A Home for Homeschooling

Since Zrim’s previous nomination of Scott Clark for President wandered off into a long, heated discussion of [Public-, Christian-, Home-] Schooling [PS/CS/HS], I thought I would step up and satisfy requests to slap up a new post to discuss education. I anticipate this will become such a common topic that I am also creating a new category for Education.

First off, know that I am a HS parent — or rather, my wife is, and I help out when I can. So I’ll be presenting an argument in favor. But “in favor” does not mean that it is “mandated for all Christian families, otherwise you are sinning”, but practically speaking, that HS is the most efficient and effective way for most Christian families to properly train their children.

Secondly, I encourage readers (especially Rick and Rana, whose kids are not school-age yet) to check out the education tag of my blog, in particular the Education Roundtable (which has links to .mp3 of a panel discussion of proponents of CS, HS, PS, and Classical Christian Education (that last is more about content and methodology than mode)), and a post about the misleading conception that homeschooling guarantees perseverance for your kids.

Thirdly, I’ll try to avoid issues of educational quality, such as, my kid is so brilliant that he’s better off in one-on-one HS than being slowed down by a classroom full of (comparative) dullards who take all the attention the over-worked teacher can provide, leaving him unchallenged, restless, and prone to behavioral problems. Such arguments would just as well support secular HS (and I understand there is a whole other HS culture among the liberal, atheist, hippie set, for whom such arguments are the bee’s knees). The question is “I don’t get it. What is Xian education?”

Here’s the thing. I think HS has a natural home here in the Confessional Outhouse. What mode of education better captures the (still current — have we no competition winner?) tagline of “It’s lonely out here”? I know, HS is becoming all the rage in the Evangelical Party-House, but to misquote Zrim, “their Transformationalism doesn’t mean they’re not right about a few things.” By definition, HS is not about Transformationalism, but about letting the secular world do its own thing, and we’ll do our thing in our own Christian way.

Yes I said it, “Christian” way — I do think “Christian education” is a meaningful term. This comports with my previously biggest disagreement with Zrim, about the institution of the Family being more covenantal, and less common-grace. Now even though I am a mathematician, I don’t think there is really any meaningful way to have “Christian math education” (although before I die, I want to read what fellow Math Ph.D. Vern Poythress has to say about it). But I do think there is a big difference between a Christian way to teach Humanities, and a secular way. A secular humanities education can merely teach what humans have done, thought, believed, narrated, …, how those concepts relate to each other, and at best, whether any of it is wrong simply by being illogical. But a Christian education can add the dimension of being able to judge all that history, philosophy, storytelling, etc. as morally right or wrong; as Biblical or un-Biblical.

Now this sentiment from Zrim especially deserves interaction:

As far as a case for PS, I usually say that I believe that my covenant children have a high calling to both God’s Church and his world. The former is fulfilled by my catechetical/biblical instruction in the home working in conjunction with the Church, etc. The latter is in part fulfilled by their placement in PS. I know that is an oversimplification. But I see the PS system as a gateway into their being citizens in God’s wider world because education is a child’s vocation. And I view PS as a way to implicitly teach them that there is only one world and we cannot create another one. This is what I see in the phenomenon of CE, the idea that we are creating something extra that we don’t need to; not only is it entirely God’s world but we are not allowed to shrink from it one iota. I think this is the implied message kids get when they are CS’d or HS’d. I know it sounds hard line, but if education is a child’s vocation, what are we telling him when we say he may close himself off in this way? Why do we expect only adults to go into the wider world after grade 12 or after Christian college? Why not continue this idea of a closed off vocation and go onto exclusively Christian work, etc.? Why does Christian vocation all of a sudden end after Xian schooling? How are they supposed to engage God’s wider world when they have not really for 12+ years?

There is a lot of validity in here, and one response is that this is good reason to “end Christian vocation” in middle school, high school, or college (depending on the child’s ability to be in the world but not of the world, as well as the parents’ ability/inability to teach upper-level material). But why is an elementary schooler expected to “engage” the other Kingdom? Isn’t that a big burden for a small child? Eventually, every Christian will need to know how to judge what they are being told/taught; how to discern what to retain, and what to reject. But that is a skill that is not best learned “on the job”. Let the kids just learn for a while, before they have to learn how to learn, so they can go out into the world and learn without learning the bad stuff.

More from Zrim:

There is a big difference between Xian education and Xians doing education, between Xian education and a Xian environment. Often, I don’t think the differences are appreciated.

I absolutely agree, and I think having kids educated in a Christian environment is a sufficient argument for CS/HS. I’m teetering between calling the alternative a secular environment or an anti-Christian environment, but I won’t call it a neutral environment. Especially in my neck of the woods, where PS parents have this kind of stuff to deal with!

Over-the-top horror stories aside, despite an up-front focus on content, any form of education can’t help instilling a worldview. Given the worldview behind PS (rainbow coalition, let’s all work to improve human nature, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps if we try hard enough, the government needs to safeguard society by taking responsibility for education…), it’s not at all surprising that our public-schooled society is a factory for Arminians (which I’m sure is a significant factor fueling the continued growth of the Evangelical House-Party).

So I’m not saying that Christian parents can’t do the right thing by their children’s education if they PS their kids. I’m just saying that HS is a much more efficient way to educate a young, growing Christian, because the parents don’t have to spend any time figuring out and undoing whatever is going on in the PS classroom. CS may be a more practical alternative for many families, if they are unusually lacking in teaching skills, and have the money. For families who need two incomes, and still can’t manage CS tuition, if PS is all you can do, then PS is all you can do. And the older and more mature the child gets, and the harder it is for the parent to properly teach the content, the better an option PS becomes.

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21 Responses to A Home for Homeschooling

  1. Rick says:

    hmmm….

    I think I’ll watch this interaction rather than jump in right away.

    But thank you for your thoughts here, Rube. But I’m more than a ‘reader’ I dug this hole man! Well, Zrim dug the hole, I helped put up the walls.

    nobody get nasty now.

  2. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for waiting; maybe you can find time to listen to the Education Roundtable in the meantime. Everybody else slow down too — I can’t catch up! I will try to resist contributing any more on this today. We’ll see how that goes.

  3. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    I don’t recall the previous conversation as being all that heated, etc.

    What we agree on, obviously, is the whole notion of Xian liberty, and for that I am very glad. It is good that we don’t raise the views one has on any particular and disputable method to be on par with orthodoxy.

    I suppose the one thing I don’t understand from your POV is this idea that kids should be hemmed in just because they are kids.

    Being a citizen of the world is forced upon us all, young or old. At some point we all have to join it, we all have to learn to navigate in a world that doesn’t see things the way we do. The whole “let kids be kids” argument works in some ways but not so well in others, I think. I happen to think that true, Christian grit is best forged by being, as Paul said, in the world but not of it. And I find it a bit naive to assume that “the world” doesn’t exist within the four walls of a Xian environment doing education or any other common endeavor.

    And I wonder just how much more Christian grit is engendered in believers in not-so-comfortable environs around the world that disallow for the creaturely comfort of Xian education for their children? I wonder how effete we render ourselves when we engage in exercises that tell the next generation, however indirectly (which is the most powerful way to communicate, btw), that they may manipulate their world to make themselves more at ease and undisturbed? And how odd is it to tell them “the world” is “out there” and not so much “in here”? Would Daniel had been a Daniel had he been not educated in the world’s educational system (while drawing the line at worship) instead of Hebrew school? I know, we are not raising Daniels and, yes, probably, he would have been. But the point still stands that I have serious doubts about Christian grit being forged by actually shrinking from the world instead of plowing into it. Witness how little grit remains in the CRC in the midst of generations brought up in CSI. I know that is simplistic to suggest, but worth pondering.

    z

  4. Zrim says:

    I recall my older SIL who CS’d telling me wayyyy back that once we had kids our tunes would change. Good thing for her she didn’t bet me any serious money.

    I have one in grade 4 and one in Kindergarten, and the only CS environ they had was pre-school, and that was because they were the “best” and most convenient pre-schools around.

    Sorry, Beck, my tune has not changed but only gets louder as I watch the grit of Xian schooled kids get softer and softer, only to be made up for with a lot of Xian sentimentality (or as Christian Smith calls it “deistic, therapeutic moralism”) instead of sober catechetical knowledge, etc.

    z

  5. Zrim says:

    Man, the more I blog the more I really like that icon, Rick. Kudos, man!

    z

  6. Rick says:

    We’re just about at 1000 guests to the Outhouse!

    Somebody call the septic service!

    If you’re the 1000th guest please take a screen shot and e-mail it to us and we’ll send you a free roll of TP. (not really)

    Pretty good considering it doesn’t count the times Outhouse authors come to the blog.

  7. RubeRad says:

    Can’t…resist…Must…comment…

    Witness how little grit remains in the CRC in the midst of generations brought up in CSI….my tune has not changed but only gets louder as I watch the grit of Xian schooled kids get softer and softer, only to be made up for with a lot of Xian sentimentality (or as Christian Smith calls it “deistic, therapeutic moralism”) instead of sober catechatical knowledge

    Is that because of too much CS, or because too many parents have been suckered into the trap of “I paid to put my kids in CS, so now I can relax on the home front”? I.e., is it the inherent fault of Christian education, or is it simply because Christian Education is just being done wrong (because of too many schools and parents abandoning of the Confessional Outhouse for the Evangelical Party-House)?

    How much better would you consider CS if it supported, rather than detracted from your confessional agenda?

    PS the only CSI I know are in Las Vegas, Miami, and New York. Is that another acronym that needs to be detailed in the Graffiti section?

  8. Rick says:

    “Christian Schools International”

    Started by Reformed folk here in GR.

  9. Zrim says:

    Hey, Rube.

    That is why I admitted my comment was simplistic. I am sure it is due to many things.

    “How much better would you consider CS if it supported, rather than detracted from your confessional agenda?”

    First, I don’t think education should be about any sort of “agenda.” It should be about educating, plain and simple.

    Second, anyone who tells me he is going to support my “agenda” is after something. Like I said before, Mick was right, you can’t always get everything you want. And someone promising you something will screw it up somehow.

    Third, it does not register with this Confessionalist to manipulate his world to make him that much more comfortable, or his kids. i don’t get that. Xianity is not about being comfortable.

    z

  10. I’m too used to blog debates being A vs. B. But here we have PS, CS, and HS (with a hint of PHS and CHS) . That makes it too hard for me. The following constitutes my questions on only the PS vs CS question.

    Compounding this are the necessary distinctions between factors of age. For example the choice between Cal State San Marcos and Christian Heritage College (to use a local SoCal example) is a no brainer. Grand Valley vs. Aquinas College may not be so easy. And what about Notre Dame vs. Ohio State.

    I guess I need to hear that these debates are really about little kids, – pre teenagers.

    Also making things difficult is the supposition that you can get all the pot and sex you want at a Christian High School in Grand Rapids. So if the world is what you want, send ’em to Grand Rapids East Christian.

    Setting theories aside zrim, [and I must say they sound pretty good to me] and assuming that the technical educational skills are the same across the board, what is it you want your kids to get in PS that they won’t be getting in CS? Is it that you want them to hear the secular worldviews preached from the lecterns? Or, flipping it over, what is it you don’t want your kids getting in a CS that you know they wouldn’t get in a PS? Is it the presumption that you must be in the invisible church simply on the basis of CS attendance and that CS sends that message somehow?

    Somehow, the idea that your kids need to be in the world as soon as possible and therefore in a PS ignores just how much in the world they are in CS. Maybe your idea of elementary CS is basically week long Sunday School and you have a hard time foisting that on your little ones.

    You can see I have a lot of questions. For my sake, set aside your W2K analysis and tell us what you really think.

  11. jonnyspro says:

    here’s my perspective as a CS kid(K-12, not a Grand Rapids “quasi-rich kid school” but in a real, reformed/parent led CS in southwest Minnesota), Public University graduate (B.S. and M.S.) now in Calvin Sem in GR seeking a M.Div (as you can see I have a lot of baggage). I certainly see fellow students in my current program that have yet to engage with the outside world due to what I would say as their lack of public education and therefore, I worry about what will happen when they become ministers in the world outside of GR. I just wonder when engaging with the “world” should happen. At a elementary age? Post High School? Post College? When we move into the retirement home?

    P.S. love the outhouse. May we all Flush the Covenant of Subscription. long live the FOS

  12. Dana says:

    This sounds like a very interesting discussion. I’m going to ponder the difference between a Christian doing education and a Christian education.

    I think, like many things, a lot of us think, “I am Christian, therefore what I do is Christian.” Then we project that on others. At least that is my explanation for the number of people out there arguing that everyone else is outside the will of God if they have made a different decision in the most mundane of matters.

  13. Zrim says:

    Good to see some fresh meat around here, thanks for stopping by, all!

    music asked, “what is it you want your kids to get in PS that they won’t be getting in CS? Is it that you want them to hear the secular worldviews preached from the lecterns? Or, flipping it over, what is it you don’t want your kids getting in a CS that you know they wouldn’t get in a PS?”

    Well, it may sound like a cop-out, but I simply want them to have a good education. If you read what I say, I don’t at all suggest they can’t get that from CS. Indeed, I think one can get a fine education at a CS. All in all, I hav ebeen in education long enough to know that my kids would get that no matter where they go.

    My question still is, before I cut a sizeable check for parochial schooling, I need to know why I should do that when the PS around the corner is doing basically the same thing? I hate to answer questions with more (OK, I actually like to do that), but why do parochial parents cut that check, why do they do what they do when they can get essentially the same thing at a lower cost?

    z

  14. Rick says:

    “music” is Bruce S.

  15. RubeRad says:

    I simply want them to have a good education

    This is the reason we avoided the CS most closely affiliated with our church (not our church, but kind of a sister church); it is quite affordable, but we heard horror-stories about part-time teachers having to teach subjects they didn’t feel qualified to teach. They are despairing of enough students (and tuition) to pay a proper teaching staff, due to all their best families going HS.

    Is that an argument against HS? If mothers who can teach hoard their skills for the benefit of their own families, wouldn’t it be better for the covenant body as a whole if they banded together (church-by-church) and co-opped a quality CS?

    why do parochial parents cut that check?

    My impression is that, more than religious instruction, Catholic schools have better discipline. Or did you mean something more general by “parochial”? In which case, parents have an impression that any religious school is better for problem children than public — which can cause CS to become somewhat of a dumping ground.

  16. Zrim says:

    I think I have said all I can on this issue. I have stated why I see it the way I do, why we do PS, etc.

    I think Xian liberty should always prevail in such matters, and all should recognize they will not get around any problems no matter what they choose to do. This is a part of being a creature in God’s fallen world.

    I continue to have no clue what a Xian education is, while having every understanding of what a Xian environment is. And I don’t see any value in paying for the latter. Maybe that is my secular rearing talking, but I have learned to take wise instruction from that rearing while at once holding to my strict religious convictions over against it. Like I said, just because my inner unbeliever is going to Hades doesn’t mean he is wrong about everything. But what else would expect a Christian secularist like me to say?

    Zrim

  17. RubeRad says:

    I continue to have no clue what a Xian education is

    Any feedback on

    But I do think there is a big difference between a Christian way to teach Humanities, and a secular way. A secular humanities education can merely teach what humans have done, thought, believed, narrated, …, how those concepts relate to each other, and at best, whether any of it is wrong simply by being illogical. But a Christian education can add the dimension of being able to judge all that history, philosophy, storytelling, etc. as morally right or wrong; as Biblical or un-Biblical.

    ?

    How else but through a “Christian education” can a student learn to critique culture through cultic?

    In East of Eden, did Steinbeck illustrate an orthodox understanding of Cain & Abel and original sin? (Or how about Lord of the Flies?) Is Voltaire’s “best of all possible worlds” a proper resolution of the Problem of Evil? How do the Enlightenment/French Revolution ideals of human liberty square with the biblical concept of Man as the Image of God? How does communism square with a Biblical model of property? How does The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe reflect the gospel, and where does the allegory (necessarily) break down?

    All of these are questions that I think would be fair game in High School, some in middle school; A Christian education should address issues like these, but I wouldn’t trust any PS to touch questions like these!

  18. rana says:

    i don’t feel strongly, yet, on these issues and that is why i haven’t posted, that and i have been busy with HS’ing and other things.

    i am with zrim on Christian liberty here as well.

  19. gospelmuse says:

    Interesting conversation, gents.

    [resuming lurking mode]

  20. Rick says:

    Is that you Matthew?

  21. gospelmuse says:

    Hey Rick!

    Yes, its your fellow NPR listener.

    Appreciate the effort you all are making here, brother.

    Been reading Hart (OldTimeReligion) of late…very helpful at putting some of the pieces together. Appreciate the encouragement by you, Zrim and Stellman to give Hart’s stuff a read.

    Best to you all!

    Matthew

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