“Modern education has been plagued by utilitarianism for a very long time, and both teachers and students have come to think that school should teach only what will be useful in the pursuit of a career”
I am grateful to my parents for a multitude of reasons: their sacrifices in providing my education–like living, as a family of five, in a tiny room attached to my dad’s office building so that we could both see my dad often as he worked long hours building a new business, and afford for my mom to stay home with us full-time; or the many criticisms my mom absorbed because of her conviction of her calling as our primary educator when home education was unpopular; or the multitude of conversations with my dad about negotiation, how to think critically, work hard, and pray harder; or the countless opportunities to witness compassionate evangelism as I watched them interact with every person who entered our home, the list of beauty in education my parents provided is lengthy. But if I were to name one thing that has impacted me most–second only to their constant presentation of the gospel daily, hourly, and for my entire life–it would be their tutelage in always asking the question Why?. That question has always stood at the heart of my decisions, a constant check on my motives and thought processes, followed quickly with the words my mom asked me almost every morning, will you serve God or yourself?
The default for most people is to move through life on autopilot. To wake, eat, buy, consume entertainment, to work, to live without thinking about what we are doing. That is, until something goes wrong. Few people are asking themselves: Why am I watching this show? Why am I buying this pair of shoes? Why am I working?, and even fewer people are asking, Is my aim to glorify myself , or God?
As Christians this mode of thinking–or lack thereof–prevents us from living faithfully. If we are to live life eating and drinking to the glory of God, certainly we must ask ourselves the motives behind our daily actions, and we must submit ourselves to pursuing God in all things. A passive consumption of the world is unacceptable if our aim is to glorify the God who bled for us. Christianity is not passive.
As Alan Noble writes:
“To live well in a modern world requires constant reassessment of how our society and technology are shaping us.”
We have to look behind our actions and choices to determine whether they are in obedience to Christ, or a result of a passive absorption of the thinking of our age. We often don’t recognize how we have adopted cultural norms that are contrary to a Christian worldview, simply because we do not think about them at all.
How does this apply to Home Education? Firstly, we must ask ourselves: Why educate? As I mentioned in my previous two posts (Part 1, Part 2), we do not educate for careers, honor, or money as our ultimate aim. We educate for the glory of God above all else. Vocation is an outcome of education, but in itself it is not the ultimate aim for Christians. As Christians we have to recognize this, and root ourselves in this reality, allowing our decisions to flow from this first, before any other secondary issue.
But we can continue to use the self-reflective question, why, to strengthen our Home Education, to formulate our educational philosophies in ways that seek to honor God, to tailor fit our approaches to our unique families and communities, and to bring peace to our homes.
The beauty of educating at home is that we have the final say in all areas of our children’s education. We can ask why of every habit we encourage, every curriculum we choose, and every extracurricular we pursue.
We can ask ourselves, why do I teach my children poetry? and answer because beautiful language honors God, and when it is written on our hearts we can turn it to praise to him, we can learn to understand his own words better as poetry is one of his means of communicating, as in the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Colossians 1. We can learn to weave language expertly so that we can communicate truths about God in fresh and beautiful ways to help draw others to him.
We can inquire, why do we learn only when sitting at the table with an open workbook? and perhaps realize we only believe this because we’ve adopted the erroneous thought-process that learning is confined to a classroom, and upon this realization, scrap such a narrow view of learning and open up our entire lives as educational grounds.
We can ask, why do I want my children to learn piano? and perhaps answer because music is a simple way to bless a church family, and a beautiful way to communicate when language does not suffice. Or maybe because they love it, they are passionate about it, and I want to teach them to use this passion to God’s glory.
We can ask, why should my children learn to play a sport? and maybe our reasons are, because sports are a great equalizer, and easy way to make connections with people and develop friendships.
We can ask why of our schedule, and alter it according to our familial needs or our individual children that perhaps do better with only three days of formal work, as opposed to the confines of five. We can ditch curriculum that isn’t working, take breaks when needed, encourage play and childhood joy, and infuse Bible reading throughout our entire day, simply by asking ourselves: why? and adjusting where we see the need.
Our answers may shift and change, we will prioritize some things over others depending on our interests and the natures of our unique families, the communities we serve, and our individual children. We may take a break from piano because we have a new baby and the added appointment adds unnecessary strain to our relationships or prevents us from serving those outside of our home. We may be a family who deeply loves science, and so scientific inquiry takes precedence over literature more often. We may live in a state that doesn’t allow home educated children to participate in athletics and so we may have to prioritize education over the advantage of sports, or creatively find alternatives. We may be in a season of financial strain, and so we may not pursue any extracurriculars at all. What we pursue will ebb and flow, and change with the seasons of life.
But we can always ask ourselves why. We must always ask it. And above all else, as we ask ourselves our motives, we must, as Dostoevsky wrote, “never lie to yourself.” We must honestly answer ourselves. If I’m pursuing teaching my children something because it makes me look good, or checks off a resume, I have to be willing to delve into my heart, answer honestly, repent and change course accordingly. I have to be willing to adjust my goals in a renewed submission to God’s aims, not worldly ones.
So ask yourself: why? and don’t lie to yourself.