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A Reflection on Faith-Based Homeschooling
When families decide to homeschool their children, they do so for a myriad of reasons. Some parents view the public education system as a non-option because of the violence, lack of educational opportunities, and low academic achievement statistics of the nation’s schools. Then there are parents who adhere to faith-based traditions and values, and believe that it is their responsibility to see to it that their children are taught accordingly. They believe that much of the problem with traditional schooling stems from the absence of morally-based, ethical, faith tradition teaching. And of course, there are parents who choose homeschooling because all these issues combined concern them. Most parents who choose faith-based homeschooling do so because they understand that education and lifestyle are intertwined. For them, teaching and learning at home is not just about having “school at home.”
Faith-based teaching focuses on morality, ethics and values, as well as their relevance personally, professionally and their importance in improving the world. Morals teach a way of being and acting that is considered respectable and expected of people who belong to a particular faith, nationhood or belief system. Faith traditions are part of an individual’s identity and value set. Those who approach learning from this standpoint, tend to process situations and arrive at decisions differently because they have a reference point based on a certain ideal or concept that is central to their belief. In other words, their faith serves as the foundation for their lives and ways of being. It becomes part of their lifestyle.
Faith-based teaching focuses on community service, volunteering talents and gifts as well as giving of one’s time and energy to an honorable cause. Whether it be helping the sick, homeless, elderly or infirm, working in the service of others has its own merits and rewards. It teaches us that the world is not a perfect place first hand. Volunteering builds confidence, leadership, self-esteem, tolerance, provides skills and opens doors that could lead to a future career or job.
A genuine, faith-based education also encourages respect for people and life, regardless of differences in race, gender, disability, nationality or religion. It promotes a universal respect and tolerance of differences in culture, encourages learning about those that are different from ourselves. Homeschooled children are not stymied by the laws governing public schools concerning the teaching of religion and prayer; they are free to learn and express the ways of their own faith as well as the religious traditions and cultures of others. They may openly read the Holy Bible, The Quran, The Torah, The Apocrypha or The Tanakh as well as learn about and honor those Holy Days they hold sacred in the way of their own traditions.
Is it possible to effectively teach morality, ethics and values in the absence of a religious or faith-based foundation? Many schools across the nation have done this, mostly in private education or charter schools. However, despite their efforts, students attending public schools and private schools alike continue to be exposed to unconscionable acts of violence, bullying and escalating crime. Incidents of this nature causes irreparable harm to youth and are not always the fault of the children there. Frequently, it’s the adults who inflict traumatic harm upon the children who have been entrusted in their care. One needs to look no further than the Catholic churches and schools, which have been at the forefront of sexual crime upon the young, particularly by clergy. The biggest crime of course in this, involves the one that turns a blind-eye and ignores the abuse and harm upon children occurring in a school environment as if it is in fact not happening at all.
One also needs to look no further than the plethora of shootings that have plagued America's public K-12 schools. Remember Sandy Hook Elementary? There have been 74 school shootings since then, resulting in 28 deaths. Just 13 of them took place during the first 2 months of year 2014.
Even when moral education is taught in schools, it appears to have a minimal effect upon the lives and behavior of the people there, school officials, teachers and children. It appears to be unimportant, and only pays lip-service enough to be able to say "we teach values at our school." Many faith-based homeschooling parents would argue that moral education, especially when faith-based, is successful and taught best within the environment of the home, community and family of youth. It is most effective and reinforced by the adults present and involved in the child’s life on a daily basis who “practice what they preach.” Children certainly learn best from what they observe, and are exposed to every day. They also appreciate and respect the realness and congruence of people. If you are preaching a certain issue like modesty or drug use to them and you are not on the level with your child, they quickly see through this farce and will not take you seriously. It sends them a confusing, conflicting message.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and there is a good deal of truth in this sentiment, especially when viewed through the homeschooling lens. The homeschooled child is not as peer-dependent or influenced as those who are taught in traditional schools, and the child has a tendency to interact with those of varying ages, both young and old. Grandma might teach the cooking lesson, while the uncle shows junior how to change oil on a car. The family friend takes on the young student as an apprentice, teaching a valuable, employable skill. The older sibling helps the younger with a math problem. The neighbor provides the piano or French lesson. These few examples provide a glimpse of what the typical homeschooled child's days are like, as families work to utilize resources in the community and involve friends and family members in providing a well-rounded, holistic, faith-based education and upbringing.
Further Help and Resources
Single Parent Home Educators Association of America (SPHEA) - Clearinghouse, blog and general support for single-parent home educators. Help getting started with homeschooling.