In my day-to-day world of homeschooling, I often have cause to remember why we chose to homeschool…what is it exactly we are trying to teach or instil to our children?
Are we raising our children to live in this world as productive members of the community where God has planted them or are we raising them for something else? Like you, John and I live in this world. We are not of this world but we do live in it. We are quite aware of the worldly and sinful acts that are committed each day. We are also aware that Christ died for us while we were sinners. What makes me different from the people down the street who are keeping us awake and having John stay up all night to ward off stray drunkards from relieving themselves on our car? Is it that we are better? More pure? Or is it simply that God revealed Himself to us, and revealed His love to us through Christ the Saviour and that we (after having that revealed to us and having our eyes opened) saw and believed the truths of the gospel? It is the latter.
Some people live in a way that separates them from the mainstream world and this might be right for them, but it isn’t our life, nor the way we believe God would have us live or raise our children. Therefore, if my children are going to go into the world as adults, then they will need to be educated/equipped with skills to handle it. So, as we walk down the road of life we have our children with us all of the time. This has seen them exposed to many, many things which would make some Christians shudder but it fits in with our deliberate and purposed training plan for our children. There are things that we discuss, read and watch that may not be ‘pure’ as such, but we find them to be a beneficial training aid which assists us to work toward our goal.
When it comes to literature, I have tried to either pre-read everything or I go on the advice and recommendations of trusted and respected friends and other parents of whom I know their worldview. This doesn’t always work though. I once took the advice of a friend and allowed ‘Miss A’ to read a book that went against my initial promptings but my friend felt it was suitable for her son and encouraged me to read (a whole ‘nother topic) Once ‘Miss A’ started narrating it to me, I was horrified! Shocked! It introduced concepts that we hadn’t discussed yet… I knew we would discuss them one day but I wanted to be the one to introduce her to those concepts, not a secular author and their worldview. Oh, a battle raged within my own self. Do I stop her reading the rest of the book, and possibly turn her heart against sharing with me or do I allow her to read it but spend a good deal of time in discussion? I chose to do the latter and we actually had some good conversations and many opportunities were raised for me to share our thoughts and views of the world. For me, narration is good but discussion is the best!
Raising children to be kids or adults? The end goal?
We are raising our children to become mature adults. Yet they will live in a time and era like has never been before. This new age of technology and progression opens a whole world of issues such has never occurred in history before. Our children have a task ahead of them that we cannot even begin to comprehend! Oh the strength needed, the responsibility…Whilst we wish to preserve our children’s innocence, this can often mean that they are grown to adulthood yet ignorant. I’m not convinced that this is the best way to raise a child who is required to live in the world. Boys need to develop in strength and character, firmness and masculinity…how do we work toward that? Some thing in life just happen! We can’t shield them from everything and sometimes literature (or well chosen television shows) can be a good way to introduce those hard or difficult concepts to a young person. (In fact, it is here that I may lose some readers) Science fiction can be good for tackling these type of ethical, moral and social issues in an ‘otherworld‘ setting. Yes, in real life people are tortured, have their eyes gouged out; people do get raped and murdered, run over by cars, commit fornication, etc. (Goodness, I’d have to rip out quite a few pages in their Bible if I didn’t have them reading about the evil acts in the world) In our house, we don’t avoid talking about those things- we discuss them openly as then we are able to teach the children our values and God’s standards and thoughts about it all. But this is part of our ‘innocence not necessarily ignorance plan‘. Are we right? I don’t know. Time will tell. I might not see the fruits of my parenting until I see how my children parent their own children.
I have thought a lot over the last few months about the difference between ignorant and innocent. I will paraphrase but Webster defines ignorant as:
- Destitute of knowledge; uninstructed or uninformed; untaught; unenlightened.
and it defines innocent as:
- Free from guilt; not having done wrong or violated any law; not tainted with sin; pure; upright.
Offence or defence? Is there a balance?
As a softballer I use analogies that parallel with my sport. When I am coaching a team, it is important the team learns how to bat well and run the bases. This is our offensive game. We spend a lot of time training in this area. We also spend a lot of time in defense… practicing set strategic plays to defend the opposition’s offensive game. I also spend some time in watching and studying the opposing teams. Sometimes, I will send charters over to watch their games and chart the strong or influential players- looking for their strengths and weaknesses. This is an important part of my role as coach. It is necessary that I am aware of their style of play so that I can teach my own team in the ways of suitable defence. As a coach, I cannot afford to be ignorant of the tactics that the other team may use. On the other hand, I don’t need to over stress about them either. This could lead to our own team being ill prepared due to focussing on the other team rather than preparing ourselves offensively and defensively.
I guess it’s a little like that for me with parenting. My children will one day be Out There in the world, without me to help them or make decision for them. I don’t want them to be ill prepared…I want them to be equipped to stand firm in their beliefs and convictions. To do this, I think they need to be aware of the pitfalls and the subtleties of them, else it be easy for them to fall. However, I also want them to be free from the guilt of such things…I don’t desire that they engage in the sinful activities. This is the best way I can try to explain what I mean when I say that part of our parenting plan is to train in innocence not necessarily ignorance. We are raising our children to live in the world yet not be of the world.
I wonder if I can push the limits by talking about another (yet also imperfect) analogy. Knowing that our children will one day be Out There in the world, I also know that they will be exposed to chicken pox and other nasty infections. When they were little, I didn’t put them into a sterile, glass bubble to protect them from all possible infection. Instead, I allowed them to build immunities to low-level pathogens whilst in their environment. Sometimes, they got sick. (Most of my children have had chicken pox). However, by building up their immune system, when they are older and are confronted with more serious possible infections, they will be better prepared to defend themselves. If you know your children will be one day in the world, needing to make decisions for themselves, how are you inoculating them? Are your methods guiding them toward maturity and responsibility, so that they will be capable of making their own wise choices when bombarded by the ways of the world?
Having said all that, I am careful with what our children read and watch. I like to know the worldview or philosophy of the author (not that I have to agree but I need to know so that I can tackle it). I like to know the details of the book. From what position does the author write- for/against? If I’m in doubt, I will pre-read it. If I don’t get time, I’ll research it on the Internet. If I don’t get around to that, I will search the homeschool catalogues and ask on homeschool forums for a review. If I still come up empty-handed, I will err on the side of caution and put the book/movie on the back burner till later.
For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.
I do want to reiterate that we don’t blindly allow our children to watch, read, discuss or study sinful or worldly ideas. We are careful in what we choose to expose them to.
If we make every decision for our [older] children, then how is this training them to make wise choices? Sometimes, allowing a child to make a decision which may not be the best, yet in the loving guidance of the family home, can be turned around to achieve some benefit. It can also allow them to develop a sense of responsibility after all, they will not always be under our authority. Are we training them to always be under our authority or to one day be self governed? Some people say that experience is the best teacher. Well, whether or not that is true is beyond the scope of this post but I know I would rather my children learn responsibility in decisions and learn about the world through the controlled ways of literature in our home than by personal experience via immersion once they are adults. That is a rockier and longer path to travel.
If, after reading this, anyone has any questions, please ask me to clarify or send an email. I don’t want to think that I would be encouraging anyone to think that we are careless or thoughtless about our parenting approach.
As always, seek first the Kingdom of God.