So, maybe you and your family are homeschool veterans. You’ve been at it for a few years now, you’ve got a handle on how it works, the kids are well-behaved most of the time, and they are doing wonderfully academically. You don’t struggle with them having the sin issues which your neighbors and even some of your church friends are dealing with in their children. Low self-esteem? What’s that? And best of all, your whole family, from the teenagers down to the toddlers, know and love Jesus.
What I’ve just described is why many of us decided to homeschool in the first place. We had a vision of nurturing up our children in the ways of the Lord. Our goal was to train their tender, innocent hearts to love Him passionately and to live in joyful obedience to Him. We wanted to give them the best education we possibly could, with one-on-one tutoring. And we hoped to keep them from having to deal with evil before they had the maturity to resist it, to keep them physically safe, and to shield them emotionally from cruel peers who would try to tear down their healthy perceptions of who they are. To whatever measure you and your family have been successful in accomplishing these goals, it is due to God’s grace and blessing upon your efforts. It’s also because you’ve been faithful to the mission He has given you.
But there is a weed that particularly loves to grow in the homeschool garden — one we need to be vigilant to watch for and uproot. It is rather subtle, and in its initial stages, often looks like the genuine plants we are trying to raise. It’s the sin of pride, and if we’re not aware of it, we can be quite blind to its existence in ourselves and in our children.
How does it manifest? In many ways, but here are a few questions which will help us to recognize it, so that we can rip it out before it gets too large:
- Do my children and I feel spiritually superior to those who have chosen public or private education? (Do we think homeschooling is “God’s way” and that those who don’t do it are not listening to Him?)
- Do I feel a little smug about how well my children perform — grades, being ahead of their age group academically, in their artistic talents, etc.?
- Do I brag about their accomplishments a lot? Or do they?
- When someone else’s child goes astray, do I have thoughts such as, “If they had only taken the time to homeschool, this wouldn’t have happened”?
- Do my children monopolize conversations, by talking about themselves and their opinions, rather than listening to, and asking into, the lives and thoughts of others?
These are just a few of the signs of pride in our hearts over our homeschooling lifestyle. One of the reasons pride is so sneaky is because many times it is cloaked in a measure of truth. It justifies itself with pretty plausible rationale.
Perhaps your children do excel because you’ve been able to spend more individual educational time with them. Be grateful that God gave you the ability to provide those nurturing opportunities for them. (And realize that there are plenty of children who also excel, who are not homeschooled — some of them in spite of having to overcome great obstacles.)
Perhaps if the Jones family had homeschooled their Danny, he wouldn’t have had as much chance to run around with a bad crowd. But it isn’t ours to think. We don’t know the reasons Danny went wrong, how much his parents tried to keep him going in the right direction — or even whether, in spite of our best efforts, our own children could do the same thing, once they are out from under our protective covering.
Homeschooling is a wonderful vehicle to help our children thrive, one for which we can be most thankful, but it is not the Savior. Jesus is. And He has a variety of ways to work salvation and solid character in people. He is the Redeemer of both those who never wander far from Him and those who spend some time in the pig sty. Have the compassion to pray for your neighbors’ Danny and to weep along with them. And have the prayerful fear of the Lord to realize it is only by His keeping mercy that your own children do not stray.
Quite honestly, homeschooling provides a hospitable environment for pride to grow in — because, although the homeschool movement enjoys more acceptance now than it did thirty years ago, it is sometimes still an uphill climb to prove to our society that we can do a great job of educating children who will not end up backward and who can function well in the “real” world. The temptation is to build our trust on a model of performance and comparing ourselves to non-homeschoolers. We’ve got to lay the ax to the root of that mindset whenever and wherever we see it in ourselves and in our children.
If we will be vigilant to recognize pride for what it is, and to humble ourselves before God and people, the Lord will have a free hand to bless our families — and also to make us His instruments to bless the world around us.