Tag Archives: public school

Little Boys, Young Men and the Church

Earlier this week, I came across this article by David Murrow which discusses why young men seemed to have abandoned the church. As the mother of a five-year-old son, I spend a LOT of time thinking about how I want my son to grow up, how I hope to share my faith and what kind of history I want him to have when he leaves home to make his own life. The idea that something is ‘chasing’ young men away from the faith piques my curiosity. Along with several other issues, Murrow lays the responsibility for this phenomenon at the feet of female youth leaders and the accompanying tenor of their groups which, he says, alienate young men and Sunday school programs whose design either ignores or oppresses boys’ inherent make-up.

Murrow says that Sunday school systems are geared toward girls/women in that they require verbal, social interaction in which girls usually excel and boys sometimes don’t . He says that the system itself is hostile to how boys learn…  Hmmmm- as a homeschooler, this sounds familiar…

Sunday schools ARE systems based on government school models. Children are separated from their parents, age-graded, and are set homogenized tasks that are generally acknowledged by some outward reward like stickers or points. Now, I think there are some very nice things that children can learn in Sunday schools, but as a homeschooler, I have a hard time defending a system that is not Biblical (there are no Sunday schools in Scripture) and is based on a system that I believe is inherently flawed.

Give it your best guess- is this a Sunday school class at church or a government school class?

Sunday schools do not personalize a discipleship program geared toward each boys’ unique abilities and interests, just as government schools don’t personalize the academic education of their students.  Why would we expect a system that doesn’t work on even an academic level to have deep impact on a spiritual level? Just because Christian materials are used and people of honorable intent do the teaching doesn’t mean there will be significant differences in outcome. If the best students are generally held back by the lowest common denominator in public school, doesn’t it stand to reason that the same thing would happen in any public school based educational system? Sunday schools don’t encourage kids to excel or to explore deeply as God leads. That’s just not how the curriculum is designed.

Murrow goes on to say that women-led youth groups which focus on feelings, emotion, and expression alienate young men. Whether women should be teaching or in leadership positions over young men is a different post entirely (lol!), but the idea is the same as it is in Sunday school: where is this kind of discipleship- this kind of spiritual training- found in Scripture?  It’s NOT. There is no such thing as youth culture in scripture. The Bible doesn’t cast young people as a strange breed of human, separate from the main body of believers (or unbelievers) and needing special (and often ridiculous, twaddley, insulting) programs to introduce them to Christ.

So how *are* boys and young men designed to hear and respond to God?

C’mon, homeschoolers- we know this, right?

God designed people to learn in *families*. Children learn how to be fully socialized, integrated adults (of each gender) by modeling their behavior and ideas after their parents and the other trusted adults in their intimate family circle. For a Christian family, the child is introduced to Jesus through family-based evangelism, that is, the parents/adults model a relationship with God and encourage the child to make a decision to follow Jesus for himself. The actual relationship is between God & the child (oh, how like dear Charlotte’s assertion that the teacher must not interfere with the young student’s interaction with an author’s great thoughts!).

Boys learn to be men by watching their fathers, uncles, brothers and trusted family friends being men. By being *with* their adult male family as they minister, study, fellowship and lead at home, in the church and in the wider community. This is how God designed human beings to learn and is fully supported by those Deuteronomy 6 verses we Christian homeschoolers love so much.

Imagine a church in which every boy  is personally discipled by his father (or a primary surrogate if his father is not present for any reason) and several other strong Christian men. The young man ministers along-side his father when his father responds to some need in the Body, he has continuous opportunity to discuss personal issues with his mentors and to receive guidance from them, and he has authentic relationships with these mentors so that his true personality, gifts, weaknesses and callings are apparent to them. He can’t hide or be polite- they KNOW him and they love him. As this young man grows and becomes a man himself, he is accepted as an equal- fully integrated within the Body as an adult member.

Multi-generational, God-loving, world-changing... and oh so manly!

Young men aren’t abandoning the church/faith because they don’t like talking in Sunday school, or because youth group worship songs are too sappy or because they don’t get their flesh tickled enough by the girls at church- young men are abandoning the church because the church is utilizing non-Biblical methods of instruction. The problem isn’t that the church doesn’t understand ‘maleness’, the problem is that the church doesn’t understand God’s design for family-centered discipleship and, therefore, young men haven’t been taught how to BE men in the church.

If we want to see young men staying in church and influencing the Body in wonderful ways, we have to make sure families worship and learn together so young men know how to BE the church as they come to maturity. We have to return to New Testament styles of worship and discipleship and we have to recognize that God’s design for family is perfect for bringing children up into Him…

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What Lucy Found There- examining the lay of the land

I married Brian in the spring of 2003, three years after having graduated from college. That fall we decided to start a family, but
found (as so many of us do) that deciding to start a family and actually being able to do so are two different things. In the fall of 2006, after the
miscarriage of our first child, Calan, and the stillbirth of our son, Anduril, we were blessed with our son, Alex.

Alex was my ‘balm of Gilead’. His person, his existence, soothed my aching soul. I live every single day in gratitude for him (and for
his sister, Fae, who joined us in 2009). After all we’d gone through to have a family, after all the heartache, pain and struggle, I held my little one in my arms. The joy, the privilege, of this child made me all the more aware of my responsibility to him. Now that Alex was here, I needed to figure out how I was going to ‘live up’ to the gift of being his mother (isn’t God so good to us!?! He blesses us from His kindness beyond what we are ever able to deserve)…  My husband and I had already determined that I would always be with our children. They would not be sent to daycare. We would make whatever sacrifices were necessary to keep one of us home. So my mind began drifting toward how we would eventually educate Alex.

See, by nature I’m a planner. I’m the person who makes lists, who goes over contingency plans, who actually made a minute-by-minute
itinerary for her wedding party because it just had to be perfect. I can be intense sometimes and can get to a point where I feel panicky if my plans begin unraveling… But I think the Lord has loosened me up a little. Kids will do that to you…

So when Alex was six months old, I began researching homeschooling. I went to Amazon and found the top rated books about it. I read (about 35 books total), began visiting websites and began reviewing curricula.

Best general description of homeschooling on the market

I felt that most books about homeschooling fell into two categories: practical know-how and philosophy. Many of the practical know-how books were out-dated. Resources lacked websites, using the internet wasn’t mentioned- but I felt they were a good peek into the genesis of homeschooling. I stumbled upon a book called “The Homeschooling Option” by Lisa Rivero. This book gives, in my opinion, the best overview of reasons to homeschool and skillfully answers the most common arguments against homeschooling. I also came across Cathy Duffy’s “100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum” which I’ll discuss below. These two books are my ‘go to’ recommendations for anyone considering homeschooling.

On the other hand, are the ‘philosophical’ homeschooling books. These include Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s “For the Children’s Sake”, “Better
Late Than Early” by Ray & Dorothy Moore and John Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down”. These books highlight the educational and moral whys of homeschooling instead of the practical hows and whats. The ‘philosophical’ book that had the most impact on me was “The Heart of Homeschooling” by Christopher Klicka.

Christopher Klicka is on staff at the Home School Legal Defense Association (some people love them, others- not so much). I found his “Heart
of Homeschooling” very personal and insightful. In it, Klicka discusses Biblical reasons families choose to homeschool. I’d had general beliefs about keeping my children close to shield them from negative influences, but had never considered that I may have an actual Biblical
responsibility for my children’s education. Through Klicka’s discussion of Biblical parenting, I was able to clearly see a call on my life to be my
children’s primary teacher. As Klicka wrote, we may be able to give over our authority for our children’s education to someone else, but we can never be absolved of the responsibility for that education.

Biblical discussion of homeschooling

God gave our children to us. We have been uniquely gifted not only to guide our particular children academically, but to be first in their discipleship into a saving faith in our Lord. After all, who loves our children more than we do? Who knows them better? Who has the insight about their particular history and who understands their daily struggles better than their parents? Undoubtedly, the Lord provides many ancillary teachers for our children, other adults who they encounter episodically in church, clubs, teams, family get-togethers, etc. But parents
are the constant. We are there from the time they are born until (Lord willing) they have reached adulthood.

We are called, friends, to be daily and constantly relating our faith to our children. We are called to bring their attention toward the Lord always, as life happens around us. This ‘atmosphere’ of faith in which we are to bathe our children is the ‘womb of faith’. It is where the conception of our children’s relationship with the Lord happens. This is an awesome and delightful responsibility. We get to be there with our kids as they are cognitively and spiritually encountering the world for the first time. What a joy and a gift! What blessing for the parents who have ears to hear and the eyes to see…

This responsibility weighed on me and, with my structured personality, I felt at home with boxed curricula. I wanted to make sure nothing was missed in my child’s education. But, it was about that time that some of my reading challenged the idea of a ‘perfect’ education. I began to see that there is no standard U.S. education. While there is a Department of Education both federally and on the states level, and while there are organizations like the National Education Association who offer advisory counsel about educational choices, there is absolutely NO set, standard curriculum that every child in the country will follow through school. Each school district, under the direction of its state’s requirements, sets its own educational program for their school district. This is why some kids will never read Shakespeare, why some kids will never take a keyboarding class, or driver’s ed. or home ec. or a U.S. government class. Every school district teaches their kids a bit differently than other school districts. Each state requires different things from their schools.

Now, there may be general progressions and certain things it is assumed all students know upon exiting high school (after all, U.S History
class will likely mention the discovery of the American, George Washington and the Civil War), but beyond basics, there can be wide variations. There is simply no set body of knowledge everyone agrees one must have to be considered educated. This may have been old news to
seasoned homeschoolers, but it was revolutionary to me! And this revolutionary idea freed me to think outside the box(ed curriculum) about what kind of education would really be best for my family.

Much more than a curriculum list

So that’s when I ran into Cathy Duffy and her wonderful book. This book is not only a critique of what Cathy considers the best of the best in available homeschool curricula, it also includes material on understanding the different kinds of homeschooling that exist and which materials one might use to achieve each type of homeschooling. Brilliant! I’ve never seen another resource like it. The author who writes a stand alone guide to understanding one’s own goals for one’s children’s education and helps the reader decide on an approach will make millions, I tell you…

My husband and I carefully and thoughtfully completed the sections on our own and then compared notes. We had many desires for our children in common and found there were some things that were more important to one or the other of us. And to our surprise, we’d both scored very high for preferring a Charlotte Mason type education…

Now, I’d read the words ‘Charlotte Mason’ before, but I knew next to nothing about it. Previously, when I needed to know that nothing was
going to be ‘missed’ in my children’s education, Charlotte Mason had seemed incomprehensible to me.  There were no check lists, no easily defined method to ‘Charlotte Mason’ a kid. So I’d dismissed it as some esoteric ideology that I didn’t have time for. I needed a check list, darn it! But now Cathy Duffy was telling me I was ‘Masonian’ at heart, so I had to begin researching. I turned, once again, to Amazon and eventually ordered Karen Andreola’s “A Charlotte Mason Companion“.

A wealth of inspiration & information, creepy Victorian children aside...

I will admit that the lacey doilies and Victorian children line drawings were kind of off-putting. I’m not a lacey doily kind of person. I thought that maybe Cathy was wrong. But then… then I started reading… And my heart sang. Here it was at last! After two years of research, here was the kind of education I wanted for my children! Nature, art, music, scripture, the very best literature, poetry, languages, character development and personal connections with the greatest minds and stories of the past- this, this was what I’d dreamed of!

And so I began falling down the rabbit hole into what I believe is the Lord’s calling for my family…

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