ICHE Philosophy of Christian Home Discipleship
This statement by Illinois Christian Home Educators is intended to communicate our purposes, goals and strategies for Christian home educating families across the state. It is a vision which has come into focus over many years, even decades. ICHE was founded in 1983, and what began primarily as a quest for a Christ-centered education soon became a God-inspired endeavor to make genuine disciples of the next generation. Like a slowly lifting fog unveils more distant objects, the multi-generational aspect of our journey then became clear. We were led to pursue Scriptural principles that would have a more lasting impact on our children’s spiritual progress. This included things like family worship, intergenerational Bible study, and Biblical models for helping our children choose like-minded disciples as marriage partners.
Because we see now only dimly (1 Cor. 13:12), our vision is an ongoing work of God’s grace in individuals and families. The principles of Christian home education presented here are not a system of ICHE-ordained and imposed rules and regulations. We do not believe that education and discipleship can be reduced to a formula which if followed, will produce a desired outcome. Rather, this is ICHE’s imperfect description of a yet unfinished portrait of the mature Christian family; a portrait that was, sadly, lost or forgotten by preceding generations. It is a still developing picture of what we hope every Christian family would seek to become. Our earnest desire is that our Lord would grant all of us the spiritual eyes needed to clearly see the Lord’s perfect plan and purpose for the Christian family. We pray that He would also grant us the grace to humbly but unflinchingly commit to follow His call, whatever the cost.
It is our hope and prayer that this statement would not become a point of division within the homeschool community, but rather that it would call Christian parents of varying philosophies, backgrounds, and situations to a common mission: building up the kingdom of God, first in our individual lives, next in our families, and ultimately, in our churches and communities. The Great Commission is a call to make disciples, not converts, and we believe the Lord specifically ordained the home as the center point of the discipleship process of our children. As Christian homes again assume that mantle, we contend that the church will be revived, the Kingdom expanded, and our Savior glorified.
For the purposes of this document, the generic terms “home education,” “home schooling,” and “home discipleship” will be used interchangeably. There are currently many varying perceived definitions of these terms, but the ICHE philosophy described herein is an attempt to bring common understanding to the table. The term “home discipleship” is decidedly the most accurate, but in view of the common usage, all three will be used to refer to the same process.
In answer to the question, “What is the chief end of man?” the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In the broadest sense, the Church was instituted for the purpose of seeing that goal realized in the lives of as many individuals as possible, thus building up the Kingdom of God. The ultimate goal of Illinois Christian Home Educators is nothing less.
Throughout each era of church history, there have been different proposed and traveled paths – strategies for evangelism and discipleship – to reach that goal. Some have effectively led many people to a deep personal relationship with the Lord; others have not. The present spiritual condition of America leads us to believe that the current popular strategies are not particularly effective and that different ones are needed. Our firm conviction is that the best and most effective means for discipling our children is to restore the Biblical process of Christian discipleship within the home.
Our secular culture increasingly denigrates marriage and family, and our church culture far too often divides and fractures the God-ordained nuclear family. Therefore, we have as a more immediate goal the rebuilding of strong, Christ-centered families that cross generational lines.
We submit that practicing real Biblical discipleship in the home will strengthen marriages, engender true respect and honor for parents, and foster life-long bonds of selfless love and faithful devotion between children. We contend that by adopting and implementing these principles, families will most effectively obey God’s call, conform to Biblical wisdom, and most importantly honor Christ in their homes. We testify that God has been faithful to His promise to honor those who honor Him, and that the principles we espouse have been effective tools He has used to accomplish His purposes in our children and to reproduce faith in their hearts.
A commitment to Biblical home discipleship is necessarily counter-cultural. It is a firm resolution to serve only one Master (Luke 16:13) which presumes an opposition from worldly influences and an antagonistic response from the world. It is a reasoned and calculated commitment to walking the narrow way (Matt. 7:13) despite the lure and promises of the mainstream culture or even the threats and intimidations of those influenced by it. This means that, like Nehemiah, we must be continually standing guard and building defenses against all strategies and devices which seek to conform our families to the world’s mold.
Christian home discipleship is Bible-based and Christ-centered. It is grounded in and erected upon the commands, principles, and examples discovered in God’s Word. It is not built upon theories or practices of modern psychology or so-called science. Since only Jesus Christ is Truth (John 14:6), any correct philosophy of education and parenting must lay its foundation in the Living Word alone. All others are built on sand and will eventually fail.
The home educating process we espouse is one manifested in the Scriptures. It seeks to instill wisdom, values, and beliefs primarily through inter-personal relationships between teacher (discipler) and student (disciple).. The current secular model patterned after the Greeks and dominant in Western education merely transmits factual information and academic skills and runs counter to this discipleship model. We believe the Biblical model is far superior because it incorporates a basic principle of human relationships: a person will adopt the values and beliefs of those with whom he spends the most time. In other words, a key to success in discipling our children is that we spend more time with them than any competing influence (Luke 6:40). Jesus’ disciples lived with Him for about 1000 consecutive days.
In view of this, we discourage reliance on co-ops as a basic format for home school learning, because even positive peer relationships and teacher-child relationships can interfere with or supplant development of strong parent-child relations so critical for home discipleship. While parents may legitimately delegate responsibility for certain academic classes or skills to others outside the home, we believe such occasions should be very limited and closely supervised. When such are necessary, individual apprenticeships with carefully chosen tutors are much preferred.
The Principles of Christian Home Discipleship
The basic Biblical outline for home discipleship is summarized clearly in Psalm 78:5-7.
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children that would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments;
Six distinct and unique characteristics are evident in this Scripture.
1. A Parent-directed Process – “…which He commanded our fathers…”
The responsibility of discipling children is one which the Bible charges clearly and specifically to fathers (Prov. 4:1, Is. 38:19b). Fathers must fulfill the role of home school superintendent, directing and overseeing the education of their children and if required, personally teaching specific academic classes. The delegation of the spiritual training of children to others is not an option, however. To the degree that Christian fathers perform this duty faithfully in Christ’s strength, the faith is effectually passed to children and grandchildren. This underscores the crucial importance of fathers having their children’s hearts (Prov. 23:26) and the prerequisite work of God in turning fathers’ hearts to their children, so the children’s hearts will be turned to their fathers (Mal. 4:6). Since students grow to become like their teachers (Luke 6:40), the call to Christian home discipleship is first of all an inescapable call to fathers to become true disciples of Christ, able to teach and exemplify the Christian walk, and thus raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
ICHE, however, is acutely aware of the added difficulties faced by single mothers and also by home educating mothers whose husbands are either uninvolved or uninterested in fulfilling their God-ordained roles. In such cases, by God’s grace and strength, a mother can fulfill these responsibilities and successfully disciple her children. It is our continual prayer and desire to support these faithful and courageous women through every possible means and at every opportunity and to encourage other home educating families to do likewise.
2. A Multi-generational Scope – “…that the generation to come might know…”
Next, home discipleship is multi-generational in scope.There are references to at least four generations in this passage: 1) the speaker’s and hearers’ fathers (our fathers), 2) the hearers (their children), 3) the hearers’ children (the children who would be born), and 4) the hearers’ grandchildren (their children). Christian home education demands a long term perspective and mindset. We are not merely discipling our children to walk with the Lord. We must also be training them to be disciplers of our grandchildren and discipler-trainers for our great-grandchildren. We must disciple our children as if our great-grandchildren’s temporal lives and eternal destinies depend on it. They do.
Our God does not only call particular individuals from each generation to serve Him. He calls whole families and whole family lines down through the generations. He called all generations of the children of Abraham to be His own special people. He called the sons of Aaron to be the priestly line. He called the sons of David to be kings. Our children must realize that since the Lord has called their parents to be His own, His call extends unquestioningly to them (Acts 2:39) and to their descendants as well. His mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children to such as keep His covenant and to those who remember His commandments to do them” (Psalm 103:17-18).
Because God’s promises extend to our children’s children, and because their faithfulness is critically dependent on our children’s choice of a marriage partner, we must logically and necessarily include a Biblically-based method for making that choice. We submit that a parent-guided, Biblically-grounded approach yields a much more sound and effective means for choosing a life’s mate than the error-prone and disaster-fraught practice of modern dating. A complete delineation of what some call Biblical “courtship” is not within the scope of this paper, but it requires that parents deliberately prepare their children beforehand for marriage and family responsibilities, teach them what qualities to seek and avoid in a potential mate, and then guide and oversee the process leading to a God-honoring, life-long commitment. The end result is the establishment of a new Christian home which will make disciples and disciple-trainers of the next generation.
By implication, this passage also conveys the great value and blessing of grand-parenting. If there is no greater joy than to see our children following the Lord (3 John 1:4), then as circumstances allow, surely the second greatest joy is in investing our time and energy in the spiritual lives of our grandchildren. Retirement from discipling duties is not an option. As the Lord provides, having several generations living in close proximity to each other, and attending the same church fellowship, is a worthy goal for every extended family.
3. A Focus on Character Development – “…keeping His commandments.”
Chronologically and fundamentally, the first step in Christian home schooling is beginning a life-long process of developing Godly character within the child. This builds a vital foundation in the child, preparing him to succeed not only in the academic learning which later follows, but also in life itself. He learns to constructively direct his thoughts and attention, show due respect to his parents and superiors, apply his energies and efforts beneficially, demonstrate appropriate courtesy to everyone he meets, and thereby to live peaceably according to God’s law. Every life so lived is a salt that preserves and promotes civil order and brings blessing to the individual, the family, and the culture at large.
While Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to every human and that condition is remedied only by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the Fall secondarily brought the universal consequences of physical decay and death to our world. These latter effects can be greatly attenuated and minimized by living a life which conforms to His image. Training young boys and girls to gladly and willingly keep God’s commands diminishes these pervasive, devastating effects and brings a measure of healing and restoration to their own lives and to the world around them.
We also see here a call to apply Biblically directed discipline, whose purpose and intent is to train the child, from infancy, in self-control. Initially, externally applied behavioral boundaries with lovingly administered chastisements are required within the home. As the child grows, he learns to consciously and consistently choose to live within the civil laws and moral restraints necessary for societal harmony. When, by God’s grace, he embraces a personal faith in Christ, he becomes equipped to hear and submit to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, restraining the sinful attitudes of the heart and mind. Character focused home discipleship intentionally nurtures the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) in our children and consistently models it before them within the home and family.
A child who has learned moral self-restraint and integrity possesses life-long advantages over those who cannot conform their personal behavior to Biblical and societal standards. To reach this first objective is the minimum prerequisite for living a successful life, for building a happy marriage and home, and for maintaining a civil society.
4. A Pursuit of Academic Excellence – “…not forgetting the works of God…”
The next objective of Christian home discipleship is to instill in each child a knowledge of God and of His intervention in time and space. This requires academic instruction in every subject to proceed from and to be encompassed within a thoroughly Christian worldview, aspiring to the highest academic standards within our grasp and within each child’s God-given capability.
We reject both the teaching of evolution as valid truth and its influence in education as manifested in age-segregated classes, especially for instruction in spiritual matters. Our Creator designed growing young minds to respond to challenges and to rise to meet high standards and expectations. To teach down to a child’s perceived level is very often counterproductive.
Since God is Truth, the teaching of all intellectual truth is encompassed by this objective, including both natural law as discovered by man and revelation as spoken to man in the Word of God. It is an integrated understanding of these two areas of truth and an acquired skill in their consistent, practical application which permit the student to know God, to live in harmony with Him and His creation, and to then effectively carry and shine the light of God that dispels the world’s darkness and blesses all humankind.
5. The Spiritual Objective – “…setting their hope in God…”
Each parent’s ultimate goal is to perpetuate a personal faith in their children. We believe it is a parent’s God-given duty – specifically a father’s – to first evangelize and then disciple his own children. This is again a call for parents to be true disciples in their own right, to learn to know their children’s hearts, and to strive to acquire the skills of an evangelist and spiritual mentor, enabled to lead their children to a saving personal faith in Jesus Christ and to a daily walk of continuous and life-long sanctification.
Our hope and prayer is that every home educated child will grow to love our Lord Jesus Christ and to personally trust Him for temporal needs as well as for salvation, being equipped and motivated to use his energies, talents, and skills for God’s glory, for the expansion of the Kingdom, and for the progress of mankind.
6. The Priority – “…He commanded…”
For those who believe God’s Word is inerrant, sufficient, and a proper guide for life, teaching our children to “set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” is not an option, but a vital part of God’s plan for every Christian home in every culture, tribe, and nation. However, we strive to make it abundantly clear that what we are proposing is not legalism. Our status before God, as individuals or as a family, is in no way dependent upon the choice to home educate. Praise God that His immeasurable grace is available to all believers in all situations!
We would submit, however, that this command of God operates in the same sense as the laws of nature He instituted. When the laws of electricity for example were discovered, understood, and utilized correctly, many wonderful blessings accrued. When those laws are misused or contradicted, great misfortune usually follows. In the same way, this God-given law will bring abundant blessings to us, our children, our churches, and our communities when obeyed in faith, but profound misery when broken or ignored.
Neither should a commitment to home education be a reason to take pride in ourselves or our accomplishments (Luke 17:10), or be a cause to impugn others. Rather, home schooling families should always display true humility and give loving respect to everyone (Phil 2:5-8). We believe home discipleship is a path, not a destination. It permits families an effective means to learn to live a God-honoring life, but does not guarantee spiritual progress.
It is our unwavering conviction that every Christian family who will step out in faith, commit to home discipleship according to these principles, and then daily rely on the Lord for needed strength and wisdom, will reap generations of blessings. It is our prayer that many will heed the call. It is our testimony that He is faithful and true.
The Role of ICHE
Illinois Christian Home Educators’ first calling and responsibility is to promote this vision for the Christian family via every means possible and at every opportunity using statewide or regional events. It is also our desire to see this vision spread on the community level through local support groups. Every ICHE function and scheduled event is held for this primary purpose, to encourage and equip currently home schooling families, and as an outreach to families and churches not yet committed to home discipleship.
A second area of responsibility is networking with national home education groups and leaders, watching for larger political or social trends that affect home schools, and joining to provide a united voice for Christian home educating families on those issues.
ICHE seeks to encourage, empower, and grow strong local support groups across Illinois, developing solid working relationships between ICHE and each local support group, and also among groups throughout the state.
Finally, the role of ICHE is to be a resource for support groups and individual families, through the annual convention and other venues. We endeavor to provide opportunities to connect with publishers, speakers, and ideas founded on Biblical directives.