|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part three of a series. Read part 2.
Christian homeschooling involves not merely a curriculum, but an entire way of life for both parents and their children.
Some readers will immediately question the title of this article, so let me begin with an explanation. It is fine to think that you are doing your children good by homeschooling them. But many parents are squandering the benefits of removing their children from the pagan public school system by their own actions, and lack of action, in other areas. Sad to say, churches sometimes aid and abet this undermining of the benefits of homeschooling. In this article we will discuss three particular pitfalls. I suspect that some readers may object to the things I am about to say, but I have seen these dangers many times, and Scripture clearly shines a spotlight on them.
Pitfall 1: Lack of Discernment About the Materials You Use
The first pitfall is being uncritical of the materials you use in homeschooling. You cannot trust everything that is called "Christian." It is increasingly common for homeschool materials that bear a "Christian" label to lend support to such evils as pagan environmentalism, radical feminism, the social gospel, the homosexual agenda, and religious syncretism. You have removed your children from the public school system to protect them from these evils and to equip them with Biblical truth on these issues. Do not use "Christian" materials that will undermine your efforts.
Once again, passages of Scripture regarding Biblical discernment that we often mentally restrict to "spiritual" matters in fact apply to this issue. In this as in all else,
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.... They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1, 5-6)
Many parents purchase a packaged homeschool curriculum covering all subjects without regard to the potential pitfalls. In such programs the mathematics, for example, may be fine - although evil agendas can creep in even there - but the history, literature and social studies modules may be tainted or even thoroughly riddled with ungodly agendas. Take the time to be critical of the material for each subject. Do not be afraid to select materials from different sources in order to assemble what is best for your educational goals, and safest spiritually. Be constantly on guard; this is an area in which parents cannot merely "subcontract" their children's education to a packaged curriculum.
Some parents have asked us for curriculum recommendations. We hesitate to do that because homeschool materials, especially in the era of electronic publishing, are constantly changing. Programs that may be fine in one school year may undergo poisonous changes in the next. We urge parents to prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and to consider carefully - but no less critically - the advice of other homeschool parents, pastors, and other advisors. Ronald Reagan's cold war axiom comes to mind: "Trust, but verify."
Pitfall 2: Hypocrisy Regarding Worldliness
Christian parents need to constantly ask themselves this question: Have we truly cultivated, in ourselves first of all, a love for spiritual things and a hatred of ungodly things? If you have not, you will not cultivate such things in your children even if you give them the best homeschool education employing the most rock-solid materials.
You must be able to say to your children - and daily demonstrate before them - the same admonitions the Apostle Paul gave to his spiritual children in the church at Philippi:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Do not take the trouble to homeschool your children, if you are only going to introduce worldliness to them in many other ways - through the television, movies, books, and online content you permit them to watch and read, the music to which you permit them to listen, or the so-called "Christian" imitations of worldly activities that may even be promoted by your own church.
Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:11-13)
Christian parents, do not send mixed messages to your children. If you do not resolve, by the grace of God, to be consistent in these matters, if you think that you can say one thing but do another, the Word of God calls you a hypocrite. You are probably wasting your time and money on homeschooling by undoing all of its potential good. You cannot protect your children from the world's evils with one hand, and drag them through the world's uncleanness with the other.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
In the original Greek of the New Testament, 1 John 2:15 actually reads, "Stop loving the world." It is a strong imperative. Love for the world is a pitfall that every Christian continually faces. And so we are commanded to continually strive to stop loving it. These verses explain why we must stop loving the world.
The word that is translated "love" in both cases in these verses is the Greek word agape. Agape love is a love that springs from a sense of the preciousness of the object that is loved. The way in which agape love manifests itself is in self-sacrifice. A good working definition of agape love is this: Agape love is self-sacrifice on behalf of that which you consider to be precious.
If you are exercising agape love - self-sacrificial love - toward the things of this present evil world, you are demonstrating that you consider them to be precious. Therefore, the Holy Spirit says, "the love of the Father" is not in you. Literally, in the original language, "the love that the Father possesses is not in you." And what is that love? It is the love that is set before us in John 3:16 - the redeeming love of God in Christ. The love of God that would sacrifice His own Son upon the cross in order to redeem the entire created order from the curse of sin, and to redeem men and women and boys and girls from their sin, so that they may live forever as the citizens of the New Heavens and the New Earth - the redeemed, reconciled, and renovated created order, in which righteousness will dwell under the lordship of Jesus Christ forever.
The self-sacrificial redeeming love of God in Christ and the self-sacrificial love of this present evil world are diametric opposites. The two are totally incompatible. You cannot have God's redeeming love for His created order, you cannot truly have His redeeming love toward your children, you cannot truly long for their deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God, if you have embraced fallen mankind's self-consuming love for this present evil world-system - and communicated that love to your children through your own ungodly example.
Pitfall 3 - Lack of Discipline
Discipline - especially in the form of self-discipline - is one of the most difficult aspects of homeschooling. Often parents tend to make the deadlines for completing homeschool work far too elastic. Young people who have not been trained in the discipline of meeting deadlines have difficulty performing when they enter the working world in which the pace is rapid, deadlines are fixed and unforgiving, customers both inside and outside the business are demanding, and you cannot simply say, "I can get it done tomorrow."
Many parents tout the absence of hard deadlines in their household's homeschool environment as a great advantage. But I have known of many homeschool children who barely finish last year's materials by the time they are supposed to begin the next - and in extreme cases can even fall a year or more behind.
Parents must set the example through self-discipline. Once again, this is an area in which the great danger is hypocrisy - to effectively send children the message, "Do as I say, not as I do." Self-discipline is a Biblical virtue. Once again we have no less of an example than the Apostle Paul. The members of the church at Corinth suffered severely from lack of personal discipline in many ways with dire spiritual consequences, which Paul addressed in his letters to them. And in his first letter he sets forth the principle of self-discipline and then gives himself as the example:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Not Merely a Curriculum But a Way of Life
The most successful Christian homeschooling parents never become complacent about their children being spiritually "safe" in any of these areas - discernment, separation from the world, self-discipline. As we have said previously in this series, proper Christian homeschooling is the outworking of the imperative of Biblical separation. It is not merely a curriculum. It is an entire way of life for both Christian parents and their children.
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