An unprecedented generation of homeschoolers is emerging. Increasingly we are seeing homeschooled graduates who are embarking on the task of educating their own children at home. My wife Brook, and I, are among this new wave of second-generation home educators.
As I have thought back over the changes I have observed in the home education movement since 1978, when my mother began homeschooling my older sister, I think I am seeing some of the pieces fit together regarding God’s original plan for homeschooling, and His purpose for us today.
Homeschooling: A Modern-Day Exodus
The homeschooling pioneers left the government school system, a modern-day Egypt, for many different reasons, and headed to the promised land of parent-controlled education in the home. In the earliest days of the homeschooling movement (the late seventies and early eighties), several thousand families began homeschooling, completely unaware of the existence of other families who were also walking the same path. It was truly a sovereign move of God’s spirit. In the early 1980's, a number of state and national organizations were formed to assist homeschoolers, thus emboldening many families to cross the line into the ranks of these “counter-cultural renegades.”
This did not come without a cost. Many parents were ostracized from their families, some threatened by social workers or school board members, and some were even drug into court or had their parental rights terminated as their children were heartlessly removed from loving homes and made wards of the State.
What Were Some of the Unique Cultural Effects of This Movement?
The modern homeschooling movement brought with it many cultural changes that are still impacting our nation today. Some of these changes include:
1. A (re)new(ed) educational paradigm
2. A new publishing and retail industry for the new homeschool market
3. A grassroots political watchdog network
4. A resurgence of stay at home moms (following the 70's feminist movement)
5. A mass support group network for mothers
6. A return to patriarchy
7. A return of the family culture
8. Emphasis on cottage industry/family business
9. The return of courtship and betrothal
10. The growth of home churching and family integrated churches
What Were God’s Purposes in Home Education?
Before we can answer that question, we have to ask, “What are God’s purposes in the earth?” There is a maxim that states: “The whole is equal to the sum of all of its parts.”
Once you learn the universal, you will know all of its particulars. Once we understand why God created us, and what He wants us to do with our life, homeschooling easily fits into that bigger picture. Let’s look at a few of those reasons (my list is not exhaustive).
God’s Purposes in the Earth
1. God created marriage to reflect His relationship with His bride, and to produce overcoming, Godly offspring to war against the enemy! (Ref: Malachi 2:15, Psalm 127:4-5, Genesis 3:15-16)
Yes, Christ overcame the enemy at the cross, but we can also, through Christ, personally see Him overcome in our own lives. (Ref: Romans 16:20, Revelations 3:21, Revelations 12:11)
2. God wanted a holy, set-apart people.
Imagine if you were given this command from God: “Leave your country, all of your relatives, and go to a new land that I will lead you to. I will make from you a great nation, and I will bless you and make you famous. Not only that, I will make you a blessing. I will bless those that bless you, and I will curse those who curse you, and in you all the nations (peoples or families) of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Wouldn’t that just amaze you!
Well, in a very real sense, that is exactly what you have been told! In Galatians 3:29 you are told: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” If you belong to Christ, then you have inherited Abraham’s covenant promise! Are you acting in accordance with God’s desire for you to be part of the set apart people that are becoming a blessing to all the families of the earth?
Did Abraham’s Descendants Immediately Receive the Promise?
Well, they got side-tracked in Egypt, so what did God do? He provided a deliverer. Moses called for an exodus. The people came out. Did they immediately enter the Promised Land? No, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.
How does this apply to us today?
I believe that Christian parents around the world have been hindered from raising set-apart, Godly young people because of somehow winding up in bondage in Egypt’s government school system. Christian parents are producing offspring that are slaves to the secular culture around them. In order to remedy this, Christian parents must leave Egypt’s schools. The pioneer homeschoolers made this bold move. My generation didn’t make the decision to leave Egypt (we were just along for the ride), but now it is our turn to find out what God requires of us, as second-generation homeschoolers.
We need to keep in mind that leaving Egypt was not the Promised Land, it was just the first step. Homeschooling (leaving Egypt) is not the end goal. It is a means to a much greater end. What is that end? The end goal is the Promised Land which has been promised to us, but not yet attained.
At the end of the Old Testament we read: “And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).
God has done this in our day through the homeschooling movement. However, Luke 1 gives more insight into why God is turning father’s hearts to their children. “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the LORD” (Luke 1:17).
What Does the Promised Land Look Like?
1. Godly individuals and marriages
2. Godly families with obedient children
3. Godly covenant communities (a generic sense of word), where parents are trained and discipled
4. The wisdom of the righteous being taught to the disobedient of the land
We need to preserve the first two points, which are areas in which our parents have largely gained victory, and we need to take possession of the last two, which are areas that they largely have not.
The third point means learning how to do relationships well with other brothers and sisters in Christ (certainly something in which the vast majority of pioneer homeschoolers have failed miserably). At a recent gathering of homeschooled graduates, a speaker asked the audience how many of the attendees had been part of a church split. I believe that everyone in the audience (about 100 young adults) raised a hand. The speaker then asked, “Why is it that homeschooling and church split are seen as synonymous terms? We really need to learn how to be the Body of Christ.
The fourth point has to do with evangelism, apologetics and worldview training. We need to know what we believe and why our beliefs are true. We also need to learn how to effectively communicate a Christian philosophy of life to secular audiences. In the marketplace of ideas, we need not only a place at the table, but we need to demonstrate how the truth of God’s Word is relevant to all areas of life.
Is the Homeschooling Movement a Revival?
Evangelist and Church historian, Glenn Meldrum, in his book Rend The Heavens says, “Only when the move of the Spirit transforms secular society through the conversion of the lost can it be said that revival has come.”
Noted theologian F.B. Meyer stated, “There has never been a great religious revival without social and political reforms.”
Homeschooling was without a doubt a move of God. However, I don’t think the homeschooling movement is known for the conversion of the lost. Yes, there have been social and political changes caused by homeschooling. Most of these changes have not been so much a result of sinners falling on their faces repenting of the fact that they have failed their children and are spiritually bankrupt (although this has happened on occasion), but are rather the result of homeschoolers fighting for their rights in courts and legislatures.
Many non-Christians are viewing homeschooling strictly as a political movement (or worse yet an extension of a particular political party), and many homeschoolers have worked hard to justify this accusation. This is to our detriment and may actually create political and social assault on homeschooling because people fear theocracy and having someone else’s religious ideology forced upon them. (I understand that the basis of all law is having someone’s religious/moral views imposed on society, but that is a side issue.) My point is that people should want us to be in leadership because we have demonstrated good and Godly servanthood, not because we have terrorized all of our neighbors with our political and social muscle-flexing.
We should be known by the world around us predominately as people who do good and live our lives in such a way so as to be a blessing to the world around us.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
“Live such good lives among the pagans that thought they accuse you of doing wrong, that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).
What Do We Need to Take Possession of the Land?
1. Remembrance—In Deut. 6:10-15, the post-exodus generation was told that there would come a day when they would enter into a time of abundance, reaping the harvest of the laborers who had come before them. They were instructed to watch themselves, lest they forget the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. They were to fear only Yahweh, and not serve or follow any of the other gods who were worshiped by the cultures around them. They were warned that if they turned aside, the anger of the Lord would kindle against them and God would wipe them off the face of the earth
I believe this applies to us as post-exodus homeschool graduates. “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given” (Luke 12:48).
2. We Need to Know our History—We need to remember. Forgetting what God has done, and what He has instructed us, is a sin. We need to know history (even the history of the homeschooling movement) so that we can avoid the failures of the past, and so we know how we can succeed in the future.
3. Honor of our Parents—Nothing we do will be blessed of God if we do not acknowledge that everything we possess was given to us. (1 Corinthians 4:7) We need to honor our parents, but as a way to show our honor to them, we must take what they have given us and go farther than they have been able go.
4. Humility—Deuteronomy 8 is our passage as homeschooled graduates. There is no room for thinking that the blessings we have received are a result of our goodness or innate superiority. If we want God’s grace and blessing, we must avoid a cocky attitude at all costs. (James 4:6)
Problems We Need to Avoid
1. Accommodations to the World—It is discouraging to see the lengths to which some homeschoolers will go to try to prove that they are “no different” than public schoolers. Being a Christian means that you are, by definition, excluding what is “anti-Christ” from your life. This was the downfall of the Israelites who never completely neglected the worship of Yahweh, but wanted to adopt a syncretism that also embraced pagan worship.
2. Neglect in Our Own Marriages and Child Training—If we fail to teach our own children well, we will lose everything that has been gained in the past twenty to thirty years of the modern homeschooling movement. We must not allow the secular culture and pop-psychology of our day to dissuade us from the time-tested wisdom of God’s inerrant truth.
3. Knee-Jerk Reactions Against Our Parents Approach—Our parents have admittedly made some mistakes in training and educating us. They have known in part. We will know in part as well. There may be things that we choose to do differently than our parents, whether that be as small as choosing a different curriculum, or something major like choosing a different expression of church life for our family. Whatever we do needs to be motivated by faith in God and bathed in much prayer. If we make different choices than our parents, we need to move forward with prayer, counsel and humility, not quickly moving the old landmarks established by our forefathers (Prov. 22:28).
We have had enough years of wandering in the wilderness. The time has come for us to learn how to be the true Church, and how to impact the world around us with the gospel. Homeschooling was merely a means of preparing us for these ultimate tasks. If homeschooling becomes that central focus for us, we will die in the wilderness, never experiencing or entering into the delights of the new land that God has promised us. Let’s not make that mistake. By God’s grace, let’s proceed on our knees into the uncharted lands, not being afraid of the giants, but being strong and of a good courage, just as Joshua before us. This is our time. We have been called to the Kingdom for such a time as this!