Wednesday, June 15, 2011

...on the need for exclusivity within a homeschooling co-op

As tongue-in-cheek Martin Lawrence asked, 'Can't we all just get along?'
I say, sure, we can. And I believe that it is possible to do so, while still standing on and by our convictions.

I've started homeschooling my son this spring. Recently, on one of the homeschooling yahoo groups that I have joined was a post about a possible co-op forming. The location was still being decided on and I was noticing that many people were suggesting their church as a possible location. This led me to ask the question about whether this co-op was going to be Christian and bible-based. The response that I got from most was that it too, was their preference for the co-op to be Christian-based, but that they didn't want to exclude anyone. And that whereas we could have Bible studies in our co-op, not all subjects have to be Christian focused, like sewing, art and well, cheese-making (I know, funny, slightly odd last example, but that's what someone wrote!).

Then there started posts about how this group should be and IS inclusive. (Not sure if “this group”) meant the yahoo group or the possible co-op, but still.

My response to this is whereas I cannot (and am not trying to) necessarily shelter my child from all the realities of life, that home and school is where our children receive (training on) their worldview. And that it's not wise to have different msgs on the worldview you are trying to teach. I want to teach and instill application of biblical Christian values and it's my opinion, that this just doesn't only happen at home, but in all the daily situations we find ourselves in.

Prov 22:6
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”

How God centered are we if we say (and act) that God is only to be found, or sought within Bible study, not in Yes, sewing is not necessarily a CHRISTIAN-activity, but I show my Christianity to non-Christians and to my CHILDREN in the approach to all of these activities I do. For example, in sewing something (or teaching my children to sew), I can stress the importance of working in excellence for God, to finish a project and diligence, or to even sew a dress as a Service Project for a little girl in Africa? It's the PROCESS and APPROACH that comes from our worldview that is shown in every little thing we do. And yes, even if it is cheese-making.....

Deuteronomy 11:19
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

It's the heart behind an activity. It's even the heart behind the curriculum. I developed a curriculum not just to get my child “smart” and prepared to get a job (or as I read from another blog, “to be more than a skilled barbarian”). I developed a curriculum that would prepare him for life, that would develop him into a person that God could say “well done” to. For example, I just wouldn't teach math so that he learns math....but teaching math in the sense so he makes wise financial decisions in the future, for his future and for “his children's generations after him” -- that's a biblical principle about setting your crops and fields so that your children's children can be cared for.

And along on this thought, what about a code of conduct or disciplining when you have a mixed bag of beliefs. For example, when my son misbehaves, we explain that not only is “said behavior” not nice, but mommy, daddy AND GOD don't like that and it needs to stop. Again, it's the motivation behind everything. We are trying to teach that it's not just about “well, I won't steal because I have been told it's not right”'s more than that. It's about teaching our children to do or not do something because of God's thoughts on it. This would be similar to doing something because it's legally wrong, or because it's just plain, ethically wrong. Makes sense? Also, in this “mixed bag of beliefs” situation, will the non-Christian parent flip out because I mentioned the “God” word and their kid overheard and now it's brought up at the dinner table and (gasp) the parents have to “deal with that topic”. My honest thought, if you feel you have to wrestle/stumble with a topic in teaching it to your children, you might have some uncertainty or issues with the topic yourself. For example, are you queasy just thinking about approaching the subject of s-x with your children? Are you uncomfortable with using the proper anatomical terms when potty training your children? Have you heard the statement that if your young adult child cannot say the appropriate and proper words that this is a sign that they still probably are maintaining a level of immaturity and it's a definite sign that they are not ready to engage in those situations? (And fyi, I am being purposely indescript about the words I am referring to here as I don't want this post to be inadvertently flagged...)

As Christians, we are called to be examples and this is not just on Sunday. By my own actions, I am exampling to my son this idea and whether it's at home or at co-op, he is being trained in what it means to be an example to others.

Matt 5: 13-15
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In a Christian environment (such as a co-op), the children are learning to what extent they need to be “exampling”. For example, I don't allow (or rather, at my son's age, I don't dress) my children in name brands/gangster wear such as FUBU, RocaWear, Applebottoms, Sean John (nor do I purchase or accept clothing that has the logo on children's bottom, has skulls/crossbones or suggestive in their manner - “diva”, “I love money”, “I'm a little stinker”, “I'm mommy's little monster”....) because of the subtle suggestive anti-Christian messages they give and what they represent. In a co-op, just like at home, I'd expect the environment to reflect this commitment we've made.

“You are young, but don't let any person treat you like you are not important. Be an example to show the believers how they should live. Show them with the things you say, with the way you live, with your love, with your faith, and with your pure life.”
1 Timothy 4:12

Also, the question that is begged --- How logistical is this anyhow?? Say I am part of a homeschooling group that has non-Christians, Jehovah Witnesses and Muslim families.....wouldn't the following situations come along:
a) non-Christians don't want to participate in morning prayer/devo
b) Jehovah Witnesses don't want to celebrate birthdays
c) Muslims want the co-op to close during Ramadan....

In these situations, am I to give my son a mixed msg of what our family values and don't value? Wouldn't my attempts at instilling these convictions into my children be watered down or not taken seriously (for example, when he sees the non-Christian kid not praying during morning prayer)? So my child learns “value flimsly-ness” and no integrity behind my words because AT THIS EARLY STAGE he's not surrounded by it in both very important areas: home AND SCHOOL. What am I telling my kids?

Yes, we can't wear blinders in every situation and there will be things that my children will randomly see, say at a trip to an amusement park...and those are “teachable moments” in my book. My aim is not to necessarily shelter them (sheesh, the Bible doesn't really shelter in its words), but my aim is definitely to lessen the exposure to these things and increase the "good things", especially in the learning environment. And again, isn't that the whole reason we choose to homeschool in the first place? This is not to say that we only participate in fully-Christian extracurricular activities (for example, I started a soccer playdate and it's inclusive, not just Christians).....but what I am saying is that in those situations, I can take my exampling, my son's teaching/disciplining/whatever on as it rises situation - because YES I am aware (shocking as you might think) that the world is not full of Christians. But when it's a MAJOR area, like SCHOOL - where he will be going at least 40 times a year -- yes, I'd like that to be as Christian as possible.

I wouldn't go to a Buddhist temple for 40 weeks a year just because I might see Buddhists as a “gentle” sort of group and “like to be among this”---- it's a totally different culture from my family and their motivation for that “gentleness” is different from my family's motivations. I am not making a judgment on any culture or religion. I am saying that that's not our choice for our family.

So overall, YES, as Christians, we are to love one another and that's means to the sense of being approachable, extending ourselves and NOT being hurtful to those not-like-minded. HOWEVER, scripture does say the following:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
1 Cor15:33

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
2Cor 6:14

And so with that....these are the reasons that our family is choosing, without apology, to homeschool our children AND to commit our time and efforts within a Christian/Bible centered co-op.

I will (aim to) build my children's (value system, curriculum, daily experience) on the rock and not on a flimsy foundation that is filled with belief cracks and doctrinal dips.

Matt 7:24-27
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

And again, because I can just see my inbox will be flooded – I am not making a judgment on other belief systems and whether they are right. They are not right for our family. Bottom line.

In the absence of your own personal convictions, you will be convincing your child of things you possibly don't want them to be taught.

That's my own quote and my own belief.


  1. Excellent post, well said! I completely agree and commend you for what you believe and stand for.

  2. Hi Lynn -- thank you so much for your comment and kind words and encouragement!
    in our children.

    It's so interesting with God's timing for I was looking to join a co-op, saw the yahoo group option come up and with this experience, it's been really on my heart to just start my own Christian one. God has definitely given me an "entrepreneurial" spirit that will be put to use here for my family and others. And so that just might be what I will do.

    thx - Ellen

  3. Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for the post. It is great to feel such energy and enthusiasm in a new homeschooling mom! Given how vital your faith is to you and your family I think you are quite right to stick to your beliefs. (I share this faith too incidentally!) I look forward to hearing more from you!
    P.S. Don't be afraid of canning - it's a lot of fun!
    P.P.S. I like Centsational Girl too!

  4. I totally agree with you. I think in this day and age, there is too much pressure to be politically correct and "tolerant". I don't think we should compromise when it comes to our children's upbringing and education.

  5. As a Christian I agree with most everything you have said. Here is where I have a problem with the "Christian" co-ops...when we get into defining who is Christian and who is not. You mentioned Jehovah's Witnesses. They are a Christian religion so why shouldn't they be allowed in your group (because their belief of not celebrating holidays and birthdays is different from main stream Christianity-since when does celebrating birthdays make you Christian or not?). What about Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Unitarians? What about Catholics-v-Protestants? That has been an issue in the local co-op in town (as well as Mormons and Unitarians not be allowed in because they are not Christian enough...whatever that means). I feel like it is a very sticky situation when we start trying to decide who is Christian and who is not. I would say there is not a problem with having a Christ centered co-op, but when you start getting into deciding who is Christian and who is not then that becomes a problem for me. It would make sense to me to form a Christian co-op and decide as a group how you want to implement things such as prayers, scripture study, birthday celebrations, etc. and whoever can abide by that may join. Just because for example a Jehovah's Witness family joins doesn't mean that they need to participate in birthday celebration as long as they understand that they won't be able to keep the others in the group from having those celebrations. It seems to me that sometimes these groups become more of a Protestant co-op or an Evangelical co-op rather than a Christian co-op. There is a very big difference in the two. Protestants/Evangelicals don't have the market cornered on Christianity.

  6. To Anonymous -

    First, I find your thoughts, beliefs and convictions as intriguing --- but more so along the lines that you did so as "anonymous"....I say put some backbone and meat (aka, a name) to yourself and put on a cloak and hat of integrity.

    Secondly, I define Christian as Jesus followers and those who follow the bible. Such religions as Mormonism (whether they call themselves Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints or the Church of God....) and Jehovah's Witnesses --- are not CHRISTIANS. And I am speaking from experience, I have been involved with those religions, Mormonism, first-hand and JESUS is no where to be found!
    I can go on and on, but overall, being Christian and in a Christian co-op is more than coming to an agreement about whether we celebrate birthdays. You missed my overall point of the "life approach" and focused on my minor examples.
    And I wouldn't become part of anything that people had to use their fingers to quote as in (" ") i.e, this is a "Christian" co-op. I'm not into being a pseudo or quasi-anything. Nor raising my family as such.

    Thanks for your comments though.

  7. I've/we've been part of lots of co-ops over the years some with statements of faith to sign and some without but still Christian the non exclusive groups those without such beliefs were still able to join and participate but they knew beforehand that our "bylaws" if you will (no statement to sign) were Christian and still chose to join. They were mature enough to know they couldn't throw a fit if God was mentioned,etc and we all had a great time! It can work .... I agree with your basic premise but I also know if the group is small it can be a ministry to those who have been hurt by the church in the past or are seeking Him but don't know it ;), or those who may consider themselves Christian but aren't truly. As in larger groups there are those who are able to sign and say all the right words but aren't necessarily saved....


Thank you so much for sharing your heart!