He Who Defines the Terms . . .
Surely, most of us have heard the saying, “He who defines the terms wins the argument.” We see this most clearly in modern day culture throughout the media. Words such as “tolerance” have been twisted and bent so that they mirror little of their original intent but it matters not because society as a whole has bought into the new definition and it has opened up a Pandora’s box of sin that will infect several future generations until it is corrected.
Most of us have used “home schooling,” “home education” and “home discipleship” interchangeably, justifiably so. I believe, however, there will be attempts to redefine “home schooling” in the not so distant future. This departure will not be the insidious agenda of some great educational conspiracy but will instead be the result of sincere parents who do not know the origin of the home schooling movement but have rather been enraptured in the pragmatic ends of scholastic excellence and civic responsibility. So why is this important to know?
Thousands upon thousands of parents will be choosing to home school over the next decade. For many of them, their first impression will be their most lasting and may very well set a near-permanent paradigm of what home schooling is to be, outside a move of God’s grace. What vision will they buy into? I must confess that while I personally try to support any and all attempts made for the betterment of a Christ-centered home educational experience, my spirit is somewhat troubled by what is being dubbed “Christian” and “family-centered.” Some curriculums do not even stand for a literal seven-day creation model. Conferences that are supposed to instill a vision of parents discipling their children provide child-care services that mimic the public school system they speak against and parents are expected to drop off their little ones into the care of people they don’t even know. Is this not a little concerning? I don’t think any of this is intentional, mind you. It’s just a pragmatic default. The message, however, is the same.
As many of you know, my wife and I were public educators by training, so it would come as no big surprise when I tell you our first few years of home schooling were a direct reflection of our public school experience, albeit at home. It wasn’t until our first ICHE convention that we realized we were educating our children but were not truly discipling them in the fear and admonition in the Lord. Like many public school parents, we had inadvertently compartmentalized their intellectual training apart from their spiritual and character training. Over a period of a couple of years, dozens of books and even more CDs, our complete definition of home schooling changed. While I too use these same terms interchangeably for reference sake, my wife and I are now about home discipleship. Yes, we still stress academic excellence but this serves the end of God’s glory and our children’s spiritual growth. I’m concerned that today’s home school circle is starting to see the tail wag the dog and many are totally unaware of it.
Proverbs 22:3 warns us “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished.” When you teach your child how to use a protractor, a one-degree discrepancy is practically indistinguishable at first. However, if you take that same single degree difference out towards infinity, the two points will eventually become miles apart. Time + Place for the Devil = Disaster. While books, curriculum and games that talk about the Bible are good, nothing replaces the actually reading of the Bible by the leader of the home during family devotions. I mean nothing.
So what is a biblical vision for the home? I would encourage you to go to the ICHE website. We have two mission statements, one short and the other longer, much like the Westminster Catechism. I have recently arranged for the longer one to be put on the home page of our website. Read it several times, perhaps even printing it off and marking it up with personal notes to internalize it. Then, I would suggest you use it as a devotional thought, sharing with your older children why you home school. (I believe it’s just as important for the children to be able to articulate why they are home schooled.) The goal is to impart vision to our children knowing over time there will be competing voices for our children’s allegiance. ICHE president, Ken Sisson, recalled a powerful statement he heard years ago, “People don’t quit home schooling because they lack curriculum. They quit because they lack vision.” Additionally, any time you hear of new home schoolers in your community, print a copy off and take it to them as soon as you possibly can and volunteer to sit down with them and talk about your home school experience. While the internet is a good tool, it cannot replace a cup of coffee (or ice tea) and authentic advice from an aged home school veteran.
As the terms change, so the vision will ultimately follow. While I am all for technology and educational advances, I cannot exchange convenient and good for biblical and best. It is imperative that we who believe in a Christ-centered, parent-discipled home school model continue to define the terms and cast this vision to the next generation.
Executive Director, ICHE