Homeschool Blindspots

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I read the following article by Reb Bradley in the Virginia Home Educator Magazine and was challenged by it. I appreciate Mr. Bradley's humility in admitting mistakes he's made as a dad. I see some of these tendencies in my own life and many of the observations he makes line-up with things that God has been teaching our church recently. Whether or not you homeschool, I'd encourage you to read this article prayerfully and ask the Holy Spirit to help you examine your motives in your parenting.

Exposing Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers by Reb Bradley

In the last couple of years, I have heard from multitudes of troubled homeschool parents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn't turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn't hold to their parents' values.

Some of these young people grew up and left home in defiance of their parents. Others got married against their parents' wishes, and still others got involved with drugs, alcohol, and immorality. I have even heard of several exemplary young men who no longer even believe in God. My own adult children have gone through struggles I never guessed they would face.

Most of these parents remain stunned by their children's choices, because they were fully confident their approach to parenting was going to prevent any such rebellion.

After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people.

1. Having Self-Centered Dreams

The reason that our dreams for our children are so vulnerable to crashing is because they are our dreams, imposed on our own children. As homeschool parents we make great sacrifices and invest a great deal to influence how our children turn out. The problem is that love for children can be lost in love for personal success as a parent. Our concern for ourselves ends up overshadowing our love for our children.

When my oldest son was 18 he developed habits of disrespectful communication and I had to ask him to leave my home for a season. Needless to say, my wife and I were devastated by the discipline we imposed. In the first month he was gone we wept each day for him. We were grieved that he was now unprotected from the junk from which we had worked so hard to shelter him, but more than that, I was heartbroken that my dreams for him and our family would no longer come true. I remember speaking the words to him - "Son, you've ruined my dreams." You see, I had a dream for my family and it involved adult children who lived at home humbly under parental authority, and who would one day leave home to marry, after following my carefully orchestrated courtship process. But now, my son had gone and "messed up" my perfect dream. Nothing is wrong with dreaming of good things for your children, but the truth was, my dream for my son was mostly about me.

In hindsight, what was particularly grievous was that I was more worried about the failure of my dream of "success" than the fact that my son and I had a broken relationship. Although he did come back and was restored to us 4 months later, it still took me years to realize that I had contributed to the damaged relationship.

It is only natural for parents to have high hopes and dreams for their children. However, when we begin to see our children as a reflection or validation of us, we become the center of our dreams, and the children become our source of significance. When that happens in our home it affects the way we relate with our children, and subtly breaks down relationship.

2. Raising Family as an Idol

When we allow the success of our family to determine our security or sense of wellbeing we are seeking from it something God intends us to receive from Him. I am describing idolatry. If homeschoolers are not careful, family can easily become an idol.

At times in their history the Israelites worshipped idols. They didn't always forsake worship of the living God - they merely served other gods with Him. Sometimes they simply made an idol of something good. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they elevated issues of holiness higher than the very God who declared them holy (Mat 12:1-8; 23:24). An idol is anything other than God in which we seek security and fulfillment. It may be something biblical or good, but if it has the power to determine our wellbeing, we have elevated it higher than God meant for us. As those who are devoted to our families, and therefore invest a great deal of time, energy, and heart, it is easy to elevate the family too high.

A great problem with idolatry is that idols require sacrifice, and we end up sacrificing relationship with our children for the idol of the family. When we elevate the image of the family, we effectively trade our children's hearts for our reputation.

3. Emphasizing Outward Form

Preoccupation with results often leads to emphasis on outward form. When we are preoccupied with achieving results it is natural to admire the results others seem to have achieved with their children. We like the way the pastor's kids sit reverently in the front pew and take notes of their father's sermon, so we go home and begin to teach our children to sit reverently and to take notes. What we don't know is that the pastor's kids conduct themselves with reverence and attentiveness not because he "cleaned the outside of the cup" and simply drilled them to do so -- he lived a genuine love for Jesus that was contagious, and watched as the fruit was born (Matt 23:26). Parents are destined for disappointment when they admire fruit in others and seek to emulate merely that expression of fruit in their own children. Fruit is born from the inside -- not applied to the outside.

Imagine that the fruit you desired was the edible variety, so you went out into your yard and planted an apple tree. Just suppose that one day, while you were waiting for the apples to begin growing on your tree, you caught a glimpse of a neighbor's apple tree. You noticed in admiration that its branches were laden with big, luscious apples. What would you do? Would you run to the produce market to buy some apples, then go home, and in the dead of night, tie them onto your tree? If you did, the sight of your tree might really impress your neighbors. But that is not what you would do. You would likely go to the neighbor and ask how he cared for and fertilized his tree to produce such fruit. It is the same with our children - luscious fruit will be born from what we put into them - not from what we tie onto them. As a matter of fact, in no time, the fruit that we put onto our children will rot and fall off.

In the homeschool community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming, respectful manners, music style, or an attitude of sober reverence in worship. Some even take their children down a country path of humble fashions, raising food, and making bread. Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful - we can model for our children outward changes and easily fall into molding their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts. In some circles emphasis on the outward is epidemic.

A friend of mine, a homeschool mom, just passed away of cancer. In the week before she died, I asked her if she had any regrets in her life. She told me she wished she had baked less bread - she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children. She had invested time and energy in pursuing the "path" because she thought it was part of the spiritual homeschool package.

Let us not forget that Jesus came against the Pharisees for their preoccupation with what they felt were legitimate expressions of spirituality. They measured holiness by what was avoided and by what would be seen by others (Mat 6:1-2, 5, 16; 23:5-6, 23-28; John 7:24). The Pharisees were earnest in their religion, but they were preoccupied with outward expressions of holiness rather than hearts of humility and love (Micah 6:8) that would bear genuine fruit. I find it fascinating that in the gospels there is not one mention of Jesus coming against immodesty, even though among his followers were prostitutes and the like. Jesus emphasized cleaning up the inside while the Pharisees were the ones preoccupied with cleaning up the outside. We must ask ourselves: Which are we more like - Jesus or the Pharisees? Even now do we justify ourselves, insisting we emphasize cleaning up both the inside and the outside?

I know that some react strongly to these assertions, so let me emphasize that I do want my wife and daughters to adorn themselves modestly. God did address it once in the New Testament (1Tim 2:9), but we must ask ourselves, is it possible that we have elevated modesty, or other issues of outward form, higher than Jesus did? If he only mentioned modesty once in the epistles and never mentioned it in his earthly ministry, but instead emphasized the importance of a changed heart bearing outward fruit, should we not follow his example and concentrate on reaching our children's hearts? Because He did address it in the first epistle to Timothy, let us teach our children the value of keeping private that which should be, but let us be careful of thinking that just because they look moral on the outside that they have God's values on the inside. Concurrently, let us also be careful of measuring everyone else's enlightenment by what we have decided is modest, spiritual, or holy.

4. Tending to Judge

In setting standards for our family, each of us must work through a process of evaluation and analysis to decide what is safe, wise, or permissible. Once we become convinced of our personal standards, not uncommonly, it follows that we believe they should apply to others as well.

The Pharisees belittled others who didn't hold to their standards. We have gone their way when we judge others. It is easy to miss this area of pride because we may not express our judgments "arrogantly"; we may instead wrap them in compassionate-sounding words. Arrogance wrapped in concerned tones is deceiving.

Pride is so deceptive that we won't know our judgments are even judgments. We will think we are just making observations and feeling pity, when in fact, we are looking down on others from our lofty place of confident enlightenment. It is a high view of ourselves that allows us to condescend to and belittle others in our mind. And if you already knew all this, be careful - pride will even cause us to be amazed that others didn't see what was so obvious to us.

Typically, when we belittle others who don't measure up to our standards, we will also imagine others are judging us. Consequently, we will find ourselves frequently being defensive. We assume that others will think lowly of us for some perceived inadequacy, so we offer unsolicited explanations and clarifications for us or our children. For example, let's say we walked past a TV at Sears and saw something of interest - when we tell others what we saw, we are careful to clarify that we saw it at Sears and weren't watching a TV at home. If we live under fear of judgment, not only will we tend to be on the defensive, but whenever we are in a public setting where our children might be "watched," we will put pressure on them.

When pride is working its work in us, we sincerely believe our personal opinions reflect God's utmost priorities and standards. What we believe to be our "enlightened" perspective becomes a filter by which we gauge others' spirituality, and therefore limits our options for fellowship. We develop a very narrow definition of what we call "likeminded" people, based on the outworkings of our values and opinions. Now we are on a path to exclusivity when we will no longer associate with those who will be with us in eternity. Is it possible we have lost sight of fellowship based on love and devotion to Jesus, and have substituted personal standards and a narrow view of Christian liberty?

There are several serious consequences of raising children in a home marked by pride and judgment. Children may grow up also judging others. Or, they may hide their real values, acting as though they embrace our values, when, in fact, they are simply seeking to avoid discipline and lectures at home. Or, they may see the shallowness of our legalistic faith that consists primarily of "avoid this, wear that, attend this," and not be attracted to it in the least.

5. Depending on Formulas

Homeschool parents often take a formulaic approach to parenting. Committed to achieving results with our children, we look for formulas and principles to ensure our success. Knowing the Bible is full of the wisdom and promises of God, we look to it for its self-working principles and promised methods. Yet, there's a problem with that. We are commanded to trust in God, not in formulas (John 14:1; Ps 37:5; 62:8). There is a monumental difference.

Trust in formulas is really dependence upon ourselves to carry out a procedure correctly. But anyone who really understands the grace of the gospel knows that we cannot take personal credit for any spiritual accomplishments. We are totally God's workmanship (Eph 2:10; Phil 2:13; 1:6) and everything good in our lives is a gift from Him (James 1:17). We can do absolutely nothing by ourselves for which we can take credit (Eph 2:8-9; Gal 6:14; Rom 4:2; 1 Cor 1:28-31; 2 Cor 11:30). Yet many of us lean toward a formulaic mentality, because our fallen natures are drawn toward self-reliance. We want to feel that by our own efforts (works) we have achieved something that will make us acceptable to God - by nature we are legalistic.

God doesn't want us to trust in principles, methods, or formulas, no matter how "biblical" they seem. God wants us to trust in HIM!

6. Over-Dependence on Authority and Control.
Fruitful training of children and roses require a goal, a plan, and diligence in labor. However, the difference is that roses have no mind of their own and only grow as they are allowed. Children are people--self-determining individuals--and they ultimately choose how they will respond to parental influence.

No amount of parental control or restriction will guarantee that a child will turn out exactly as directed. Obviously, our training increases the likelihood our children will cling to the faith when they reach maturity, or turn back to Christ if they do enter a season of rebellion, but our training does not guarantee the desired outcome.

I know that some will struggle with the assertion that parents do not have total control over the outcome of their parenting, because of Proverbs 22:6. And I would have struggled too, ten years ago, but upon examination of the passage in question, I am convinced that it is a verse meant as an admonition of wisdom, not as a promise and guarantee of outcome. Like many of the sayings in Proverbs it is written as a statement of probability and not as a promise.

Solomon set for us a great example of balanced parenting - he admonished his young adult children and gave them commandments, but he knew that for them to honor his commands he needed their hearts. That's why he said, "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways" (Prov 23:26). The apostle Paul knew how much he needed the hearts of those he exhorted, and therefore told them "... although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love..." (Phile 1:8-9).

If we are to have significant influence of our teenage children we must have their hearts. Winning their hearts means gaining the opportunity to influence who they are, not just what they do.

7. Over-Reliance Upon Sheltering

An over-dependence on control in a family is often accompanied by an over-reliance on sheltering of children. It is not uncommon for homeschool parents to feel that since they filter whatever their children see and hear, they will control the results in their lives. That was me for many years. I remember saying to people, "I am controlling the influences in my children's lives, so I am going to control the outcome." I was absolutely certain that my children would be exempted from significant temptation and from developing particular bad habits because I was controlling what touched their lives.

In the last five years I have heard countless reports of highly sheltered homeschool children who grew up and abandoned their parents' values. Some of these children were never allowed out of their parents' sight and were not permitted to be in any kind of group setting, even with other "like-minded" kids, yet they still managed to develop an appetite for the world's pleasures. While I've seen sheltered children grow up and turn away from their parents' standards, conversely, I've known some Christian young people who went to public school, watched TV, attended youth groups, and dated, yet they walk in purity, have respectful, loving relationships with their parents, and now enjoy good marriages. Their parents broke the all the "rules of sheltering," yet these kids grew up close to their families and resilient in their walks with Christ.

Protecting from temptations and corrupting influences is part of raising children. Every parent shelters to one degree or another. All parents shelter - they just draw their lines in different places.Protecting our children is not only a natural response of paternal love, but fulfills the commands of God. The Scriptures are clear that we are to make no provision for our flesh (Rom 13:14) and are to avoid all corrupting influences (2 Cor 6:17-7:1). It warns us that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33) and that those who spend too much time with bad people may learn their ways (Prov 22:24-25) and suffer for it (Prov 13:20). Just as our Father in heaven will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13), we rightly keep our children out of situations they will lack the moral strength to handle. Young children are weak and we are to protect the weak (1 Thes 5:12).

God understood the vulnerability of human nature when he gave the Israelites instructions before they entered the Promised Land. He told them to chase out the idol-worshipping Pagans in the land, lest His people associate with them and be drawn into idolatry (Ex 23:32-33; Num 33:51-56; Josh 23:7-13). The Israelites disregarded God's protective warning and allowed some Pagans to remain in the land. Subsequently, each successive generation of young people was lost to idolatry. God instructed them to shelter their families, but their neglect of His warnings brought pain to their children and to their grandchildren for many generations.

However, we are imbalanced when sheltering from harm is the predominant expression of our parenting. Sheltering is a critical part of parenting, but if parents keep it their primary focus, the children will grow up ill equipped to handle the temptations in the world.A child isolated from disease may appear to be of the greatest health to his parents, but the health of the human body is only proven by how it withstands an attack. A weak constitution succumbs to every germ and virus - a strong one fights them off. Our spiritual and moral health is developed and proved in the same way.

If we isolate our kids from the world until they are adults they may appear to us to be spiritually minded and strong in character. However, it is how they ultimately engage the world that proves their spiritual resilience. This is because sheltering does not transform the human heart - it merely preserves it, temporarily.

It is true that a boxer trains without an opponent until his coach decides he is ready for an actual fight. And it is true that a farmer might raise plants in a greenhouse until they are mature enough to be transplanted and face the various elements of nature. So also, we keep our children away from bad influences when they are young and need to grow unhindered in character and spiritual wisdom. The problem is that sheltering without significant preparation to engage the world fails to equip them. In fact, it may insure that they will fall in their first solo encounters.

Growing up isolated from temptation can develop a child who appears spiritually strong, but the appearance is not reality. When I was in college I moved to northern California to live for a summer in a Christian commune. I was somewhat isolated from the world and surrounded by an amazing support system of my fellow "Jesus people." I remember feeling so full of faith, so committed to holiness, and so in love with God that summer. However, the "spirituality" I felt and the level of holiness I achieved was not real and could not endure testing. At the end of summer I returned to college in Southern California and discovered that I had not developed true spiritual muscles - when faced with temptation I fell flat on my face every time. The communal environment, isolated from significant temptation, had not prepared me for the battle I would face in the world. Valid spiritual growth required that I face temptation and develop the capacity to resist it, which eventually I did. My isolation from temptation had left me like a boxer who had shadow boxed, trained rigorously, and looked good in his trunks, but had never faced a sparring partner, let alone a true opponent.

I believe that a primary reason we over-rely on sheltering is because it is easy. It requires no planning or expenditure of energy. It takes minimal immediate brainpower. we simply assess that something might be harmful and say to our children, "No." I don't know if I would go so far as to call it lazy parenting, but I will say that investing in our children takes a lot more work and a lot more time.

8. Not Passing On a Pure Faith

We've all heard it said that faith is caught and not taught. The Galatian church polluted their faith by seeking to make themselves acceptable to God with what they did or didn't do" (Gal 3:3). In the same way, we may have started off years ago with a simple, undefiled faith, but the more we got caught up in all the "works" of intense parenting, the more we moved away from a simple faith contagious to our children. It is critical for our sake, let alone for our children, that we enjoy a life-giving faith in Christ with no religious trappings added to it.

As I look back, I see that with my older children I was too concerned with how they were perceived by others. I saw their behavior as a reflection on me, and I wanted to look good. They, therefore, sensed in me a measure of pretentiousness--not the genuineness of faith that would have drawn them to me or to the Jesus I spoke about. My sincere concern for their character was overshadowed by my concern for my reputation. I have discovered that, like me, multitudes of parents want their children's hearts but live a faith that fails to completely attract them.

9. Not Cultivating a Loving Relationship With Our Children

Relationships between parents and teens are weakest in control-oriented homes. Bev and I treated our children as if they were "projects." The more they became projects, the less we had significant relationship. The less we had relationship, the more we lost their hearts. Without their hearts, the less we were able to influence them or their values. We regularly spent hour coaching and admonishing them during the teen years, not realizing that without their hearts, the best we could do was make more rules and devise new consequences. The consequences affected the outside, but not the inside.

Our Story
When my oldest son was almost 16 we let him get his first job washing dishes at a restaurant managed by a Christian friend of ours. As diehard shelterers we wrestled with whether or not our son was ready to enter the world's workforce. We knew we couldn't shelter him forever, and so finally concluded that he should be old enough to send into the world two nights a week. What we didn't realize was that he would be working with drug-using, tattooed, partiers, and our Christian friend was never scheduled to work our son's shift.

Within a month it became apparent that our son's new work associates were having an effect on him. He came home one evening and asked, "Dad, can I dye my hair blue?" After my wife was finally able to peal me off the ceiling, I laid into him, reminding him whose son he was, and that I would not have people at church telling their children not to be like the pastor's son. I explained that just because he wanted to use washable dye, it didn't make me any happier. (Note that my intense reaction had to do with "outward appearances" and the impact on me.)

Of course, my wife and I immediately began to evaluate whether we had made a mistake by letting him take the job. After an intense discussion we decided to coach him more carefully and let him keep his job.

Two months later he came home from work and asked me if he could pierce his ear. Again, my wife had to peal me off the ceiling. He thought it might be okay since he wanted a cross earring -- like I was supposed to be happy, because it would be a "sanctified" piercing. If that wasn't enough, he also wanted to get a tattoo! But it was going to be okay, because it would be a Christian tattoo!

As I was looking back on this experience several years later, something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me - my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration - in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did. We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn't good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn't be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us.

The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn't one that could be solved by extended sheltering - he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.

Whether believer or unbeliever, those young people who are least tempted to follow the crowd are those who are secure in themselves and don't need the approval of others. The Bible calls insecurity the fear of man - it is allowing other's opinions of us to affect our values and choices.

The Solution

In the Bible we see that people obeyed God for two reasons - fear and love. King David sang of his love for God (Ps 18:1; 116:1; 119:159) and he also sang of the fear of God (Ps 2:11; 22:25; 33:8). God wants His followers to be drawn to Him out of love (Jer 31:3), and that's why it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). But He also wants us to be kept on the path by fear of His authority (Luke 12:5; 1 Pet 2:17). That's why He told the Israelites He wanted both their fear and their love; "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut 10:12). With our children, it should be the same.

Those who have the most power to influence our hearts are those to whom we are drawn: those who succeed with our values (which is what a hero is), those who can benefit us, those who make us feel valuable, and those who have earned our respect.

If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Eph 6:6). If we have their hearts they will seek to honor us whether we are present or not, and their hearts will remain open to our influence.

I refer you to the apostle Paul who modeled this approach to leadership perfectly, "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love..." (Phile 1:8-9a). Paul's pattern with the churches suggests he understood that appeals to love were more powerful than commands and threats.

Conclusion

I am convinced that the most contagious parenting is living a heartfelt faith before your children. Fruitful interaction is not about what you do to your young people, but who you are with them. It's about having a real faith in God, and expressing it in a real relationship with a real person--not about methods and self-working principles. God intends that the side-effect of loving Jesus and enjoying the grace of the gospel will be that all people--including our children--will be touched by the Savior in us. I pray in Jesus' name that as you read these words you will experience the grace of God in a fresh and new way.

Reb Bradley is a writer and national conference speaker. Read the complete article from which this excerpt was taken here. Visit www.familyministries.com to order Reb's CD set Influencing Children's Hearts.

Reprinted with permission from The Virginia Home Educator, Fall 2011.

159 Comments

Wow! I can't tell you how "right on" Mr. Bradley's article is. I was home schooled and sheltered. Although I did not go "wild" when I left home, it has left me socially handicapped to a certain degree.

Thank you for posting this article. It was something I needed to read at this time in our homeschool journey. I am also thankful that I am able to read it while my children are still at a young age and being the first couple years of homeschooling. I am going to pass this on to my husband and hopefully we will be able to discuss this and that it will challenge us for now and for the future. Thanks again.

Josh, I am so delighted to see you posting this article excerpt by Reb Bradley. I have sent the link to the larger article to my own home school e-magazine subscribers on numerous occasions over the past few years. As a mom of 10 who has been home schooling for two decades, I know I picked up a lot of legalism along the way and it's a challenge to know what teachings to lay aside and what to keep. My husband and I are now reading an excellent book called Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel that has been highly recommended by people we respect. I have just summarized the first chapter, "Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short" on my blog (http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2011/09/why-well-meaning-parenting-falls-short.html). The concepts are the same basic ones as Mr. Bradley has written.

Your dear mother Sono, as well, taught many wonderful things about joyful mothering and relationships with our kids. I had the privilege of hearing her speak twice, once around 1991 as we started our home school journey and again in 1996, as I wrote about in my tribute to her last year at http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2010/07/tribute-to-sono-harris-legacy-of-joyful.html

We are praying for you and your family in this challenging season of life.

Blessings,
Virginia Knowles

This is good for all parents, not just homeschoolers. Thank you for passing it along. So helpful!!!

I posted a comment some time ago and it has not yet been posted. Maybe only comments that completely agree with the article are posted?

I am a homeschooling mom and I agree with a lot of what is said here but I would go further and say this is mostly true of the very hard core straight line Christians. Putting on the blinders of your "faith" and thinking by running a rigid "Christian" home with no sign of imperfection or struggle your kids cannot possibly grow up knowing "real life" and of course will struggle when introduced to the world. I sincerely take issue with this article being pointed at homeschooling parents vs being pointed at the hard core submit and obey style parents/parenting which I think is more of the issue. Kids who go to Christian schools or are homeschooled are more likely to have this type of parent versus parents who are willing to let their kids experience the world at public school or open minded homeschooling.

I agree. The points in this article are not about homeschooling. They are about over controlling, over protective parents. The fact that it is lumped in with homeschooling kinda shows you how off-base so many people an be about homeschooling (or unschooling :), which is what our family does.)

Going to a small Christian college, homeschooled kids become the brunt of many jokes. This article was helpful for me to remember that they are people with back-stories. Their parents make just as many mistakes as my parents. And my response in mocking them (even if it's just to myself) is committing the same sin of pride and judgment that I accuse them of. Thank you for helping me have a better perspective.

Dear Josh;

Even though I agree with some things in this article, I'm sorry to mention that you are relating your experiences to all home schoolers and it is not so. Not every parent whom is a home schooler is bias as you put us in this article.

It offends me to know that there is no balance to this article, Children need parents to lead them in the ways of God, they have no clue what sin and the world is, specially if you are going to throw them out there w/the lions.

It is true that we need balance in home schooling, which we did, but your article makes no common ground for parents who are very devoted to train a child the way they should go. With no offense this article is to bias to those who do not reflects your ideologies.

Check the scriptures below also. Deuteronomy 11:19
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I was raised in a Christian home my parents were pretty much legalistic, but I'd never departed from the faith,to the contrary my parents teachings were a balm to my life and it taught me to honor them and God, Because my relationship was about Jesus not church, but when I accepted Christ as my savior, I respected their believes and honored them as parents.

In America children have lost honor to their parents they've been taught to be disrespectful to parents and adults even those who teaches them in school, there is no respect to others at all." Contrary to the word of God"
I've visited 30 countries, and children honor the parents and others, the parents are very much strong in teaching them truth.
The worldly statics shows that Home schooler children are the most honorable respectful, most knowledgeable, wise decision makers, great marriages and they oppose it. Sorry to say that the media have made them look like fools by marking them as inferiors to others, the public schools hates them.

It is true that we can go the other way to far too, but I home schooled our kids and they have follow our heavenly father's footsteps and they are doing great, we are missionaries around the world helping the poor the orphans, and so are them and their little children.

We can not allow that all home schools kids need to be thrown in the lions den, "the public school system". Specially today.
Our kids are bombarded by sinful acts in school, TV, Radio, Hollywood, we say good to evil and evil is good.

We do not teach consequences from our pulpits; just grace, when the girls get pregnant we do not teach them that they have sin against God, we just let them paid the consequences when they grow up and their marriage is at risk that is why there is more divorce among Christians then in the world.

The system of the world does not work. Yes it is true that we should be an example to our children by living the life Christ lived; go to the byways and highways and hedges and compelled them to come.
But preachers today are in a comfort zone, they do not know how to minister on the streets to the homeless and prostitutes, they live in a shelter lifestyle; of it is all about me.

That is what they are teaching in churches today. That is where this article should be applied to the comfortable preachers who do not know how to dirty their hands while they should teach the kids what Christ lifestyle is all about, it is lifestyle about me but others. .

Teach your kids to go to the streets and get the drug lifestyle the homeless the sick and needy that is what they need to learn, to obey the parents and honor them, to love their neighbors.

I'm sorry, but that is why our country have so much abortions, sexual immoralities, like sex before marriage, and so on. Parents need to teach the children that this is sin, sin have no place in grace. and grace have no place in sin. Romans 8.

Let see what God says about teaching our children.
Deuteronomy 4:9

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:8-10 (in Context) Deuteronomy 4 (Whole Chapter)
Deuteronomy 4:10

Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
Deuteronomy 4:9-11 (in Context) Deuteronomy 4 (Whole Chapter)
Deuteronomy 11:19

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 11:18-20 (in Context) Deuteronomy 11 (Whole Chapter)
Psalm 34:11

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Psalm 34:10-12 (in Context) Psalm 34 (Whole Chapter)

I believe you have good intentions, but your article needs balance. Thanks.


Currently we send our daughter to a private, Christian school. It is a financial hardship, but the need is being met.

Our decision is based upon our daughter's school district and it's current fight over the pro-homosexual takeover by the school teachers and administrators. The books in the library, the open curriculum discussed, and the blatant in-your-face meddling has become overwhelming (she is a kindergartner).

One day we may be financially forced to home-school rather than sending her to private school. It may be the only alternative we have. There are some private schools that are actually merging the two together. Three days at home school and two in a church classroom setting.

I do believe what "Delores" stated. Not all home-schooled children turn out that way. I would say the two-dozen I know turned out better than the publically educated did. It would be nice to see some statistics based on what this article is saying. Hopefully some people will not be discouraged based upon what this articles states alone.

By including this article by Reb Bradley, Josh is not saying home schooling is wrong or that all home school parents do this. Bradley is bringing a very necessary correction to large segments of the home school population who HAVE bought into the controlling mindset. After 25 years of closely observing the movement and 20 of home schooling my own 10 I can say he is right on the mark about so much if what I have seen. I have even lived that mindset myself and digging out of it now. I've had to make a lot of apologies to my now adult children and learn to take a different course with my youngest ones. My littlest one is only six so I have many years left.

There is a whole crop of web sites popping up addressing the problems with over control in home schooling families - and learning to parent with grace instead of legalism. Here are three that bless me.

Sally Clarkson www.itakejoy.com
Karen Campbell www.thatmom.com
Recovering Grace (post-Gothard/IBLP/ATI) www.recoveringgrace.org

I'm an ex-homeschooler about to graduate now from college with an MFA degree. I think this is a good article and I recognize some of the traits in people who I know, but thankfully not in my own parents. Yes, they have their problems, but they balance everything talked about above quite well.

As the oldest child, I was the first to graduate homeschooling, the first to enter college and now the first to graduate college. Of course when I was about to head off to college, many people talked to my parents as if they had sheltered to me too much and questioned whether I can make it on my own. I was a little socially awkward, but I attribute that mostly to my personality rather than homeschooling - after all, I was awkward before I began homeschooling and I did have friends at church and in our homeschooling group despite that. Besides, EVERYONE is socially awkward at some point in their lives.

People were especially concerned because I went to a public, very liberal school. I purposefully decided not to go to a Christian school because I didn't want to be sheltered from the sins of the world. I'm going to have to live in this world for the rest of my life, so I might as well develop a hard barrier now! What I didn't realize was that my parents had already helped me build a very tough barrier because they LOVED ME UNCONDITIONALLY. I know all parents say they do, but it's important how that love is expressed. One thing they impressed upon me was that they would never, NEVER stop loving and caring for me, even if I decided not to be a Christian. This didn't drive me away from being a Christian, but made me realize that they trusted me, no matter what. I remain a very strong Christian because I am acting on my OWN faith, not my parents'.

Anyway, that's enough pointless rambling. Thanks for this article - it was an interesting read.

Kudos, Reb, for addressing so transparently and so truthfully a problem in the home education community. When Bill and I traveled and spoke on homeschooling and parenting issues, we met and spoke w/many families struggling with these issues, but there was no one talking openly about it. It was as though it was taboo to think that dedicated, well-meaning Christian homeschooling parents could turn out rebels. These are the same mistakes we made in our early parenting years that by the grace of God we were able to turn from and redeem the time. After seeing so many families suffering from these traps, we concluded that some children raised in legalism do indeed choose grace, but it is only by grace that they do, and that it is a minority. Others don't rebel but blindly follow their parents into legalism and judgment, not realizing that it is not genuine Christianity (because they have been led to believe that it is). Others reject legalism, equating it w/Christianity. Legalism's fruit is rebellion, and it is only by the grace of God that that crop is restrained. Well written, Brother.

It is true that we can go the other way to far too, but I home schooled our kids and they have follow our heavenly father's footsteps and they are doing great, we are missionaries around the world helping the poor the orphans, and so are them and their little children.

But for the Grace of God

This is a profound article. I'm a pastor of a conservative church, and for all the impassioned defense I hear from home schooling parents, in my 30 years of ministry I have yet to see home schooled children that impressed me very much. In at least two cases I can think of, with very conscientious and rigorous home-schooling parents, all of the children have ceased being believers!

In every case, it seemed from the very beginning that the purpose of home schooling was about the parents' needs, not the children's. To a family, the problems introduced into these children's lives have greatly exceeded the promised gains.

Thank you so much for your transparency. My hubby and I plan to homeschool for a while (our little one's only 10 months old), so this was extremely helpful and humbling. I know I'll be tempted often to teach like a Pharisee rather than Jesus. Thanks again!

If you think about it- you could change every instance of "parent" into "pastor" and "homeschooling" into "church"- No amount of formulaic church-laid plans are going to create mature belivers in the Lord. Only through trusting God and developing fellowship and discipleship will that EVER happen.

This article is a simple look at LEGALISM in its purist form- and no matter where we look in Christianity it has tendencies to spring up.

I agree this article is helpful to some homeschool mindsets- but it is all the more helpful to Christians in general.

As a family we have utilized the Growing Kids God's Way material as a vehicle and tool for parenting. I liked the article as a reminder of having the right motivation for parenting and haomeschooling. If we try to live vicariously through our children, we may miss the gifts and calling God has for our children.

At the same time, the balance is that not every homeschool family has this problem. I have seen the full picture exampled by our pastor for many years and the not only are the children not socially awkward they are socially advanced.

Personally, I do not believe I need to have my son watch MTV, color his hair blue, and have him date to immerse him properly. However, the author is not saying that at all. He was being vulnerable. Parenting requires stages of transition, and if you cannot make the transition from "Because I told you so" to "Moral Explanation" to "Real Relationship" than the consequences are vast and unpredictable.

You needed your wife to "peel" you off the ceiling, not "peal" as in laughter. Peel. Spelling is important, especially for homeschoolers. Learn it, live it, love it.

very insightful

I homeschooled for eight years and then put my kids in public school for high school. I can say with a good deal of certainty that every single one of these issues is not just restricted to homeschooling families. Moralism and legalism are rampant in the evangelical church, not just homeschool circles. Perhaps it is more evident in homeschooling families because the children are physically segregated away from the mainstream, but as other commenters have pointed out, this is useful for all parents.

There are no methods to produce children who are righteous. Just engaging in homeschooling is not a guarantee of parental success, neither is avoiding homeschooling a guarantee. Spiritual pride in parents comes from the parents, not the education method they choose, and it thrives in both equally well.

While a good article, I can't help but get this subtext vibe of "...so then don't worry if you put your 2-3 kids in a public school and your wife goes back to work while you stay home all day blogging, Dad...."

Thanks for running this piece, Josh. It is my hope that the Lord uses what we learned from our mistakes to set some parents free. I would encourage those who liked the article to follow the link to the original full-length piece, which is far more developed.

My children are not yet at school age, but this article is tremendously helpful and humbling for me, as I begin thinking about how we will homeschool our children - and even as I think about my day-to-day interactions with those in the church. Thank you for writing this.

I SOOOO appreciate this article!! I never got the impression he was saying all homeschool families are this way and I didn't even get an inkling that he was saying do not train your children up for The Lord. I actually thought he was MORE conservative than I'd prefer. ;-)

I was homeschooled my whole life, and the majority of homeschoolers I knew across the country would have fit into this article pretty well - alot of the ones in my own church were more like "Let's see how worldly we can be and still homeschool" :-p :-)

Thank you Dolores for your insightful response. I feel the same way. I have seen many children of missionaries and pastors who truly serve others grow into wonderful caring Christians in their own right and turn around and become servants themselves. As others have said this should be directed to oppressive, restrictive parents period. Not just homeschool families.

Joshua Moran, I am curious if you have seen the web site http://ezzo.info/ which raises concerns about Growing Kids God's Way.

I *love* the self righteous, judgemental comments.

Yes, homeschooling can turn out great, and at other times it can not, and yes maybe the article should have been more focused on over-controlling, legalistic parents than just homeschoolers. But if your focus is merely on how the principles don't apply to you and how perfect your model of parenting is, then you're completely missing the point.

As a formerly "perfect, model, homeschooled" child, I completely agree with this article. While I don't blame the way I turned out at all on my parents (it's my own choice, and I am confident in who I am today), I kind of wish my parents could have read this article... but I know my dad would have scoffed and said sarcastically, "Maybe we should let them go to public school and watch R rated movies then!"

That's it! I quit baking bread. Seriously, I did quit baking bread several years ago just for the reason the lady in the article mentioned; I wanted more time with my kids. We switched over to a bread machine and the kids make it themselves.

I appreciate Mr. Bradley so much. My husband went to hear him speak at the Florida homeschool conference and came away with lots of good advice. thank you for writing this and thank you Josh Harris for sharing it.

I wish my mother could have read this article. I know she's wondering where she went wrong.

The single most useful movie i ever saw on parenting was a George C. Scott vehicle, the R-rated parable _Hard Core_. A graduate of Calvin College adapted the parable of the prodigal son, and mapped it against the grids of five-point TULIP Calvinism, and the porn industry. The central character was a rigid dad who assumed he could make the results turn out as desired by controlling all the variables. Big fail. Bottom line: it's not our disciplined controls that make our kids turn out all right, it's only God's grace. Granted, we still do our best, but we don't trust in our best efforts, but in the God Who alone is sufficient.

The other things our family did for a while was "adopting" Turkish grad students. We befriended these charming young couples, had them into our homes for meals, ate with them, and enjoyed their company. When your young girls embrace a Muslim lady as a surrogate big sister, that underscores such things as grace, election, etc. These wonderful, kind, and caring people are not, at this point, on the road to heaven. The road to heaven is not a function of being wonderful, kind, and caring, but of God's electing grace. OTOH, since God has brought them into our orbit, He wants us to pray for their salvation!

I think every family needs to have something beyond itself to live for.

quote" Joel Stenton | September 13, 2011 9:42
in my 30 years of ministry I have yet to see home schooled children that impressed me very much. In at least two cases I can think of, with very conscientious and rigorous home-schooling parents, all of the children have ceased being believers!"

You're attributing this to home schooled children alone.
What about the kids who are schooled elsewhere?
I have seen this across the board, not just home school but public school, christian school, etc.

As far as church goes I see two problems.
Churches entertain the kids in Sunday school, and when they get in to Church with the "adults" they are no longer entertained. So they leave.

Psalms 127:1a (KJB)
EXCEPT the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it:

The main problem I see in our society is that Churches, Homes, Schooling do not have the Lord as their builder but man. Oh we include the Lord's teachings but we do not let the Lord build it.

Dolores, I just had to say, children aren't ignorant of what sin is, which is why the scripture speaks of teaching and training. We are born into this world as sinners, and sin is deep in our hearts. It is who we are, without Jesus. Every child on the face of this earth, is very familiar with sin. A common mistake I think people make is to think sexual sins, or drugs and alcohol abuse are the sins we need to protect our children from, the bad that's out there ready to devour them. But consider, sin is a whole lot more. Sin, encompasses every thought and action outside of Jesus.

Just a brief note on a small detail of Tom Smedley's comment above: if you're thinking of watching the George C. Scott movie referenced, be warned that it is _extremely_ explicit in its depiction of sexual depravity and the porn industry, so much so that you may not want to see it. It's a good story, and Scott's portrayal of the rigidly Calvinistic dad is brilliant, but oh boy is it ever hard to watch.

Great article. I just wanted to mention that while the epistles specifically mention modesty once, outer adornment is mentioned again in 1 Peter 3:3. There the admonition is to be careful how we dress, remembering that it is inner adornment that really matters.

As one nearing the end of my home educating/family raising journey, this was a reassuring article and one that gave me some encouragement to not grow weary. I am getting off here and will be e-mailing all my kids with some words of love. I will make a special mention of how much I like them tonight when I tuck my two remaining teens in their beds.
SK

And the award for "Furthest Logical Leap" goes to...

We homeschooled for years and Reb Bradley was one of the authoritarian models we emulated. We ended up with two prodigals in therapeutic boarding schools -- and more heartache to us and damage to them in the years between -- but God has graciously restored them to us and Himself.

I wrote some articles after the Lydia Schatz tragedy, in which I tell of our own repentance from these destructive parenting traps, and describe some of the ways God did His miraculous work of restoration.

http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/stand-with-an-open-heart-what-frog-and-toad-can-teach-us-about-what-lydia-schatz-might-have-said/?preview=true&preview_id=1662&preview_nonce=65ef610eee

This is an excellent article. The problem with parents on both sides of the divide is that they over generalize everything. Idolatry is equally prevalent in both models. The homeschooled kid later says when he is a parent, "My kid will not be one of those stereotypical homeschooled kids..They are going to experience the freedom I never did..." or they just say, "Nope, I am going to put them in public because I don't want them to grow up like I did." They fail to realize that the problem was not with the model of education but with what they were taught in life. Don't public school your kid because you are afraid of them being pharisees and don't homeschool them because you're afraid they will be defiled.

As a public high school teacher in a major urban city, I read Bradley's article with great interest. "Blindspots" is indeed a balance to a subject that not only receives a healthy dose of positive responses, but also seems to have become trendy in evengelical circles. Bradley highlights the major homeschooling concerns from the vantage point of one who's learned some tough lessons, and is sharing them for our benefit. In no way does this piece stereotype every homeschool family, nor is it a clarion call to abandon homeschooling.

Regardless of school model - public, private, homeschool, etc. - teaching is tough. Period. Parents who choose to homeschool their children take on the tremendous responsibility for the academic and spiritual education. Each model has its advantages and drawbacks, and no one model has a "Cinderella" effect on a student. (Intriguingly, non-homeschooling teachers have to take on the roles of teacher, counselor, psychologist, nurse, parent, police officer, role model - in very short chunks of time each day.)

To the commenter who likened the public school system to a lion's den: I agree with you that it is much more chaotic and stressful to teach in our current educational system. But I'm sorry that you feel that way overall, for within that chaos are some of the best educators in America. Also, I get the joy of exposing teenagers to literature and history with overt Gospel themes - not much else beats hearing an impassioned discussion on how Elie Wiesel should have kept his faith in God from a kid who's been incarcerated. I get to be compassionate and tender towards students who come from abusive, troubled, or uncaring homes. Without making bread or pinafores.

Thanks, Mr. Bradley, for the insightful piece. I had to chuckle, though, at the grammatical and usage errors. "Line-up", as hyphenated, is not a verb. It's used more as a noun.


I have to say that this is one of the best articles on homeschooling I have ever read. My parents are great, but I have seen many other homeschool families that are run by fear, rather than love.

When I was four, my mother taught me how to read. Ever since that time I have never been told what I am allowed and not allowed to read. In fact, I have not been sheltered much at all. I read everything from "the Clockwork Orange" to "Catcher in the Rye" and have not once been told that I was reading anything inappropriate.

I took a job as a dishwasher when I was sixteen as well. I met people who had tattoos and were quite rough, some of whom I consider to be my friends. I am quite certain that if I had told my parents that I wanted a tattoo they would have let me. I just never wanted one.

I would like to add that at times, homeschooling parents believe that they need to follow a track similar to traditional schools. This is completely unnecessary. When I graduated, I had written maybe eight papers throughout the entire time I was being schooled. I make A plusses in college english now.

I was homeschooled and am finishing my second graduate degree. This article is incredibly accurate. In fact, I don't believe that I have ever read a synopsis of problems in the homeschooling world like this.

As others have emphasized, not all homeschooling families have these problems. In the last decade as homeschooling as become more mainstream, people have utilized homeschooling as educational method for reasons other than religious beliefs and many do not fit the conservative, separatistic mold. Even in conservative circles though, many families do not have the extensive problems that some assign to them.

There is, however, a strong homeschooling faction that does practice much of what Mr. Bradley regrettably did. I grew up around many of these people although thankfully my family never went down many of their paths. Like others have noted, this is not strictly a homeschooling issue. The moralistic gospel is rampant in evangelical circles; it is a gospel based on performance, not on the Christ's work that has already been accomplished. One thing I appreciated about my parents is that they never bought into the latest tangents with the strong enthusiasm that some did. They were (and are) members of an evangelical church and kept their eyes on the bigger picture.

People sometimes ask why my homeschooling experience was positive. For me, it revolved around these two points regarding my parents: first, my parents loved me unconditionally. They didn't always like everything I did, but never made my performance a condition for their love. It's difficult to overstate the importance of that. Second, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams even when I got "cold feet" or when it was hard for them (sending me off across the country). They didn't take the easy road. They knew that I had to live my life and become my own person. My parents aren't perfect, but at least in part because of those points, I've had a wonderful and open relationship with them.

The author fails to mention one other possible reality: that his perception of the right way to raise children might be only "a" way, and not "the" way, and that adult children can legitimately come to different conclusions than their parents did, without it being a reaction to some error the parent made. Sometimes we post-homeschool adults just do things differently.

This is a nice start. I would like to add 2 broken pieces.

1. Love your children, and tell them Jesus loves them.

2. There are (people) that are sold on the thought that even education is not important and the primary concern should be that our children are "aware of their sin". They are missing hugh
parts of the primary years of learning.

I have grieved with many religious parents and their childrens, over some of these issues. There is nothing like the repentant sobs of a parent and a child that "comes home"

As many have stated, it is both naive and inaccurate to tie the issues listed here to homeschooling. I have seen these issues in the lives of children/families who have been in Christian schools just as frequently, if not more frequently, as I have in the homeschooling community.

Joel Stenton seems to indicate that homeschool children in his church have "ceased being believers" and I would say this also represents a profound failure of the church as well to help these children understand what they believe and why.

The issues listed are indeed issues in all of Christianity, and the core problem is that children, whether they are schooled at home, in a Christian school or a public school, don't have a Christian worldview. They've never been taught to take Biblical truth and apply it to a challenging situation. They have grown up in church, in a Christian home, surrounded by Christian friends, and they've been exposed to positive peer pressure to be like their Christian friends and do the right things. That all changes when suddenly they are in a crowd of people whose values are different from the values they grew up with. They are lost at sea without a compass.

I attended Christian school and was homeschooled. My husband attended public school and Christian school. His parents were extremely lenient and mine were a lot more strict. We both had a couple of years of serious rebellion. Now, we both agree that the most important thing we will teach our children is how to apply God's truth to the decisions they are faced with in daily life.

Ultimately, it is only God's grace that keeps any of us--adult or child--from "going off the deep end." And thanks to that grace, many who stray, including David, a man after God's own heart (I wonder if he was homeschooled...), realize the error of our ways and find both forgiveness and restoration.


Thanks Mr. Bradley,

Very well said. These ideas will now stick with me as I've started on this parenting journey with our kids who are 1, 2, 2, and 4! :)

Thanks for sharing your wisdom! It rings true indeed.
Kari E

Excellent article that ALL parents should read! It doesn't just apply to homeschooled kids because I was never homeschooled and I can go right through that article and recognize all those "mistakes" my own parents made. Some of those mistakes still have lingering resentment, of which I am still learning to forgive.

A friend of mine posted a link to this article on facebook and seeing how I am a homeschooling mother, I just wanted to say thanks. This article will have me prayerfully reflecting for some time!

Very well said. I don't have children and I wasn't home schooled but can see how these issues can arise in ANY Christian home. God cares so much about our heart motivations and we are all in progress. So much need for grace in parenting and in ANY relationship. I am so thankful to have read this today.

What a great article! It seems peope are very defensive and critcal, but there is a lot of truth to what is said. I did not get an anti-homeschool vibe at all. If we can't learn from the older and wiser, we have a lot of pride, which the Bible tells us will lead to a fall. We need to humble ourselves and search our hearts.

Great article and I am slightly amused as I refer back to the section where Rob says "Typically, when we belittle others who don't measure up to our standards, we will also imagine others are judging us. Consequently, we will find ourselves frequently being defensive".
As I've read some of the comments from people who disagree with Rob, I see many of them are very defensive even though Rob has taken a very humble approach in addressing these sensitive issues. One old evangelist used to say "just fire into a pack of dogs and the one who is hit will howl!" I hear some 'howling' going on in these comments as the truth is hitting close to home!

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