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A Letter To My Homeschool and Charter School Friends

 

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 realize the incredible opportunity right under their noses—in fact, many are being steered away from this chance to see God at work in their daily lives and experience His provision. Who is 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)

 

 

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7 thoughts on “A Letter To My Homeschool and Charter School Friends

  1. Thank you for this great article! I think Christ centered homeschooling should be the default for educating Christian children, but like you I know that sometimes God has a different calling and we must follow it. Sadly most people I meet today whichever homeschool option they have chosen it was done for personal or financial reasons, not Spiritual. And no homeschooling will be successful if God is not leading it. I will be sharing this article😊

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read this and yes! Please share it. Maybe then we would be more supportive of each other again.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. You have really hit the nail on the head, and have, so eloquently, said what I’ve not been able to articulate completely myself.

    We have been homeschoolong our only son since birth and have always filed privately. I agree that having support is HUGE in homeschooling. And, I am so thankful for a network of a few wonderful families in the early years who came together with us with a willingness to pull-together and bring to the table their own strengths. Sadly, all of these key families have moved out of state. But, they certainly helped to make those early years fun and successful.

    Admittedly, at first, one of the big reasons for choosing to file private was because we did not want to be accountable to the agenda of the government. But fast-forward to our 5th year in and add in a multitude of health issues for me (the primary educator) and there was a point where the charter “seemed” like it might be a necessary option. This whole issue  added so much stress to my then-current health situation.

    I can only say that God WAS most definitely in control even when I wasn’t obedient in bringing my concerns to Him in prayer. He made it crystal clear to me that I was NOT to change course in my efforts but that I was to stay on the path He had us on and just “do” what I was able to do (in the midst of my health issues).

    I am so glad I was obedient and we were able to continue on (albeit in a modified fashion) our path even through my health issues. This experience seriously stuck with me and I have since then not forgotten who is directing our path here! Prayers are first and foremost where I bring all of it to Him for directing. And I am not to forget that the rest of my job is to be obedient to do what He lays before me.

    Sadly, over the years, we have watched the number of private filing homeschoolers dwindle because of all of the charter options.

    I do think it’s great that options exist, as I know that one-size does not fit all. But, I can’t help feeling concern (and sadness) that the offerings, to the majority of this new influx of families wanting to homeschool, seem very much like bribes.

    I share this only as my opinion and that is based off of many conversations of others where I have listened to them share their reason for their choice as, “because of the money.” I don’t think I’d feel as concerned if I were to hear, “I’ve come to a decision after much prayer AND careful listening”.

    I must confess that I do occasionally have to remind myself that it is not my place to judge anyone for educating their children differently than I do. (Yep, I too am a sinner.)

    I do remind (and pray for) others, who express an interest in homeschooling, that yes they absolutely should explore all options available to them – BUT they
    should first submit in prayer before making any decision.

    Our homeschooling journey has had many different “looks” over the years. Many of which taught us more than book knowledge. And, our son has learned so many life skills and has grown into such a compassionate and patient young man because of our circumstances. We are marching on in our homeschool journey right into the high school years, starting this fall, and are very excited to see where God is going to lead us.

    Thank you again for writing such an articulate article (letter). I WILL be sharing.

    1. Yes, options are definitely a wonderful thing and you picked up on the key concern – it’s not really that charters and such exist, it’s that many of them aggressively pitch to new homeschoolers something that is keeps them dependent on men rather than God. Most of us were raised in the public schools and believe that’s what schooling has to be and look like…but it can be so much more. If knew families don’t hear that message, then they all too easily dismiss the independent option. My prayers go out to all – that all will seek God first and that His will WILL be done. Thanks for sharing. Hope your health situation improves.

      1. Oh my goodness – so many typos (I really shouldn’t write when tired – so much for being articulate) – ha ha

  3. First of all, wonderfully written article. I think you honed in on the spiritual aspect of homeschooling. I agree wholeheartedly that God should be directing our paths, no matter what turn they take. I love the idea that you are not standing in judgement at all of your friends who have gone to the “dark side”.
    Before my world opened up to the possibility of homeschooling, I sent my first two children to public school. I prayed with them daily reminding them to be a blessing to someone. They were little beacons on the hill shining for Jesus. Being in the public arena afforded many opportunities to evangelize to their friends, invite them to church activities, and to shine as examples of faith being lived out in the real world. I don’t think putting them in a public school was a bad choice. Then I put my oldest child in a private Christian school for reasons individual to her needs. Again I don’t think that was a bad choice. Then I began homeschooling my youngest for the flexibility it provided along with being able to set my own schedule, teach with a Christian curriculum, and help her develop a love of learning. I think that wasn’t a bad choice either. Now I’m putting my youngest child in a homeschooling charter and I totally believe that it’s not a bad choice,it’s just different. Will I still be teaching her from a biblical worldview? Sure. Will I be able to continue to pour into her character building qualities and develop a love of who Jesus is? Sure. Nothing changes in that arena. I just have some limitations on the curriculum I use. I can work around that. I think her being at home with me as I pour into her 24/7 makes the biggest difference in all these choices.The bottom line is that no matter what school choice parents decide on, they need to parent their children and not leave it all to the school system, youth pastors, or to the kids themselves. So many times parents are too busy to raise their children. It’s sad but true.

    Here’s a few other things to consider, for all of those parents who seem to struggle with homeschooling and need some help, a charter may be the little help they need. For all those fathers who struggle financially to earn enough wages for their large families, maybe the money the charter gives for curriculum and enrichment activities might make a difference so breadwinners can breathe a little easier. For all of those experienced Christian homeschooling moms, who don’t need a lot of direction, maybe a charter homeschool teacher is all they need with another set of eyes and ears to encourage them and keep them motivated to continue homeschooling a little longer. And maybe, just maybe, a charter is the better choice for families to stay home with their kids, training them with godly morals and principles, pouring into them a biblical worldview, even though they are maintaining the standards of the State of California. It sure beats sending them to the public school down the street where they will most certainly be bullied, put down, and made to conform to the rules and regulations of some dictatorship. And where the teacher will be spending six hours a day with their children and the parents will be spending maybe three more waking hours eating and doing homework with them.

    Everyone must choose the path that they will follow. We have so many choices, why not pick the best one for your family? God is ultimately in control of all things. He will use any and every situation for His glory. My prayer is that we would all just love each other and accept their choices without judgement…and learn to trust God in all things. Thanks for listening and for being one of those friends who still loves me even though I’m now working for a public charter school. I covet your prayers as I stand for Christ, as a light in a dark place.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience – I feel like this is a coin with more than two sides and, as with everything, God will prevail.

      I have no doubt that God will point some in the direction of a charter or even a public school. The public charter my high schoolers attended is just like any other school in terms of the time they had my kids – there is no home study component to it so it is that “public school down the street.” That is the path God laid out because, looking back on the experience, it was His way of getting through to me regarding the idol of homeschooling. He wanted me to let go completely and trust HIM completely – so hard. There are more than enough reasons to avoid any kind of man-designed schools simply because of the purpose they are meant to fulfill (and school-like charters fulfill the same purpose – I have a whole section on the history of modern education in the book I’m writing that discusses this).

      One thing I hope to talk more about on this website is that we were raised in schools to believe that they are THE way to truth, enlightenment, and future happiness. Apprenticeships and the like are no longer options so it’s hard for us modern folk to imagine any other way of learning. Even in homeschooling, it’s become all about the philosophy and the curriculum. But the truth is, we don’t need expensive curricula or comprehensive programs for our kids to become educated. In fact, I’ve come to find most of these things to be more of a hindrance to our homeschool experience than a help. It’s our total dependency on formulas and all the stuff that goes with schooling that in many ways has replaced God in the learning process. We have made Him into more of an overseer who we go to for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down rather than an actual participant and teacher. In this way, we have limited ourselves and our freedom. If people recognized this, then perhaps we could return to behaving like community and being that extra set of eyes and encouragement for each other. Perhaps turning to organizations wouldn’t be such an automatic impulse when the decision to homeschool is made. Make sense? There is freedom in Christ – Hallelujah!

      But even if there was a mass exodus to homeschooling, schools are a reality that aren’t going away anytime soon. We all need to be sensitive to the fact that God will still point some of us in that direction, and He will still walk beside our children on those campuses. In the end, it’s God’s will, God’s way and no one should be made to feel lesser for taking, or not taking, a particular route. We need to be walking where He leads us. I appreciate your friendship and the insights you bring to the table. I will certainly pray for you – go and shine, sister.

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