“Absolutely not. Not my thing.”
That was my response when my husband hinted at his desire for me to homeschool our kids. At the time, we had a three-year-old, a one-year-old, a baby on the way, and I ran a successful business from home. To say I didn’t have the time wouldn’t paint the full picture—I wanted nothing to do with it. Besides, I was a product of public school, as was my husband, and we were doing just fine (thank you very much).
When I lived in the West, homeschooling was both foreign and frightening for a number of reasons. Namely, no one I’d ever met was homeschooled or homeschooled their children. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have known the first thing about where to begin such an endeavor.
Once we moved to rural Tennessee—where homeschooling is not only normal, it’s celebrated, and resources and support are in abundance—I briefly considered the idea again. But how could I ever pull it off? I wasn’t a teacher. Although I had my bachelor’s degree, it was in theater performance, for goodness’ sake. And besides, I worked! There was just no way. So, I did what so many parents do by default.
I sent my daughter off to kindergarten at the local public school.
Conviction from Holy Spirit came almost immediately. If you’ve been reading along with me over these past months, you know I receive my biggest breakthroughs in the shower. This was no exception. One evening, only a few short weeks into my daughter’s education, I felt Holy Spirit impress upon me something I’d skipped in my decision-making on this topic.
I hadn’t prayed about it.
“I felt Holy Spirit impress upon me something I’d skipped in my decision-making on this topic. I hadn’t prayed about it.”
In the five years I’ve been homeschooling, I’ve had many conversations with moms about whether or not educating at home is right for their families. The chat always ends with, “I’ll pray about it.” To which I respond, “Did you pray about public school?” The surprised smile always gives them away. Like me, they hadn’t. It was just the expected course of action.
As I showered, a little embarrassed about my rash decision to surrender an enormous amount of influence over my child without even praying about it, Holy Spirit pushed me a little further, and I began to wonder…
Does God have an opinion about education?
Turns out, He does!
Scripture is clear in some areas, and it’s gray in others. I certainly subscribe to the idea that we needn’t yell where God is whispering and vice versa. Although one could argue that the role of “government” can be debated in Biblical terms, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere that suggests education should be the government’s responsibility. Scripture tells us plainly where the role of educator lies. It certainly isn’t in the hands of governing authorities, and perhaps surprisingly for Christians, it also isn’t in the hands of the Church. God suggests it’s the family’s responsibility.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The word used here in the Greek is paideia. The definitions of paideia according to word study are as follows: rearing of a child; training and education of children; instruction. The Greek lexicon goes so far as to say, “The whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals…).” Paideia speaks to the culture of a child’s upbringing as well as instruction—the foundation. I’m not confident public school provides an appropriate culture or foundation for any child’s upbringing, let alone a Christian child. And furthermore, God didn’t give my children to public schools. He gave them to my husband and me.
“In my searching, I found twice as many commands for fathers to instruct their kids when compared to mothers.”
Now dads, as the above Scripture suggests, you’re not off the hook. God doesn’t explicitly relegate this job to moms, despite our nurturing nature. It was my husband who suggested I should homeschool our kids, but he’s the one making sure my son can read a tape measure and the one teaching the kids how to operate a tractor. In my searching, I found twice as many commands for fathers to instruct their kids when compared to mothers. In practice, yes, I think most households find that mamas are at the center of homeschooling, but at the very least, this brings fathers more exposure to their children for discipline, correction, and training—which God assigns as their duty. As a matter of fact, the role of discipline falls entirely to dads in the Scripture, and yet so frequently, Mom plays the role of disciplinarian. The father’s influence and his Biblical roles have been all but removed in so many Christian homes due largely to a lack of opportunity.
It’s a scheduling conflict.
And let’s not forget the abundant chance for learning and discipline that authentically takes place in the home on an average day. Most parents feel disqualified from teaching because of the lack of certification. I would argue there is no one more qualified than the parent who will deal with the consequences of an adult who never learns to thrive, but I digress. For those of you who homestead, you can’t imagine how many opportunities for real-life learning lie at your fingertips. During my daughter’s one (long) year in public school, she missed the first chickens hatching, the first blooms in the garden, the baby pigs being born, and the two dozen loaves of zucchini bread we baked after our first harvest. These daily miracles allow for ample topics of conversation, research, reading, and even a chance to dive into the Bible. At a recent Rogue Food Conference, I heard Congressman Thomas Massie say he didn’t homeschool his kids; he homesteaded them.
So, should we step into reluctant obedience and homeschool, forcing down our inclinations and commitments to align with God’s will for our family? Yes and no. Yes, because we always want to be in alignment with God’s will, right? And no, because one could argue we don’t have to do anything reluctantly when we trust it’s for our very best. Was I the most prepared and optimistic homeschool mom when I decided to take the plunge? Absolutely not. I was terrified, unprepared, overwhelmed, and ill-equipped.
But lucky me. God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.
Proverbs 22:6 tell us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is my hope. This is my anchor on the hard days. This is where I draw strength when I’m certain God has picked the wrong gal for the job. I don’t mind if my child isn’t a wiz at math, but if they fear the Lord, they have wisdom. If they learn to discern the voice of God, I know I have prepared them for every trial and temptation this world will surely throw at them. Traditional school doesn’t teach them to fear or hear the Lord. As a matter of fact, most education systems and unbelieving peers will encourage them to question their faith.
Y’all, God has given us an assignment: The stewarding of souls. It’s not a responsibility I take lightly, and it’s certainly not a job I feel prepared to pass off to someone else. When it comes down to it, I have to remind myself of one important truth: As a mom, my job is to ensure my child is healthy, happy, safe, and loved.
But what good is any of that if my child never enters the Kingdom of Heaven?
Discipleship is my most important role as a parent. As a former atheist, I know how vital this is and how eternal the implications are. Seventy percent of our youth are leaving the Church in or by college, according to Barna Research. Only six percent of those claiming a Christian faith hold a Biblical worldview. We’re hemorrhaging, Church. We’re failing in our most important endeavor. How can we rely on a few hours on Sunday and Wednesday to override more than 18,000 hours of public education (and that’s excluding college)?
Now for some encouragement. Although I didn’t want to homeschool, and I still work from home—now more than before I began—and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing a lot of the time, homeschooling has been the biggest blessing of my life as a parent. My obedience has assured my success.
Isn’t that the funniest thing about trusting God?
When we don’t get all the English done and haven’t picked up Spanish in two months, God is faithful to show me the miracles unfolding in my living room. In the middle of science, my seven-year-old gives me a glimpse into his tiny mind as he proclaims, “Mom, did you know God can’t lie?” Or, in the midst of World War 1 history, my nine-year-old decides he’s ready to give his heart to Jesus. Who would be on the receiving end of those blessings if I were not the one present? Would such moments even be happening at all?
“Instead of asking what obstacles you’ll have to overcome to step into such a challenge, I’d invite you to dream about the memories you’re going to make.”
Instead of asking what obstacles you’ll have to overcome to step into such a challenge, I’d invite you to dream about the memories you’re going to make. I hope you’ll be inspired by the relationships you will build with your kids—and them with each other. But more than anything else, I pray you recognize that during the struggle, God’s very best for both you and your children is waiting. //
~ until next month, Wendy
Wendy Cunningham is wife to Tom and homeschool mom to three amazing gifts from God. In addition to that calling, she is an entrepreneur and author. Her book What If You’re Wrong?, blog, and devotionals can be found at gainingmyperspective.com. She is also host of the podcast Gaining My Perspective. Wendy loves Jesus and inspiring people to step into their calling—whatever that might look like in this season. When she’s not working, writing, traveling, or podcasting, she can be found homesteading and chasing kids and cows on her farm in Middle Tennessee.