While you’re feeling fresh and excited for the start of a new school year, I’d like to offer a Christian Public Service Announcement for your consideration:
Every Christian parent should homeschool this year. And every year.
Before you start drafting an essay in the comments about the value of various other educational choices, let me explain (for the record, I homeschooled my own kids in preschool and pre-K, they now attend a private Christian school for elementary, and I went to public schools growing up—I believe there is value in all of these educational choices).
I’m talking about homeschooling for your kids’ spiritual education. I really mean this. Christian parents truly need to identify as homeschoolers when it comes to their kids’ Christian education.
Regardless of whether you homeschool full-time or send your kids to public, secular private, or Christian private school, your duty as the primary teacher of your kids’ spiritual education remains the same (Deuteronomy 6:7).
So what exactly does that mean? Here are 5 key attitudes and behaviors of full-time homeschoolers that Christian parents should learn from.
1. Homeschooling parents proactively take the primary responsibility for their kids’ education.
When homeschooling parents choose not to enroll their kids at the local public or private school, they know that means their kids won’t get an education at all if they don’t take responsibility for it. In other words, they know it’s not optional to plan for and execute their kids’ education because they’ve accepted that they are now the only ones in the position to do that.
It’s an unfortunate fact that Christian parents overwhelmingly treat the homeschooling of their kids’ spiritual education as optional. They use church or their kids’ private Christian school as the fallback for what they feel they don’t have the time or knowledge to do at home.
Here’s the problem. That’s not what we’re called to do, and it’s not a comparable alternative. Like many kids growing up in Christian homes, I went to church every week and engaged in many church youth activities. From Kindergarten through 12th grade, that’s at least 650 hours spent in church. Yet, by the time I graduated, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have answered even ONE of the questions I wrote about in Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side…and these are 40 of the questions kids most need to understand today!
If Christian parents truly started embracing their role as homeschoolers, they would stop assuming their kids will get the necessary spiritual education somewhere else (they won’t) and start proactively taking the responsibility at home. Imagine how different the faith of the next generation would be.
2. Homeschooling parents structure their lives to support their educational objectives.
Homeschooling isn’t a simple decision. In many ways, it’s a lifestyle. Homeschooling families typically have to commit to one income, the mom (who is usually the teacher) dedicates many of her days to homeschooling as a primary activity, and the family readily accepts everything that comes as part of “going against the cultural grain” of traditional school.
Similarly, Christian parents should see their kids’ spiritual education as such a priority that it takes precedence over anything that would detract from it. After all, if you really believe that Christianity is true, is there anything more important than raising your kids to know and follow Jesus?
That doesn’t mean you should raise your kids underground and shield them from every earthly thing, of course. It does mean your priorities have to be right.
God comes first.
In order to take that seriously, it has to be more than a general philosophy. Your family life has to have the right structure in place to take action on that philosophy. In particular, you need two things: time and knowledge.
If your family life is such that you don’t have time to study the Bible, have dedicated discussion nights, and pray together as a family during the week…it’s time to evaluate where your priorities lie.
If you lack good knowledge of Christianity and the Bible and you’re not actively seeking learning opportunities via books, church classes, and more…again, it’s time to evaluate where your priorities lie.
3. Homeschooling parents are goal-driven.
Most homeschooling parents are very goal-driven. They know what they’re trying to accomplish academically (and often spiritually), and they work toward that. They don’t just haphazardly toss out lessons and homework in the hope that their kids will learn what’s necessary.
I think this is an area that even those Christian parents who proactively take the responsibility for their kids’ spiritual development have trouble with. I know it’s been difficult for me. For example, what exactly should my goals be for my kids? How do I know what they can learn at each age? How do you even measure spiritual development?
This is not as black-and-white as having the goal that your kids can add 2 and 2. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any objectives in place. I find it convenient to think in terms of school years, so as this school year starts, I’ve considered what I want my kids to learn by next June. True, this is very subjective, but here’s a general and simple framework you can use.
Establish 1) a “heart” goal (their growing relationship with Jesus), 2) a Biblical knowledge goal, and 3) a “Christianity in the context of other worldviews” goal. Here are mine, in that order (my kids are 6 and 5):
- That they deepen their prayer lives: Right now, our kids are very good at giving thanks for all kinds of things in their lives, but I want to help them take their prayer lives to the next “level.” I taught them the ACTS acronym last week (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), and we’re going to focus on discussing each aspect of prayer for a few weeks at a time this year.
- That they understand the Bible as a single story: I’m passionate about making sure that my kids don’t see the Bible as a random collection of stories, as that’s pretty much what I (mistakenly) took away from my 600+ hours of church growing up. To accomplish this, we are starting fresh at the beginning of the Bible and coming up with 3 trivia questions for each story we read. I have a growing document of these questions on my computer, and each time we study, we go through a few to remind us of how the big story of the Bible is unfolding as a sequence. The kids are LOVING this.
- That they begin to understand Christianity in the context of other worldviews (with introductory apologetics): I regularly compare and contrast our beliefs as Christians with those who don’t believe God exists. But this year, I want to take that to a more formal level of learning with an actual curriculum…just like a homeschooling parent would use (see number 4 for what we’re doing).
4. Homeschooling parents have a plan.
Once they have objectives in place, homeschooling parents take action with a plan to meet those objectives. At the most basic level, this includes: 1) how they’ll structure their schedule, 2) what subjects they’ll cover, and 3) what resources they’ll use.
Homeschooling for your kids’ spiritual education is no different:
- You need to decide where your family spiritual development falls in your overall schedule. For the vast majority of families, it will never happen if you just wait until a good time pops up. Either pick certain nights of the week or a certain number of nights per week and plan accordingly.
- Over time (months and years), you need to be sure to cover multiple subject areas: prayer, the Bible, theology, other worldviews, and apologetics. (It’s OK to start with one, of course–don’t get overwhelmed!)
- You need to research good resources to help you. There are several companies that publish excellent materials for homeschoolers, and they are perfect for Christian parents to use for spiritual training (Google “homeschool bible curriculum” and you’ll find several). For example, the worldview curriculum we just started using (which has been amazing so far) is Who Is God? (And Can I Really Know Him?)by Apologia. The Bible we’re using is The Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible (best I’ve seen!). And there are many fun activity resources you can find to go with your lessons. I just got this great little book of 101 Awesome Bible Puzzles for Kids that came out this week. It works perfectly with our objective of helping the kids understand the Bible’s big story, as the puzzles go in order of the Bible (e.g., a puzzle on Adam and Eve, then Noah, then Abraham, etc.).
5. Homeschooling parents evaluate what’s working and what’s not working, then make adjustments.
Homeschoolers know that the best plans can go awry. But they don’t throw in the towel on educating their kids because of it. They simply make adjustments.
Similarly, you might kick off a new family spiritual life plan and find that parts of what you’re doing aren’t resonating with your kids. DON’T GIVE UP! That doesn’t mean family spiritual development doesn’t “work” in your home. It means you need to find another way for it to work. That’s the job God’s given you.
Don’t hand in your resignation.
What struggles do you have or would you foresee with taking your spiritual homeschooling seriously? For those of you already doing this, I’d love to see all your recommendations for good teaching resources in the comments! Please encourage other parents by sharing what has helped you most.
Mom, be encouraged today. You are the biggest influence on your child’s spiritual life. That is a huge blessing!
Natasha Crain is a popular parenting blogger and author. She and her husband, Bryan, have three children. Visit her at www.christianmomthoughts.com.