Monday, August 09, 2010

Part 3: Why Religious Exemption?

Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2

As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the questions people ask is, "the homeschool laws are pretty easy here--why would you need a religious exemption?"  The why runs deep--it is this question that is the most difficult to answer, because I believe the reasons go far beyond just exercising religion.  At the core of the issue it IS about practicing my religion, but within that lies an understanding of the character of my God, my belief in what he created human beings to be, and how we as a society are responding to that.  So our reasons are twofold:  First for the more obvious biblical reasons, second, for the less obvious reasons that some would call philosophical, yet I consider a natural outgrowth of the practice of our faith.

I Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" Put simply, I believe it is in my children's best interest (where their morality is concerned) not to be spending 14,000 hours of their lives in an institution where their morals are being continuously attacked.  We as Christians are supposed to be putting on the "breastplate of righteousness" but at this point in their lives, my children are not equipped to dress themselves in such heavy armor.  It's my job to help them.  Deuteronomy 6:4-8 is taken literally by almost every family who chooses to homeschool for Biblical reasons:
Hear O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This passage is all-encompassing.  It leaves no area of our lives uncovered--our going out, our coming home, our physical beings, our environment, our children are supposed to bear constant reminding of the truth of our sovereign God.   Romans 12:2 reminds us not to be conformed to the pattern of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  If my child is spending 30 or more hours a week surrounded by secularism, statism, and unregenerate people, the only time that I have with him must be taken up with "bathing" him clean of the things that are harmful to his spirit, only to have him go back and be re-exposed.  I can't help but think his mind will not be easily renewed in that environment.  However, if I never immerse him in that environment, then he has every opportunity for his soul to be nurtured with the truth of God's word continually, if his parents are faithful to the commands put forth in Deuteronomy 6.  I have had the privilege of hearing Voddie Baucham, author of Family Driven Faith, speak.  He has a "line" that he uses, which impacted us greatly.  It was perhaps these words that moved us to close the door to secular education forever.  He says, "If we continue to send our children to Caesar, we need to stop being surprised when they come home as Romans."

"That's fine," you say, "but you can do all of that without needing religious exemption."  That may be true.  However, it is out the next layer of understanding that I come to feel the need for that provision.  My primary relationship in life is with my God.  He is the only authority to which I bow.  If the state asks something of me that causes me to bend the knee to any other, then I must refuse to obey.  Thankfully, however, there is no need for disobedience in this case.  There is a provision made for me to bow my knee exclusively to my God, and I am thankful to live in a state that makes this available.  As long as I am still operating under the state's homeschool laws, I am still acknowledging their authority as protector of my children, as educator of my children, as an entity that has any right to say how I educate my children.  I believe that this responsibility is given by God entirely to my husband and me.  There is no Biblical ground for us to relinquish the rearing of our children on any level to the state or federal government.  Since our basic philosophy of education differs at its very core, there are no grounds for me to acknowledge the state's oversight in teaching my children, if in fact God is my authority.  I do not believe that I need to test to their standards to determine what "success" looks like, nor do I wish to submit my list of curricula to them for their review.  Do I seek the approval of the State, or God?

"So, what is that core you're referring to?" The government has a design for education.  Stated simply, graduates of the system need to be employable.  What exactly does that mean?  Does that mean employable by a factory?  A gas station?  A top government agency?  A hospital?  What does the term "compete in the global marketplace" mean, exactly?  The whole problem with these standards is that the government gets to set the terms, and because we don't know exactly what the parameters are, they could change at any time.  The government looks at my children as a product that they need to help them compete in the world economy.  I have a slightly different perspective.  I see my child as a unique individual created in God's image and capable of reflecting his glory into the world.  I see a free-thinker, a person unencumbered by the need to perform to a standard that does not match his intended design, a point on the bell-curve--someone whose purpose is defined by his relationship with his maker, not his government.  (It is my hope to write more on this in a later post.  There is far more to think about than space allows here.)  Sooner or later, the government may decide that my standards are undesirable and may regulate the homeschool laws to ensure that my child is of use to them.  A blogging friend of mine writes about these standards and follows their progress closely.  She calls it the "Employability Olympics," and it is a very helpful post to get you thinking. Then read her other posts.

"Aw, you're just you really think the government is going to come after you?"  Well, no...not yet.  Call me cautious, but I do see the direction in which our government is trending.  It involves more and more government intervention in the lives of private citizens and more and more "standardization" of education.  Furthermore, there is constant flirtation with the ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child on the part of our elected officials.  In essence, that is tantamount to us surrendering our own sovereignty on matters of family and what we believe to be in the best of interests of our children to an international forum that is entirely secular.  As we see nations like Germany declare homeschooling to be not only illegal but a harmful thing to "inflict" on a child (and these are nations which have already ratified the convention), then it causes me grave concern as to what lengths my own government may go in the not-so-distant future.  By reserving the right to place the training of our children as an integral part of our life of worship, then it is a matter of religion, not education.  Therefore, I choose to reserve that right afforded me by the first amendment and the religious exemption laws provided by the state so that we may teach our children at home, according to God's laws.


  1. Awesome post! Very much in line with my thoughts too.

  2. I can certainly tell you are wearing your breastplate of righteousness.

  3. Kelly, thanks for this blog post. It's been very helpful to my wife and me as we have considered homeschooling our four children. And yes, we have recently sent a letter to our school board claiming the "religious exemption" status for our children (ages from elementary to high school). We homeschooled 7 years ago and then have had all four children in public school. We have a good public school system in our county, very friendly to the faith community. Ultimately, however, we grew under deeper conviction that to continue sending our children to public school (or any school for that matter) was too big of a competitor to us being able to fully train them in all matters of faith and life. In the end we have clearly heard God's call for us to homeschool and to disobey this calling would be a sin. So we have no choice but to follow God's voice in this matter and to seek an exemption from compulsory school attendance. Thanks again for your blog.

    Oh, and by the way, we spent weeks trying to figure out what curricula to use. We finally decided to go with Tapestry of Grace. Only after that decision did we find some of your blogs on Tapestry and your reasons for making the switch. We feel it is a perfect fit for us, as well.


    1. Thank you for your comment! I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner, but glad to know that my posts were helpful to you. I just reread them and it felt good to know that I still feel the same today as the day I wrote them. Blessings on your journey!

  4. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You put my own feelings into words perfectly. We will officially begin homeschooling in King & Queen county with our five year old in 2015. Though I've known I was called to homeschool back in high school 25 years ago (and had felt since childhood that I should have been homeschooled as well) I've been going back and forth on whether to file for religious exemption. My call to homeschool is a calling from God for religious reasons but I worry about standing out from the group and making my family targets in future. Your blog has really encouraged me to step forward and do what I feel called toward. Thank you!

    P.S I hope you get back to blogging more once the holidays are past. I have really enjoyed reading here!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Meegan. It's funny you say it, but I am sitting and writing a post at this very moment when your comment came in. Hopefully I will be writing more. I don't feel "finished" when I am not writing regularly.

    2. Yay! I'm so glad you will keep writing. I'm sure to find a lot of inspiration here! I blogged from 2002-2012 but burn out and the demands of new motherhood led me to stop. Now I'm feeling the pull to blog again. I read your post on why you blog in your best of list and could really relate to it. For the past two years of my blogging hiatus I've found myself composing blog posts in my head. I think some of us just need that reflection space that blogging/Journalling provides and it's even better when you can share those reflections with others of like mind.


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