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March 16, 2006

Old School

"Out of Ur" is a blog put out by the folks at Leadership Journal, a publication of Christianity Today. A post of theirs from March 14th was an interesting look at the Christian perspective on the education of our children. Given the various choices--public, private, homeschool--how do you decide? A pastor wrote in with his thoughts and he looks to an unlikely source for guidance; the culture of 1st century Judaism. No pat answers, but some pretty interesting observations.

I’m not sure our school choices today are all that different than the religious options of 1st century Jews. I’d like to draw some parallels. There were four major sects in 1st century Judaism: the Essenes, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the Pharisees. Each of these sects interacted with the Roman culture differently. I see a similar pattern in how families interact with the educational options of metropolitan America.

He touches on how each of these group interacted (or not) with the culture, and how (or whether) they tried to change the culture. Being a homeschooler (actually, we are or have been all 3 types of schoolers mentioned, but have leaned towards homeschooling), I'd like to comment on his homeschooling parallel.

The Essenes lived in communes away from the influence of the Roman occupiers. Their philosophy of cultural interaction was to stay as far away from the surrounding culture as they could. They simply didn’t like what they saw. The parallel I see is with parents who choose to homeschool their children. They have looked at the options, and they have chosen to exclude their families from that aspect of cultural interaction.
If you think that homeschooling means you have no or little connection with the surrounding culture, you don't know homeschooling. Homeschoolers often participate in many extracurricular activities, where they come in contact with the culture and socialize with their peers. They still get educated (with higher scores than the average student), but they aren't exposed to all the excessive peer pressure and negative influences we're reading and hearing about more and more in the public school system. Now, if removing or reducing those influences while providing a superior education make homeschoolers "Essenes", that's not a bug, that's a feature (as we say in the computer field). But it's not nearly the cloister this article suggests that it may be.

Posted by Doug at March 16, 2006 08:36 PM

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Good points, Doug. Our homeschool ISP's last two fieldtrips were to the California Science Center and the March Air Field Museum - hardly excluding ourselves from society.

You might want to check out the new website Regenerate Our Culture, for a look at how talented, young homeschooled students are involved in actively engaging our culture.

Posted by: Rusty at March 17, 2006 09:50 AM

Great site. Perused it a bit, and especially enjoyed the Lord of the Rings article as well as "Rhetoric, Reason, and Reality through Literature".

Yup, homeschooled kids can be fully engaged. Thanks for the examples.

Posted by: Doug Payton at March 17, 2006 10:32 AM

To me the issue is how you look at children. Are we to send them into the lion's den as cultural missionaries starting at age 3? Or can we train them to recognize right and wrong and make wise choices first, then send them out? The goal is still to influence culture. However, it appears wise to some of us to train our troops before we send them into battle.

Posted by: bruce at March 19, 2006 08:20 AM