|What Are Some of the Benefits of Home Education?
by Christine Ward, Northland, New Zealand
If I had to sum it up, I’d say that four things in particular come to mind:
1) Home education builds strong families.
2) It allows the freedom to pursue interests and passions for life.
3) Home education embraces the whole of life — children learn to live in the real world.
4) Home education provides the best context in which to maintain and transfer the faith to the next generation.
Some may argue that the above can be achieved even if children are sent to school. I agree, but to a lesser extent than those schooled at home.
Building Strong Families
Perhaps more than anything else in the world today children need the security of strong families. They need the security of knowing there is someone there who has walked the path before them; someone they can trust to give considered advice and instruction when it is most needed. Home education provides the context in which parents can best gain an intimate working knowledge of each family member. This enables them to respond appropriately to any physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual challenge that may arise. It allows for a very personalised approach to dealing promptly with life issues. This in turn enhances the security felt by the child.
The development of trust and security over time has long-term implications. Of all the home educated young adults I know, it is most often the family to whom they turn in times of trouble. Home is not a place where problems are placed in the too-hard basket! It’s a place where issues are sorted through; painful though it may be at times.
Freedom to Pursue Interests & Passions
I recall reading somewhere that homeschooling provides the opportunity to raise children who are seldom at a loss for what to do with time. Our experience has borne this out. In all the years we have been learning together at home, I have seldom heard our children tell us they are bored. Their interests have been many and varied. In particular our daughter Natalie had a passion for art. Because of a heavy work schedule, she gets little time to paint today. No doubt when she’s an old thing like me, she’ll pick up a brush again! At a very early age our son Ryan developed a passion for reading and writing. He would read anything he could lay his hands on irrespective of the subject matter. As he grew older, we’d often catch him reading or writing into the wee hours of the morning. Diaries, poetry, short stories, letters to friends, letters to members of Parliament, you name it. To Ryan this was not school work, it was a hobby. His love of reading and writing continues today. Allison has a passion for the outdoors and more particularly horses. She has a cute little miniature pony named Pearl, who has a habit of chasing the sheep around and around the paddock. We catch glimpses of her through the kitchen window and laugh at her naughty tricks. Allison’s greatest love is her horse, Tammy. They know one another inside out!
Home Education Embraces the Whole of Life
Life skills develop naturally as we interact with our environment and one another. For best results you can’t compete with home education. One’s involvement and knowledge is as expansive as life itself. Here are a few glimpses into life as we’ve lived it, with that wonderful spontaneity that only homeschooling can give.
From little things — like making a big pot of soup for lunch on a cold winter’s day, then sitting by a big open fire to enjoy it. To bigger things — like renovating our eighty-year-old house and painting it pretty colours. To pursuing dreams — my husband and son have always had a love of classic cars, and when the opportunity arose to travel to America to find one to restore, they seized the moment, setting off across the United States in search of Dad’s dream car (a ’69 Mustang). The vehicle has since been shipped to NZ and lovingly restored. It now holds pride of place in our garage. To more serious things — like welcoming new arrivals into the family — to participating in the daily care of elderly grandparents. This is what you call real life.
An Environment for Maintaining and Transferring the Faith to the Next Generation
As Christians we are commanded to walk with God through life. This does not mean for one or two hours a day. It means all day, every day throughout life. If we are sincere in this effort our children witness a process in action that they would not see if they were attending a state school seven hours a day. It is here, in our homes, that we have our greatest opportunity to influence; to pass the faith to the next generation by example. Our behaviour should reflect a Biblical blueprint for life, rather than the “do as I say, and not as I do” approach, though the latter will inevitably occur from time to time.
The transference of the Faith requires not only godly role models, but a sound Scriptural knowledge. We have sought to impart this in a number of different ways. By familiarisation with the Bible, by instruction in confessions of the Faith of Church catechisms, by developing a Biblical world view, and finally by introducing them to Church History.
Our children, like most other Reformed Presbyterian youth, have been instructed in the Heidelberg Catechism. This has given them a good overall knowledge of the basic teaching of Scripture. The catechism does not replace the Bible, but helps one more accurately understand the incredible breadth and depth of Scripture’s application to every area of our private, social and national lives. It provides them with an anchor for life.
Developing a comprehensive Biblical world view has also been a priority. Much has been learned simply through day-to-day conversation — looking at what is happening in the world and discussion the worldviews which dominate. We have numerous books which have assisted in this development. Some of the most valuable have been:
1) The God & Government series by Gary DeMar (3 volumes).
2) The Biblical Blueprint series by Gary North (10 volumes).
3) Biblical Solutions to Contemporary Problems by Rus Walton.
4) Understanding the Times by David Noebel.
A Biblical world view is important. It equips people with the necessary knowledge to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
We did not concentrate on Church History a great deal, though friends have recently stressed the importance of this to us. It allows children to see God’s sovereignty over history, and to feel a part of a much greater plan. The book, The Story of Christianity, by Tim Dowley, was recommended to us. It provides a richly illustrated presentation of the heritage of the Christian faith.
A Few Closing Comments
On the whole, home educating our family has been a positive and enriching venture. It has been a grand exercise in building our faith. Like men of old we have learned to live a day at a time, walking through life with a deepening awareness and dependence on God. We have learned not to expect instant results and that those things worth having are worth waiting for. We have laboured quietly believing that all this hard work will one day reap dividends. Finally, we have enjoyed growing together in the faith. Life for us has been a journey of discovery, a drama to which we awake each day. And as with any good story, it’s had its share of trials and tribulations. We have learned to face and embrace life, to live it as faithfully as we are able. As our children embark upon their own personal journeys, it is our hope that they will remain faithful in their generation.