Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Harvard or Heaven?

Our family is in our fifth year of homeschooling. It has been the best decision that we ever made since having children, and the blessings that have proceeded from the decision are countless. Sometimes, it is hard for me to refrain from telling people about the wonders that we have experienced. I recognize that people are not always open to the idea, and have often formed a preliminary opinion about homeschoolers. Just to set the record straight, my wife doesn’t like wearing denim jumpers, and we don’t bake our own bread (very often).

On the occasion where I do get to share our experience, I might tend to ramble. There are so many reasons that we have found to support our decision to educate in the home. For details, check out the Further Topical Reading section of this blog – titled “(At Least) Ten Reasons Why We Homeschool” (in the column at the side). I’m enjoying one of the advantages even as I write this chapter – our family is enjoying the warmth of a California vacation in the month of October, at a time when there are very few people competing for pool time or to form lines at the theme park (we started school a week early in August so we could take this week off in the middle of the fall). Of course, if everyone were to turn to homeschooling, I would probably have to give up this advantage, but I think I could live with that.

If you read this blog very often, you’ll see that our family’s true reason for homeschooling has evolved over the last few years. I recently came across a quote from the Home School Legal Defense Association that perfectly sums up our number-one reason. “Homeschooling is not about getting your kids into Harvard; it’s about getting them into heaven.” This doesn’t mean that publicly-schooled children can’t go to heaven – but we believe we have vastly improved our chances with our own children by doing so. Is that a bold statement? Yes. Is it true for every single family? No, there is no doubt that homeschooling is not practical in every situation. Heaven and Harvard are not mutually exclusive choices that pivot on your choice of schooling. However, to better understand my position, a demonstration using gambling techniques and statistics might be appropriate.

Suppose you were asked to play one game of dice. The stakes are these – if you win, you can count on having enough money in your bank account to retire more comfortably than you have ever imagined. But if you lose, your account will go to zero. The game is simple. By rolling two six-sided dice just one time (just like in Monopoly), your win or loss will be determined. There are two tables to play on, with rules differing at each table. The rules at the first table are these: if you roll anything except a double-one or a double-two, you will win. But if you roll a double-one or double-two, you will lose. If you are looking for statistical calculations, your chances of winning under this scenario are 94.4% (there are 34 winning combinations out of a potential 36).

Things are a little more restrictive at the second table, though the reward or loss is exactly the same. At this table, your roll must contain a six on at least one of the dice to win. If the roll doesn’t contain a six, you will lose. Again, for the statistically-minded, there are 11 winning combinations out of 36 possibilities – a 30.6% chance of winning.

It may seem silly to ask the question, “Which table would you choose to play?” But these odds are exactly what statistics tell us about children remaining faithful when they enter the university system. A study conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute and often presented by Pastor Voddie Baucham shows that 70-88% of professing Christian teens fall away from their faith at the end of their freshman year in college, while only 6% of homeschooled professing teens fall away in that time frame. Consider those statistics again…there is at least a seven out of ten chance that a publicly-schooled child will reject God after their first year of college. Less than one out of ten will do so if they are homeschooled.

This study may be tough for some to accept, especially when so few of us believe that such a prognosis could possibly occur in our own family. And we should understand very clearly, the study does not explicitly prove that schooling is the only factor that determines a child’s grasp on God’s grace. It stands to reason that a homeschooled child will have more parental involvement in his or her life, and this is a big contributor to the Christian walk. I believe further study would conclude that public-schooled children who enjoy a devoted father and mother, and a family who prays and worships together regularly will improve on the 70-88% odds greatly. But once again, any study that concludes with such a diverse result – 70-88% versus 6% - is either flawed, or else it has uncovered a fundamental issue to be considered.

Please bear with me for a moment on this. I recognize that there are some families for whom homeschooling is not possible. Single parents raising children, or parents in family situations that don’t allow the time or monetary investment required for quality homeschooling will struggle under the demand. But for those of you who are considering the pros and cons of home education, don’t neglect to consider the eternal, spiritual perspective because statistics show that the benefits are very real.

I have spoken with many parents who are often shocked at what is being taught to their children in public school. Mere theories such as evolution and global warming are taught as fact. More importantly, the idea that there is a God who created our universe and us, and who wants to have a personal relationship with us is suppressed, and often ridiculed. I know, because it happened to me in multiple instances in public school almost thirty years ago.

Unlike the dice game, the state of our children’s souls is not a random event. Thankfully, God’s grace is the ultimate determining factor in that outcome. But when our children reach the age where the schooling venue decision must be made, do we put as much thought into it as we would our investments and retirement asset distribution? To a degree, we are forced to play the game and choose which table we will play. I understand that there are far more pieces to the puzzle than we deal with in these few paragraphs. High-quality parental involvement and influence takes many forms. But I am personally unwilling to take the additional risk, and gamble away my children’s eternal salvation. I cannot control every detail in the lives of my children, but I can limit their exposure to the godless mindset that has infiltrated our public schools. My children’s eternal destination is far more important to me than my retirement account, and I spend far more time working with them on their A-B-C’s than I do manipulating my 401(k).

For those interested in a very clear opinion on home education versus public schooling, check out http://www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2007/5/22_SBC_Education_Resolution_2007.html. Fair warning – prepare to be challenged by Pastor Baucham’s writings.