When we began homeschooling, it wasn’t uncommon for the question “is that even legal?” to be whispered to us by well-meaning family members or inquisitive clerks at the local Hy-Vee. And along with that query, we were quizzed about subjects we taught, my having a teaching certificate, the fact that I have one seeming to naively make everything better to most people, or the ever-popular “what about socialization?” One of our homeschooling dad friends had the best response ever for that last one…. “Oh, my, yes, we were highly concerned about socialization, what with all the drugs and premarital sex in the local high school. That is why we decided to homeschool.”
But, by far, the best question I was ever asked, and it came only once and from our sweet old neighbor lady: “Does the government pay you to do this?” I had to laugh at even the suggestion of such a thing. And then I gave her my sincere, heart-felt response, “No, Mrs. Wilson, there is not enough money in the world that would make me do this. I homeschool my own children by conviction. Clay and I believe that God has called us to teach our children at home.” It opened the proper door for me to talk about our faith in Christ, the importance of discipleship, and the great desire we had to spend a lot of time with our own children.
So, imagine my surprise yesterday when I went to link to R. C. Sproul Jr’s website and found an article informing me that I do not homeschool by conviction, as he and his Prairie Muffin friends do, but rather because I can excel by helping my children excel, being driven by more practical matters rather than by knowing God is calling us to do this. Boy, talk about slapping this Capri-pants-and-t-shirt-wearing homeschooling mom right in the face.
In the course of his admonishing those of us who have observed the similarities between the lifestyle of the FLDS cult in Texas and those within the patriocentric movement, he identified what he believes are three types of homeschoolers. There are the “nutty” ones, as he calls them, like those in a cult who homeschool as part of the rest of their aberrant lifestyle. (Wish he would inform Stacy McDonald that, indeed, these guys are “perverts” as he claimed in that article. The nonsense on her blog about this cult gets weirder by the day and is nothing short of fear-mongering.) And then he describes the other two groups, both within the Christian homeschooling community:
“There is, in evangelical homeschooling circles, a growing divide. On the one side there are those of us who might be called movement homeschoolers. We homeschool because we believe it to be the Biblical choice, not because we merely prefer it. We tend to adopt many of the secondary lifestyle issues related to homeschooling, lots of children, modest dress, husbands as the heads of their homes, courtship, denim jumpers. On the other side are a different bunch of folks. These typically are homes where moms see homeschooling as a choice, an arena wherein they can excel by helping their children excel. The former are driven by issues of conviction, the latter by more practical matters.”
I have two problems with this.
The first is that R.C. has chosen to draw his line where none should be. I personally know hundreds of parents who homeschool their children because of their convictions about teaching their children spiritual truth as it relates to all areas of life and, in the process, build lasting relationships within their homes. Indeed, I can confidently say that that is by far THE reason that the majority of Christian homeschoolers teach their own children.
But, at the same time, they have rejected the extra-biblical “convictions” of those within R.C.’s sphere of influence and have chosen to subscribe to Biblical orthodoxy that allows freedom in the areas of educating daughters, women working outside the home, a woman’s participation in the life of the church, clothing choices, family size, agrarian living, secondary issues of theology, etc. In fact, many of us live lifestyles quite similar to his, but believe that those who do not share the same convictions still can be directed by the Lord to do otherwise without being labeled as “pragmatic.”
Secondly, what R.C. fails to state is the real reason that there is a divide within evangelical homeschooling. The issue of gender is central to many of these divisive issues and those who hold to what is now being called a “hard” complimentarian view, ie patriocentricity, are attempting to pull the entire evangelical homeschooling community further and further down the continuum toward their view of women that is not Biblical and, in some instances, is leading to out and out heresy. (Teaching that women have no callings of their own from the Lord or that Christ is eternally subordinate to God are both examples of this and are being tossed about within these circles. We won’t even address, today, the implication for racism that these teachings bring about.)
Rut rather than using the Scriptures as the standard for all life and practice, these secondary issues have become central and demand a misuse of Scripture in order to be propped up. (Phillips’ and McDonalds’ use of Numbers 30 to “prove” that unmarried daughters should never leave home until marriage is a prime example of this.) What many of us do not see in Scripture has now become the “grand sweep of revelation” and many of us have and will continue to challenge this nonsense. If there is any line in the sand, any divide, it is between those who chose to add to God’s word, in many cases for their own financial gain, and those who will continue to put forward the admonition to be Bereans, holding all teachings up to God’s Word.
Oh, and I have one more problem regarding this article. It also appeared on James McDonald’s blog yesterday, which means that he believes these things as well. How unfortunate that he has chosen to be a source of discouragement to the homeschooling moms I know, many of them personally, who will not be labeled in this manner. To tell a woman that, because she doesn’t share his convictions about certain side issues she is homeschooling her children in a self-serving manner is outrageous. The moms in central Illinois and everywhere else deserve better.