Home Education: Learning for God

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“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

If you understand the biblical need to nurture and disciple your children at home, to help them long for God and live for Him, then it is a very short step to educating them at home to help them learn for Him. If you have a biblical mandate to influence your child’s spirit and heart, it would make no sense that God really meant that you should let someone else influence their mind. God didn’t just forget to include school in His biblical family plan; it was not needed because He created the home. It follows that the logical next step is to educate your children at home.

But it is at this point that many families, wanting to do the right thing, choose the wrong way. Rather than trusting that God has designed the home to be a complete living and learning environment, they try to retrofit the institutional classroom model into it. But a home is not a school! God designed the home, man designed the school; they were never meant to fit together. Only in the home, just as God designed it, can you shepherd your children’s spirits, shape their hearts, and strengthen their minds all at once. God did not leave anything out of the home that your children would need.

Solomon suggests that connection when he asserts that the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of knowledge. True learning begins with the spirit and the heart, not just with the mind. A godly mind comes from a godly or God-directed spirit and heart. You cannot separate that relationship. It’s clear that Solomon believed that parents were the ones charged with giving children the “wisdom and discipline” that will guide their search for “knowledge.” Over and over in the first chapters of Proverbs, Solomon reinforces that relationship by admonishing his son to “treasure my commandments within you” and to “not forget my teaching.”

The question, of course, is what should that home education look like. If God designed the home to meet all of a child’s developmental needs up to the time when they leave to start a new home, then education should be the natural activity of the Christian home. For many homeschooling families, though, the tyranny of textbooks and the rigid rule of school have stolen the joy of homeschooling. Rather than finding freedom, they are held captive by the impersonal formality and constant demands of structured curricula, enslaved by methods designed for human institutions, not for the home. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In our book, Educating the WholeHearted Child, we share our own journey to making our home a warm, vibrant place where our children would love to learn as freely and as naturally as they love to play. We show you how to use real books and real life to stimulate real learning. Our WholeHearted Learning Model gives you a way to look at everything you do with your children at home. It is a biblical, discipleship-based, commonsense, relational approach to educating your children at home that works. But it’s a different way of life.

Building Mental Muscles

It’s always hard to switch paradigms, and when all we’ve known as a culture is the classroom model, switching to a relational, home-centered model of learning can test our confidence. The most common concern is usually whether average parents can do “enough” to really educate their child.  “How will I know if my children know everything they need to know?” That concern does not originate from Scripture, but rather from a culture obsessed with measuring learning. But the truest measure of learning is not what a child knows at any one time relative to what other children know; it is whether or not that child is growing stronger in all of the most important learning skills. We like to call them “mental muscles.”

Just as children have varying physical abilities, they also have varying mental abilities. Some children will be naturally stronger than others, but we do not insist on measuring and comparing all children’s arm muscles. Neither should we compare and judge all children on the basis of one or two mental muscles. The goal should be to exercise all of a child’s mental muscles so they will enter adulthood with a strong mind, with the desire (will) and the ability (skill) to learn whatever is necessary, whatever the situation. Performing well in comparison to other children in an artificial classroom setting is no indication that a child will perform well in real life in comparison to other adults.

The goal of education is not to raise a child who does well on the tests of secular educators, but to raise a child who does well on the tests of real life. When they need to research an issue, they will have the discipline and ability to find and analyze relevant information. When they need to present an argument, they will know how to use language persuasively. When mediating a problem at church, they will know how to apply wisdom and find a creative solution. Knowledge is the natural fruit of growing stronger mental muscles, not the other way around.

And what are the mental muscles? Certainly there are more than the ones we have identified in our book, but we have found seven that we think are critical to mental strength:

  • Habits:  The ability to instinctively act upon common duties or tasks without being told.
  • Appetites:  The ability to discern and desire what is excellent and worthy.
  • Language:  The ability to clearly articulate and communicate ideas and beliefs.
  • Creativity:  The ability to reflect the image and glory of God in all that one does.
  • Curiosity:  The ability to question, to seek out knowledge, and to keep learning.
  • Reason:  The ability to think clearly and logically about ideas, decisions and life.
  • Wisdom:  The ability to apply spiritual insight and discernment in any situation.

So, start with the spirit and the heart, and the mind will follow. And in the end, you will have not only a “well-educated” child, but even better, the confidence that you have raised a wholehearted child.

Comments

  1. Melinda says

    Thanks for such an encouraging article. You seem to speak to the direction of my heart to raise my kids to love and serve God. Thanks.

  2. Dena Vieira says

    This is a question I never thought I’d ask. I’ve always intended to homeschool my children because I’ve always thought it was right for the parents to teach the children but now I’m worried about socialization. I always laughed when people worried about that but now I’m seeing that it IS important. I don’t want my children to grow up lonely and hating life. I grew up lonely and couldn’t wait to be an adult. I don’t want that for my children. And my mother and I had an excellent relationship and she was my best friend but I was a sociable child and needed more. What do you suggest for that? My children are young and I’m already seeing the desire in them to socialize with other children and it makes me sad for them because all the other children are in school and now my daughter wants to go to school too to be with the other children. I don’t live in America, I live in a developing country that doesn’t have a lot of resources. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can do to help my children have the social interaction that they desire or maybe I’m worrying too much based on my background? I take them outside to play everyday and they do for an hour but they don’t seem to really interact with the other children. They kind of play by themselves but they do like to be with the other children. The language is kind of a barrier too.

    • Toni Raquet says

      I understand your worries, Dena. I have 5 children & have homeschooled them all from the beginning. My oldest is now 16 and my youngest is 5. I never put our kids in sports, gymnastics, dance, and so on, like many people here in America. I also do not want my children to be lonely, or anxious to leave home when they are older. We live in a small town and none of our friends live close. I do take them to parks when I can. We have always been active in a church wherever we have lived. We also have been involved in homeschooling groups – probably not possible wherever you live. My only encouragement I can give you is this – my children are well-adjusted and friendly with everyone. The youngest can talk to older people without embarassment or awkwardness. And they can talk with their peers as well. If you raise them with love, in a Christian home, and take them to church where they will be “socialized” with people of all ages – they should do just fine. The big problem with “socialization” in the States (especially throughthe public school system), is that they only learn to communicate with those their own age. But I am proud that my children are not awkward talking to the elderly, or mentally handicapped, people from other races, etc. Do not worry. If God wants you to homeschool, he can manage the details. God bless.

    • Sarah Junk says

      I am a big supporter of homeschooling, but this article is putting families that public school and families that homeschool against each other. There is no Biblical mandate to school our children at home and I think it’s steering people in the wrong direction if we’re telling the Christian world that. There are many great Christians who have gone to public school (and kids in the public school system do learn to communicate with people other than their peers- just because they go to school doesn’t mean they don’t ever communicate with adults).

      I think we should encourage people to look at their schooling options (so many people don’t realize that homeschooling is a GOOD option) but we should not be selling it as the ONLY option. I can’t support a blog that is putting down other schooling choices because even though I homeschool, I do not agree that that is the only choice.

    • wholeheart says

      Sarah,

      Thank you for your comment. I want to respond personally because I feel you are reflecting your own opinions rather than responding to what this article actually says, or what you think it says.

      We write primarily to encourage families who have already made the choice to homeschool. Our goal is to defend the choice to homeschool based on biblical principles and precepts. Concerning this article, there is nothing in it criticizing public schools, or addressing issues of socialization. I only made the point that a homeschooling parent does not need to bring methods of institutional schooling into their home. We believe that God designed the home as a complete living and learning environment; the institutional classroom should not be our model for how children naturally learn in a home. Obviously, we believe God’s model for raising children to become mature adults includes education, and our conviction is that home is the best and most biblical educational setting and parents are the best and most biblical teachers.

      We try very hard to make it a point to teach about what we are for, not what we are against. We are not “anti public schooling” but strongly “pro homeschooling”. We do not “put down” other educational choices, but neither are we here to promote them as though we believe they are equally defensible choices. They are not. In other places and books, we examine them and point out their weaknesses relative to homeschooling because we want to give those who make that often difficult decision a firm biblical and reasonable justification for their choice. We unashamedly affirm that we believe homeschooling is the the most biblical form of education, but we never say it is the only choice for Christians, or that someone who chooses public or private schooling is out of God’s will. If you read the other articles in this series about discipleship and nurture, you will see that the foundations for our views on education are clearly based on biblical views of the home and childhood development. (My book, Educating the WholeHearted Child, is the fullest expression of our views.)

      This current blog-style site for our ministry will soon become an organizational website (without comments), and I will launch a stand-alone Whole Heart Blog. Even though you do not agree with our views on homeschooling, you are welcome to take part in what I hope will be full and lively discussions about the biblical, practical, and spiritual reasons for Christian homeschooling. Thanks again for commenting.

  3. Kelly Cox says

    I am so glad I came across this tonight! I just put your book (Educating the WholeHearted Child) on hold through the library…and can’t wait to read it when it comes in. We just finished our first year of homeschooling (kids are ages 3, 5 and almost 7) and I am looking for some encouragement that what I am doing is enough (focusing on pleasing God and not others)…..and some fresh ideas. With schooling 2 kids next fall instead of one………I would love to feel more prepared and relaxed! Thank you :)

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