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Machiavelli Was Right—Sort Of
Kathryn L. Stout, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Published: June 2002
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Does the end ever justify the means? I realize this question implies that the means are less than virtuous. But, twenty years ago the public's reaction to homeschooling was the same mixed bag it is today—plenty of educators and politicians then and now would label parents as unfit teachers and homeschooling as an unacceptable means of education. A family I work with recently reported that their son's former public school teacher (former because they now homeschool their son) had announced to the class after he left that anyone choosing to be homeschooled would never have the opportunity to attend college and would not have a promising future.
I jumped into homeschooling against just such opposition, unaware of any other homeschoolers or any groups offering support. My husband and I were armed only with the conviction that God was leading our family into this new venture. Well, this spring our daughter graduated from law school and our son graduated from the University of Southern California's cinema-production department. In March our daughter married a godly young man who begins his seminary studies next fall. At each event I counted my blessings, comforted that both my children were walking according to God's direction, filled with a sense of destiny.
At both commencements, speakers urged the graduates to follow their dreams, reminding them that making lots of money should never be their goal, and that they should always act with integrity. I was glad to hear these sentiments, but couldn't help think of the many ways society has whispered the opposite messages in our kids' ears year after year after year. I was now especially glad for every occasion that I had reminded them that God loves them, has a specific plan just for them, and that each person must seek that vision and do "everything as unto the Lord." Those talks could have taken place even if I hadn't homeschooled, of course but my tendency toward busy-ness could easily have left many of those words unspoken.
The added benefit of teaching my children to seek God's direction was that they developed a personal sense of God's loving presence instead of merely a sense of duty about daily devotions or Bible study. They learned by both encouragement and example to take everything to God in prayer, expecting Him to listen and to answer. As much as I wanted to meet every need, they heard me pray over them continually for answers I could not give and needs I could not meet. They learned to wait on the Lord, not just ask me. When each prayerfully considered a particular person to marry, I assured them that I would pray, but not reveal any insight until they had received an answer personally.
I had taught both children during their pre-teens—when they didn't think it was relevant—that a time would come when hormones would kick in and Clea would want a boyfriend and Christopher a girlfriend. We discussed the importance of not giving someone the wrong impression just because dating might seem like fun. I reminded them that God would certainly direct them to their intended person in His time and way. Christopher had the added benefit of belonging to a group of Christians in college who urged one another to become content in their singleness. The point being that when the time arrived, marriage would be two whole persons united in God, not two halves trying to find completeness in each other, even if both were Christian. Consequently, neither hopped on the emotional roller coaster like so many kids.
When I was in school, even parents seemed to associate dating with popularity. My mother once scolded me for turning down a date! No matter if I'd be bored or giving someone false hopes, quantity counted. Most of my friends' parents urged their kids to get started by thirteen. Neither of my kids were exposed to that pressure, and so were able to counsel friends who seemed determined to rush into relationships for all the wrong reasons. Of course, they did go through a period of real longing—feeling very impatient with God's "delayed" timing. But by God's grace they endured and are now reaping the benefits of their obedience.
When I first started homeschooling I thought that I could shape my children into strong Christians even if they went to public school, so I didn't consider that a major factor. Looking back, however, I'm convinced my kids would have had a more difficult time trying to find who they are in Christ. I would have discussed the ideas presented in the secular resources they would have used—at least I tell myself that. But it is likely that I would have just talked about ideas they brought up.
It's not that I never used secular sources. However, the homeschool environment guaranteed that we discussed everything as we studied together. Those discussions frequently led us to examine differing worldviews, requiring us to learn more about our faith and how to defend it. Would I have maintained the discipline of daily family devotions and frequent late night chats about their problems if not for homeschooling? Maybe. But I suspect busy-ness, their extracurricular activities as much as my responsibilities, would have robbed us of some of those important and even foundational moments.
God knew our family's needs. Society may not have liked the "means," but by God's grace both have achieved the "end" desired by educators and declared in both commencement speeches. My children's academic success is, to them, simply a part of a journey. They each have dreams (what I would call a vision) and a sense of destiny. My story isn't unique. I tell it to remind those of you still in the trenches to fight the opposition by ignoring their predictions of doom. Know that the godly character and sense of purpose you instill in your children leads to victory.