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I have been to three mega homeschooling conventions in the past several months—Nashville, Atlanta, and Sandusky, Ohio. When I last tuned in to the movement in the early 1980s, Liz F. and Susan L. were the only people I knew doing it. There were also few curriculum choices: One of them was A Beka, and one of them wasn’t. Liz and Sue made their own yogurt and dressed like they had eight cats and talked to them.
The big argument against homeschooling in those days was “socialization”: Your kids are going to grow up weird because they don’t see enough other kids. And to be honest, I lacked courage. So I decided that if being bolted to rows of school desks six hours a day was good enough for me and my mother and for Columbus and Attila the Hun, it was good enough for my kids. I reaped what I sowed.
The world has gotten a whole lot worse since that time. Back then you could be sure that if you went into the little girls’ room in North Carolina, there were no men in it wearing dresses. Of course, the prophets among us could see it coming in the 1980s. Even in the 1970s, Archie and Edith sang nostalgically in All in the Family: “And you knew who you were then; girls were girls and men were men.”
There have always been the prophets. In the days of David on the lam from Saul, it was written of one tribe among those rallying to the young giant-slayer, “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Regarding our own times, the prophetic watchword of Paul is “ in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, … always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 7).
The challenge in this 2.5 generation of homeschoolers will be to keep their eyes on Christ.
So in Nashville, Atlanta, and Sandusky, I found myself in the midst of a swelling army of Issachars, men and women who understand the garbage-in-garbage-out principle of education and who take seriously God’s plan for parenting: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19). Training up children in the way they should go is a mandate that hasn’t changed.
With the lucidity of the alien to a foreign country, I saw the grand convention halls with different eyes than those who knew not the humble beginnings in the kitchens of Liz F. and Susan L. with their volcano simulation experiments in a Ball jar. I saw rows of stalls of businessmen hawking their wares: curriculum packages; Scripture memorization techniques; “how to’s” on creating individualized college plans; parenting in the internet age; earth stewardship; care for the poor; brain stimulation; cybersecurity; hands-on learning suggestions; homeschooling pitfalls to avoid.
Speaking of homeschooling pitfalls to avoid, I discerned three. One is the usual tendency for any good idea to become a program, and a program to become an industry, and an industry to lose its original focus. The focus must be raising kids for Christ, and the challenge in this 2.5 generation of homeschoolers will be to keep their eyes on Christ.
The second pitfall is related. As I read through the list of offerings in the 200 breakout sessions, I saw more than a few titles addressing the problem of burnout and stress. This was corroborated by remarks of individual women I spoke to who had either lost control of their houses and were drowning in clutter, or were in serious need of R&R.
The third was the possibility of raising up a child for 12 years in the Lord, only to hand him over to a college that will undo it all. That would be tragic indeed—“as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him” (Amos 5:19). As Solzhenitsyn warned, “Truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it.”
May the focus of educating for the Lord always be kept on the Lord.