Naïve, Unworldly Homeschoolers

This is a repost from Get Along Home, written December 19, 2012

In any discussion with critics of home education, the objection will eventually crop up that “homeschoolers won’t know how to deal with the real world when they’re grown.”

It seems safe to assume that those who raise this objection aren’t worried that homeschooled children won’t be able to figure out how to buy groceries, drive a car, or effectively conduct personal business, given the fact that they are raised by people who do these things right in front of them every day.

Instead, the questioner seems most of the time to be referring to the cultural and moral differences between Christian homes and the non-Christian public schools. The objection could be accurately restated as “Homeschoolers will see so little of the brazen sinfulness of mainstream American culture that they will be shocked into helpless paralysis at the sight of {insert popular but blatantly sinful and unbiblical behavior or attitude here}. As if Good were such a weak little thing that the first whiff it gets of Evil will cause it to clutch its girly skirts and faint!

The basis of the “real world” complaint seems to be that if a child doesn’t go to a public school, he won’t learn how to be pure in the face of the sin of others. Exposure to bullies, peer pressure, drugs, anti-Christian authority figures and curriculum, and any number of other spiritually unhealthy things that children must face every day in public schools are, in this argument, held up as necessary way stations on the road to maturity.  And I admit, that line of reasoning sounds really compelling at first. After all, practice makes perfect! It’s right there in the Bible where it says…um…no.

I can’t find anything that points to the soundness of having your children exposed to wrongdoing from early on so that they can resist worldliness. While there is nothing there about the benefits of exposing children to “diverse” worldviews, there is much about the perils of casting stumbling blocks before the weak and malleable souls of children.

In fact, it is wise for a child to have time learn how to deal with in-his-heart sin before we force him to come to terms with the in-his-face kind.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.” “Bad company corrupts good morals.” “Yada, yada, yawn.” says the American Christian parent. “My kid is different.

They somehow believe that children can learn to fight the good fight by being forced into the fray before being sufficiently trained in spiritual warfare–most of the time before the child has even come to a place of true repentance! Given the spiritual condition of this so-called Christian nation after many decades of that kind of thinking, I’d say we’ve got pretty good evidence that this approach hasn’t worked very well.

If this need to be exposed to wickedness and destructive behavior from an early age is really such a good reason for sending children to public schools, then could somebody please explain to me the purpose of all these anti-bullying, anti-drug, and anti-violence programs? Because if those programs were to work (which they won’t), Christian children in public schools would suddenly be in grave danger of becoming just as naïve as their homeschooling counterparts! Wouldn’t that be awful?

Stop trying to shelter your kids, public schoolers! They need this!

We all know quite well it that would be a good thing if every child were unbullied, unaware of even the existence of drugs, and able to trust that the people who are in authority over them are looking out for their best interests instead of, oh, trying to sleep with them, for instance. So why, if homeschooling parents are able to provide such a healthy environment for their children, is that a bad thing?

Homeschooling, contrary to this “real world” line of argument, is not done in order to keep children from finding out about sin. We can’t do that, because no one is innocent—not the children we’re raising, nor their parents. All have sinned, and keeping my children from public schools has not kept them from the “real world” of sin. Learning how to turn away from the World is a lesson that must be learned no matter the physical location of the child. It is not the existence of sin that must be taught on a daily basis, but what to do with sin in our own hearts.

I am constantly amazed (though I probably shouldn’t be by now) by the number of people who think that raising children in an environment that rejects the very idea of sin is the same thing as teaching them to confront evil. It’s not. It is teaching them to look on sin passively by removing even the language by which a child might articulate an objection to it. What immersion in secular schools does is train children first to tolerate sinful behavior, then to applaud it, and finally to join it.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”–1 Corinthians 15:33

Cultural norms are inculcated primarily through education, not (contrary to mainstream–dare I call it naïve?–Christian belief) through occasional dinner-table conversations and AWANA. Those things may be influential in varying degrees for different children, but it is what is learned during the useful hours of the day–the work hours–that becomes a child’s baseline for thinking about the world. For public schools, the baseline is one of amoral “preferences” and outcome-based decision making (i.e.: Say no to drugs because they’ll make you ugly and poor. Don’t have sex…unless you can make sure you’re “protected” from the physical consequences of it.) For Christians the baseline is (or should be) God’s word.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
–Proverbs 22:6

Every Christian parent’s job is to make sure that when our children meet the “real world”, they’ll know how to please God in their interactions with it. Which method of child-rearing seems more likely to accomplish that goal?

Public schooled children and home educated children are all going to be tempted to commit sexual sin. Homeschooling won’t change that. But which child is more likely to view sexual sin as normal and tolerable, even admirable, rather than unacceptable, yet forgivable?

Both sets of children are going to have to learn to turn away from behaviors like excessive drinking and drug abuse, or self-harm and violent anger. But which child will believe that these things are wrong primarily because they hamper material or social success? Which child is more likely to internalize the truth that these behaviors are wrong because they are, at their core, sinful abuses of God’s most treasured creation: the one who hears it only in his “spare time”, or the one who gets it daily with his writing lesson?

Both sets of children will have to learn to choose the right kinds of friends. Which is more likely to do so: the child who has learned to “make no friendship with an angry man” and then has been guided in that by a parent’s heart in choosing his friends, or the child who has been told that everyone of his own age (and this is now even further segregated out by academic ability) is his “peer”?

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. –Proverbs 12:26

Which child is more likely to turn away—whether in disgust or confusion makes no difference, so long as he turns away—from the invitation of these “peers” to join them in immorality: the child who has as his default attitude an anything goes, “tolerant” worldview, or the child who has as his baseline a Christ-centered and constructive family-based culture?

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother–Proverbs 1:8

It seems to me that homeschooled children are more than equipped to “deal with” sin, if by “deal with” you mean “repent of it”. That is something they are certainly never going to find out about in public school. If spiritual strength is the goal, then public schooling doesn’t seem to have very much going for it. However, if your argument is that homeschooled kids might grow up to find themselves embarrassed not to know the meaning of certain slang or where to buy a bag of some illicit substance, then I say that’s the kind of naiveté that we could all use a little bit more of.

Virtue is harder to be got than a knowledge of the world; and if lost in a young man, is seldom recover’d. Sheepishness and ignorance of the world, the faults imputed to a private education, are neither the necessary consequences of being bred at home, nor if they were, are they incurable evils. Vice is the more stubborn, as well as the more dangerous evil of the two;… –John Locke