I've been "chatting" online with some ladies from across the U.S., and none in San Antonio, recently about the different reasons people have for homeschooling and how sometimes it is hard to tell the Christian Homeschoolers from any other kids based on their behavior. Of course, I have to preface this with the fact that I know plenty of dear Christians who have kids in public school and they are doing just fine. I also have to say that my children will probably never be the "golden standard" in homeschooling. I can already hear my friends saying, "AMEN" to that & wondering how I can write about kids' behavior! Yet, I have hopes that they will clearly be those who carry Christ with them wherever they go, as they get older. As I wrote about previously, our co-op Girl Scout troop left a GREAT impression on the Aquarium employees, so we must be doing something right!
What I AM thinking about right now, and what we've discussed, is that the reasons Christians homeschool today is not necessarily the same reason they did 10 or 20 years ago. I knew people who were homeschooling 20 years ago. They deeply desired for their kids to have a Christ-centered education in all they did. They wanted to keep them away from what they saw as growing problems in school. You may be thinking, "Twenty years ago they didn't have problems in schools like they do now." Well, a friend of mine took her son out of kindergarten when a 3rd grader offered him some "coke." This little boy told his mommy that boy was silly and all he had was powdered sugar! This was 20 years ago, here, just down the street from where I live. Police were called in (though the principal initially refused to do anything, and the mom was ready to call in the news station before the principal agreed to have the police come), the young boy was found with drugs and all kinds of things, such as jewelery, stolen from parents. For that matter when I was in high school 25 years ago we had kids who were taking drugs during school. This was all PRE-Columbine. Yes, I know not all schools are like this, and as I said, there are plenty of Christian kids, and non-Christian kids as well, doing just fine. However, this IS a reason that parents took their kids out of school in those days.
Today the reasons for home schooling are quite varied. Some still do it for the same reasons today. Others homeschool, I've found, because they find schools are "too religious" (yes, really). Many do it because they want to provide a "better education" than they feel the schools can provide. Some have special needs kids and want to be able to work with their kids one on one. Apart from families like the Duggars, most homeschoolers I know have 2 to 4 kids, and it IS possible to have one on one time with each child to do school work. Though, I applaud the Duggars and other large families (I do know families with 8 & 9 kids) for being able to keep up with all those kids & all that work! I'd be crazier than I already am!
We (the aforementioned ladies and I) have noticed that today if you walk into a homeschool co-op, you may not see the same behavior you would have seen 20 years ago in a homeschool co-op. We know that even as Christians we don't all have the same expectations of our kids. In our particular homeschool co-op we have just gone through a revision and setting of standards for our co-op. We have essentials that all must agree to, and then we have doctrinal issues that we do not want to be divisive among us (for example, girls wearing only dresses vs. wearing pants and shorts; if you do one or the other it's okay with us, and we don't take a stand on this). As far as a dress code, we do have a list of standards, and ask all girls, boys and parents to agree to this. The same with behavior. While we may have different standards at home, we have a standard set forth for behavior at our co-op.
The biggest concern I have for my children is the same one I had for my students when I was in a classroom. I want them to learn the skills being taught. I want them to excel at these skills. I want them to enjoy learning and WANT to learn more. I want to instill in them creativity and boldness to try new things. I want to instill in them, or continue to encourage in them, basic traits like respect, courtesy, kindness, and so forth. I think these are all important. Yet, I think none of them is essential. There is ONE thing that is essential for my children: To love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Matthew 16:26 says, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Yes, learning zoology is important. Yes, learning to write a 3 point essay is important. Yes, learning to do algebra will take you places. Yet, God didn't call me to be a mom first and foremost so I could educate my children in the ways of the world. He called me to have as my number one priority the training up of my children in His ways. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Prov. 22:6
My kids are still in training. I am not the best coach in the world. I have often said about raising kids (well, as far as homeschooling goes) that the proof is in the pudding. We can't say at grade 4 that if a child hasn't mastered the skills which the great state of Texas says they should master by age 10, that the child is a failure. When the child is 20 then we will see if the education was effective. On the other hand, even the best coach can have players on the team that just can't hit the ball, or who strike out. We may provide the best training for our kids and still have them go astray, yet we hope that when they are old they will turn back to the Lord.
The reason I'm having these thoughts is that our co-op has created committees this year. I said I'd be part of the prayer team. Somehow that meant I was to head up the chapel committee. I'm not sure exactly how that leap was made, but I suspect that it's because my last name is second in the alphabet and the one before me is already on the leadership team. (grin) For the past 2 weeks we've been working on what to do during our chapel time. It's been shortened to a 25 minute period from 35 minutes, but leads into lunch now so we can continue talking over lunch. I had no idea how difficult it could be to do this! There are some parents who want an all inclusive chapel, some who want kids in chapel by grades, and some who just don't want chapel time since they go to church and Bible study. I can understand ALL views. I know that in most classes there is some sort of talk about the Lord. There's even an apologetics class for the middle through high school kids. I also know that most families in our co-op do take their kids to church every week and/or Bible study/AWANA/youth group or some other function. And I know most families teach the Word of God in their homes. In fact, I can understanding NOT wanting chapel because the parents may be concerned that we may address an issue differently than they would at home. These are all very valid concerns. Yet, in the very depths of my heart, I think, if we can't come together for 25 minutes to worship our Lord or learn from His Word, then how are we any different than non-Christians?
True confession time: I write this as I have not started working on my weekly Bible study for this week, which should have started on Wednesday. Maybe that is why that 25 minutes is so important to me. To me, it isn't "another thing we have to do at co-op" but rather a break from the busy-ness of co-op. A time out from the lessons and the teaching and crying babies in the nursery and pre-teens who can't sit still. It's a time to re-focus, regroup, re-energize, and remember that we have a much higher calling than just the schooling part. Maybe my perception is different from others. Maybe it is something that should be taught at home and practiced at co-op without extra time out. Maybe I am just thinking WAY too deeply for late at night!