A Voice for Homeschool Christian Textbooks

I read your article in the Mom’s Corner on using Christian textbooks in the homeschool.

I deeply appreciate you writing that. I’m always reading articles that balk at using textbooks in the homeschool with the idea that children don’t really learn.

Well, I fell prey to that and have tried many different curriculums, unit studies, you name it. But, I typically wasn’t able to get it all together like I should have. When I did, my children didn’t respond well to it. So, all my hard work in searching for something “fun” and putting it all together myself was in vain. I have tried so many different things and wish I had stayed with the traditional Christian textbooks since I just keep coming back to them anyway.

After thousands of dollars spent on trying different methods and curriculums, I’m back to Christian texts, where I plan on staying! 🙂 I wish I knew then when I started homeschooling what I know now . . . I’d have saved a lot of money and wasted time. A homeschool mom

We hear few voices in the homeschooling community supporting, encouraging, or defending the use of traditional, Christian textbooks. I wrote a Mom’s Corner two years ago about our experiences through years of homeschooling with various curricula. I was overwhelmed with the gratitude that was expressed by moms who had felt guilty for using textbooks in their homeschooling because there is little, if any, endorsement for their choice. As in the earlier Corner on this topic, this article is for those using traditional Christian textbooks or for those who are dissatisfied with the homeschool method they are using. For others, this Corner doesn’t apply to you, and we would suggest you not read it. We don’t want this article to discourage anyone in the way that anti-textbook articles often discourage a textbook-using homeschool mom.

It is common to pick up a homeschooling book or magazine to discover it is speaking negatively about the use of textbooks. We are told we are creating a “school-at-home” atmosphere by using books, something they say no homeschooler should do. In the chapter or article, homeschoolers will be encouraged to make their schools fun and enticing so their children will enjoy learning. They are told that their children will naturally want to learn if the schooling is directed toward the areas of the child’s interest. We hear about the importance of reading whole books to our children rather than textbooks. All of this appeals to our motherly desire for our children to be happy. In the process, though, it often, perhaps inadvertently, puts a great burden of guilt on a mom who doesn’t choose to homeschool like this.

Homeschool Textbooks Prepare Children for Life

Steve and I have realized that we have a different philosophy for our homeschool than many of these other homeschool authors apparently have. We want our homeschool to be a vehicle to prepare our children for life. This life that we envision for our children when they are adults will entail diligence and perseverance. As adults, they will often be called upon to learn something that isn’t particularly interesting to them. Even if something they learn catches their attention, the educational aspect of the topic will most likely not be exciting or enticing.

Our Christian textbooks are the perfect tools for achieving our goal of preparing children for their adult lives. There will be parts of the textbooks that appeal to the children and parts that they dislike. The children will catch on to some of their textbook work quickly and easily, while other sections will be difficult and tedious. We want our children to be able to learn under all these circumstances because this is exactly what they will face as adults in a grown-up world.

Using a traditional Christian textbook approach to homeschool allows our schooling to be consistent. I have received many e-mails from homeschooling moms who use other homeschool methods and are always pushing harder and harder to make school fun and exciting. When Mom’s energy level falls, she feels like a failure because she isn’t able to supply the enticement that makes the children love what they are doing. She wears herself out gathering information, supplies, planning her studies, and looking for better materials to help her keep school such that her children will be delighted with it. In this scenario, because Mom is often exhausted and discouraged, school regularly ends up being skipped, with the children playing, while Mom feels guilty and retreats to other less demanding tasks.

With the textbooks we use, we simply move through them day by day, making slow and steady progress. I don’t have to make continual trips to the library and other places for fresh school supplies. I can focus my energy on our actual schooling because we are at home. School doesn’t depend on whether or not I have had time to plan for it. We just do whatever comes next in the book. I am not required to come up with creative presentations to keep the children interested enough in their school that they are willing to do whatever Mom has for them to do. We just do school every day.

School is Consistent with Homeschool Textbooks

We have found great accountability for our homeschool in traditional Christian textbooks. Without this accountability, it is easy to skip school for almost any reason that comes along. However, we want to finish our school books by the end of our school year or even before, so we count the cost of missing a school day. With our textbooks, even on days that I need to be away for one reason or another, the children can still accomplish the majority, if not all, of their school work. They know what to do, we have been doing it consistently, and they can do it on their own.

Traditional Christian textbooks have given our children a strong education. This is partly due to the regularity of our schooling and partly due to the textbooks themselves. Because textbooks present their material in a structured, repetitive manner, the children are receiving an excellent education. It has appeared to us that often there are “holes” in other homeschooling methods. We used unit studies for almost ten years of our homeschooling. Our older children have repeatedly told us that they believe their younger siblings have a better-quality education than they had, although we diligently covered all of the material suggested.

Even using Christian textbooks, we are cautious of the influences they will present in our children’s lives and look for the right texts for our family’s needs and the direction the Lord has set for us. For example, our children have chosen not to have dating relationships. One Christian high school level English book had a dating theme, so we eliminated it for our family. We prefer to spend our time in Bible reading and ministering to others rather than in sports. Therefore, we don’t want a major sports theme in the children’s school books, although we have found this hard to avoid altogether. We have seen worldly and silly selections in some Christian reading and literature courses. We have instead chosen the reading courses without those focuses.

Our Christian textbooks have helped us fulfill our goal of keeping our children innocent regarding evil. We don’t want to introduce them to false religions through their school studies. “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise” (Deuteronomy 12:30). “. . . I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). Many homeschooling materials will study false beliefs in depth with the idea that the parents are to point out what is wrong with them. We see Scripture telling us that we are not to learn about them at all. Christian textbooks will give some general information about false religions in history books, but we have found it is easy to edit, with white-out, what is unacceptable for the children to know at their age. We feel it is appropriate for them to read that the Egyptians worshipped false gods but not that they know names and details of those religious practices.

Managing Homeschool Textbooks

Despite using Christian textbooks, I still need to invest time in our homeschool. I spend several hours a day meeting with each child individually-from a half hour to an hour per child-going over their schoolwork. We will read the math lesson together and work the new practice problems. We read the English lesson and make sure that the assignment is understood. Anything the child needs help with or that I want to make sure he understands, I go over with him during that time. In the afternoon, I have time set aside to check the children’s school work. For five children, this takes me a total of about an hour to an hour and a half. I also spend time during the summer dividing up our textbooks and making assignment sheets to be sure we complete our books within the number of weeks we will be doing school.

When I was brave enough to realize that I didn’t agree with so much of the writing and talk in the homeschool movement about what was a good way to homeschool, I discovered the joys of homeschooling with Christian textbooks. My hope for this Mom’s Corner is to support those who have chosen a traditional, Christian textbook approach to homeschooling. I would also like to recommend this homeschooling method to moms who are dissatisfied with what they are doing for their school. We love our textbooks, and they are accomplishing our educational goals for our children.

Since this article was written, we now have a book titled Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling. The book is full of practical information about the nuts and bolts of homeschooling, along with a chapter written by our four oldest children.

Whose Mouth Is it?

Mary was having such discomfort from her teeth that she was only eating soft food due to the new palate separator that had recently been “installed” across the roof of her mouth. The orthodontist told us that it would not hurt her at all, so we decided she ought to be taken back to have it checked.

The orthodontist affirmed that the appliance appeared normal. One option offered was to remove the palate separator for a while and then reinstall it. The other option would be to stop turning it for a week and then slow down the daily adjustments from a full turn to a half turn. Teri thought about the choices. She said she preferred the break from turning and trying to adjust it more slowly than to go through the removal and reinstallation of the appliance.

To Teri’s surprise, the orthodontist turned to Mary and asked her what she would like to do. Mary said she wanted to do whatever her mommy thought best. Compounding Teri’s surprise, the orthodontist continued, “But, Mary, it is your mouth. What do you want to do?” However, she never paused long enough for Mary’s answer nor for Teri to help her understand Biblical authority or even the laws of the state regarding the care of a minor. She went on to agree with leaving the appliance in and adjusting it more slowly.

What the orthodontist said was true. It is Mary’s mouth. Most adults would quickly realize, though, how absurd it would be to expect an eight-year-old child to have the wisdom necessary to make this kind of decision. Even Mary knew she was ill-prepared to make the choice on her own, and that is why she deferred to her mommy.

Imagine for a minute what it would be like in your home if instead of teaching your young children to listen to your direction and instruction, you encouraged them that they were their own person. They should make their own decisions as long as they abide by the law. Think about the havoc it would wreck on their lives and your home.

The children would stay up until all hours of the night doing whatever they wanted to do. Feeding them would be horrid because they would only want to eat what sounded good to them. Every child would want something different to eat.

Forget about being able to educate the children. They would not want to learn anything if it required effort. Their lives would revolve around whatever their flesh wanted, since they would have the freedom to make all their own law-abiding decisions. However, they would lack the wisdom to make the right decision. Anytime they were challenged concerning a poor decision, the response would be, “Wait a minute. I’m free to make any choice I want to make. That’s what you have taught me. You can’t tell me it’s wrong. I’m not breaking any law.”

I wonder if the above scenario isn’t similar to a popular teaching among Christians, even conservative Christians. I believe this teaching has hindered the effectiveness of Christians in reaching a lost and dying world. What could that be? It is the promotion of our freedom in Christ. How could such a wonderful truth be so disastrous to the church? Why discuss something like this in an article where the underlying goal is to encourage Christian fathers in their leadership and role in the home?

The reason it is a beneficial topic is that if our freedom in Christ is our focus, it is important to see what we will reap in our Christian walk and in the lives of our children. How sad the barren harvest this teaching has sown. Will you reap a similar harvest in your home also? Will your life, and your children’s lives, be ineffective for Christ? Let’s begin by looking at what I believe Scripture tells us our focus should be. Then we will contrast that with a harmful focus on our freedom in Christ.

If we aren’t to focus on our freedom, what should our focus be? In Romans 1:1, Paul introduces himself: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” Paul refers to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. The word servant in the Greek is doulos. It means a slave who has permanently subjected his will to another.

Looking at Paul’s other introductions, he most commonly refers to himself as an apostle (Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, and Titus 1:1). In the Greek, that word is apostolos and means one sent forth. This carries the definition of one both under the authority of another and on a directed mission. Paul primarily saw himself as a servant on a mission directed by his Lord Jesus. Paul’s focus was not his freedom in Christ. On the contrary, his focus was subjection to the One Who sent him to serve.

It is no surprise that Paul saw himself as a man with a mission for his Master and didn’t emphasize his freedom in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:23) because that is how his Master, Jesus, was. Jesus repeatedly told us that He only did and said what the Father told Him to do and say. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).

“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:28-29). Jesus didn’t seek to exercise His rights, but He followed the will of the Father.

“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:28-29). Not only did Jesus obey the Father, He took it to the next step and always sought to please the Father.

Jesus is God, and He is wisdom personified. Any decision He would have made on His own would always have been just and right. Yet on earth, He only did and said what the Father told Him to do and say. It wasn’t because He needed it this way, but it was to be an example of how we are to live for Him in His service. “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).

As God, Jesus did not call on His freedom, but He laid it down for the Father’s will. Paul’s focus was similar in viewing himself as a servant on a mission for His Lord. Yes, Paul had freedom in Christ, but he laid it down at Jesus’ feet.

This issue of whether to focus on freedom in Christ or whether to focus on being a servant is so important for us as parents as we consider its impact on our children. Every time I have heard freedom in Christ used as a reason why something is permissible, it has to do with catering to the flesh. It provides the “perfect” escape and “permission” to follow the flesh. I have never heard someone say it is their freedom in Christ to serve more rigorously or to deny themselves in some way.

If Christians make decisions based on their freedom in Christ (meaning their right to choose), we can expect to see similar outcomes as when young children make their own decisions. In the same way a young child cries, “Mine!” many Christians are crying, “It’s my freedom in Christ!” The focus is clearly on self, versus seeking what Jesus, the Lord and Master, is directing.

May we be agreed that if we are saved, then we are servants of Christ? We are here to obey and follow Jesus’ direction for the glory of the Father. As parents, if that is our attitude regarding our Christian role on Earth, we will be modeling for our children the same heart that Jesus and Paul had. There is no focus on what our own personal choice is in a matter, but only a desire to know the mind of Christ and His will for us. Life becomes simpler if we follow His leading.

Do you desire to be a family that is effective for the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, then focus on being a servant and not on your freedom. Jesus will direct you into ways of service that will have an impact on your family, neighborhood, city, state, and country. Man has no real wisdom on his own regardless of how intelligent he believes he is. No matter how good our ideas are in how to use our time, it is nothing compared to how Jesus will use our time if we will yield to His direction. Our freedom (liberty) is to be used in serving others, not ourselves.

Galatians 5:13: “For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”

Posted in: Dad's Corner