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 paranoid...do 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.