Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Religious Exemption

How "religious" do we have to be to choose homeschooling for religious reasons?

Last fall we were able to opt Logan out of kindergarten based on his "non-readiness." In truth, he wasn't ready, not because he couldn't read or write his letters, but because he was reading like a 5th to 8th grader, was doing very well writing like a second grader, and was beginning 1st grade spelling. We couldn't envision him in a K class working on the elementary issues he'd mastered by a long shot, so I chose that option--since it was the only year we would be able to delay our public school choice. I needed more time to think!

Now I am facing down August with concern and conviction. We can send in our first annual "Notice of Intent" to homeschool (keeps Logan off the truancy list), with an explanation of his curricula, and our educational qualifications, then test him every year, and submit his scores to the State. But, frankly, I believe my right to homeschool is so fundamental to our core that these details are not the State's business. The more time I spend in the homeschooling world, the more I feel a real spiritual Call to educate our children at home.

That word, "Call," is a religious one for me. I am beyond concerned about our government, which endorses abortion, being in charge of my children's education. I am beyond upset that political agendas (either way) make their way into the classroom. I am ever-more convinced that the best environment for my children to learn in is with their sibling(s) and their parents.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia we have the option to send in a Religious Exemption form, which gives us the freedom to educate our children at home without State intervention. Ours is the only state which offers this option. For that I am so grateful! I whole-heartedly endorse Bob McDonnell for governor, and Ken Cuccinelli for Commonwealth Attorney General because I believe they will help maintain this unique Virginian right.

I must confess, the longer we get into this "alternative lifestyle," homeschooling, the more reasons I find for choosing this path. Elemental, however, is our religious reason. My son, in particular, is very easily swayed by a crowd. He needs a solid foundation of ethics and morals to be taught & reinforced at home, and we are the best capable people to give him that groundwork. He is very intelligent, but spiritually immature. I am so concerned about this heavy peer influence in his life, that his father and I have spent hours discussing the best course for Logan.

For us, it begins with The Fruit of the Spirit. It isn't enough to me to just say to my child, "Do good because Good is good." I believe in a Divine Creator who wrote the Law on the hearts of men. I believe we must study the words of our Creator to understand how we ought to live best. The world may say, "Hey! All religions have these common themes, 'Love one another,' and, 'Be united,'" but I do not see that as the message of Christ. He says he is THE Way. The truth. The life. It is my obligation to give my children this Truth first, above anything else.

If, once they leave our home, they decide not to live the way they have been brought up, that will be their own responsibility, but we will teach them about a God who loves them and has a unique Purpose for their lives!

In today's public school children have 40 hours of secular education a week followed by a few weekly hours of "religious training" at church or home (where parents have a faith practice). How is a Christian parent to compete with that? I'd prefer the opposite ratio. Let 10% of his time be communing with his friends in the neighborhood, after they've come home from school, rather than that time being stolen from his family, after he's already been gone from us all day!

Barna Group reports that, statistically, the children of Christians are falling away from the fold in record numbers. It's no secret in our communities. Churches are bending over backwards to be more appealing to teens, but they are failing, because they are competing with an enticing world. Why isn't God, Himself, the Creator of the colorful poison dart frog and the dripping wet rain forests, awesome enough to "entice" them to believe? Because the static of the world crowds out His voice. Barna reports that teens feel, "disengaged." Sure they do! There is a unitarian approach to all faiths, in school, which makes them seem the same. Or, there is no education on any faith at all (since if you talk about one, you have to talk about them all...). This is already leading to biblical illiteracy which affects the understanding of historic books that site biblical stories as allegory. Rich poetry. Shakespeare! So much literature from the past must be read with an understanding of Scripture (both Old & New Testaments). When we remove biblical education, we remove depth from children's comprehension and understanding of the beautiful works that have shaped us throughout all time! Forgiveness with Joseph. Redemption with David. Promise in Abraham. Hope in Jesus!

Frankly, I'm pretty proud of my Jesus, and I'd love to watch my children grow to know and love him like my husband and I do.

To me, family is the base. Here is where our children ought to be raised. We make a lot of mistakes, you know, but the beauty is that they are admitted in humility, forgiven in fellowship with one another, and turned into life lessons for us all. As a homeschooler, I grow! I may have less "me time" than other women, but I do not believe my Life Purpose is to focus on myself.

Not everyone receives this Call to homeschool. I do not judge those who opt to put their kids in public schools. They are different from us, and their children are made of different mettle. Our family and our kids, however, embrace this life, religiously!

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Proverbs 22:6

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