I was foolish when I started.
Once we decided to homeschool, I began reading everything I could find on home education. And every book I read had THE WAY to homeschool. I chose a philosophy with a method that promised a rigorous education—one that great thinkers followed, one that was proven to be successful.
But why was I drawn to a rigorous education for my five-year-old son?
Like most moms, I wanted the best for my kids including an education to prepare them for whatever God had planned for them. From the beginning I assumed that meant getting into college someday (though I now know that isn’t always the case).
And maybe, too, I wanted to make sure I was successful at this homeschooling thing.
So I followed the authors’ plan. Apparently my son hadn’t read the book, though. It wasn’t too long before I realized he was already beginning to view school as something he had to do. Though he enjoyed a few subjects, deep down I knew this plan wasn’t working.
I wanted him to love learning, but that was quickly slipping away. I wanted to enjoy my son, but I found myself becoming increasingly impatient and irritable when he didn’t progress “quickly enough” (whatever that was supposed to be). This way of homeschooling just wasn’t right for my son.
A Better Way
Yes, I was foolish when I started. But not necessarily because I chose this particular philosophy to follow. I was foolish because I began with all these books on how to homeschool before I started with THE Book.
It isn’t that we didn’t pray about our decision to homeschool. It isn’t that we didn’t know Scripture that supported it. Our faith had played a big part in our decision to homeschool.
It wasn’t the why, but the how that I didn’t go to God’s Word about in the beginning.
Does Scripture speak directly to the particular educational philosophy or method we are to use? Maybe not. However, like other things in life, there are principles throughout the Bible that can guide our decision.
4 Guiding Principles from Scripture
1. Teaching should be a natural, daily part of life.
Learning happens all the time. The most powerful lessons connect to real life.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, emphasis added)
Of course contextually this is how God instructed the Israelites to pass His laws down to their children for the generations to come. Obviously, they didn’t have the Bible to study on their own at this point. But I believe there is a timeless principle here that is just as applicable to us today. The Israelites were to pass their faith along to their children as they went about their life, as a part of their daily routine.
It is true for passing down our faith. I believe it is also true for developing the whole child—heart, mind, and soul.
I’ve heard some homeschooling moms say, “Sometimes I don’t want to be mom and teacher, I just want to be mom.” I do understand the frustration these moms are expressing, and I get it. But the truth is if you are a mom, whether you homeschool or not, you are also a teacher. That is just a part of being a mom.
Whether we choose to teach all of their academic subjects in our homes or delegate some to others, we are all responsible for the education of our children. We will always be mom and teacher because we are the ones who are there when they sit and when they walk, when they lie down and when they rise.
The key to homeschooling is to be intentional with that time.
2. When we teach we must consider how God uniquely designed each child.
One size definitely does not fit all.
We each have a distinct mixture of personality, gifts, abilities, talents, interests, flaws and faults. We each have different learning styles. Each of us excels in some ways and struggles in others. We are each and every one of us a unique creation of God.
Psalm 139 tells us of the intimate way our Creator knows us from the day we were born and throughout our lives. In verse 16, David says
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
The Nelson Study Bible notes that the phrase “in your book” conveys the idea “that the life of a person and the structure and meaning of that person’s life, are all established from the beginning by God.” The idea here isn’t just that God knows how many years you will live, but has a plan for those years. Ephesians 2:10 says
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Emphasis added]
I love studying Proverbs—a book all about wisdom—because I need it! Wisdom is simply the ability to live life skillfully in a winsome manner, in a way that draws others to Christ. Proverbs are principles, not promises; following them can keep us from having to learn the hard way. So what does Proverbs have to say about teaching our children?
Train up a child in the way that he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Train means to train up, or dedicate; it can literally be translated “according to his way”. Way denotes a road, journey, direction, or manner. I think the Amplified Bible puts this idea together well:
Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Since our children are each unique, then there is no one right way to educate them—no matter how convincing the authors of homeschooling books may seem 😉.
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3. Our teaching methods should not frustrate and anger our children.
Notice I didn’t say our children will never be frustrated or angry. Yes, the sin nature is present. You will need to pray for discernment on this one. There are times when learning is hard and our children have to persist to get something. There are times when we have to be mindful of laziness (theirs and ours). But we have to consider that there are times when how we are teaching could be the problem.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
We want teaching methods to encourage learning, not feelings of frustration and anger. These negative emotions do not produce a conducive environment for learning. And when we consistently provoke our children over time, we risk destroying our relationship with them.
Scripture teaches not only what not to do, but also what to do. We are not to provoke our children, but to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
To understand this, let’s consider a couple of definitions:
Bring them up—”to nourish up to maturity, to nourish; to nurture, bring up”
Discipline—”the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment).”
I love the word nurture that is used in this definition. Nurturing implies intentional care and encouragement as we raise them to become mature adults. I believe it connotes a gentleness in how we do it.
When we discipline our children we train and educate them. Once again we see the idea that we are our children’s primary teachers. Commands, admonitions, reproof, and punishment are all a part of that process—in the context of a nurturing, loving relationship. Just as the Father does with each of us.
I’ve often heard the root of discipline is disciple (and it is true. I finally actually looked it up!) Disciple simply means learner. Jesus’s disciples followed him in order to learn from him. If we look at how he taught them, we have insight in how we can teach our children. He walked and talked, trained and sent out, and loved them well.
If as a whole your educational methods cause frustration and anger, rethink how you are teaching.
4. Teaching should have its foundation in the Word of God.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The word training used in this verse is the same one translated discipline in Ephesians 6:4—that whole training and education of our children. God tells us to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and He provides one particular resource to do just that—the Bible.
This does not mean that every lesson and subject you study in school has to include a Bible verse. However, this verse has some major implications for your homeschool. Consider the different ways you can incorporate God’s word into your homeschool.
- As a lens—or worldview—through which to evaluate the world and its philosophies.
- As an excellent textbook. We can learn life skills, about how to live wisely, and character development. It is beautifully written literature including poetry, and the greatest story ever told.
- As a resource for copywork, dictation, and memory work.
- As the foundational history and science text.
But most importantly, the Bible is a book about God. It teaches us about who he is and who we are in light of that. The Bible tells the story of God’s creation and man’s fall, revealing His plan to redeem and restore the world—and each of us individually. It gives hope and meaning to life.
Think About your How
We can learn a lot from the different authors who have shared their homeschooling methods with us. Before you choose the methods you will use in your homeschool though, consult The Book.
Let these four principles be your guide. Evaluate different methods by asking:
- Does this method facilitate learning as a natural part of our everyday life? Will it encourage discussion? Can we stay connected relationally while using it?
- Will this method encourage my children according to their particular bent, or will it hinder them? Will it help them on their unique journeys to become who God designed them to be? Is it adaptable?
- Does my child respond with anger and frustration to this particular method? Is my child beginning to avoid certain subjects?
- Does this method respect the Bible as the basis of truth? Is it based on and does it promote a Christian worldview? If it doesn’t, how will I bring the Christian worldview into our studies using it?
Whatever methods you choose, remember that God has provided us with guidance through Scripture when it comes to the how of homeschooling as well as the why. As Christians, we have the wisdom of God’s Word to guide us in all matters of life and godliness.
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Biblical definitions from blueletterbible.com.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
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