We often think of educating our kids at home as “home school”. That is what most of us, myself included, call it. Is that really what we are talking about or at least what we should be talking about? Is our goal education or schooling? That is an important question because education is not the same thing as schooling. Not in any way, shape or form.
Schooling has a goal, an end point. You finish schooling when you have achieved certain criteria, in our culture defined as attending for a certain number of years, completing the requisite “grades” by achieving a minimum standard in certain areas (reading, mathematics, history, etc.). When you get to the twelfth grade, you are done with school unless you decide to go to college which is really an extension of high school that you pay for. You still have to take certain classes and complete enough of them to advance in standing until you have a sufficient number of credits to graduate. This can go on indefinitely to avoid having to get a job and move out of your parent’s house. Schooling hypothetically imparts knowledge. That sounds great but there is a very real problem with knowledge. You can be very knowledgeable and have a great deal of schooling and yet be an utter fool. Conversely you can have an eighth grade education and minimal knowledge and be wiser than many.
Education, in contrast with schooling, is a process without an end point. Education walks hand in hand with wisdom more than knowledge and unlike schooling where at some point it is decided that you are finished, the more educated you become, the more you realize how little you know and how much you have yet to understand. Being educated has a component of knowledge to it (there are some basics you need to know) but it goes far beyond mere accumulation of knowledge. Education also doesn’t require a school building or a professional teacher or a textbook. Much of what I have learned over the years has come outside of a classroom or formal schooling setting.
Does this matter or is it just quibbling? Am I dealing in semantics? I think it does matter, at least enough for me to get up out of bed, come downstairs and start to write about it at 11:30 when I should be sleeping. When we examine our goals for our children, are we trying to make sure they get enough schooling or that they are educated? The two are clearly not synonymous!
Knowledge and the accumulation of it can easily stray into vanity and pride. It is an end in and of itself. The pursuit of knowledge is its own reward and is also highly desired in the world. Having the right knowledge and the proper schooling is one of the keys to “getting ahead”. It can move you in the social strata from one level to the other. The poorest person who works hard and gains the right level of knowledge can change their social class in a single generation. Being knowledgeable opens doors.
Wisdom and understanding are completely different and are achieved in a completely different manner. No amount of schooling will give you wisdom. Wisdom is not something you get a diploma for nor is it something that you will be able to demonstrate by letters after your name or a fancy robe to wear to commencement ceremonies. Wisdom has God at the center. There is no wisdom, none, that does not start with the recognition of God. It is only when we understand that we are creatures, created by and for a sovereign God, that we can begin to gain wisdom. Knowledge fills us with self-importance. Wisdom fills us with awe of our Creator.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with obtaining knowledge. There is something very tragic about knowledge that is used to puff yourself up, to lord yourself over others, to be a source of pride and vanity in yourself.
All too often, we seek after knowledge in the Body of Christ. Whether it is in emulating the goals and methods of the secular schooling cabal or in seeking leaders with knowledge in the form of advanced degrees instead of wisdom, our eyes are set firmly on the idol of knowledge. Worse still, we pass that idol from the world on to our kids. It is unthinkable for many of us that our kids might not need to go to college: “But if they don’t go to college, they will not make as much money!” We have bought into this notion that our highest calling as a parent is to prepare our kids to make as much money as possible so that they can buy anything they want, live anywhere they want and vacation anywhere they want. We know how foolish that is, we parrot back the mantra that money cannot buy you happiness and we refer to the passages in Scripture that warn again the love of money and the desire for possessions. Yet we march in lockstep with what the world tells us is important. The result? Generation after generation of adults raised in Christian homes that mimic the values and desires and lifestyle of the world. Even when the church gathers, the quaint Biblical notions of humility and service and simplicity are erased, replaced by comfort, entertainment and religion.
I think we need to get away from “home schooling” and focus on “home education”. When someone asks us where our kids go to school, instead of “they are homeschooled”, we should say “we are educating our children at home”. We are not and we cannot replicate “school” in our homes. Nor should we try or even desire to do so. If our desire is for our kids to get schooling, we should send them to school. If we desire for our children to be educated and to be wise, that is the last place we should send them! Any schooling that doesn’t start and stop with Jesus Christ as Lord is nothing but vanity.
To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth-- Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:2-9)