The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “If anyone else thinks he has reason to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Phil 3:4-6).
Listen to my own analogous “brag-list pedigree”: My wife and I have nine children, we have been home schooling for twelve years, we are committed to courtship, have trained our children in citizenship and preparation for marriage, are deeply involved in our local church (almost all children in our church are home schooled), prefer apprenticeship over college in most circumstances, and drive only American cars.
There is an attitude which I see a little too often in the home-schooling movement which I call the “homier than thou” attitude. There used to be few enough home schoolers that the mere fact that you were home schooling gave you the opportunity for spiritual bragging rights. There are now enough home schoolers out there for some spiritual one-upmanship to begin to take place.
This is how the “homier than thou” attitude works. “Home schooling is good, but the really quality home schoolers do__________.” There are a myriad of bragging points that can be filled in this blank: really quality home schoolers do unit study, or use a certain brand of curriculum, or belong to a certain national or local training program, or study classical literature, or bake their own bread, or do home births, or refuse vaccinations, or refuse Social Security numbers, or do not participate in church youth groups, or do not own a television, or do not use birth control, or … The potential list is endless.
My point is not to condemn any of these different approaches to home schooling or to training our children. My wife and I are fully committed to many of these “bragging points.” What I hope to avoid for myself is the attitude of being “homier than thou.”
Vickie and I may be more experienced home schoolers because we have done this for twelve years, but we are not necessarily better at it than someone who has done this for one or two years. We certainly have special challenges with nine children, but it is still a very challenging undertaking to home school one, two, or three children.
Unfortunately, the “homier than thou” attitude is growing inside of the home-schooling movement. We simply have to do our best to squelch it in our own lives as individuals.
I am not saying that we should refrain from ever expressing an opinion on a controversial subject. If anyone wants to ask me why I am fully committed to courtship rather than dating, I will gladly and enthusiastically explain it. But I hope I do it in a way that is absent of pride and ultimately merciful.
I was recently reading the book of James in my personal devotion time when a passage stood out to me for the first time. You know that one of the important themes of James is to promote the concept that “faith without works is dead.” James is really hard on people who try to believe the right things but live their lives in a manner different from their professed beliefs. James is a hard-core book. But in the midst of this book James writes: “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13).
The longer I walk with Christ, the tougher I try to be on myself. I do my very best to hold myself to very high standards of excellence. However, the longer I walk with Christ, the more lenient I have become with people who do things differently than I do. I am glad to try to walk with such people and will often encourage them to see things my way, but I strive to be gracious.
As home schoolers, we need to be tough on ourselves, and more lenient with our fellow home schoolers who have certain distinctives.
Let me really go out on a limb. Even though I think that home schooling is the greatest form of education, and that any parent can do a great job if they are willing to work hard, and I think that Scripture teaches me as a Christian father that this is my obligation to my children, I refuse to tell anyone else that it is a sin for them to fail to home school. There is only one Holy Spirit and it ain’t me. And it ain’t you either.
We need to be gracious people to home schoolers and others alike. We need to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Really spiritual home schoolers refrain from being “homier than thou.” Let’s be gracious people.