Sunday, September 09, 2007

Lessons Learned as a Homeschool Dad, Take One

This will be the first installment of an occasional series discussing lessons I’ve learned being a homeschool dad. These are in no particular order of significance or importance.

One important result of my homeschool odyssey is the increasing realization that I am dependent on my wife Kathy.

First, a bit of background: Kathy and I have been married for twelve years. Though she wanted to have children early in our marriage, I demurred. “We don’t have enough money,” I said. Chalk this up to faithlessness on my part; a fear that I would not be able to take care of my family, but in truth a lack of faith in God in and His provision.

We moved from our home in Michigan to Maryland in 1997 where we lived for about three years. Once we “decided” to have children, the time had come to leave for greener pastures. Living in the DC area was expensive and crowded. Moreover, it is a “cosmopolitan” and utterly rootless place. So we moved to the Louisville area where our first son was soon born.

I had grown up in an independent, fundamentalist church where I spent the first 25 years of my life. I’m thankful to have been raised in that environment, and yet there were limitations as well, specifically a strong whiff of anti-intellectualism.

Living in DC had not been good for my faith, either. Kathy and I attended a large Baptist church, but we never really became a part of the body or made any connections with the people there. We were not living in conformity to the biblical pattern, for upon leaving the city not a single person from that church would have known of our departure. That is a sad commentary on me as the supposed spiritual leader of my family.

Once in Louisville (southern Indiana, actually) we began looking for a Baptist church. God used the birth of my son in an unexpected way--to convict me of sin. I had not been attentive to my familial responsibilities. More importantly, I had been neglecting my worship of God and my relationship with Him through the precious work of Christ. I began to recall what I had read in Deuteronomy 6, 9, and 11. I recalled the words of Paul in Ephesians 6, and suddenly they took on a deeper meaning.

God was revealing the depth of my sin. Even as boy, I was a “good” kid, the problem was that I was more a Pharisee than a Christian. Christianity for me had been transformed over time to a list of proscriptions. It was entirely negative and I was far more concerned about my sins of commission rather than what I was failing to do. Specifically in this instance I was to reflect God to my wife and children, to teach them about his holiness and grace. I had work to do and I knew I was utterly incapable of doing it. More importantly, I needed to give up my individualistic pretenses, which had accumulated from a long flirtation with libertarian thought, and learn to depend on others and more specifically on the Holy Spirit.

Initially we struggled in our search for a church home. Not having grown up a Baptist, I didn’t understand the depth of the struggle that went on during the 70’s and 80’s as conservative elements in the church reclaimed the authority of Holy Scripture. What I found is that though the seminary was thoroughly orthodox and sound, the churches in Louisville were still largely pastored by men who graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during a different time.

In my discouragement I continued to visit church after church and also started reading two men—R.C. Sproul and Michael Horton. On various issues I may disagree with these men, but they really helped me during that time in developing a better understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation and all of life. I also found in them an intellectual depth that had so often been missing in my little corner of Christendom.

Eventually, we joined a church that was pastored by a wonderful man named Tim Beougher. Tim had previously worked for Billy Graham and taught at Wheaton College. He was/is a professor at SBTS and theologically Reformed. I learned much from his teaching and example. Other SBTS students and professors played important roles, whether they know it or not, in helping to shape aspects of my theology and my relationship with God. I was finally beginning to grasp the totality of God. Where I had previously compartmentalized my “spiritual” life from my day-to-day existence, I now understood that everything flowed out of my faith and my understanding of God. Rather than sitting around waiting for the rapture, there was work to do.

Over next few years, Kathy and I had two other boys. Very early on I started thinking about education. Did I really want to give my kids to the state? Part of my concern about state education was the residue of libertarianism, but part was also my growing realization that on some level my children belong to God. I am not a paedobaptist, but I sometimes seem to function as one. It was at this point that I began to read Doug Wilson and a bevy of Christian Reconstructionists, particularly R. J. Rushdoony.

For the record, I don’t buy everything that these gentlemen are selling. But Rushdoony in particular has changed my thinking on many matters. A consistent theme in his work is the comparison of Christianity with competing worldviews, particularly humanism. Rush consistently demonstrates that most forms of humanism in the West have used the state as their primary element of evangelism. Thus it is the public schools that are the primary weapon in the hands of humanists.

Moreover, Rushdoony clarified something I had intuited: that the family is the primary institution in God’s economy to expand His dominion. The battle for the control of the future is in large part the battle for the next generation. Therefore, education is central to the battle for the future.

Doug Wilson made this clear to me in more practical terms that would take far too long to delineate. One thing I recall him saying during a lecture is that as fathers we are responsible for what our children learn whether we teach it to them or not. I knew that Wilson was right, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant for my family.

What it meant, of course, was that I would need to depend almost entirely on Kathy, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I had become convinced that a Christian education was necessary for our children and began considering homeschooling. Kathy was not immediately enthralled with the idea. Her primary concern was a sense of inadequacy. But God has given us His Spirit, and in so doing provided us with what we need.

Initially, we decided to try a local Christian school. Our oldest son attended pre-school and Kindergarten there and seemed to do fine. Nevertheless, over time we saw problems. Not that we were unhappy as such, but by the end of that year, we knew that homeschooling was something we should try.

I was delighted that my wife wanted to educate our children at home. It showed that she was willing to lay aside her desires and goals for her children, and ultimately for God. In our age, women that avoid the siren song of the marketplace to rear their own children rather than handing them to strangers are considered an oddity, a weird anomaly.

But if the family is God’s primary institution, then it is in the home where women will most clearly find their identity and purpose. Rushdoony writes:

“Biblical law had restricted woman’s governmental role, not because of any incompetence, because Proverbs 31:10-32 makes clear her high potential, but because of the division of labor ordained by God. Moreover, the male spheres of church and state are in Scripture clearly subordinate to the female sphere of the family. The 'limitation' thus has as its goal the maintenance of the priority of the family in society and in the woman’s attention.”

I believe in God’s sovereignty in salvation, but I take comfort in believing, too, that he will bless my faithfulness to my sons. That they are indeed arrows which we will one day shoot from our home, working to expand God’s rule and reign in every sphere of life.

Though I am responsible and accountable for my kids, ultimately Kathy will really be shaping them day after day. Our goal is a godly division of labor and a living representation of the idea that we are one flesh, joined metaphorically at the rib, slaves to our Master. More importantly, I pray that our sons see in our efforts the love of a mother and father for them which while indescribable is nothing compared to the love of God.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I would use the word slaves to our Heavenly Father. Paul used the words Bond Servant, to show that we do have a choice. We have a choice to accept Him, and then each day we have the choice to obey Him. Just a thought :-)

7:49 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

I see your point, but here is the language of Paul in Romans 6:

16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

If I am a slave to the one I obey, than by all means, call me a slave to my Heavenly Father.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

You wrote:

"But if the family is God’s primary institution, then it is in the home where women will most clearly find their identity and purpose. Rushdoony writes:"

Hmmm. I think the church is God's primary institution.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Mark,

The family is the only institution of Paradise, and it is the preeminent institution in God’s economy. Indeed, we cannot understand God’s plan for us until we understand His plan for the family.

Consider, for example, the Ten Commandments. There is nothing pertaining directly to church or state therein, but several explicitly address family life. The imperative to honor our parents and the prohibition of adultery and covetousness are intended to preserve the integrity of the family.

Yes, there are powers and duties that do not properly belong to the family. The death penalty is the prerogative of the state, for example, and the sacraments are administered by the church.

But let’s look at what the family is responsible to do.

Control of children, and hence control of the future, is given to the family. Not church, nor state, nor school has been given such power. It is parents who are called to raise up Godly seed.

Education is therefore the responsibility of the family—not the church, state, or any other institution.

The power and stewardship over property is given to the family—not the church or state. Scripture is clear that all the earth belongs to the Lord (Ex. 19:5) and that He allows families to be stewards of His creation. In the Bible, we see that property is owned by families, not by the state or atomized individuals (see for example Naboth’s vineyard in I Kings 20).

Inheritance and ultimately the capitalization of the church is the responsibility of, you guessed it, families living under the authority of God, who realize that the tithe belongs not to the church, but is unto the Lord. The Kingdom of God, which is much bigger than the church, is capitalized by God-fearing families.

Control over welfare is the responsibility of the family. Read I Timothy 5. It is the duty of family to take care of those in need. It is only when there is no family that the church becomes a surrogate family to take care of physical needs.

Finally, the health of the church is inextricably tied to the health of families. It is in families where children see their first church and state. It is there where they should primarily be learning about God, and seeing how he works very practically. It is there where boys and girls are taught vocations and callings which they are to live before God. It is there where God accomplishes much of his business.

That is not to say that church and family should not be linked and joined together, purposefully expanding God’s dominion. I am merely saying that the family is the institution primarily charged with expanding God’s reign (see Gen. 1).

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what you say about the family. It's just your conclusion that I have an issue with.

In the big picture, all family relationships are superseded when the kingdom comes in fullness; are they not? They are part of what is passing away, then.

Jesus Himself taught that there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage in the resurrection. Marriage is officially recognized by God as being terminated at the death of one or both spouses.

There is no procreation in the final state, as far as I can tell; there is only the church. God is our Father; Jesus our Brother (and Lord) and all believers referred to as brothers and sisters one of another. In that sense, I still think it's valid to say that the church is God's primary institution.

I guess if you want to limit it to this age, then you have something of an argument; but it is still true that it is the church that possesses the Gospel, the church that is charged with the preaching of the gospel, and the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth, the church that is the called and elect of God; not the family. The Bible speaks of the saints as "Seated with Christ in the heavenly places." As "Fellow Citizens with the Saints." As those who are looking for a better country, a heavenly one." The covenant extends only to the elect; not to the family.

Individual believer's relationships to Christ and the church so overshadows the family in the ultimate, eternal sense that even unsaved Jewish descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not viewed as Jews in the truest sense of the word; the spiritual sense, while unrelated Gentile dogs are ingrafted and referred to as the "True Israel."

It is the church that Christ died for; not the family. In doing so He brings many sons to repentance.

I am not trying to say that the family has no real significance; I just want to put it in it's proper place.

I say the church is the apple of God's eye, not the family.

Yes, men multiply and subdue the earth, even unsaved men do this though, which to me casts doubt on interpreting the family as the primary mechanism of God's dominion on the Earth. Esau became a great nation; but he was not chosen of God and so perished. He exercised dominion on the earth; but that was the extent of his dominion. It is the saints alone who reign with Christ. It is the saints who judge angels. It is the saints who are a

God gave gifts, not to the family, but to the church. Indeed, the church is made up of, not families, but believers.

Forgive my rambling; it's hard to respond to so much...I could say more and I probably went off course here and there a bit; maybe missed your point at times...

His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, is it not?

10:16 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

It never ceases to amaze me how much parenting has really been more about me "growing up." Homeschooling only amplifies that, I think.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

I think our disagreemnets are probably rather minor and have to do primarily with emphasis.

I do believe that in our time, strengthening and reclaiming the prerogatives of the family is essential, and in fact necessary to bolster the church.

Let's agree, as I'm sure we can, to say that individualism and statism are both enemies of family and chruch, and that the way to do battle against them is to unite family and church together, keeping their various functions separated but allowing them to work together to spread the Kingdom of God.

8:20 AM  

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