A Few Words for Parents Who Home Schooled

This is a companion post to the one I wrote to children who were home schooled. I would encourage you to read them both as they balance each other out. I was home schooled and I am currently homeschooling so I have been on both ends of these blog posts. This will apply to a lot of parents, but I address it to those who home schooled. 

This is what I would say to parents who home schooled.

First, the problems you see in the life of your grown children are your fault. It is not only your fault. Your children have a sin nature. But you played a significant role in shaping the sins of your children. This is a hard truth that we would rather ignore. Many home schooling parents have a high view of their responsibility in raising their children when they are at home, but refuse to accept responsibility for how children behave when they leave. They are your children. You raised them. They learned how to think and act from you. If you see things in your grown children that you don’t like then look in the mirror and repent. For what you see in them more than likely came from you.

Second, when a child leaves the home your role as a parent shifts dramatically. You need to let them go and live their life. Homeschooling parents often want to keep telling their children what to do after they are grown. This is particularly devastating for men. How can he lead his home when dad still orders him around? How can his wife respect him when he is constantly bending to what mom says? How can a wife make decisions for her family if she has to check with mom all the time? Grown children should respect their parents. But respect does not equal obedience.  A man is supposed to leave his father and mother. Your grown children should have the freedom to disagree with you and make different choices. They need to know they have this freedom. You should not make them feel guilty for exercising this freedom. You can offer counsel when asked, but that counsel should come with no strings attached. In short, when you children leave your home they are free from your authority and ideally they should probably be relatively free of your authority before they leave the home.

Third, just because your children make different choices than you does not mean they have gone off the deep end.  Home school parents often have precise ideas about how things should be done. When a grown child deviates from this it can cause anxiety.  But in many cases this anxiety is unwarranted. Just because your child uses a different school schedule than you did does not mean they are going to leave the faith. Just because they go to the home school co-op and you didn’t does not mean they have gone liberal. We could go on and on with this list talking about school curriculum, vaccines, where to give birth, how they dress, what they allow their children to watch, how they celebrate holidays, what type of church they attend, etc. You made the choices you thought were best as you raised your children. Now your children must do the same. Just because they choose differently does not mean they have rejected you, their upbringing, or God. In fact, you should expect them to make different choices. You should expect them to outgrow you, unless you got everything perfect. There should be times where you look at your children, smile, and say, “I wish I had done that.”

Fourth, admit to your grown children where you failed them. What mistakes did you make? What would you have done differently? How did you fail to love them? How did you fail to follow the Scriptures? How did you fail to love Christ? I am not encouraging you to call them weekly and tell them what a bad parent you were like some sappy episode of Oprah. What I am encouraging is sitting down and saying, “Son, I wish I had done this and here is why.” Or “Daughter, I thought I was right here, but I was wrong. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes.” Or, “Son, I sinned against you by not doing…Please forgive me for this.” This is Christianity 101. Confess your sins one to another. By the way, this is a lot easier to do with your grown children if you did it with them when they were young.

Fifth, trust the Lord with your grown children. You are not God.  He is powerful, mighty, and sovereign. You are not. In many ways, your work is done. That can be terrifying, if you are trusting in your work. Don’t do that. Rest in His goodness. Rest in the promises in His Word. Rest in the finished work of Christ. Seek the throne of grace on behalf of your children. Many home schooling parents become fearful and anxious when their children leave the home. This is understandable, but shows a lack of trust in God. Look to Christ and trust that if your children are looking to Him too then all will be well. (Memorizing Heidelberg Catechism questions 26-28 might help with your anxiety.)

Sixth, give thanks to the Lord for your grown children, their spouses, and your grandchildren.  I do not mean be thankful in your hearts. Tell them you appreciate them. Magnify their achievements. Glory in all the good they are doing. Praise them in public and private. Rejoice over the work God is doing in their lives, their spouse’s life, and in your grandchildren. No matter your situation, God has been better to you than you deserve. My guess is that many (though I know not all) home schooled children grow up to love Jesus, His Word, and His Church. What more could you want? They may not do exactly what you did the way you did it, but does that mean you cannot be grateful?

A Few Words for Children Who Were Home Schooled

This article is meant to be read in conjunction with the one to parents. They balance each other out. I was home schooled and I am currently homeschooling so I have been on both ends of these blog posts. I think there is much here for all children to learn, but I have addressed this specifically to home schooled children.  

The world of home schooling has blown up over the last year, especially with the ugly sins of Doug Philips and Bill Gothard being exposed. These men influenced home schoolers in significant ways. This has led to blog posts, web sites, etc., by adults who were home schooled, where they decry their upbringing. Often these articles have good points, but, at times, there is an underlying attitude that can leave a bad taste in my mouth. Here is what I would say to adults who were home schooled and look back with disappointment on their growing up years.

First, don’t blame your parents and your upbringing for your sins and your problems. Sometimes these articles can be summed up as: Mom and Dad left me with a lot of baggage. All of our parents did that. You will do that to your kids. If you see problems in your life, don’t whisper to yourself, “It was my parents’ fault.”  Don’t allow your heart to echo, “If only my upbringing was different.” Your upbringing was fine. You did not have it any worse than anyone else. This victim mentality fits in well with American culture, but isn’t befitting someone claiming the name of Christ.

Second, stop trying to show your parents all the things they did wrong. Often you should make different decisions than your parents. The problem is not making a different choice than Mom and Dad. It is making a different choice and making a point with that different choice. Make the choices you think are best according to the Scriptures, but don’t poke your parents in the eye while doing it. Treat your parents with respect even when you disagree with them or do things differently.  As an aside, grown children should be cautious about calling out their parents, especially publicly. Your parents did sin against you, as you will sin against your children. But grace covers sin. Cover your parents’ sins.

Third, rules do not equal legalism. Just because your parents made you wear denim jumpers or wouldn’t let you watch R movies does not make them a Pharisee. The word legalism is tossed around too easily today. Different rules from the ones you have for your household does not mean you were raised as a Pharisee. Legalism does exist in homeschooling circles. But it should be carefully defined and then proven. Saying your parents were legalists may score you rhetorical points, but it doesn’t prove your point.

Fourth, in most cases your parents were first or second generation home schoolers. They were pioneers. When my mom home schooled me the choices were limited. Now they are almost unlimited. Blazing a trail is different from settling down and building a city. They had to cut down their own trees. There were no paved roads. That means the path was rougher and maybe they got off track here and there. Be gracious and humble. They did a good work by trying to bring you up in the ways of Christ. Was it perfect? Of course not. Were there things about the home schooling movement that were off track? Of course. As 2nd or 3rd generation home schoolers we need to keep building the city, but not with a pride that looks down on those who got us here.

Finally, give thanks for the parents God gave to you. I do not mean a warm, fuzzy feeling just above your rib cage. Tell them how thankful you are for what they did. Tell your children how thankful you are for your parents. Call them often and tell them of your love. Speak well of them in public and private. All of us could find things wrong with our parents. All of us could snipe and pick and bite them. But as Christians is that what we are supposed to do? Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? Would you want your grown children sniping at you that way? Didn’t the same God who sent His Son to deliver you send those parents to raise you? Be grateful for what they gave you, not bitter over what they didn’t.

A Few More Bible Verse Pop Ups Would Have Been Nice

Below you will find three posts from the Gospel Coalition website. Each post is written by a mother who gives justification for how her family has chosen to educate her children.

Here is Mrs. Jen Wilkin on why her family chose public school.

Next is Mrs. Jenni Hamm on why her family chose private school.

Finally, we have Mrs. Amanda Allen on why her family chose to homeschool.

Here is a warm, friendly dialogue between Christian mothers on why they chose a particular option to educate their children. There is no animosity. There is not even any debate. Each family gives their personal reasons why they did what they did. They all emphasize that other families can make other choices and be fine. They wanted to make sure they don’t demean the other two choices. They all point out that they are honoring God, but the other families are as well.

What are we to make of this? The articles were not all bad. They all gave some good food for thought. However, I found that in the end they left a bad taste in my mouth. So what didn’t I like about the articles? They are entirely pragmatic. Each family chose what works for them. The families’ decisions are not rooted in Scripture, at least not in the articles. There is one passing reference to God’s Word in Mrs. Wilkin’s article, but it is quickly swept under the rug by saying any option can fulfill Ephesians 6:4. So the education of our children is basically like choosing a car or a house. Pick the one that best fits your lifestyle and budget. We all end up in the same place anyway. What we have in these articles are not three different perspectives. We have one perspective, do what works best for you, with three different applications.

We are Christians. The Bible is the foundation for what we do. Explain to me how your decision is Biblical. I don’t want to know if it worked for you. I want to know if God commanded it. The Bible often requires us to do things that “don’t work.” Explain to me why you chose to make your decision pragmatically (cost/curriculum/time with one another) when often the Bible requires us to do what is not immediately beneficial. When it comes to children, including educating them, the Bible is not silent. How did all the verses on children inform your decision? While these ladies may disagree on what the Bible says, at least act like what it says matters.  I am not asking for a dissertation, but a few more Bible verse pop ups would have been nice.

Are Homeschooling Girls Maturing Too Fast?

            Recently I read an article by Tracy Keen about homeschooling girls. The article argued that there is a “disturbing trend” in homeschooling where young girls are forced to grow up too fast. The article made some good points. The dangers she mentions are ones that any homeschooling family should think and pray through. But the article was not very clear at certain points and thus produced some “yeah, but” moments as I read.  Some of this might be due to the nature of a short article and the fact that we run in different circles. However, I still thought it good to clarify some points. You will not understand my points thoroughly if you do not read her post. I would encourage you to do that then come back here. I do not know Mrs. Keen and have never read her before. So this is simply and interaction with this article and not an attack on her. 

            Mrs. Keen’s thesis is stated thus, “too many young girls in the Christian world are also losing out on their childhood innocence as their parents push and prod them to mature faster than they are ready.” She then goes on to give four specific examples; girls are being given too much responsibility at a young age, they dress like their mothers, they cannot talk with their peers, and they are being called on to teach older women about running their homes when they themselves have not run a home. She closes by saying,
“Girls raised in Christian homes need to be free to still be innocent, fun-loving children, tweens, teens, and then young women. If the heart of your daughter has truly been changed by Christ and she is given the time she needs to mature as a result of your Godly training, you will begin to see her develop into a Godly young woman first and then on to a Godly woman.”
There are several good points in the article.  
First, we should be careful about crushing our daughters under duties that only a grown woman is supposed to have. We need to pay attention to their development and pray how best we can help them grow in godliness. This is especially true of large families with daughters. There is a temptation to keep piling on.
Second, it is a great point that younger women should not be teaching older women on topics that older women have experience on.  This would include parenting, homeschooling, etc. I agree this trend is bad. There are topics young ladies may be able to lecture on that older women could benefit from. But this should certainly be the rare exception.  The young ladies in our communities should be content to sit under, listen to, and learn from the older women at their church and in their homeschooling community. Moms should also be content for their daughters to do that and not push them to the podium too quickly.
Third, there is a danger of making our daughters into trophies for the world to admire instead of tools for Christ to use.  This is a danger in any environment with high standards. Of course, that does not mean we drop high standards. It means we pray for and cultivate humility in our daughters and teach our daughters dependence upon Christ’s shed blood and not their own labors.
Fourth, a daughter does need freedom to develop godly individuality.  A daughter is to be modest, but this does not mean she must dress just like mom or act just like mom. It is a temptation for moms to make daughters in their own image. However, what if the daughters are imitating mom because they love her and not because mom is squishing their individuality? If a mother is keeping the daughter on too short a leash this should be addressed. But just because a daughter dresses like mom does not mean the mom is being too heavy-handed.
Here are some points of clarification or disagreement.

First, she cites no biblical evidence for her claim that children should be allowed to remain innocent and fun-loving. Where Biblically is there a danger of having them grow up too fast?  I think Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4 could point us in that direction. Matthew 23:4 is also a verse that should be used more in homeschooling circles.  If you are going to raise a specific criticism against a portion of the Body of Christ, then it needs to backed up with some biblical texts. 
Second, she overstates the case when she says that the trend towards pre-mature daughters in homeschooling circles is just as disturbing as the over sexualization of young girls in the culture at large. These are not equivalents. I am often guilty of overstating. It is easy to do on a blog. However, she should have toned down that comment.
Third, she doesn’t give concrete ways to tell if our daughters are growing up too fast. What are some signs that my daughter is not ready for what I am giving her? How do I know that I am asking too much of her at too young an age? What is a “large responsibility?”  How do I evaluate the difference between pushing my daughter and burdening her? Most examples she provides are not helpful. Dressing like mom may or may not be a sign that the parents are asking too much. The one clear sign she gave was wanting to or mom wanting her to teach older women. But this will only apply to a small number of families. The article indicates that I might be sick, but gave me no real symptoms to look for.
Fourth, I agree it is wrong for a daughter to regularly be a substitute mother, especially at too young an age.  A mom should not make her daughter run her home in her place. If the mother has abdicated her role she should be admonished. But this is not what is usually occurring. Usually, it is simply division of labor. The daughter makes dinner so mom can teach the boys math. The daughter changes the babies’ diaper because mom is making dinner. The daughter goes to get ice cream from one side of the store so mom can get meat on the other side.  In other words, mom is not stepping back and letting her daughters take over. It is so that family can now get more done because there are more hands to help.  This can lead to overburdening our daughters, but it certainly does not have to.  
Fifth, she does not address the attitude with which things are done in the home. This is probably the greatest factor in parenting, not the amount of work a child is given. There is nothing wrong with a pre-teen or teenage girl having large responsibilities.  I have seen many girls do this with joy and gladness. I have seen girls with little responsibility feel completely ripped off by the slightest amount of work.  The amount of work can be a problem, but usually isn’t. Douglas Wilson states that one man tells his son to cut wood and he is giving a gift to his son. Another man tells him to cut wood and he is just being selfish.  This also applies to daughters. If mom and dad are regularly laying down their lives for their children then their children will be loyal to them and obey them. If mom and dad are giving, even when they are handing out chores and disciplining them, they are imitating Christ. But if mom and dad simply see their daughters as another way to get what they want, whether that is clean dishes or praise at the home school co-opt, then their daughters will be bitter and disobedient.  
Sixth, I want to address the following quote because it shows some of the sloppy thinking that often goes into statements about hypocrisy and grace.  Here is what Mrs. Keen says:
“The young girl who dresses more modestly, is capable of running a home, or has input on topics above the knowledge level of her peers is not necessarily godlier than other young girls. In fact, there is a greater danger of raising up a Pharisee, someone who shows forms of godliness on the outside but with no change on the inside. The desire for modesty, pure speech, taking care of a home, etc. should be taught and modeled to our daughters, but not forced onto them from the outside.”
            Paragraphs like this are meant well, but they are terribly unclear and often just plain wrong. The first sentence of the quote is a throwaway line that almost every Christian will agree with. Most Christians agree that it is possible play dress up in the Christian life and pretend to be holy when we are not. The second sentence is biblically unsound. Teaching my daughter to be modest, how to run a home and be knowledgeable about subjects (I am assuming that she means homemaking subjects) does not make her more likely to be a Pharisee. Obedience to God’s Word does not make us more likely to be Pharisees.  Outward conformity to God’s Word without an inward love for Christ and His Word makes us Pharisees. A desire to please man and not please God makes us Pharisees. But we are supposed to teach our daughters modesty. We supposed to teach our daughters how to run a home. Our daughters are supposed to be knowledgeable on things concerning the home. Mrs. Keen is essentially saying that teaching our daughters to obey God’s Word makes them more likely to be a Pharisee.  If this is not what she means then she needs to be clearer. Obedience and legalism are not the same thing.

            Also, what does she mean by “not forced onto them from the outside?”  How else are we supposed to teach our daughters? Everything we do is from the outside. In one sense our entire Christian life comes from the outside. The Word, prayer, fellowship, rebuke, encouragement, worship, the Lord’s Supper, our baptisms all happen to us from the outside. Even the Holy Spirit comes to us from the outside.  I think (I am not sure) she means we should seek to develop in our daughters a heart for God instead of just outward conformity to a cold set of rules. To which I say, Amen! But how do we do this, except from the outside? We train, exhort, rebuke, love, encourage, pressure, delight in, pray for, and set an example for our daughters. All of this is from the outside with the goal that our daughters will love God and love neighbor. But this goal is achieved by force from the outside. Sometimes this force is gentle. Sometimes it is stronger. But as parents, and even as Christian brothers and sisters once our children are grown, we are to be spurring one another on to love and good works.  I understand that without the Spirit and the work of God in the heart my daughter my work from the outside will be impotent.  But that is what the promises of God are all about. He promises us that He is the God of our children. We move forward trusting that our children belong to Him and that he will do a good work in them as we shepherd them from the outside in.