by Mike McHugh
The purpose of this article is to challenge parents to home school in a disciplined and orderly manner, for it is my sincere belief that only a structured approach to home schooling is consistent with biblical standards. This message is born out of a desire to see more parents prosper in their commitment to home school by adopting or maintaining approaches to learning that are true to Holy Scripture.
In the book of First Corinthians, chapter 14, we read, "Let all things be done decently and in order." In my view, more parents need to ask themselves, "Does our approach to home education reflect this biblical standard?" God is glorified when His people adopt structured approaches to education simply because such approaches are consistent with how God Himself operates. The sovereign Lord of creation is, after all, a God who delights in order and not in confusion or chaos.
It is imperative that Christian home educators reject educational methods that put a child’s interest in being entertained ahead of his need to learn with continuity and accountability. As the Bible states in Lamentations 3:27, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." It needs to be stressed at the outset of this article, that the way God has ordained for youngsters to obtain the crown of a truly excellent education, is through the cross of disciplined study. Children must be lovingly trained to recognize that the true goal of education is to acquire godly wisdom and not to gratify one’s intellectual curiosity. Students need to know that the learning process is often difficult and wearisome, but in spite of the thorns and thistles is still what they are called to pursue.
True education, from a biblical perspective, is not a random pursuit of learning without clearly defined goals. Rather, it is a structured line-upon-line, precept upon precept exercise that has clear academic and spiritual goals in view. This is not to say, of course, that the learning process should leave no room for creativity or spontaneous exploration. Unplanned pursuits certainly have their place. It is only, however, when educators have taken the time to clearly define their goals that they can afford to have their students safely venture off of their learning track for brief periods. In other words, your students can’t find their way back to their goals effectively unless they had a clear path set forth in the first place.
In a similar respect, true teaching, biblically speaking is preoccupied with the process of making disciples. Discipleship, however, assumes that there is someone who is leading and someone who is following the leader. Any Christian teacher, therefore, who desires to instruct a child must first have that student under control. Sadly, many Christian home educators today are failing to recognize that the utilization of a disciplined approach to homeschooling is a prerequisite for producing disciples. No consistent discipline, no disciples ---- and if we are not interested in producing graduates that are disciples of Christ, then why are we in the education business?
It is my firm belief that discipleship is at the heart of the learning process in home teaching. Therefore, it is counterproductive for parents to adopt the popular educational philosophy that stresses that learning should be child-directed and entertaining in its presentation. When teachers relinquish control over the learning process to their students in the interest of following what children think is valuable, they need to recognize that they will no longer be able to truly disciple their students.
Sadly, the vast majority of magazine articles and convention speakers that have been influencing home educators in the twenty-first century often stress that home education should be easy, "relaxed", and fun. Quite frankly, this propaganda sounds too good to be true for the simple reason that it is! When home schooling is done properly, it will often require parents to develop and oversee a carefully planned and rigorous course of study, and such an undertaking will not be found in the dictionary under the words "fun" or "easy". Although parent teachers should strive to make their children’s studies as interesting and enjoyable as possible, the fact still remains that this is not always possible.
Christian home educators need to remember that the reason that they should be serious about their approach to their children’s education is that children must be prepared to enter a world that is both harsh and demanding. If the real world were a playground and not a battleground, then parents could truly afford to just "relax" and permit the focus of their student’s education be whatever they think is delightful. The problem is that the fallen world we live in is not a playground!
Although a well-balanced home school program will provide children with a meaningful degree of freedom and flexibility in the accomplishment of their weekly routine, it will seldom ask the student to set his own agenda. Special spontaneous activities or supplemental projects can and should be part of each student’s educational experience, but not at the expense of the basic core subjects that they are responsible for completing. It is ironic to see how many parents within the home school community, who would never think of permitting their children to determine their own wardrobe or mode of dress, turn around and permit the same children to choose what type of curriculum they wish to use. In spite of the fact that the Bible clearly teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, some Christian parents still let the so-called "natural love of learning" that each child is assumed to possess dictate their academic goals.
Now, it should be granted that if young students were truly angels who by nature were self-motivated, inherently mature, and self-disciplined, then structured home school programs with accountability would be quite unnecessary. As a Christian dad with several children, however, I can assure you that even Christian students are not angels. As the Book of Proverbs so plainly states in chapter 29:15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."
Far too many home educators crash and burn in their efforts to educate their children because they assume that they can do without a structured approach to their children’s education. The good news is that home school parents do not need to follow the broad road that leads to unstructured learning styles. Parents can, and I hope will, reject the pressure to compromise their children’s academic and spiritual development for the sake of ease or convenience. Doing things decently and in order commonly requires God’s people to walk the harder and narrower path, but in the case of home education as in all other cases, it is the best way to ensure the blessing of Almighty God.
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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