Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hornets Nest

I'm thinking out loud here, so don't shoot me. Having run youth groups for the last seven years, I've noticed several interesting dynamics, but the most recent involves homeschoolers. In fact, at a recent Youth Specialties Conference I attended, there were a couple of seminars on how to deal with homeschoolers in your youth group. What's the problem? Here's what I see with homeschoolers (and I welcome feedback and input).

1. They have learned so much more Bible and theology than other kids their age that they don't seem to know how to relate to those kids who are "Christian," but aren't as deep. At least, they can't relate on a spiritual level without being scornful.
2. Church groups are very educational for them. Learning is great, but education is best tempered by rubbing shoulders with others not the same.
3. Grace is often lacking towards others not on the same spiritual path.
4. They don't know how to speak spiritually to different levels.
5. Pride? Hubris?
6. Very spiritually mature, but not socially mature when it comes to other Christians.
7. Have difficulty having fun spiritually.

I don't see these in all homeschoolers (especially my friends who homeschool!), nor am I against homeschooling. Nonetheless, I see it enough that it worries me. As humans, we can never come to the middle, but always seem to swing too far to the opposite side. I wonder if the homeschooler characteristics I've described here aren't a symptom of that very thing.


chickadee said...

i think you might be right. i have seen this in many homeschooled children. i think in an attempt to correct the mistakes of public school we may over correct in a way that makes our children prideful and arrogant. it is certainly something we need to guard against and always remember to humble ourselves.

Twin4Him said...

Totally agree, coming from a homeschool graduate. :)
Love and miss you all!

EEEEMommy said...

I had to mull this over a bit, and now have to figure out how to respond succinctly. I'd much rather fly out to Wyoming and chat over some of Jen's cinnamon rolls & coffee! ;)

When he was in 4th grade, Ethan's SS teacher started calling him Matthew Henry, so I see some of these things coming, and have to figure out what exactly we're supposed to do about it. I'm certainly not going to teach him less Bible, but our goal is NOT to raise little pharisees!!! I don't think that being spiritually mature and socially mature have to be at odds with eachother, but when you get to the root of the socialization question with homeschoolers, the honest reply is, "We don't want that kind of socialization!" Define socially mature for me, by the way.
A friend of ours is a home-schooled 13 year old. She's no Matthew Henry (although she has a great foundation in God's Word and continues to grow in it). Still, she has a hard time relating to her youth group peers. Why? Because ALL they ever talk about is boys. She says she doesn't mind talking about boys a little bit, but she doesn't want to talk about only boys, in her words, there are other things to talk about. But since that's all her friends want to talk out, she's grown less and less comfortable being around them. Is that wrong? She's not being judgmental, she just gets bored and uncomfortable talking about boys all the time. Should she try to relate and endure their conversation? Is she socially immature?
The boy/girl/dating thing is a major thing that's going to separate in youth group. A lot of homeschoolers are "kissing dating goodbye." Not very socialized of them, I know. Other issues like music selection, movies, tv programs.... I have significantly higher standards about such things that most of my friends, my kids will be raised with those standards. Are we better? holier? Not necessarily, but it's already making it tough for my kids to relate socially during a conversation about High Musical.

Generally, my kids are typical: one goofy, dorky 10 year old son (he takes after his dad) who loves all things boy, three giggly girls who get catty like the rest and love anything girly with a little bit of soccer thrown in for fun (you should hear Elianna, she's such a valley girl, it cracks me up). My goal is to raise well-rounded kids, but they're not going to be socialized the way public school kids are, and frankly, that doesn't bother me.
I emphatically agree that we need to guard against pride, and teach them about grace, respecting others, speaking with kindness, not thinking yourself better than you are,...but I'm not sure what else we're supposed to do. We do have a lot of fun, and I can't imagine that any of my kids wouldn't be able to have fun....

But the other challenge about youth groups is that they're often designed for those in a classroom environment. Our church just recently did a 40 Day Revolution and the primary focus was being bold for Christ in your school. They had a separate sheet for homeschoolers with adaptations of the exercises, but really, the focus was on those in the classroom. The homeschool girl who was my prayer partner didn't get a whole lot out of it. And a lot of the teaching materials are catered to those in a school. The application exercises, skits, examples; homeschoolers don't relate. Even now, most of the child devotionals I peruse are written to those who go to school. It's not that there will never be application, but my kids don't go to school.
Anyway, you asked for input...
We know we're different, we're trying to relate as best as we can, without compromising, and without pride. I struggle as an adult with that!

ConservaChick said...

Honestly, we are putting our kids in public school after many years of homeschooling for this very reason (among others). I think I was more guilty of the prideful attitude than my children. With that said, I think these attitudes are a result of prideful parents not homeschooling itself. Sadly, pride IS a very prominant trait amongst homeschoolers.

God really gave me a wake up call this year. Christ didn't hide in a bubble and mingle with only the spiritual elite, neither should we. ~K

Jimmie said...

Interesting ideas here. I'm popping over from a link on EEEEMommy's blog. I don't have any answers of my own. But I do think that the problems you're mentioning are pretty good ones to have. I mean if you've got to have problems, then Biblically literate, mature youth is a pretty good one to have. Now pride is NOT good, of course. The book Shepherding a Child's Heart talks about creating the heart of a Pharisee in your children. It is a real problem. Thanks for addressing it.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, What do you mean by, "Relate?” Are you taking issue with home-schoolers, their parents, process…? It’s not clear.

Are you making the point that kids with a solid biblical foundation is a bad thing? Are you making the point that HSing parents are not raising balanced, grace-filled kids? Are you correlating prideful behavior to homeschooling? Or are you taking the reader to the next step and saying that HSing is the cause of pride? Do home-schoolers have a different sanctification process than public/private kids?

Are you referring to, "spiritual path," as the sanctification process?

Who has the responsibility to train the child; …Local educational authorities; Youth-peers; Young-Inexperienced Youth Ministers?

Do most children have the ability to speak at different levels?

What does having fun spiritually mean?

Does the middle mean lukewarm?

Are you socially immature when you can't understand a child-youth your own age, but can interact with a more mature person?

The Shindigs said...

Sorry for the "anonymous" I forgot my password... Joe

Anonymous said...

Not registered, but this is Jeff D. from Ohio. This struck a nerve, as I am pro-homeschool. Much of what you say are legitimate issues, but does the fault lie with the HS family that tries to live to a higher standard? Should the HS kid "dumb down" to conform and fit in? Or, should Christians in general rise to a higher standard? Is it the HSers that can't realte to the "normal" kids, or is it the non-HS kids that have the difficulty relating? Does the problem lie with the minority (HS), just because they are the minority? What "worries me" is this middle you spoke of. I don't think Christ called us to be people of the middle. He was NOT. True, he related and interacted with people of all walks, but not FROM the middle! Too many Christians live life in the middle and, frankly, I don't think we look much different than the world. "The middle" is were tolerance and political correctness is born. Middle dwellers tend to be those of mediocraty, perhaps even "lukewarm"? Christ was neither tolerant or PC! He loved others, but often with tough love. As I read the scriptures, He definately lived "to one side". Many of the HS differences are deliberate. I would rather attempt to raise my kids to a higher standard than average and hazard that they won't relate, than to throw them to the wolves of public school, just so they'll "fit in." As to pride, this is a legitmmate concern. However, I thnk this is largely taken care of with the maturity of adulthood. While attempts should be made to address pride, I'm not sure this is much more than other youthful immaturities, such as bullying, teasing, etc. I am not minimizing prideful issues, but youths have tons of relational issues-- I'd hate to be a youth again! My disclaimer: not upset by your "thinking out loud" and not saying HS is the only way, but I'm just thinking out loud as well!

taralynn819 said...

I would say it's possible for any child reared in a Christian family, reared "in the church" to take on these characteristics, regardless of educational system. However, I think maybe there is slightly more of a tendency among homeschoolers, for the simple reason of not having as much interaction with "secular" children. I don't fault them for that at all, mostly because they are children and it does take growing into your faith and knowledge of the Word before it can be maturely applied. (Not to say children can't apply Scripture at all because they can.)

To give my background, I went only to public school up through High School, but then graduated from a Bible college. So I am on the flipside of the perspective. Most of my youth group went to the same Christian school, but many of them (my cousins included) were homeschooled until aruond junior high. During youth activities I always felt on the "outside" of things because I was not in "Bible Quizzing" or attend a Bible class at school. My peers came up with answers to questions in Sunday School so fast that I never had a chance to think, much less respond. I felt slow, I felt intimidated, and I felt alone. I wanted to fit in so bad that I seriously thought about attending the Christian school my senior year of high school, though I didn't have the funds, nor transportation.

Now, these kids did nothing wrong in gaining knowledge of the Bible and attending a Christian school. My jealously and intimidation stemmed mostly from my own laziness (I could study the Bible for myself, how about that!), and I could find other things in which to converse with them about. However, I didn't have the guidance in the Scriptures like they did as former homeschoolers and Christian school kids, and I allowed my feelings to cause me to withdraw from them instead of try to find other common ground. I would say not many kids at this age are socially mature at all, only thriving in what they know and where they can relate best. I could not relate at all, and withdrawing was the way I dealt with it.

Then I went to Bible college. Totally different world. I finally made some good Christian friends, and it was great because we were attending Bible classes together and praying together in floor meetings! It was unlike anything I ever experienced before!

In public junior high and high school I never spoke up much because I didn't want to make friends with "heathens" who cursed and smoked and went to "parties". I was different, and while I couldn't defend who I was since I didn't have as much "Bible knowledge" I didn't interact at all. Everyone is different, and this is how I responded in those situations. Others may give into peer pressure. My response wasn't Christian, either, because I never witnessed to my classmates, nor tried to develop relationships with them because I allowed them to sicken me instead of tried to love them as God does. Thus, socially immature in that way, myself, a public schooler.

Back to college, this new "family" I found in my doormmates and professors was a dream come true! I finally connected to my Christian brothers and sisters, and I finally felt like I fit in. Well, what I didn't realize right away, is that my Bible college quickly became my comfort zone and safety bubble. We had very strick institutional rules: girls must wear skirts, students must not listen to CCM - poo!, no holding hands with the opposite sex, etc. So not only did we not have any contact with the outside secular world, but just as we were beginning to become socially AND spiritually mature, those institutional rules left us feeling more unable to relate with the world (with the goal of developing relationships with the lost and reaching them for Christ, though not to the pragmatic, ecumenical extreme). Only if you worked off campus did you speak with unbelievers. Otherwise, students mostly stayed on campus and conversed with only Christians.

I was beginning to get a sense of what my youth group peers faced in an only Christian environment. And from a firsthand experience in Bible college, it is WONDERFUL to experience all the fellowship and edification at an all-Christian institution. I grew so much in my understanding of Scripture during those four years, and I learned to relate to other believers. Yet, I didn't apply my learning so much with little to no outside interaction. There were a plethora of outreach opportunities on campus, but one still needs to take the initiative to join them. And it was much more comfortable and a lot easier to stay in my warm fuzzy dorm and giggle with my Christian friends. (Exaggerating here, of course.)

The issue changed from a spiritual and/or social maturity one to a lack of responsibility issue. I knew that I should not allow my circumstances to serve as an excuse to avoid getting to know unbelievers, especially now that I had the maturity to stand up for what I believe instead of give in to the world's lifestyle. In college there was nobody to hold my hand and make me interact with the lost. I was on my own. The difference is that the youth who grow up in an all Christian environment have the right tools, but I agree with Kraig that many don't have the maturity to reach out.

It's a very hard balance for homeschooling parents because you want your kids to be more than "kind" and "compassionate". They need to know how to deal with other kids. I know some sweet Christian kids who get picked on by others as "goody too shoes" or "sissies" JUST because he is nice. Again, that's not the kid's fault, but he needs to know how to build relationships with those very kids who might poke fun. He needs to relate to THEM. The difficulty comes when parents fear their children will become influenced by lost kids or even Christian public school kids, keeping their interaction with them to a minimum. I would say it is possible for sweet, kind, biblically knowledgeable homeschooling children to be "all things to all men" to win them for Christ. However, parents who believe their children are indeed "socially & spiritually mature" need to trust their children to God enough to risk whatever may happen.

It's SO easy to have fun and converse with believers in similar situations. It's not so easy (even for adults!) to interact with unbelievers who live much different lifestyles. At times I still want to shy away from those interactions, but I know the goal is not being comfortable. The goal is finding common ground without compromising my faith in order to encourage other believers and to share Christ with the lost. If it's not easy for adults, it's much more difficult for children and teens. But if parents give their kids the tools, they have to entrust the outcome to the Lord and not shelter them from the world. Even homeschool co-op groups are comprised of lots of Christians. Finding a way for homeschool and Christian school children to interact with public school children is key to both their social and spiritual growth. It's all in the application. It is possible to be in the world but not of the world, while still being able to build relationships with the lost.

A little more than 2 cents, but for what it's worth...

KY Transplants said...

WOW! You sure know how to stir it up! I know EVERYONE has a strong opinion on whether homeschooling is the way to go or not. I believe that is up to EACH family to decide what is right for them. For us, I'm pretty sure that our kids would not get NEAR the social interaction they would need if they were homeschooled. I have seen families that are model homeschoolers, then others that are similar to what you talked about.

There are pros and cons for each way and for anyone to beat you up for your opinion or what was put out to you in a conference should rethink what they are saying. You know what they say about opinions: "They are like noses. Everyone has one!"

How was your Christmas?

Ours was pretty nice. We didn't have any BLOOD family around (only transplant family) and it was VERY STRESS FREE.