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November / December 2005

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It's time to be wise

J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association

Now, perhaps more than any other time in history, it's absolutely imperative that as people of God, we exercise godly wisdom. We are bombarded daily by a culture that is deceptive and seductive, even for the most mature Christians.

We all know God is the true source of wisdom. The book of James promises that if we will seek God's wisdom, He will provide it generously. The prerequisite is to ask, seek, and knock. Ultimately, the wisdom of God comes from His Word and, by application, the Holy Spirit speaking into our life.

A major issue facing the homeschooler today is the public-school-at-home option that is now available to almost every homeschooler in America.

Way back in 1988, an enterprising school district in El Dorado County, California, came up with the idea of "helping homeschoolers": parents were offered money to enroll their children in the district's "Independent Study Program," now commonly called an ISP. The district received state and federal monies for each child, a portion of which was "shared" with the parents. As this "win-win" concept spread across California, districts began offering more services . . . and exercising more control over curriculum.

In 1991, Minnesota passed the first charter school law, intending to offer more choices for public school parents, more opportunity for students, and encouragement for creative teachers. California followed suit in 1992. By 2003, 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico all permitted charter schools. It didn't take long for innovative individuals to think outside the classroom—and thus cyber schools, or "virtual charter schools," were born.

The pitch being made to homeschoolers today is that you can continue to control the education of your child at home while receiving money to cover curriculum, computers, and extracurricular activities. You can confer with a certified teacher and at the end of the day you'll have an "accredited" diploma.

HSLDA has consistently warned parents, especially religiously motivated parents, against enrolling in public-school-at-home programs because of the long-term threat to the private homeschool movement.

Private homeschooling has been successful because it is separate from the government schools—in other words, decentralized. Public schools at home are a movement back to centralization, with the government being able to impose its control over education because of the money parents receive.

What's the wisdom issue? It gets back to the "Why are we homeschooling?" question. The Christian's goal in education is to prepare his children for heaven.

Godly wisdom begins with the fear of God. The fear of God is more than a healthy respect for Him: it is the recognition that God will provide all the needs of those who seek first His Kingdom.

Godly wisdom says that in spite of the obstacles ("I'm tired, I have feelings of inadequacy and doubt, my children have reached high school and the courses seem too complicated, and we don't have enough money"), if we'll seek God first and make the purpose of our home education program be training up our children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord, He will provide.

Godly wisdom says that the family was ordained by God and the responsibility for the training and education of children is with the parents. Since God has placed that responsibility on parents, what He has mandated, He will support.

What's our goal for the education of our children? Heaven. Let's resist the worldly wisdom that urges us to submit ourselves to an education that either ignores God or points our children away from God. Rather, let's point the way toward God by training our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and God will provide for all our needs.