Missional Homeschooling

Before all time, the Father determined that He would send His Son, Jesus, to consummate all of creation in Himself. Jesus obeyed His Father in all things, being born as a human child, in complete humility and vulnerability. He lived perfectly in total reliance on the Holy Spirit, at the proper time preaching repentance and faith, powerfully testifying to the Father through signs and wonders. Obediently, Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Three days later, by His own power, He came back to life from the dead. After Jesus was resurrected and after he had spent significant time schooling the nascent church, as He Himself had been sent, He sent His church on a mission, and sent the Holy Spirit to empower them for that task until the end of time, to the very ends of the earth.

As Jesus was sent, and as the Spirit was sent, in like manner, the church has been sent. Therefore, the church exists missionally, sent by the triune God to carry out the mission of making disciples of all nations. Wherever the church exists, it exists for the sake of the world, as a sign and proclamation of the kingdom of God. As Christians, everything we do relates to the nature of this Mission given to His church. We all are missional beings living in Spirit-ual fellowship. As a church, we either do this well or we do this poorly, but we cannot help but to do it. Our redemption necessarily (de facto) fulfills this missional part of God’s purposes for humanity. Some call this incarnational ministry, but I think missional may actually represent it better. We are not the incarnate Son, but we have been sent by Him, and we represent Him. Moreover, we don’t do this primarily as individuals, though we are individually responsible; we do this as a body, as the church.

Homeschooling is no different. 

I think it is important that we think through homeschooling missiologically and theologically. As important as the political, social, educational, and cultural reasons may very well be, we must not get caught up in the practice of homeschooling and then fail to pursue a purpose that is actually in accordance with a biblical worldview. We must ask very hard questions of ourselves; we must examine our motives and re-focus our agendas. No, I’m not trying to spiritualize the practice (enough of that is already being done unawares!), rather I am calling us to think as critically about homeschooling as we are asking our children to think about quadratic equations, geography, and rhetoric.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No EvilThe purpose of homeschooling is not to withdraw from the bad, bad world. Rather, any form of education has its primary end in directing a soul to give glory to God in every sphere of life. And God is most glorified, as Piper tells us, when we are most satisfied in Him. Can we not study plate tectonics and astrophysics and give glory to God for the great beauty and mind-boggling complexity of His created universe? Can we not also give Him glory in exerting deep, and sometimes difficult and challenging, inquiry of the same subjects? Does it not also glorify God that He has created and designed the human mind to discern the information and intelligence laced in the very fabric of the universe? What of linguistics, mathematics, biology, oratory, philosophy and a host of other subjects? Or are we proud? Do we want our children to be loved and respected above others? Or do we want them to love and please God?

If God’s glory is the highest end, we learn to love learning because all true knowledge derives from God Himself and all truth is God’s Truth! And we learn to despise error because falsehood reveals the effects of the Fall, in the rebelliousness of human hearts and also in the Satanic world system allying itself against God. But in order to both learn to love God and to battle against sin and the Devil, we know from God’s self revelation that it’s not all about individual human minds either!

If we withdraw into ourselves, within the four walls of our own home, we are in grave danger! We need the church, and the church needs us! God not only has gifted parents with gifts designed bring the entire church body up to maturity, he also gifts your believing children. It’s not enough that your children think or believe rightly, as if Christianity was only a matter of facts and information, they must also live and love rightly. Our minds are transformed so that we can know God’s will and thereby put our gifts to use for the sake of the church and to demonstrate our love boldly towards others (Romans 12). Thus, Homeschooling can never be just about  the home!!! We live and operate too often as if getting a child out of the home and into college with their faith intact is some sort of right of passage. We celebrate high school graduation, even college graduation, as if that actually makes a person something different, as if they have arrived. I’m not against diplomas or degrees (I have three, working on my fourth), but the end goal of homeschooling is not graduation! Moreover, its not just about raising our children to be good parents. We don’t know that God will give them a spouse; and we don’t know that God would then give them children. As important as the family is throughout scripture, human families are not the end goal of the universe. The purpose of homeschooling, rather,  is to raise up a child who can give glory to God in the church and in the world through their gifts and vocation, and if they have family and children, to fulfill those vocations in like manner. Maturity isn’t measured by academic success, but by a person’s growth in faith and obedience.

Day 254 / 365 - Welcome neighbors cupcake cakeHow then can parents homeschool missionally? Missional, as I define it, means the church being the church in its given cultural context. It means engaging the culture with the life-giving gospel holistically in the very neighborhoods where its members reside. Homeschools, as embodiments of the gospel and their local church to their neighbors, are providentially placed for taking their neighborhoods by storm. You may have various reasons for choosing to homeschool, but having made that choice, allow God to use you in reaching your neighbors. You will do this by example, in loving truth and learning, but most importantly in physically demonstrating your love for others, through both actions and the verbal proclamation of the gospel. To do this here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Encourage your children to play with the neighborhood kids (your kids will need this by the way!)
  • Dads, hang out and invest in the father’s in your neighborhood. Be like a father to the kids in your neighborhood whose dads are long gone.
  • Mothers, find time to get out with other mom’s, go on playdates; have other families over for dinner.

By practically loving and engaging your neighborhood, you are teaching your kids something neither the public school nor even your church’s youth group (Note: I’m not slamming youth groups) could ever teach them–that the gospel is life!

You know what, you don’t have to homeschool to do any of these things, but I guarantee that if you do homeschool, your kids will excel at this ministry. By learning from you how to talk respectfully, how to treat others better than themselves, how to engage people of various ages, how to speak rationally and well about the gospel, your children will display the glory of God!

A big part of homeschooling is discovering the image of God in your children and polishing it and putting it on display.

Will it be perfect? NO! Will it be easy? FAR FROM IT! But will it be worth it? DEFINITELY!

There is a lot more I want to say on this subject, but I can’t write a post on homeschooling without going over 1200 words, sorry! Please leave me any feedback; things you hate about my post, things you would say differently; some practical handles on how you’ve done missional homeschooling, tips, pointers, etc.

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17 Comments

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  1. The first and most important thing we realized is that we can’t raise missional children if we are not missional ourselves. Second, we took our children with us when we served others, whether it was across the street or across the world.

    -Alan

  2. Great article. I whole heartedly agree.

    Our experience in working toward this goal has been a little different. We have not had much success in our neighborhood. The culture in our part of the world is not condusive to doing much with the people who live around you.

    We have had a lot of success by me going to a near bye high school and getting involved with Student Venture there. Some of the kids and their families get involved with my family and it goes from there. It is really a awesome blessing for everyone in my 11 member family. Since we are meeting as a church simply with the vision of seeing a multiplication movement of God’s Kingdom this works really well. I get to see my kids making disciples right along with me!

    • Darrell,

      Thanks for sharing. Being missional certainly means being contextual as well! Any tips for someone, like me, whose children are still rather young (oldest being 8)? Or any other tips for anyone else?

      • My oldest is 20 my youngest is 2. One thing I have been amazed at is how my youngest kids can be used by God just as much as my oldest. Because we develop relationships with these kids and their families there is a lot of cross generational life going on. I have seen the love of some of my youngest bring tears to the eyes of these public high school kids who before meeting us have not heard much about God but are attracted to Him through these little ones.

        Also as we pray as a family for these people in our lives the little ones can pray just like the older. So all of our kids feel a missional connection as we interact with all our friends. About a month ago one of the younger brothers of a high school student that had come to Christ this year also came to Christ. We were together when this young man came to Christ and we all hugged and wept together. My younger kids had prayed for this boys salvation as much as I had, may be more. We all had the blessing of being part of this new life, now we all have the blessing of teaching him how to follow Jesus.

        Expanding God’s kingdom together as a family is AWESOME!

        Hope that helps!

  3. Thanks for your post! I enjoyed it and found it helpful. We are in our 2nd year of homeschooling, and it would be easy (lazy?) to just hang out with our homeschool peeps and always feel affirmed about it. But I want my neighbors to know why we homeschool–not least because I don’t want them to feel somehow “condemned” by our decision. I’m not trying to say I think their school stinks–public schools around here are actually pretty good as public schools go. But we have our reasons, and I’ve had some good chances to share those in a friendly way when asked (or in answer to the puzzled looks). I do need to get better at going out to engage in missional activities, but homeschooling allows more time for that as well, way more than when our kids were going to school. Anyway, thanks again for your post!

    • Howdy Amanda!

      Having time is such a big advantage in homeschooling. Zhanara and I were just talking about how thankful we are to have the time to disciple our children in addition to having time to engage with friends and neighbors. Great point!

  4. This is good stuff. I am afraid that many of us, including me, fall into the trap of raising our homeschooled children to grow up and be homeschooling parents. That is important but it is secondary to the call to raise our kids with the expectation and equipping to carry out God’s mission in the world.

  5. I’m encouraged by this post, while not a homeschooling parent, but the missional school approach must be discussed, embraced and lived out.

    I want to affirm homeschooling, while embracing what we feel is our calling to public school. For those who homeschool, I encourage you to do so confidently, unapologetically, but also be comfortable that in American culture it is not the norm. If you do so confidently as this is best for your family, but not telling everyone else they should do it, then you are displaying your actions are based on faith in following God and not in pride in believing it is a better way.

    Questions I ponder as I see many friends go the homeschool route:
    – Does homeschooling free up more time for the parent teaching to connect with other families or does it cause more work in preparing that draws the parent away from others? I especially wonder about this with younger, elementary age kids.
    – Could part of the time homeschooling be utilized in preparing to serve and bless your neighbors/neighborhood? Are lessons being prepared in a missional mindset?
    – How could homeschooling allow for parents & their children to still bless the public school system? Many schools allow for volunteers & mentors, could older children or parents find ways to still bless the school system despite not utilizing it for school.

    I’m betting this could be a series of posts where you explore the different aspects of homeschooling and investigate where missional living could invade that space.

    Really appreciate this post, it encourages me to explore the same thoughts and ideas as we enter into public school.

    • Logan,

      Thank you for your comments and questions. Please allow me to respond to one of your statements and attempt an answer to your questions.

      I affirm that it is prideful and arrogant for anyone to look down upon others based on their chosen method of educating their children. I think every family has to make choices concerning their children’s education based on their convictions and situation. In some situations, it may be better to put your children in private school, others homeschool, others in public school. But it will depend.

      However, I do think it is entirely proper to argue for the value of one method over another. That is the heart of public discourse. I don’t think education is simply a matter of personal preference. While I’m not saying every family ought to homeschool, because I’m not (there are situations I can think of right now when I would change how we have chosen to educate our children). But I definitely am arguing that homeschool is something every family should seriously and yet critically consider. While no single method is more spiritual than the other, I believe that some educational philosophies are better than others and that is a subject worth pursuing.

      Evenso, my perception is that most people haven’t considered much about how to raise children at all, from discipline to education to sports. They live in default mode. Default mode is a dangerous place to be! I think some homeschoolers also homeschool in default mode. They think its the best way to raise their children for a host of overspiritualized, and even misguided ways. Critical thinking is needed here as well.

      So to finally get to your questions:

      (1) I think this is a good question for any parent. I think parents of young children, especially, have difficult times meeting other people. Ask any parent of young children when the last time they had a date night! But to answer your question directly, I think it depends on the intentionality of the parents.

      (2) There may be some subjects where this would be appropriate, but just as public schooled children dedicate certain time to academic instruction, this is a necessity of homeschooled children as well. That being said, I think there is room for creativity here, especially as children get older.

      (3) If a parent felt led to do this, I’m sure there are a myriad of ways. However, as it is, I bless the public school system by paying taxes, supporting the education for all classes (taxes for which by virtue of our choice to homeschool we receive no benefit; $7000/yr/child). Missional though includes primarily serving our neighbors, as people created in God’s image. There are plenty of people living in my neighborhood to serve. Again, not everyone’s situation is the same as mine.

      Thanks for your thoughts. I may post on this from time to time in the future. Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, disagreements, places for me to improve.

      Brotherly yours,

      Wes

      • Wes,

        Totally agree with you that homeschooling should be considered by all and continue to be considered throughout their children’s education. We certainly considered it and feel called to pursue public school here in New York City.

        My final question was based on some thoughts running through my head regarding the broken education system in america and how all Christians should try to consider how they can help instead of just critiquing. Specifically, we live in new york city, and in underprivileged areas of the city, the school system is horrendous. If we want to be for the city’s welfare, I personally sense a burden and conviction that scripture guides me to care for what’s broken.

        I would LOVE to continue to hear stories here on your blog for homeschooling in a missional fashion. We have a handful of families here in the city that find it difficult to homeschool and be on mission. NYC puts extra requirements on homeschooling families making it additionally challenging.

        Appreciate your words.

        Logan

        • Logan,

          Thank you again for continuing this conversation.

          As I said to another person who commented, being missional certainly means being contextual. I appreciate and laud your deep concern for the people of NYC.

          I like this statement:

          Specifically, we live in new york city, and in underprivileged areas of the city, the school system is horrendous. If we want to be for the city’s welfare, I personally sense a burden and conviction that scripture guides me to care for what’s broken.

          There is great value in Christians being in positions to make a huge difference in systems. Changing educational philosophy, inspiring educational excellence, creating top-notch curricula, providing quality teacher continuous education. Others can obtain positions within the system and change by example. And still others can volunteer time, be involved parents etc. These are all things related to Christian vocation. Believers being believers and allowing the gospel to impact every discipline or field in which they are involved.

          Good stuff!

  6. I find this article very interesting. I was raised in the church, homeschooled from 2nd grade through high school, attended an RP college, believed it all, and loved God with all of my heart. My world was pretty much a bubble of Christianity. The article said, “We live and operate too often as if getting a child out of the home and into college with their faith intact is some sort of right of passage.” My parents succeeded in this. I maintained my faith through college, overseas jobs, marriage, grad school, and work and life in the secular world.

    However, through all of this, I had doubts. Finally, at age 35 I began to study the Bible a bit more thoroughly and look at it objectively, without the rose-colored glasses that had been effectively welded to my face as a child. I realized that Christianity is not what I’d been told. I’m nearly 40 now and finally, happily, rid of the mental chains and blindness of religion.

    Although I know my parents meant well and did what they felt was right, I regret having been raised in such an isolated, faith-based world. I feel they did me a disservice, honestly.

    • Al,

      Thank you so much for your transparent response. I am thankful you pointed out the dangers of living in a bubble and not subjecting your faith to the ultimate tests. If Christianity is true, it is worthy of being challenged. And to shelter someone from the world is a dangerous thing to do. At the very least, doesn’t the legend of Siddhartha teach this? In trying to protect him from disease, age, poverty and suffering, in being exposed to them he came to reject the way of life his parents had provided for him.

      I find your choice of words interesting though. What do you mean by investing Christianity objectively? I wonder if we can investigate anything objectively. Isn’t this what the linguistic (or postmodern) turn has taught us?

      Personally I hold to a critical realist epistemology. This means that I believe that reality is external to the human mind, and that the human can have true of the real world, however, the human mind has subjective flaws, in Christian terms, this is want is meant by the noetic effects of sin, and thus my perceptive of reality is affected or skewed by its very nature as perception. So, no matter what subject I pursue, I cannot have complete, exhaustive, or perfectly objective knowledge of anything. My worldview always colors my spectacles. I need other points of view, other criticisms, to better understand reality. The bible is one such viewpoint.

      Perhaps you could share a little more about what you have learned about the Bible that opened your eyes, so to speak.

      Finally, I understand that it is natural process for everyone to audit their beliefs. Doing so at age 35 seems late, though. Usually that happens when someone is younger. Could there be other circumstances at play here not mentioned? I don’t mean to pry or to argue. This is curious to me.

      Thank you so much for responding.

      Respectfully yours,

      Wes

  7. Very well said. I would make just one suggestion. You wrote, “Missional, as I define it, means the church being the church in its given cultural context.” Our family lived in the Middle East for 3 years, studying Arabic and engaging Muslims in gospel conversation. I am now working among a very unreached Muslim group with many students here stateside. The word “missions” or “missionary” is not in the English Bible. However, which Bible character would we most likely consider a “missionary”? Paul. He said in Romans 15:20, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named”. Biblically, missions is evangelism and church planting among the unreached people groups of the world. Satan would love nothing more than to confuse our thinking regarding missions. He wants missions to be watered down with a definition that involves any ministry taking place anywhere.

    I love your article. You encouraged me today as a father of 8 who are homeschooled!

    • Brian,

      Thank you for your reply and thank you for your service. I think we do need to be very clear when it comes to our definitions, especially those that don’t occur in the Bible.

      I would challenge you to revisit your understanding of Paul and his relationship to the church, and to local churches. It is interesting, you rarely, if ever, find Paul alone, even as a “missionary” if we want to use that term. Paul’s repeated mantra is follow me as I follow Christ. Missions, if we are going to define it, must include the church. Paul was sent with Barnabas to plant churches and to encourage established churches in the gospel. I would argue that without the church, perhaps this is too strong, but there is no missions. For missions is rooted in the missio Dei, and as many have said, it is not so much the church has a mission as God’s mission has a church. I think the point is well-taken that the church is the primary agent of God’s mission until Christ returns. Paul operated this way as well, even as an “big A” Apostle.

      Also, if Paul is the ideal missionary, you must also account for his relief trips to Jerusalem, where the church was long established, his journey starting in Acts 15 to encourage established churches, and his repeated letters to those churches as much as you value Romans 15. Let us not become too narrow in our definitions. Honestly, I think this narrow definition too often weeds out the church in favor of the lone missionary, my personal opinion.

      This is because I think we must keep in mind that the Great Commission itself is misread when read only individualistically (in a very Western way). It is the church that is the recipient of Christ’s mission, a plurality. Each verb and participle in the great commission is plural. Also, the functions of the great commission are churchly, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey Christ’s commands. The Father sends His Son, the Father and Son send the Spirit, and the triune Godhead sends the church, empowered by the Spirit, in obedience to Christ, for the glory of God to accomplish his mission. Individual Christians participate in this by utilizing their giftings in and through the church (Eph 4). There is room for churches to send out missionaries to plant other churches, but for the most part, just as the Roman Empire was won (see Michael Green, Evangelism and the Early Church), it is the regular, no-name believers living the gospel in their contexts that the nations are won for Christ.

      Just a friendly encouragement to see the church in God’s mission as revealed in the Scriptures.

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