So, I was inspired to write this “letter” because of recent debates in the homeschool world (my close friends will see what I did there). This post is a little longer than usual, so grab a cup of tea, sit back, and let’s stretch those attention spans. There are important points to consider here.
Now, getting to those points…
There was a time not too long ago when homeschool options were simple—you either did it or you didn’t. Our family stepped into this world at the end of the 90’s shortly after the legal questions had been settled. Battle wounds were still healing, though, and antagonism toward homeschooling would take some time to dissipate. But, as government agencies, school districts, and nosey neighbors came to understand the laws, the overall atmosphere did change. And now that the storms have passed, homeschoolers are enjoying clearer skies and still waters.
In my early homeschooling years, we were united under a common cause even though we went about things in different ways. There was a real sense of community in Christian circles—a fellowship in which veteran families came alongside new ones. Their encouragement started me down the road to greater freedom in education through Jesus Christ. They also showed me that independent homeschooling was actually quite doable and nothing to be afraid of.
Lately, however, the homeschooling movement has begun to fracture. In fact, it appears to be going the way of the early Christian church which, divided by discord, split into thousands of different denominations and sects. As the number of homeschooling options increase and the quarrels between people promoting (or defending) their choices escalate, the community is anything but unified. How quickly this has happened!
For those who don’t know my own story, I’ll just briefly share that I’ve independently homeschooled my children throughout their grade school years. My youngest is still at home, but my oldest three went on to a public charter High School. That was not at all what I wanted for my kids, but God made it clear that it was part of His plan for them and I needed to get out of the way. It was a tough pill for me to swallow, and it was even tougher when He confronted me with the fact that I’d made homeschooling an idol. The Lord was giving me a choice—I could either cling to my beloved educational theories, curriculum, and methods and see how that went, OR I could place my trust completely in Him.
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).
Now, I’m still a firm supporter of independent homeschooling, and I know it’s a walk that’s pleasing to God. In fact, I’m hoping to homeschool my youngest through High School when the time comes. But, just because something aligns with biblical truths and can be supported by scripture doesn’t mean it’s part of God’s plan for your life. That’s why I will never judge anyone for educating their children differently than I do. Schooling is not a salvation issue, and if someone has come to a decision after much prayer AND careful listening, then they’re right where they’re supposed to be at that time. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. (Romans 14:3).
With that said, as I continue homeschooling my last child, I have no interest in signing up with a charter program unless God informs me otherwise (and so far, He hasn’t). The reason above all reasons is straightforward and simple: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:22). When I started walking with God in everything (education included), He made our homeschool a place of peace, joy, and freedom. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:16-17). That’s just how we roll, now. Why would I turn from that?
And, on the same note…
Why would I place myself or my family under an imperfect governor when we are happily walking with a perfect King?
Why would I choose to subject our homeschool to oversight, scrutiny, and imposed deadlines (even minimal ones) that we wouldn’t otherwise have?
Why would I seek support and accountability from professionals who may or may not know our family, share our values, or have our best interests at heart when I can get that sort of help from friends in our homeschool community?
Why would I give others access to the private details of our home and schooling or open a door that will give them that access in the (not-too-distant) future?
Of course, I realize that this is a place God has brought me to in my journey, and others are working through matters specific to them from different places. Again, it’s not for us to judge. And yet, as Christians it is for us to be looking to God continually in all things and for those who lead to be turning hearts and heads toward Him. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24).
Families definitely need support as they transition into homeschooling. I’m not sure I would have endured the criticism in the early days and stuck with it had it not been for godly mentors who were there for me. But the desire for safety and familiarity makes new homeschoolers vulnerable, so anyone who swoops in to offer direction and oversight is dangling an enticing hook. We must consider the source at the other end of that line. Of course, if educational management doesn’t reel a family in, then the promise of money for curriculum, field trips, and extracurricular activities usually does.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18).
The reality is, just like any other school, charters are not designed to help families learn to swim on their own. It has to have students on its rosters, and lots of them, in order to survive, thrive, and maintain its staff. If families keep swimming away in pursuit of an inner calling, the organization suffers. Therefore, its own preservation has to be top priority. And yet, God’s plan for a uniquely-made life will never fit neatly within a structure or system made and managed by man. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25).
So, to my Christian friends enrolled in alternative schools and charters, know that I understand and respect the choice you’ve made for your own children. I am one of you, and I’ve seen my older daughter blossom because I listened and obeyed the Lord. If you went into this as the result of seeking God’s counsel, then who am I to advise you differently? If you skipped that step, you might want to run it past God and make sure you’re on the right course. Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. (1 Corinthians 7:17)
To my dear friends who are taking on the added challenge of counseling others within these charters (or any school for that matter), you have the potential to be a light in a dark place. I’m sure you’re already aware of the limitations you face regarding faith issues in secular and government organizations. “To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” (A.W. Tozer). But, you don’t need me to tell you how to handle these matters. That’s between you and God. Just know that I will be praying for you to have discernment and the strength to stand firm as you carry out the Lord’s will as His representative, first and foremost. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
As a general word of caution to everyone who homeschools, take care not to let the lesson plans of any curriculum or the dictates of a managing organization cloud your spiritual vision. How softly and silently that cloud drifts in when all seems well and your guard is down! But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
Finally, to those who wish to persuade me to enroll my daughter in the latest charter or alternative school, thanks for thinking of me. I’m sure the invitation comes from a desire to see my daughter’s relationship with God flourish through her schooling and not to promote or expand one support program over another…right? Well, due to the reasons listed above, and so many more that must wait for another time, I’m perfectly content to stay right where I am.
What could any organization offer me that would be better than what I already have?
And, if you’ve heard me out and still feel compelled to recruit me, then I really have to question the heart beneath your motives.
Times change, but it’s sad to see the once unified community of Christian homeschoolers divide and dwindle. Our children will learn no matter what path we choose. It’s just unfortunate that so many families starting down this road today may never recognize the incredible opportunity right under their noses—it’s the chance to see God at work and experience His guidance and provision in our daily lives. Who will be left to come alongside new families, now? And who will show them that they can actually homeschool without the intervention of professionals?
It’s really too bad because when we step out in faith, we find ourselves walking on water.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)