Home School Humility
June 29, 2007
According to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language, humility is defined the following way:
“In ethics, freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth. In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one's own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will.
Before honor is humility. Prov.15.
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind. Acts.20.”
Humility is the attitude we are to have before honor and the mind-set we are to have in serving the Lord. What does this have to do with home schooling?
Home schooling has come a long way in the 23 years it has been legal in Georgia. The first generation of home schoolers has grown up, gone on to college, life and beyond. Many of them are married, have their own children and are beginning to home school the next generation. Home schooling has proven itself as a viable educational and life choice. We’ve turned out a good crop, we’ve made some people think, we’ve ruffled a few feathers, and we’ve paved the way for the future. We’re had others look at us and make the decision to home school based on what they see in us – what they see in our families, what they see in our children. This is GREAT! BUT, we have developed a few attitudes along the way. We’ve acquired some blind spots. Herein lies the reason for this article. It’s a touchy subject, but somebody’s got to tackle it.
Home schoolers have evolved into an elitist society. We have an attitude problem. What I see happening more and more is a pride that isn’t pretty. All parents want their kids to do well. We have as a goal the success of our children. We’re all proud of their accomplishments. Those of us who home school take on the entire responsibility for those accomplishments. Along the way, we’ve picked up an arrogance that is hurting more than helping the progress we’ve made socially as home schoolers. What I hear more and more are complaints against home schoolers – from other schoolers, from churches, from pastors, from neighbors. These complaints encompass one issue: our arrogance, a haughty attitude. But, the complaints fall into basically three categories: (1) the home school/traditional school issue, (2) home school kids who are full of themselves, and (3) the idea that home schooling or using a particular method or curriculum is better or more spiritual than any other choice and, therefore, the ONLY way to educate children. We’ll tackle each of these areas.
Issue #1: The Home School vs. Traditional School Choice
It’s not a sin to be proud of what you do – the healthy kind of pride that is given as a “well-pleased” sort of attitude. God, the Father, had that attitude toward His Son, Jesus, when He said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) This example shows us that we can be satisfied with what we’re doing with our own children. We can be content with the decision we’ve made. But, when we take this pride and turn it into the “you must be the weaker brother” sort of attitude, our public and private school counterparts take issue with us. And with good reason……school choice is between the parents and God. Period! It is not our place to convince anybody to home school. You, as home schoolers, know the commitment. You know the sacrifices. You also know the blessings. However, that choice is not yours or mine to make for anyone else. In all my years as an educational consultant, I’ve never told anybody that they have to home school. I have told them to pray about it. I have told them that their decision should be based on the Lord’s leading, not on their feelings. I have told them to count the costs. I have told them about the benefits and the down-side. But, I’ve never told anybody they had to do it. It’s not MY decision. Many of these people are sitting in our churches right beside us. They may even be struggling with their decisions about the education of their children. But, our haughtiness and, many times, our comments aren’t helping them to examine their choices. Quite often they associate a negative attitude with home schoolers. Is that really what we want to portray?? We’ve worked too hard in our quest for legitimacy to have our brothers and sisters in Christ upset with us because of our attitude toward “other” schoolers. We are to “do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10) Scripture also exhorts us to examine ourselves. What’s your attitude? Are you giving home schooling a good report or are you leaving a bad taste in other peoples’ mouths?? Again, this is a touchy subject. Both sides are sensitive. Are you doing your part to mend bridges? Or are you blowing them up?? Home schooling is a great choice and, I believe, the best choice. But, it’s not for everybody!
Issue # 2: Home School Brats
I tried and tried to find another word. I sat at my computer and laughed at myself as I typed the word “brat.” There just isn’t any other way to say it. We all know that home schooling is a great way to individualize for educational strengths and weaknesses. We know that many children who might have struggled in a traditional setting thrive in a home school. We know that children who spend time with adults are very comfortable conversing with adults. However, what is being noticed more and more by grandparents, family members, church workers, day care workers, and traditional school teachers is a really bad attitude among home schooling children. There’s a fine line to walk. We want to encourage excellence in conversation; we want to encourage appropriate social skills and mature behavior. But, the result is often an attitude that encourages rude interruptions by children, inappropriate corrections by children – a familiarity with adults that might not be suitable. By this, I mean a haughtiness and disrespectful attitude toward adults outside the home. The other day an adult told me about a situation in a small group of young people she was teaching. As she was telling a Bible story about a particular time in the life of Joseph, one of the young people in the group, a home schooler, took her paper, wadded it up, threw it down in disdain and said, “This isn’t the whole story. It’s not worth doing if it isn’t the whole story.” Needless to say, the adult was astounded with this young person’s attitude. That same day another person reported that in her group a young man, a home schooler, interrupted her teaching to inform her that she’d just said a sentence fragment. She asked him what he meant. He said, “You said a fragment. That isn’t a sentence. You should have said a sentence.” Now, the lesson was interrupted; peace and train of thought were lost! What kinds of attitudes are these? Children should be taught – by YOU, the parents – to respect their elders. Scripture sets the precedence in 1 Tim 5:1. “Don’t rebuke an older man, but encourage him as you would a father.” It’s pretty clear! Children need to be taught proper respect for elders – any adult. They need to be instructed how to speak appropriately to adults. Children who are disrespectful as children grow up to be adults who are haughty in the workplace. Kids you don’t like to be around, grow up to be adults you don’t like to be around. It’s good that children think for themselves and not just accept everything that’s told them. They’re good at standing up for what they believe – and this should be encouraged! One of those things “we believe” is that children should respect their elders and have the appropriate attitude toward them. No matter how much spiritual and scriptural wisdom you teach your kids, if you don’t teach them humility, you’ve missed the point. That’s one of those down-sides to home schooling: it’s YOUR responsibility! Teach your children how to handle themselves when they hear something they think is wrong. They don’t get to correct the teacher. They might try asking, “I heard it another way. Could that be possible? “ Another possibility might be to ask the adult later after the group time – with the right attitude. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, respect, respect, respect, honor, honor, honor, discipline, discipline, discipline!! Think about it.
Issue # 3: Home School: My Way is Better than Your Way
Within the home school community, we’ve even developed a hierarchy of pride. It can be manifested by comments such as, “You’re still using THAT?! Well, you’ll learn.” These days there are SO many choices for parents to make when home schooling, among these: methods, materials, classes, extras, and on and on. When people ask me for advice on curriculum or methods, I take into account the individuals within the family, the lifestyle that family enjoys, the specific learning needs of the children, etc. I can recommend what I believe would be a good choice, but in the end, I can’t choose for them. The curriculum – be it boxed, canned, or eclectic – is the choice of each particular family. There is NO perfect curriculum. They ALL have flaws. Even the ones I write – and I don’t really want to admit that! But, the point is that nothing is perfect. It worked for my family – our lifestyle, my teaching style, my children’s learning styles, the books I had on hand when we did that study, etc. It might not work for everybody. I know there are others out there who will be able to use what we’ve learned, but they’ll need to modify it to fit their families. Each family must decide for itself what fits the budget, the learning and teaching styles of each person involved, time, level of interaction and numerous other factors. We’re not better or more spiritual than someone else because we do it a certain way.
About 15 years ago the hot thing in the home schooling community was milling your own wheat and making your own bread. I jumped right on that band wagon and began milling and baking. I was going great guns and my bread was pretty good! It tasted good and was soft and bouncy. It worked for my family. It was wholesome. It fit us! Several moms were talking one day about our recipes and methods. I mentioned that I added a dough enhancer to my recipe. One of them looked right at me and asked incredulously, “You’re still using dough enhancer??” My bread-making worth plummeted. I felt belittled. I sensed the scorn of those around me. How could I have been so stupid to still be using dough enhancer??? Oh, my goodness! How we treat each other!! What is your attitude toward other home schoolers? Are you building up the body? Are you edifying in your remarks? Are you being a good witness to other people? Just because someone is using a particular curriculum doesn’t make them more or less spiritual then you. Your way may not be the best way for them. Your way is NOT the only way. Whether it’s dough enhancer or curriculum, each family should use what works for them!
Since I started home schooling in 1983, I’ve come in contact with an incredible range of curriculum. I’ve also come into contact with an increasingly diverse population of home schoolers, ranging from the unschoolers to the highly structured, from extremely conservative to the ultra-liberal, from secular, Christian, and other ecumenical groups. One size doesn’t fit all! In spite of all our differences, we have one thing in common: We’re all working toward the same goal of educating our children, but how we reach that goal is left to the individual family.
So, why bother with all this? We need to do an attitude check on ourselves and our children. This arrogance problem has reached the significance of dividing families, dividing churches, and dividing home school support groups. I believe it’s a real issue. I know I’ve stepped on lots of toes and we’re probably going to get a lot of e-mail about this. My goal in this article is to get you to think and to encourage you to examine yourself and your attitude, your kids and their attitudes. This elitist mentality isn’t good for home schooling. It isn’t good for Christians. It’s making the non-home schooling world look at us and, for the first time in a LONG time, not want to be like us.
Ruth Martin began home schooling her three children in 1983, all of whom have graduated from home schooling and gone on to college and beyond. She has a Master’s degree in Learning Disabilities and is an educational consultant in private practice, specializing in learning challenged students. She is an author and seminar speaker for the Georgia Home Education Association and serves on the Board of Directors.