I believe that homeschooling is a necessary component of advancing the cause of liberty and as there has always been more criticism of liberty than support, it is no surprise that homeschooling and homeschoolers are attacked at all levels. I have heard many objections to homeschooling over the years, especially (and unfortunately) from Latter-day Saints. So, in a series of essays (this is essay number 2) I hope to explain, by using the scriptures and modern day revelation from prophets, apostles, and other general authorities why each of those objections has no foundation on Gospel principles and why Latter-day Saints in general should reevaluate their mistaken positions on homeschooling.
The Self-Denigrating Objection:
* I am not capable of homeschooling.
* I would never be able to know what to teach my children.
* The education of children should be entrusted to professionals.
Nearly every LDS homeschooling parent I know was not homeschooled himself (or herself) and did not plan to homeschool his own children. Over the last couple of decades, however, homeschooling amongst LDS is becoming a more common mode of education. There is no doubt in my mind that this increasing trend is the result of an outpouring of the Holy Ghost among those LDS parents who are humble enough to receive their own personal revelation regarding the education of their children. After all, how many of us have actually prayed over what type of education to provide our children? Most of us were raised to believe that you go to public school until you are 18, since that is what we did, so there really isn’t any question in most of our minds as to how our children should be educated.
Chances are if you are toying with the idea of homeschooling, that idea derives from a Higher Source and your job is to listen and find out if the Lord wants you to make homeschooling a part of your family life. Deciding to homeschool is no easy task, but it is one which will have eternal consequences, so listening carefully to find out if the Holy Ghost is inspiring you to homeschool as a prerequisite. And, once you confirm that the reason homeschooling keeps popping up in your head is not just a whimsy of your own mind but a legitimate feeling that God is trying to communicate to you, follow your prompting.
I come into contact often with LDS mothers who tell me that they have been thinking about homeschooling their children for weeks, months, and even years, but have not followed this inspiration because of their own lack of confidence in their ability to provide a home-based education. I call this doubt the “self-denigrating objection,” and unfortunately it plagues legions of good LDS mothers who know deep down that they should bring their children home for their education.
The Source of the Self-Denigrating Objection
Receiving a prompting to homeschool through the gift of the Holy Ghost is no different than any other spiritual prompting. The Spirit will whisper it to you, at many different times generally, and then Satan will approach to cause you to doubt the inspiration given. Every time the Holy Ghost expresses a truth through revelation, Satan is not far behind with his naysaying.
“As we plan to follow the Savior straightway, Satan may try to dissuade us by making the task look impossible, by making us doubt our worthiness or ability.” Marvin J. Ashton, Straightway, Ensign, May 1983.
Satan instantly attacks mothers (and fathers) who are pondering over homeschooling by convincing them that they are unable to homeschool. He tells these mothers that they do not have the proper training or education to provide their own children with an adequate home education. In our society in which everyone is indoctrinated to believe that the education of children can only be carried out by professionals specifically trained for that task, it is easy for Satan to cause parents to believe they cannot educate their children at home.
“What if I don’t teach them everything they need to know?” “I have no idea what to teach.” “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t have a curriculum.” Etc. etc.
You have to expect that the doubts will come, but the Lord has given very specific advice on how to deal with such doubts. “O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27). Similarly, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” (D&C 6:36).
Thus, if homeschooling keeps coming into your mind, but you keep convincing yourself you cannot do it, look to Christ, believe, doubt not, and move forward. Easier said than done, but nonetheless, that’s what you have to do.
But What Should I Teach?
The scriptures and modern prophets provide the guidance on what we as parents should teach our children in order that they obtain a good education. Firstly, we are commanded to teach our children “the doctrine of the kingdom.” (D&C 88:77). This includes the foundation of learning about Christ and his words. Any solid education must be founded on the Fountain of Truth.
Secondly, in educating our children we should emphasize a focus on the classics. Gordon B. Hinckley gave this sage advice: “You know that your children will read. They will read books…magazines and newspapers. Cultivate within them a taste for the best. While they are very young, read to them the great stories which have become immortal because of the values they teach. Expose them to good books. Let there be a corner somewhere in your house, be it ever so small, where they will see at least a few books of the kind upon which great minds have been nourished” Gordon B. Hinckley, Opposing Evil, Ensign, Nov. 1975. President Hinckley’s advice is spot on with the Lord’s admonition to the early saints: “yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)
What are the best books? Those, as President Hinckley explained, which have become “immortal because of the values they teach.” Examples include the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Les Misérables, The Count of Monte Cristo, Jane Eyre, the Greek and Roman classics such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Tacitus, and Anna Karenina just to name a few. There is no specific list of great books and your list may include works which mine does not, but a good standard to apply is to incorporate only those books that are worth reading more than once because they help you to become a better person.
How Should I Teach?
This question can only be answered by the Spirit. Every child is different. Every child has individual and unique challenges and strengths as does every parent. In homeschooling your children you must become partners with the Lord in the endeavor. He knows exactly what your children need and so long as you are willing to listen and then implement His wisdom you will ensure that your child gets the exact education he needs.
You Can Do It
The Lord has told us to doubt not and be believing, and such counsel is appropriate to apply in the case of the LDS homeschooling parent. Listen to what he is telling you and move forward with faith, and by so doing doors will be opened and what seems an inestimable task of homeschooling will become one of the greatest blessings of your life.