Homeschooling and Other Foolish Parental Notions

What Do You Think? Wednesday

I never thought the challenges would come like this: mostly from family and friends who don’t understand my evolution and want me to be the woman they knew me to be. I was fierce and fought battles that I now know were not my own; I took on assignments and roles and a demeanor that God never meant for me. These shaped my strong black woman mantle that I later laid at God’s feet to pick up the charge He had for me. Marry who I say marry; vote for who I say vote for; parent the way I say parent. Follow me the way I say follow me. But my loved ones’ responses to my choices should not be a shock to me. Jesus’ family didn’t believe He was the Messiah and folks in His hometown dishonored Him (Mark 6:1-4). So if that happened to Jesus, surely I should expect the same to happen to me. And if my loved ones challenge (persecute in some cases) me, even if the Bible didn’t say so I should expect the world to do the same (John 15:20). My job is to shrug off the criticism, respond if I’m led and do so in the manner Jesus would have me to. This is not always easy. I’m clear about my ministry calling, to the world and to my family, and this clarity gives me the direction I need to accomplish my calling. Trying to explain, defend even, my choices beyond what God tells me to, takes time and energy away from fulfilling my calling and can lead me back to my strong black woman fierce talking ways. I must remember that the only one who needs to understand what God has called me to do is me.

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:11-16).

Though these verses compare the spirit of the world to God’s Spirit, which all believers in Christ have, the spirit of the world can apply to believers who the Spirit hasn’t spoken to about our calling. Their response to us may be just like someone who doesn’t understand something spiritual; they may follow the ways of the world and may use the mind of the world when challenging us. So we must know what God is saying to us. We must ask, believe and walk out what He says (James 1:5-8). All this pondering came about today as I reflected on a challenge from my mom to participate in a sorority event, a friend questioning the depth of one of my analyses and a New York Times editorial on homeschooling, which is how my husband and I educate our children. Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum and his wife’s decision to home educate their children was the author’s launching pad; the story was bigger than home schooling, though, and challenged the effects of parents’ choices to in any way isolate their children. Another Times article outright said home schooling “is shortsighted and cruel” and “misguided foolishness,” comparing it to “home dentistry.”

In this world, you have to know who God has called you to be and what He has called you to do. If not, you will doubt what you heard and be a double-minded woman, unstable in ALL your ways (James 1:6-8). We are called to stability and can stay focused with God’s help (2 Timothy 1:7; John 15:4-7).

For those of you who have learned to shrug off comments and respond to others according to the Spirit, how did you come to that point? You can read the New York Times articles here and here and, please, tell me what you think. Also, check out my best friend Carla Yarbrough’s blog post Purpose and Persecution and Kim Cash Tate’s posts Strategic Plan and D6 Parenting and chime in on those too!

Homeschool Attack

What Do You Think? Wednesday

I’m 42. I’ve been saved 16 years, sold out for Jesus for 14, married for 13, and a mother for nine, and even with such experience I welcome advice, even that which is unsolicited. I know I don’t know everything and there are plenty of people older than I am who have been walking with Jesus, married and mothers longer and I know they simply know some things that perhaps I don’t. But let me tell you, I have had a hard time lately wanting to be gracious (though I have) to the people who balk at my husband’s and my decision to home educate our oldest son. These people have never home educated their children and have offered why homeschooling is bad for my child, including poor socialization, asked when I was going to put him in school and suggested I enroll him in good schools that they know of. Their unsolicited advice suggests the following that appall me:

1. World socialization is better than biblical socialization
2. My son would be happier at school than at home
3. That the ultimate goal of home education is institutional education
4. That any school outside of a home school is a better choice for my family
5. That any school outside of a home school will help my son reach his goals, no matter what they are
6. That they know my son better than my husband and I do
7. That they know what’s best for our family structure
8. That my husband and I were whimsical with our decision to home educate
9. That my husband and I didn’t hear from God
10. That, even with us not being in a crisis and them not having asked any questions for clarification, other humans know better for us than we do for ourselves; that humans know better than God

These implications, and many more, appall me because, quite frankly, I feel attacked. I recently read the tweet “There has to be a safe place for girls” in a brutal world that devalues their bodies and men do with them what they want. I say there has to be a safe place for all of us to be safe AND for those of us who are counterculture but not living in sin. There should be a safe place for us to make the Spirit-led decisions we need for the health and growth of our families. But, according to Scripture, this will not be the case. We will be persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10; John 15:20). That’s it. I should expect nothing less. There is no ongoing Kumbaya experience for the Christian choosing to live a biblical Christian life, whether you home educate or not. You will be persecuted for whatever you do for righteousness’ sake. The question is “Are we going to reclaim our strong black woman ways to challenge those who challenge us or are we going to accept the attack and respond to educate not to annihilate?” Tell me your thoughts. What do you do when people attack you and your Spirit-led decisions?

Caesar’s Children?

    Whoever is educating your child is discipling your child.”—Voddie Baucham

The public education system is in crisis; we all know that, but what do we plan to do to make sure our children aren’t caught in the crisis? This is what pastor, national speaker and homeschooling advocate Voddie Baucham addressed with nearly 200 pastors and parents last Thursday in Detroit. At Redeeming Two Generations, a family discipleship conference held at Evangel Ministries, he said Christians should be the most concerned because the crisis goes beyond fiscal irresponsibility. There is and has always been a moral crisis within the public schools and Christian parents need to respond biblically.

“Christian parents are obligated to give their children a Christian education,” he said, generically calling public schools Caesar, the Roman ruler in biblical times. “You only render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Your child is not Caesar’s,” said Dr. Baucham, also a noted cultural apologist. “If we continue to send our children to Caesar for education we need to stop being surprised when they come home as Romans.”

With children being in school the majority of the day, Dr. Baucham said the school curriculum, teachers and peers are the ones educating our children. He quoted Luke 6:40 to support his belief that Christians shouldn’t allow their children to attend public school. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” He then detailed the connection between child education and discipleship when discussing the history of the public education system, citing statistics and biblically supporting his claims.

Dr. Baucham said when the public school system began around 1870, Christian leaders, like A.A. Hodge, were against the formation.

I am as sure as I am about Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separate from religion, as is not commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief and of antisocial nihilistic ethics individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.

Framers of the educational system advocated just what Hodge predicted would happen.

Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday school, meeting for an hour a week and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?—Charles Potter, a signer of the Humanist Manifesto and an architect of modern public educational system.

Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is 16 tends to lean toward the elimination of religious superstition.—Paul Blanshard, a signer of the Humanist Manifesto and an architect of modern public educational system.

Public education is the parochial education of scientific humanism.—Joel Burnette, a signer of the Humanist Manifesto and an architect of modern public educational system.

With this foundation in the late 1800s and early 1900s and curriculum designed around it, Dr. Baucham said “Our schools are incapable of training our children in the very things that God commands.”

Armed with statistics showing that Christian children attending public schools had almost the same biblical worldview as secular humanists, Dr. Baucham said that the public school system is accomplishing what it set out to do. His statistics also revealed that most evangelical Christian children eventually break from Christianity by the time they exit college.

Though he and his wife home educate their seven children, he believes there are other ways to provide a Christian education, including enrolling children in Christian schools. Whatever route you take, he believes the following are six basic tenets to follow:

1. We must view education as discipleship (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Luke 6:40).
2. We must avoid ungodly influence (Proverbs 1:1-2, 14:1, 1:7, 13:20, Matthew 18:7).
3. We must avoid unbiblical teaching (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Timothy 6:20-21).
4. We must teach God’s law (Matthew 5:15-16).
5. We must be gospel-centered (Galatians 1:6-9).
6. We must be good stewards (Mark 12:15-17).

As a recovering strong black woman striving to be a strong biblical woman, Dr. Baucham gave me much to consider as my husband and I seek the Lord (as we do every year) for where He wants our son to be educated. I’m sure his insights, along with my own parenting philosophy, will help us develop the right discipleship plan for all our children.

What methods do you use to disciple your children? What has been your experience in educating your children?

Copyright 2011 by Rhonda J. Smith

My One Thousand Gifts List

Being able to go to church today
Being able to take communion
A great sermon challenging the congregation to be pro-life
Flynn and Joshua spending time together
Enjoying Justus and Nate
Participating in the Bloom Book Club
My mom watching Justus and Nate
For the children being physically safe
Safe travel to court
Money to pay the citation for not possessing my proof of insurance

Joshua's Journey, Part 1

He had been educated in a safe environment, receiving instruction in a place that showed him love and encouragement, affirmed his heritage and strengthened his spirituality. Now it was time to integrate and the powers that be tried to block his kind. This was not Alabama, Arkansas or Mississippi or the 1950s or ’60s. This was Michigan—Detroit—in 2009 in an urban school system that was rejecting a six-year-old black boy because he was an undesirable; he was a homeschooler.

Me and Joshua

Me and Joshua

This is the story of Joshua Lee Smith, my firstborn, who I home schooled for his first three years of his formal education. My spiritual conviction led me to do so, and now my spiritual conviction was leading me to place him in the public school system. Before the end of last school year, I met with his new school’s principal. She gave me a tour of the school, answered all my questions about her and the school, and told me when I enrolled him that I would need normal documentation, in addition to his report card and the curriculum that I used. She was quite pleasant, very accommodating and looking forward to Joshua integrating. But with the recent shakeups in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS), I had been checking news reports to see if there had been any changes with Joshua’s school. Three weeks ago I found that the school had a new principal, who wasn’t so accommodating.

When I called her to make sure that the enrollment documentation that I had for Joshua was still sufficient, she dismissed the curriculum (“I haven’t heard of that.”) and the report card, by saying, “Who would give him a report card?” doubting my objectivity as his teacher. “You just have to be very careful with homeschooling,” she said. “It has to be done every day,” suggesting a slack in commitment on the part of home educators. She eventually told me that all the students (new and returning, homeschooled and non-homeschooled) would be tested on the first day of school to see if they were in the appropriate grade, and when I enrolled him, she only took his immunization record and birth certificate and said that his enrollment was complete.

On the Thursday before Labor Day, essentially the first day before school, a school official called me saying that I needed to show documentation that my son had passed the 1st grade and is qualified to be promoted to the 2nd grade, and this was the only way that Joshua would be enrolled. She nor the principal, however, knew what this proof was but referred me to a central office number, that kept me on hold for an hour and twenty minutes; no one ever came to the phone to help me. While on hold, I called two personal contacts—a ranking official in state government and an education reporter—to see if they could direct me to someone who could help. They offered to make calls for me. In the meantime, I contacted six offices, only to be told there is a DPS homeschooling office, and the director is the only person who could help me, and she wouldn’t be in until the first day of school.

Before I decided to enroll my son into DPS, I checked the State Board of Education and DPS websites and found no information regarding this burden of proof that was now being required. DPS, under the leadership of Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, began the “I’m In” campaign to encourage parents to enroll their children into the troubled DPS system. I was trying to get my son “In” but was blocked at almost every turn, with even one worker chastising me, saying that I may have held my son back, and he couldn’t believe that “you kept your son at home and didn’t register him with the state.”

After six hours of the runaround and attacks all stemming from ignorance about and discrimination against home education, someone from Mr. Bobb’s staff called me, apologized for my mistreatment, talked to the principal on my behalf and gave me the final verdict: “Your son will be attending school on Tuesday. He will be in the 2nd grade and tested with the other children, and we’ll go from there.” He gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to call if I had any other concerns. I’m just glad Josh has been caught up in the drama of being in a new school instead of what it has taken to get him in the school. Josh in mirror

On this Labor Day, I want you to remember all those union workers, civil rights fighters and resourceful mothers who have struggled on behalf of the disenfranchised ones. I want you to remember that when you work, you don’t just work for yourself, but your presence and personal policies affect your life and the lives of generations to come. Make sure your stance doesn’t reek of George Wallace or Orval Faubus just because someone different from you seems to be a threat to all you know. Tomorrow, I hope that people see Joshua for who he is, a bright boy who was homeschooled and not a threat to tradition.

Copyright 2009 by Rhonda J. Smith