is the educational method we believe best for most parents and children—particularly boys who are becoming men. After years of watching homeschoolers in our churches and the broader Christian (and alternative) world, starting no later than Junior High School we think most boys do much better being taught by men than women. Especially their mothers.
Even if the local Christian school option does not have male teachers, though, one of the reasons we have come to believe in Christian schooling's superiority to homeschooling is the lack of respect for authority we've seen to be endemic within homeschooling families....Typically, the rooster rules the roost and the hen rules the rooster, so it's very difficult for the mother to allow her brood to be rebuked or admonished, let alone disciplined, by the elders of her church as her children become adults. And trust me, few families are blessed by God such that all their children come to adulthood confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and taking their place at the Table of our Lord each Lord's Day without any need of the authority of the church officers to come alongside their father and mother assuring the child's safe passage through many dangers, toils, and snares.
The Christian home is subject—not superior—to the Church of Jesus Christ. The elders of the church are the court of appeal when the husband commits serious sin against his wife and is unrepentant. The elders of the church are the court of appeal when the mother commits serious sin against her family and her husband is absent or in cahoots. The elders of the church are the court of appeal when parents allow incest to corrupt their home, or lead in it. The elders of the church are the court of appeal when the father and mother of the household are unable to correct their incorrigible child and it's not yet time for the peace officer carrying the gun.
The elders of the church are the fathers of children of the covenant who have reached adulthood and are betraying their Lord and Master, thus needing rebuke, admonition, and loving discipline. I thank God for the elders of my churches and the help they have been to my wife and me in our raising of our children!
Which brings us back to education. Mary Lee and I would commend the discipline of opening up your home and children to the fresh air and breezes of other Christians' gifts and sins as you raise your precious children. Let them out from under your control. It will do them good. It will do you good. Do whatever you can to have them under the leadership and instruction of other men and women of God. God has made you responsible for your children and part of that responsibility is preparing them for being under the authority of their husband, boss, professor, the civil magistrate, and pastors, elders, and the church's older women.
Start this preparation and training early by seeking out opportunities for your sons and daughters to submit to Christian men and women who will teach them things you have never known, and who will show them things you have never seen, and who will demonstrate areas of faith that you have never had.
Nowhere is this more important than education. The problem with too much Christian schooling (including homeschooling) today is that we're raising a bunch of tin men and women who have answers for everything, but little true discernment and absolutely no humility. Find others who will help you challenge your children to grow in godliness as they grow in knowledge, always keeping in mind that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Let me leave you with this statement by one of my heroes, J. Gresham Machen:
The true hope of any people lies in a kind of education in which learning and piety go hand-in- hand. Christianity, we believe, is founded upon a body of facts; it is, therefore, a thing that must be taught; and it should be taught in Christian schools….
Character-building, as practiced in our public schools, may well prove to be character-destruction. I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on street corners and at the ends of the earth, but neglects the children of the covenant by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism….
The Christian life cannot be lived on the basis of non-Christian thought. Hence, the necessity of the Christian school.
- J. Gresham Machen in his “Education, Christianity, and the State”