Friday, July 15, 2016

Choose Life

My children are not a distraction from my ministry demographic.
Neither are my children a tool to help me reach my ministry demographic.
My children, as long as they are children, are my ministry demographic.
I remember that day with clarity. We were discussing Milton, and my English Lit professor referred to Adam eating the fruit as the Blessed Fall. What Dr. Greer, my prof and the chair of the English Department, meant was that The Fall was blessed because if Adam had not partaken of the fruit, mankind would have remained ignorant. He...we...would not know.

My jaw dropped.

Homeschooling today has come a long way since the early days when the first home educators were taking big risks to keep their kids home. Because there is such an age difference among my children, I straddle the gap between two vastly different types of homeschooling. I thank those who preceded me in this endeavor because they broke ground for me, sometimes at great cost. I fear for those behind me, many of whom have no concept of the history of the movement. Today, homeschooling, as a demographic, has more opportunities than ever before. Sadly, we are less impressive than we have ever been.

We have ceased to be a peculiar people.
We have followed in Adam's footsteps.
We would rather our children 'know' than 'live.'
We may not have said that; but our choices for our children have made that abundantly clear, nonetheless.

Today, parents try very hard to duplicate the high school experience we had--which is curious to me, since the whole impetus behind the movement was to not give our children the high school experience that we had...on purpose. Don't get your back up. I'm an old homeschooling dog now. I've moved in lots of homeschooling circles. I've been in lots of homeschooling activities. I know lots of homeschooling grads. I can now confidently make this assessment: Today's home educators regularly choose Enlightenment over Reformation. And it shows.

As a demographic, we now find more joy in rocking the SAT than in raising godly seed. We grieve less over poor moral choices than college rejection letters. It is more important to us that our children 'know' than 'live.' Blessed Fall.

And in our own burning desire to know and to have our children know, we relinquish the privilege of discipleship to others. Stay with me here. Discipleship implies two things: conversation and relationship. Therefore, if you want to know who is discipling your child, look to the person/people having the most conversation with her.

Sending my kid away from me (in my zeal for enlightenment) to the once-a-week--which, let's be honest, often turns into the twice/thrice-a-week--academy raises the risk of someone else discipling my kid. I am NOT talking about settings where parents decide on the curriculum and pace and do the teaching.  I am talking about the times we punt and give ground to the 'experts.'

I sent my oldest three to one of these academies for precisely ONE class. And I went with them. If you are considering sending your kid to one of these, I strongly appeal to you to accompany them. What you witness there with your own eyes would be...instructive.

Today, in any setting where home schoolers gather, this mama is watchful, wary, and making mental notes. There is no exception, no safe place where I am not watchful and wary. And that is not because my own children are such paragons of virtue; it is because they are children.

The amount of pure enlightenment in these circles is impressive and obvious; the amount of reformation is...neither.

Salvation is a supernatural transaction; homeschooling could never achieve that. But discipleship is a natural transaction, and discipleship was the original concern of homeschooling. Yet many (most?) home schooled students today are now being discipled by their peers, making homeschooling an institution that mirrors the government institution we rejected!

Providentially, God has given us a powerful antitoxin for peer discipleship: parent discipleship. But hold on. There is a catch. Parental relationship and conversations in healthy doses must necessarily limit peer relationship and conversation in order to be achieved. You can't relate to and converse with your child when your child is seldom around.

Practically speaking, that means that at the beginning of every school year, we need to look at every class, every extra-curricular, every opportunity for socialization and ask ourselves if these things help or hinder parent discipleship. Make no mistake. Each of these activities will have an impact, for good or for ill.

When it comes to conversation, no subject should be taboo. Talk about everything your child wants to talk about. Talk about everything you want to talk about. And talk about their friends. We regularly address friendships with our kids. But the key is to let them do the assessment.

Ask, What is Janie like when you are alone?
How does Janie relate to her parents, especially when her parents aren't watching?
Does Janie encourage you to be a more serious or a less serious Christian?
Is this a relationship worth keeping?

You and your child are going to quickly find the answer to two important questions.
Who's being discipled by their peers, and who's being discipled by their parents?
Who's on the road to Reformation and who's on the road to Enlightenment?
It's a good exercise for you both.

What I'm going to say next is going to be a zinger. I don't like getting zinged, so I'm simultaneously biting my fingernails and typing. I don't say this to zing. I say this as an observation and a warning because if someone saw trouble coming and warned me, I'd be very grateful. It is this: My children can, in general, detect big differences among their peers who are academied and their peers who are educated by their parents. Without me saying a word, they can see a difference. They don't have a name for it; they can't put their finger on it. But their spidey senses are tingling. Their academied friends are, in general, more worldly-wise and more conformist. Less...peculiar. And you'd be amazed at how young an age they can sense this.

[Let me pause a moment: Moms, you and I have logged many hours over coffee sharing the joys and tears of motherhood. Please know that I have never uncovered your child to my child. I have never betrayed a confidence. What is said at Starbucks stays at Starbucks. This is not a gossip-fest. This is me training my kids to spot good/bad company and examining their own appetites regarding friendship.]

My children are my ministry demographic. If God gives me eleven children, then He expects me, equips me, and empowers me to raise eleven children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Education is a sub-heading of discipleship, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Nurture and admonition imply Reformation, not merely Enlightenment. For their sake, I purpose to not be distracted by opportunities. For their sake, I choose a laser sharp focus on reformation, not graduation.

Why do you home school?
What do you hope to see at the end of that road?
Are you educating in such a way that your kids will know stuff?
Or are you educating in such a way that they will love the Lord their God with all their heart and all their mind and all their soul?

It matters.
And it's your call.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:19-20