Growing up, I knew only two families that homeschooled their children. One was a family of missionaries to Indonesia or some similar locale. They homeschooled on the field; therefore, they maintained the practice while on furlough in Raleigh.
The other family was just plain weird.
The second family’s children had “problems” of some unidentified nature which were manifested in emotional and behavioral issues. Whatever these issues actually were, the parents had decided their only recourse was solitary confinement because their children were not capable of being educated among the general populace.
Upon reflection later in life, I believe it may have been the parents who had the issues. I remember they had a bunker mentality, and this was long before the days of Glenn Beck. Who knows; perhaps they were refugees from Ruby Ridge.
Even though I was young, I considered the family a little too close knit.
After all, what child wouldn’t have emotional and behavioral issues if they were forced to wear curtains for clothes- that is, other than the Von Trapps. (Although, a strong case for “issues” can be made for any family that dances and sings “Do Re Mi” in public.)
Sadly, this second family fit every negative stereotype society has about homeschoolers.
The majority of society, including many Christian families, believes it’s not normal to homeschool one’s children. There must be something wrong with the parents, children or both; otherwise, the children would be in public or private school. Why, they ask, would any family lacking severe mental deficiencies or extreme political views voluntarily choose to educate their children at home?
It seems that to most of society, homeschooling families are not far removed from the locals in the movie “Deliverance.”
To those unfamiliar, “Deliverance” was a movie released in 1972 which starred Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. The movie was about four friends who went on a weekend rafting and camping trip in the remote mountains of Georgia. Unfortunately, at the start of the trip they ran afoul of some backwoods locals. Reynolds, Beatty and his friends were hunted throughout their trip by two of the hillbillies and had to fight for their lives. Sadly, one of their party did not make it, and Reynolds and the other two barely escaped. All three were scarred for life by the experience.
The movie is brutal and graphic, and unflatteringly portrays the mountain residents as grotesque, deviant and inbred in both appearance and action.
The movie is famous for many reasons, but one of the most popular is a scene at the start of the guys’ trip. Reynolds and his party arrive in a small hillbilly town and promptly look for guides to help them. One of the guys sees a toothless local child playing a banjo and gets out his guitar to play along. An impromptu jam session follows in which they play “Dueling Banjoes.”
As I said above, many in society view homeschooling families as next of kin to the hillbillies in the movie. They are grotesque, deviant and possibly inbred. They are outcasts and misfits. They are like the toothless banjo player who can’t talk or read and has no ability to relate to the outside world.
However, I must ask: is this stereotype true?
I certainly hope not. After all, I’m a homeschooling dad. (Believe me, that’s not something I thought I would ever admit in public.)
At this point, it would be legitimate to question whether I am “normal” since I am offering myself as a counter-example. In order to establish my normalcy, I need to examine the stereotypes to see if they apply to me or my family.
To begin with, I don’t wear curtains as clothes. That alone makes me like most of society, so I am feeling pretty good about the rest of my chances. (For the record, I also don’t ride public transportation singing musical scales.)
Take my word for it, I am not inbred. As for being grotesque, well, thanks to surgery, I now have only 10 fingers and toes and all the webs between them have been safely removed.
Lastly, I am not a political extremist. I don’t have multiple wives nor am I stockpiling massive amounts of weapons and ammunition in secret underground bunkers. If you think otherwise, prove it.
I dare you to call Janet Reno.
Now that I have conclusively proven that I am like most members of society, it is appropriate to ask: why do you, Mr. Normal Person, homeschool your child?
For me and my family, the answer is found in the Bible.
There are two passages that are foundational to our homeschooling, and both are in the Old Testament. The first is Deuteronomy 6: 5-7, which states: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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.”
In this passage God was commanding the Israelites through Moses to love God with all of their being and to teach the subsequent generations His word. The motivation for teaching their children and future generations was to flow from their love for God, and from their thankfulness for what He had done for Him. What had He done? He had called them to be His people, He had delivered them from Egypt and He was about to lead them to the Promised Land.
As believers, He has done the same for us! He has called us to be His people, He has delivered us from the bondage and penalty of sin, and one day He will take us home to Heaven. Why shouldn’t I teach my daughter about Him, combining education with His word? Does anyone actually believe that it is better to allow someone else to teach my child like this, especially someone who doesn’t believe in God at all?
The second verse that is at the heart of why we homeschool is Proverbs 22: 6- “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I know this is a popular verse in many Christian circles and is commonly associated with childrearing. However, I recently heard a Bible teacher speak on the Hebrew concept of “uniqueness” that is found in this verse. Every man, woman, boy and girl are unique, each have unique needs and unique ways of doing things. God has a unique plan for each one of His children; therefore, it is my role as a parent to help my daughter see herself as uniquely gifted by God and uniquely called by God for a unique purpose of God. Will any school, public or private, Christian or secular, teach her that correctly?
Schools, even good ones, are not designed to educate children uniquely. The student to teacher ratio is too large to allow that. Additionally, public schools are increasingly becoming hostile to any hint of Christianity, so they won’t show my daughter her worth in Christ even if they had the resources to do so.
What other option as a father do I have, especially since I take my role as a parent seriously?
That is why my family homeschools.
There is one other thing I need to mention- homeschooling isn’t easy. We are not well off by any means; in fact, every month is a struggle to pay the bills. Some months I win, other months the bills win. Furthermore, since I lost my job in 2008 and have not yet found full time employment, it has only gotten more difficult.
Yet we continue. Why?
We continue to homeschool because we believe that is what God has called us to do. Would we be right in disobeying His call simply because it is difficult?
Homeschooling has come a long way in America. Once only the educational choice of missionaries and social misfits, homeschooling is now appealing to families across all demographics and socio-economic levels.
However, vestiges of the former stereotypes still remain in society. In many ways, homeschool families are misunderstood and looked upon like the backwoods hillbillies from the movie “Deliverance.”
I don’t homeschool because I am inbred, deviant or a political extremist. I homeschool because I believe it is the best way to educate my daughter in both her schooling and Scripture, to nurture her mind and spirit, and to help her discover God’s unique plan for her life.
As a result of my choices, some may look on me like the man-child banjo player from the movie. They may think of me as unable to talk, read or relate to the outside world.
To that I have only one thing to say: I can’t even play the banjo.