Answering the Homeschool Critics with Israel Wayne
“my job is that general contractor role where I have to know what’s going on in the family. I have to know my children by heart. I have to know where their weak points are, where their strengths are. I have to be able to identify when one of them is not doing well spiritually, when one of them is failing academically in some way. I need to have those conversations with my wife because she’s on the frontline, right? So, she sees … every day and have those conversations; “How are the kids doing? How are you doing? What do you need?”
Yvette Hampton: Today I am with Israel Wayne. I know so many of you are familiar with his name because you have seen him maybe on Facebook or you have heard him speak at a convention or you have read one of his books. Sometimes, Israel, I think you’re known as the Homeschool Guy, right?
Israel Wayne: Yeah, that’s kind of my moniker, the Homeschool Guy. I’ve got to trademark it.
Yvette: Right. I think you should. Tell us a little bit, Israel, about your family. And then, I’m really excited to have you on, today, and for you to just share about you and what God is doing in your life through homeschooling and having been homeschooled and all of that.
Israel: Sure. Well, my story goes back a little ways. My family started homeschooling in 1978 when I was just a little tyke. I had an older sister who had started into kindergarten in the public school system, and things didn’t go so well for her. She was very academically advanced when she entered kindergarten, but her teachers told my mother that they thought she had a learning disability and that she wouldn’t be able to learn. And, my mother knew that wasn’t correct and my sister hated going to school and she always complained about having stomach pain, and the other children made fun of her. She was kind of a quiet child and fairly studious, and she just didn’t fit into the kind of wild rambunctious type of activities and play that they did in the school, and so she really wanted to stay home with my mom.
After a few months of that, my mother actually took her out and began teaching her at home as she had done before sending her off to school, but unfortunately, we didn’t realize that, in those days, because of compulsory attendance laws, that was against the law, that you weren’t allowed to do that because your child had to be in school. And so, we ended up in court facing … possibly even having my sister removed from our home, having my parents lose their parental rights and having my sister put in foster care and then never seeing her again. That’s actually what homeschooling was like when we were being homeschooled.
The judge thankfully threw that case out of court. We ended up being in court several other times, but homeschooling didn’t actually become legal in the state in which I lived until the year after I graduated. I graduated in 1991 and it didn’t become legal until 1992 in that state, so it’s interesting how homeschooling has grown from 1978 when my family started with just a few hundred families back then, all disconnected. None of us knew each other. There was no network of homeschooling to what it is now with about two-and-a-half million students being home educated.
So, I was homeschooled. In 1988, my mother started a national homeschooling magazine. And so, when your mom publishes the national homeschool magazine, you’re kind of homeschooled. So, my wife, [Brooke 00:03:03], her mom started homeschooling in 1983. Her mom had heard Dr. Raymond Moore on Focus on the Family, on that very famous broadcast that kind of launched the homeschooling movement and started home educating, and her mom was part of the founding of the Arizona State Homeschool association, so we both grew up not only being homeschooled, but being homeschooled kind of in the national state leadership levels.
And then, in January of ’93, I started working as marketing director for Homeschool Digest Magazine, the publication my mother published and did that for 20 years and wrote my first book on homeschooling in 2000 giving my perspective as a homeschooled graduate, started speaking at homeschool conferences, keynoting homeschool conferences in 1995, and have just been doing this, now, for over 25 years full-time, serving the Christian homeschooling community and love what I get to do.
Five years ago, I started a ministry called Family Renewal with my wife and my sister, my older sister who was the one who kind of launched our homeschooling experience, and my children, so, for the last five years, I’ve done nothing but just travel around the country speaking at conferences and writing books, so, yeah, I’m somewhere between chronically and terminally homeschooled, I think, so that’s probably where that Homeschool Guy terminology comes in.
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Yvette: Yeah, it is literally in your blood. You win the prize. You are the homeschool guy. I don’t know that I know anyone who has actually been homeschooled as long as you. I know that there are people who have, but, yeah, you’ve been through it in … gosh, going through the whole process of it becoming legalized in your state and all of that, that’s pretty big. That’s quite something to experience, because we take it for granted that, “Oh, well, of course we get to homeschool,” and, I think oftentimes we forget that it hasn’t always been this easy. Tell us about your family. You have a couple of kids.
Israel: Yeah, we have nine, so far. The Lord’s blessed us with nine.
Israel: Our oldest is 18, and he’s just started two part-time jobs and he just got an offer for a third, so he’s just kind of jumped right out of high school into the real world, and he’s getting some good life experience. We’re pretty happy about that. We have … our children are about two years apart, so our youngest is two years old, and so we have nine children ages 18 down to two. We have four boys and five girls, and we have always homeschooled them and, by God’s grace, always will.
We got married because we had both been homeschooled. We just knew that there was nothing else that we would consider because for us, our experience is quite different, I think, than most people. Most people, when they close their eyes and think of the word education, they think of a big brick school building and a football field and they go in the building and there’s locker rooms and there’s a classroom and a blackboard. That wasn’t our experience. We just didn’t grow up that way. We didn’t go to government school, so for us, homeschooling was the natural conclusion. It’s like eating and breathing.
It’s like asking ourselves, “Will we feed and clothe our children?” It’s like, “Well, of course we’ll feed our children. What else would we do? Of course we’ll educate our children. What else would we do?” So, for us, we haven’t had this big paradigm shift that a lot of other people have. We haven’t had so much to try to unlearn, and homeschooling for us has never been … the plumb line for that has never been the school system. We’ve never thought about, “How do we try to do what we do the same way the school system does?” or, “How do we stay on the calendar of the school system or how do we teach the way the school system does?” Those questions are just completely outside of the scope of our experience.
So, I think homeschooling for us is a little bit different than it is for other people, but because of my day job, that I speak at conferences and I meet in person about 20,000 homeschooling families a year out on the road at conventions and so forth, I get to rub shoulders weekly with those families that are new to this process and hear their struggles and hear their questions. So, it helps us to remain relevant and be able to remember how difficult it is for them to try to come into this new world that, for them, it’s like visiting an alien planet or something. It’s this really strange other thing.
Yvette: Yeah, isn’t that fun, too? I love … it is literally one of my favorite things to meet a mom or a dad — but, typically, it’s the mom — who is just starting to think about homeschooling, and they’re like, “I keep hearing about this homeschooling thing, but I’m not so sure. I don’t know what it’s really all about,” and then you get that opportunity to just tell them, “Well, let me tell you what it’s all about,” and it’s so much fun, which is so much of the reason why we are filming this documentary on homeschooling is because we really want people to see the real picture of what homeschooling looks like, and we don’t make it all daisies and roses. It’s not always easy, but it sure is a blessing. I love it, and I love it when that light comes on and those scales fall from their eyes and they’re like, “Oh, homeschooling is amazing and your kids are not socially awkward and they can be well educated,” and there’s just so many benefits and it’s so fun. I love, love, love talking to new homeschoolers or those who just don’t know yet that they are new homeschoolers. That’s always fun.
Israel: Yeah, everybody homeschools until they stop, right? So, everyone homeschools their children, I think, threw the most difficult stages of teaching them how to be potty trained and how to feed themselves with a fork and how to tie their shoes and these really epic difficult things that we think … really, you need a PhD in engineering to teach a kid how to tie his shoes, in my opinion. Potty training? That’s psychology and sociology and anthropology. It’s all kinds of stuff.
Yvette: Physical science.
Israel: Yeah, exactly. It’s terrible, and it’s like we get through all that and then we’re like, “Oh, colors and numbers and shapes, I don’t think I can do that. I’m just a parent. I’m not an expert,” and it’s just so sad that, the fact that 6,000 years of human history, people have always taught their children. Now, all of a sudden, we’ve been crippled into thinking, “Oh, we couldn’t possibly do what people have done for thousands and thousands of years,” because in the last 160 years, we have a different paradigm. It’s really an odd perspective. The institutional school system is really the new kid on the block. It’s the untried, untested method.
Yvette: Oh, yeah, absolutely, yes, yes. So, you also had another kind of twist to your childhood in that your mom, for part of your childhood, was a single mom and homeschooled you as a single mom.
Israel: Yeah, that’s right. About the time that I was hitting high school, my mom became a single parent and I had had an abusive stepfather, unfortunately. My parents divorced when I was six and she remarried and so, really, he was more of a detriment than anything, but, eventually, he ended up leaving, and so then it was like we had to learn how to build some stability into our family. So, I had these younger sisters that, she was homeschooling full-time, so when I hit high school … my mom had dropped out of school in ninth grade, so she didn’t even go to high school, so, here she was, had these two high school students, and at that time, she got us Abeka video school, and that worked out great for me because all she had to do was basically create a lesson plan, and I knew how to follow the lesson plan by that time, and I ended up doing all four years of Abeka Video School in two years. So, it was kind of accelerated distance education before that was even a thing.
And so, I graduated a few days before I turned 16, got a really good academic education at home, but I remember before I entered high school, my mother said, “I have these younger girls that I have to teach. I have a business that I’m running. I don’t have time to hold your hand all day, so, basically, I’ve taught you how to read. I’ve taught you how to think. I’ve taught you how to study. I’ve taught you how to learn, and so, this is going to be what you make of it. If you want to learn, you’re going to have an opportunity. If you don’t want to learn, I can’t make you. I can’t force you. Nobody can. Even if you were in a school, they can’t force you. They can’t make you learn. They can incarcerate you and make you sit there, but they can’t make you learn.”
So, she said, “It’s really up to you. If you want to learn, you’re going to have an opportunity,” and she said, “You have all the tools you need,” so teach yourself,” and that’s what I ended up doing through high school. So, people who feel like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly homeschool,” my mom homeschooled six kids as a high school dropout, a single parent, and when she became a Christian when I turned 12, one thing she told us is she said, “We’re going to go off government assistance and we’re not going to get food stamps anymore. We’re just going to trust God and God’s going to provide.” And, I thought two things. I thought, first of all, number one, you’re crazy. Number two, we’re all going to starve. And, God blessed her business and it prospered and she was able to provide for us and homeschool, just a real testimony to her willingness to follow the Lord, that … I believe God doesn’t call you to something and then fail to equip you.
Yvette: Sure, oh, absolutely. I agree completely, and that’s been our experience with homeschooling for sure. I think you and I have talked about this and stuff, that we said we would never, ever high school, and part of the reason for that was that … I mean, there were many reasons we said that, but part of it was that I hated school, and so did Garritt. We were not good students. We did not enjoy school at all, and the kind of ironic thing is: we actually hated going to school and so we thought, “Well, why would we ever homeschool our kids. We’ll send them to school.”
Oh gosh, anyway, but I thought because I hated school so much, “Why would I want to homeschool my kids,” and I thought that I was not equipped enough to be able to do that, and God has proven that, like you said. He has given us everything that we’ve needed, and our schooling looks incredibly different than a whole lot of other people’s. We travel a lot. We’re filming this documentary. We just have a very different lifestyle right now, but, God is working. My girls are learning and, quite honestly, they’re learning the necessary things, but quite honestly, if all they ever learned was to love the lord and love the word of God, then I’m okay with that.
Israel: That’s interesting. Could I jump on that real quick?
Yvette: Yeah, of course.
Israel: You know, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you,” and the other things he was talking about there were material provisions. He was talking about our clothes and needing food to eat and daily provision and that kind of thing, and he said, “These are the things you worry about; are they going to be able to make a living? Are they going to be able?” all that kind of stuff that people worry about, and they think, “Well, if I homeschool, they’re going to be deprived. They won’t be able to take care of themselves in life.”
But, Jesus has already promised that that will be a given if we seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and he also said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the entire world and forfeits his own soul,” and so, in terms of our priorities, I think some people think that we’re saying, “Well, we’re going to focus on godly character to the exclusion of academics,” as though somehow these two things are enemies. What was fascinating to the researchers 30 years ago when the first homeschool research came out from Dr. Brian Ray, when they started testing homeschoolers, was these homeschooling students whose parents had a high school diploma or less were scoring 30 percentile higher on the standardized achievement tests than students in government schools whose parents were PhDs or had teaching certificates and so on.
The academic schooling of the parent didn’t really factor in. What factored in was parental involvement, and so these moms and dads who had high school diplomas and less that just loved their kids and tried to instill their values in their kids, their kids actually did better academically, as well, and it’s that Matthew 6:33 principle. It’s not that the academics aren’t important, but they’re not our primary focus. They’re not our primary objective, so, I didn’t mean to preach, there. It just came out, so-
Yvette: No, I love that, and you’re absolutely right. And, you know, we’ve told our girls, “I don’t really care about them knowing science or history or math or English for any other reason but because it points them back to Jesus.” They have to know how to write so that they can write about God. They have to know how to read so that they can read his word. They have to understand basic science because God is the creator of it all and they need to understand their creator and the awesomeness of his creator. They need to understand basic history because, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and they need to understand the history of God’s creation and God’s world and what he has done with it and his perfect plan as it has unfolded throughout history.
But, if they’re being taught those things apart from the word of God and apart from a biblical worldview, then they’re not really being taught those things properly at all and who cares that they’re learning them at all. And so, while academics are certainly not the most important thing, the Bible is, but I love that as a homeschool family, we get to use all of those things to just point them back to their savior and creator, and it’s so much fun to be able to be the one to do that with them.
Israel: Yeah, and teaching them how to love God with all their heart. Those things bring out the wonder in all of who he is. The second factor of loving your neighbor as yourself is that if you’re truly going to love your neighbor, some academics actually help in that, because if you sloughed off during the anatomy class and you’re a surgeon and you got extra parts leftover that you don’t know where they go at the end of the surgery, that’s not a blessing for your neighbor, or you’re an airplane pilot and you just didn’t think that those physics classes were all that interesting and you’ve got 240 people screaming in the final minutes of their life; that’s not a blessing to your neighbor when you’re … so, in loving God and loving our neighbor, academics help us to love God more and they help us to learn how to love our neighbors as well.
Yvette: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Let me back up really quickly because I want to talk about something that you kind of just breezed through it, but I know the lights went off in my brain and I know that there’s others listening to this who go, “But how?” You said your mom came to you when you were in high school and she said, “I’ve taught you to read. I’ve taught you to think. I’ve taught you to study. I’ve taught you to learn. Now go do it. I can’t spend time holding your hand to do this.” How does one do that?
And, I think I’m even in that season right now with my girls. I’ve got a seven-year-old and a 12-year-old where I’m trying to teach them. They both can … well, my seven-year-old is still learning how to read a little bit. She’s getting much better at it, but I’m teaching them how to think and we’re trying to teach them how to study and how to learn so that they can go out and do that, and because, once they’re out of our home, I don’t want the learning to stop. I was one who, like I said, I didn’t enjoy school at all, and I remember, oh man, I could not wait until my high school graduation because I was never going to have to go back to another classroom again and sit in a class and have a lecture. That was just torture to me.
And so, I just thought, “Well, my learning is done,” and I crossed that off my list and I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to get married and have kids and move on with my life,” and, for my girls, I don’t want that for them. I mean, I want them to move on with life and get married and have kids, but I want them to have a life of learning and knowing how to study and knowing how to study the word of God and study whatever God has bent them towards in their interests. How did your mom teach you to do that and how are you teaching your kids to read and think and study and learn so that they can continue to do that?
Israel: Oh, there’s so many things. My mom was good at asking questions. Very rarely would she give me an answer to something. She would ask questions. She would ask questions that would lead me to figure it out on my own. She would encourage me to go study it on my own. There were times where I was … I remember when I was 15 telling her, “God doesn’t have an opinion on education. It doesn’t matter how you educate your children,” and she said, “I would like for you to write an article or write an essay on that and try to support your view from scripture.” So, she gave me an assignment on it.
Interestingly, that became a book that came out a couple years ago called Education: Does God Have an Opinion? And so, throwing it back at me was one way. Reading real books I think, is an important thing we do. We do that a lot with our children, having them read firsthand historical accounts, having them read real history as opposed to just novels. Having them read a lot of biographies gives them a broad perspective of the world. It opens their mind to thoughts and ideas, real life experience that’s outside of just a textbook and the academic at-a-desk learning, but a lot of asking questions, teaching them how to think through something, teaching them how to communicate through … I mean, my mom would say, “If you know what you believe, you know why your beliefs are true and you can communicate effectively through written and spoken communication, you’ll get to be a leader.”
Well, I was a nobody kid. I was an ADHD dyslexic kid that nobody thought could learn, and I’ve made a pretty successful living as a national conference speaker and author as a kid who didn’t learn how to read until he was 11. How does that happen? It happened because I had a context, first of all, where my love of learning didn’t get killed, and that’s what happens in institutional schools. They just systematically kill the love of learning for most students. And, thankfully, that didn’t happen to me. And so, I was a late bloomer, if you will, but just being just given the opportunity to learn the way that I learned and learn on my own time schedule, learn at my own pace, and just that constant unlocking of this world of discovery and inquiry rather than trying to fill my head full of facts and data and information, just unlocking doors to help me go explore. I think that’s way more effective in the long-run than trying to force your kid to remember information they’re never going to remember anyway.
Yvette: Sure, and I love asking questions. Garritt, my husband, he’s really good at that with our girls. Every day, we have our family devotion time and we always usually … we either memorize scripture or we read through a book of the bible, and so any time we’re reading through a passage of scripture, he always quizzes them at the end. “Okay, what did this talk about? What does this mean?” And, it’s so amazing to realize how well they understand what it is that they’re hearing.
And, when we first started doing that, it was a little bit of a struggle for them and they kind of go, “I don’t know. I don’t know what that meant,” and as we’ve done it over the years, of course, they get it. They understand, and if they don’t understand, then he’ll say, “What do you think it means,” and they’ll give their answer and then he’ll say, “Well, not really. This is what it actually means,” and, oh, it’s such a fantastic way for kids to understand the word of God and what it is that they’re hearing and learning, so-
Israel: One of the books that I wrote is a book called Questions God Asks, and it was based on a study I was doing through the Old Testament. I started noticing repeatedly that God asked questions of people, and so I started to write down any time I saw a question that God asked a person, and I asked myself, “What’s the purpose of this question? What’s the topic? What is it that God wants these people to think about?” And so, I ended up writing a book on that of 19 questions in the Old Testament that God asked people, and then I wrote a sequel to it called Questions Jesus Asks: 20 Questions in the New Testament that Jesus asked his disciples and the Pharisees and other people, and it just struck me as I wrote both of those books how God teaches and how Jesus taught through the art of asking questions, not nearly through didactic prose or some sort of teaching where you’re standing up telling everybody what to believe, but through drawing them out and saying, “Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am? Why do you call me good?” and so on. So, I’ve learned a lot from just even studying the questions God asked and the questions Jesus asked in the Bible about how to be a better question asker for myself as a parent.
Yvette: I love that. I think you’re familiar with Ginger Hubbard, right? You know who she is, so we recently did a podcast episode with her as well, and she literally … we talked about that exact same thing, and she said that’s one of the most important things, because, you know, when we’re teaching our kids to obey, it’s not just about their actions. It’s about their heart, and so one of the ways you get to their heart is by asking heart probing questions, you know, “Why did you make that decision?” just asking questions about the choices that they’re making that make them really think about what it is that they’re doing, so that is awesome.
Okay, so you’ve … let’s shift gears a little bit. I want to talk a little bit about a couple of the books that you’ve written. You mentioned one already. Well, actually, I think you’ve mentioned two of them. What books have you written? And, we’ll actually link to these in the show notes so that people can have an idea of what they are. They don’t have to write them down.
Israel: Sure. The books that are still available in print are Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks. And then, on homeschooling, I’ve written Education: Does God Have an Opinion? And that, I believe, is really, probably the most comprehensive book written to date on what a biblical philosophy of education looks like, and I actually go through each of the major academic subjects and teach how this subject will be taught either from a humanistic worldview or from a biblical worldview, and how most Christian homeschoolers who are teaching their children at home using a Christian curriculum are actually giving their child a humanistic view of geography or science or math or language arts or history rather than a biblical worldview because they don’t have the right paradigm. They don’t know how to think biblically about that topic.
And so, I actually walk them through each of those academic subjects and teach them, “How do you teach these subjects from a distinctly biblical philosophy?” I don’t know of any other books out there that are quite like Education: Does God Have an Opinion. And then the latest one … well, and then, there’s a parenting book that my wife and I wrote called Pitching a Fit: Overcoming Angry and Stressed Out Parenting. That’s probably our best seller, actually. Most parents have children, and with children come stress, so it’s kind of a universally relevant book.
But then, I wrote one called Full-Time Parenting: A Guide to Family-Based Discipleship, and that’s really the big picture of: how do we disciple our kids and how do we get their hearts and keep their hearts. And then, my latest book that just came out this year is called Answers For Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask, and this was one that, after I’d written Education: Does God Have an Opinion, I thought, “Man, I’ve covered everything. I’ve addressed this whole biblical philosophy of education,” and Master Books, my publisher came to me and said, “You know, the thing is, this book is really comprehensive, but there are a lot of the basic fundamental questions that people still here and they still get asked or they wonder themselves, ‘How can I teach my children on a single income?’ Or, ‘What if I’m a single parent?’ Or, ‘What about sports?’ Or, ‘How do I keep a transcript?’ Or, ‘What about college?'” and just all these questions that people had.
“What about salt and light? Should my children be in the schools to be salt and light, and maybe we should send them as missionaries,” and all those kinds of things. They still get asked, and so, I wanted to take the top 25 objections that people have to homeschooling and reasons that they say, “Homeschooling’s a bad idea because …” and then, I wanted to systematically dismantle those objections in a way that would give someone confidence if they’re looking at this and saying, “I’m thinking of going into homeschooling.” I wanted them to have all their questions answered in one resource. But then, also, there are people that are already homeschooling, and they’re sold on it. They don’t need convinced to homeschool, but they have a skeptic in their life whether a parent, an in-law, a neighbor, unfortunately even sometimes church leaders, you know, just people that say, “Oh, well, how do you know you’re not going to ruin them?” or whatever.
And so, I wanted to give them a book that would help them to defend their position and give them solid answers just like in Christian apologetics. You read an apologetics book to learn how to defend your Christian faith so when somebody says, “Well, how do you know the Bible is the word of God?” Or, “How do you know that people didn’t just make up the Bible and wrote it 500 years ago?” all that kind of stuff, how are you going to give your answer? What’s your apologetic. This is kind of an apologetic for homeschooling, a defense for homeschooling.
Yvette: Yeah, that is great. What I love about this book is that it’s written by a dad. Because, oftentimes … and, I know you hear this and I’m certain that you talk to men all over the country. Oftentimes, it’s the wife who wants to homeschool, and Dad is saying, “I don’t know about that,” or, “No, that’s not a good idea. We need to put the kids in school,” and so, many homeschool books are written by moms, which are great. I mean, there are so many great books out there, but I love that this is written by a dad because it can be for anybody, but I think this is an excellent book to give to dads or to grandparents. That’s another huge group of people that are from a different generation, and so, oftentimes, grandparents will say, “You want to do what? You want to homeschool our grandkids? Why would you do such a thing?” and this is a great book to be able to hand to people.
Again, that’s partly why we’re making Schoolhouse Rocked is because we want to give people a tool that they can hand to their husband or to their parents or two their friends or siblings and say, “Here’s why we’re doing this. Just read this book or watch this movie and you’ll understand why it is that we’ve made this decision for our family, or why I want to make this decision for our family.”
Okay, you said … you have been to how many conventions, this year?
Israel: Oh, goodness, this year, I don’t know for sure, but I know I’ve spoken at 245 events in the last five years. I calculated that the other day.
Yvette: Oh wow, that’s a lot of speaking. And, all of those, are they all homeschool related or are those-
Israel: Now, some of those are family camps. I do a lot of parenting seminars. I speak in churches sometimes. I just did an apologetics weekend where I was actually teaching Christian apologetics in England at a church there, and so I do a lot of different kinds of things, but I would say probably three quarters of what I do is homeschool and family discipleship related.
Yvette: Okay, now you’ve got top 25 questions critics ask in this book. If you had to narrow it down to maybe the top five concerns that people have for homeschooling, could you narrow it down to that?
Israel: Yeah, I think I would say the top five would be socialization. “What about sports? What about college? Am I qualified to do this?” And then, what comes to my mind is the fifth is just a myriad of excuses why they don’t want to. That’s probably not an answer, but that’s what came to my mind because sometimes you realize at the end of the day, these objections are actually not real objections. I wrote an article one time and I called it The Dog Ate My Lesson Planner, because it’s like eventually you kind of realize that some people just don’t want to, and, fair enough, you don’t want to, you don’t want to.
And, people who don’t want to won’t, but my view is: if you really want to, you may not be able to get where you want to go in one easy step. You may not be able to get from point A, where you are now, to point B, where you want to be financially and your situation and work-related issues and all of that, but, I believe if it’s your desire that you want to disciple your own children at home, God will make a path for you, and you give it time and you give it prayer and develop a strategy, develop a game plan, and I believe God will allow you to realize that, because I think it really is his heart for parents to take responsibility for teaching and leading and disciplining their own children.
So, if you want to do it, I believe there’s a path. That’s why you’re doing this video. That’s why I’m doing this book because we believe you can and we just want to help remove the barriers. People that don’t want to, at the end of the day, it’s just, “Well, then, don’t,” right? It’s kind of as simple as that. So, sometimes, I think we just kind of have to be honest. I remember reading a survey that was done by a major Christian organization and they asked a question, “If you didn’t have to pay for it, would you give your child a Christian education,” and 77% of the respondents said, “Yes, I would homeschool or put my children in a Christian school if I didn’t have to pay for it with my own money.” And so, to me, that really kind of shows a big priority issue with a lot of people that that’s really the hiccup for them. They don’t actually believe the public school system is the best thing for their child. They don’t want to foot the bill for it or feel they can’t right now, and so I think that’s a huge issue, is the money.
Yvette: Yeah, and I think so many of these things really point back to misconceptions. People, they have misconceptions about what homeschooling is and what it’s going to look like for their family. I know we were in that same boat where we thought all the same silly things. “Our kids aren’t going to be socialized and they’re going to be weird and they’re not going to have a good education and they’re not going to get into college and they’re not going to be able to go to prom and go to football games,” or whatever it is that society has told us are the important things. And, as we have come into homeschooling, of course, you know, the Lord has completely changed our hearts about it and I’m so thankful for that.
But, again, like you said, part of the reason why we’re filming Schoolhouse Rocked is because we want to debunk all of those misconceptions and negative stereotypes that people have, and, surprisingly enough, we have had so much fun. One of my favorite parts of filming has been doing street interviews and just walking up to random people on the street and just saying, “Hey, can we ask you some questions and interview you about education?” Some people are like, “Oh, no, we’ve got lunch plans in two minutes,” and they’ll walk away and then other people are like, “Sure,” and we thought, going out, that more people would say, “Well, homeschooled kids are socially awkward and they’re not well-educated and they’re this and they’re that,” and we’re not finding that. It has been so fascinating.
We, I think, have only had a couple people say that, but, overall, I think our society is starting to shift for sure and say, “No, homeschooling …” we’re seeing it. We’re seeing that homeschooling is a good thing, and most people are saying, “Well, I’ve got a cousin who homeschools or a niece who homeschools or something like that, and, you know, their kids aren’t weird and their kids are really smart,” and so, people, I think their eyes are being opened to answering these questions without them even realizing it.
Israel: It takes a while. Yeah, I posted on Facebook a while back, “1982: ‘Don’t tell anyone you don’t go to school.’ -My grandmother. 2012, 30 years later: ‘Everyone should homeschool.’ -My grandmother.”
Yvette: Yeah, oh, that’s awesome.
Israel: It just takes time because people have biases, and sometimes they just have to see that the myths are really that; they’re just myths.
You know, I think that nine times out of ten, the best rule in parenting is: go with your gut. You almost never regret it. When you have a strong sense, an inkling that something’s not right or that something needs to be changed or that you need to be doing something with your child, we usually talk ourselves out of doing the thing that we know we ought to do.
Yvette: Exactly, that that is all that they are, and we’re desperately hoping to be able to show that homeschooling is not what people think that it is. And, so many people are at a loss right now as to what to do with their kids with school. They can’t afford private school or don’t want their kids to go to private school, and they’re not so sure anymore about public school because, “Is there going to be a lockdown? Is my kid going to be safe? What are they being taught in the classroom?” And so, I think a lot of people are coming into homeschooling scared. Talk to those parents who are coming in and they’re hesitant, but they feel like, “I know I’m supposed to do this, and I’m in. I’m buying into this, but I’m really, really scared.” What do you say to those parents?
Israel: You know, I think that nine times out of ten, the best rule in parenting is: go with your gut. You almost never regret it. When you have a strong sense, an inkling that something’s not right or that something needs to be changed or that you need to be doing something with your child, we usually talk ourselves out of doing the thing that we know we ought to do. That’s just a bad idea and we allow other people to talk us out of what we know is the right thing to do for our child. Nobody knows your child better than you do. No one loves your child better than you do? God didn’t give your child to somebody else. God gave your child to you. He gave that child to you because he believes that you, more and better than anyone else in the entire universe, are qualified and capable to make the decisions that are best for their future.
You have to trust that. Do you believe God makes mistakes? Do you think God is inept and incompetent and incapable and that’s why he gave that child to you? No, that’s not true. God doesn’t make mistakes. God gave that child to you because he believes you are the best person in the universe to make the right decisions for that child, so do it. Make the right decisions for that child and never apologize to anyone for being a good parent. And so, I just say: when you feel that pit in your stomach that just says, “I just don’t feel like this is right. I don’t think this is good. I don’t think we’re doing the right thing by our child here,” you need to listen to that because, a lot of times, that’s the leading of the holy spirit.
Yvette: Yeah, oh, absolutely, absolutely. I want to talk a little bit with you about your role as dad and leader of your home. You mentioned this briefly a few minutes ago, too, about leading your home spiritually. What does that look like in your home? I’m hoping that dads are listening to this, too, but I know it will mostly be moms, probably, but, how can you encourage dads to take that role? Because, with homeschooling, typically, it’s mom who does the educating part. Though, you know, homeschooling is life. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not just, “it down at a desk from 8:00 to 2:00 and do your worksheets,” but … okay, let me ask this a couple different ways. One, how can a dad encourage and support his wife and his kids through homeschooling? And then, my second question is: how can a dad lead his family well spiritually?
Israel: Great questions. I have a chapter in the New Answers For Homeschooling book specifically for dads where I address: what’s a dad to do? What’s the dad’s role in all this? And, the metaphor that I use with a lot of men just because I know it connects with them or they’ll at least understand the concept, is I say, “Suppose that you are a general contractor in construction and a homeowner hires you to build a house for them and you are supposed to oversee every facet of this construction project and you’ve been given this responsibility. You may subcontract out pieces and parts of that so that you have a drywall guy, an electrician, a plumber. You may not actually be physically doing all of the labor. You may do some of it, but you might not do all of the physical labor on the project. But, if something goes wrong in that process, you have to be aware of it. You have to be involved on a daily basis so that your workers have the tools that they need; they’re equipped to be able to do the job right so that … they’re provided for adequately to be able to accomplish what you’ve given them to do. But, ultimately, the responsibility is with you. If there’s a problem with the house, the homeowner’s not going to talk to the plumbing guy or the electrician? They’re going to come talk to you because you’re the general contractor.”
And so, we look in scripture. We see in Ephesians 6:4 … out of many, many passages that I could pick, I’ll just grab that one where Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” And, in the Greek, that word admonition is the Greek word paideia. And, it’s interesting: if you look that up in, say, Encyclopedia Britannica and you look at the description that’s given there, in the Greek culture that Paul was writing to, that word was so pervasive, it was so universal that every single academic subject or discipline that could be taught was contained in the word paideia.
So, Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, says: gymnastics, history, literature, logic, philosophy, all of the subjects, all of the academic disciplines; they’re all contained within the word paideia, and so Paul says something super powerful there. He says, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but train them up in the paideia of the Lord,” not the paideia of the world, but the paideia of the Lord. And so, what does that look like? Now, the Greeks, they knew what the paideia of the world looked like. They had the Socratic schools and they had that whole pagan academic educational institution system. They knew what that looked like, but what was the paideia of the Lord? That’s what Paul was calling fathers to be responsible for, and it literally is fathers, there.
And so, it’s interesting that, unfortunately, in our Christian evangelical subculture, men have been more or less convinced, somehow … and, it’s been at least allowed within the church culture, this notion that as long as you go to work and you bring home a paycheck, that’s all you have to do. It’s your wife’s job to raise the children, discipline the children, feed the children, educate the children. Well, usually, it’s the government’s job to educate the children. It’s your wife’s job to raise the children. Scripture just doesn’t say that. It’s not what scripture says.
So, being a dad who has, at times … like I said, for 20 years, I had a day job, and so I would go to work and come home and so I was like all these other dads where I didn’t have the ability to be as involved on the academic day-in-day-out side of things as I would have wanted. I looked at it as: my job is that general contractor role where I have to know what’s going on in the family. I have to know my children by heart. I have to know where their weak points are, where their strengths are. I have to be able to identify when one of them is not doing well spiritually, when one of them is failing academically in some way. I need to have those conversations with my wife because she’s on the frontline, right? So, she sees … every day and have those conversations; “How are the kids doing? How are you doing? What do you need?”
And, another thing … again, I don’t know if any guys are going to listen to this, but, wives, make sure your husband hears this and play it back for him and make him think it’s his idea, but, guys, seriously, we spend money on what’s important to us, and I know guys that spend money on boats and on guns and their hobbies and golf or whatever it is that they do that’s important to them, video games, whatever, and yet, when their wife wants to get curriculum to teach their children, they get all put out of sorts about it and they’re like, “Well, we don’t have the budget for that.” Are you kidding me? Are you serious? You don’t have the budget for that? Better find a way to make the budget for that because these are your children. These are eternal souls that are in your home that God has given to you, and I just would say to the men, “You will never ever regret any money that you put into helping your wife become more effective as a woman of God, more effective as a mom, more effective as a wife,” even if that’s time away for her to just regroup or whatever.
You will never regret money that you invest in your wife and that you invest in your kids. Your boat, your hobbies, that sport scar, whatever, those things are going to rust, but these eternal souls and these relationships we have that are … hopefully these children are going to embrace our faith and are going to follow us into eternity. These are not something you want to go cheap on, and so I just would say any money you put in that direction is money well spent. Go to the homeschool conferences with your wife and support her. Go together. Talk about these things. Have date nights that are strategy planning sessions, and, as much as you can, teach the subjects yourself if they’re subjects that you like, that you’re good at. Whether it’s history or math or whatever, be involved as well on the academic side. And, just quickly … I went on a soapbox with that.
Yvette: Yeah, no, I love it.
Israel: But, I read an article where they asked kids in public schools, “What’s the most important academic subject that you could learn?” And, I was surprised to find that of all these thousands of students across America that they polled, every single student gave the same exact answer which academic subject was most important. You know what it is?
Yvette: What was it? Not a clue.
Israel: I wouldn’t have a clue, either, but it was in Scientific American or some magazine, Popular Mechanics, something like that. Turns out that it’s whatever subject Dad helps them with in homework.
Israel: Because, apparently, kids realize Dad has limited time, and so, if Dad is taking his precious time to help me with math, then math must be the most important thing. Or, if he’s helping me with science, then science must be the most important subject. Kids just automatically made that connection. So, one of the things that I think is super important — you asked about the spiritual side — that I do as a dad, the two most important things I do as a dad is homeschooling my children, and then secondly — you mentioned this about Garritt — doing daily Bible time with my children. I lead them through the scripture verse by verse all the way through the Bible, and I’ve done that since they were born. And, that wasn’t something I grew up with.
Yvette: Yeah, it wasn’t something I grew up with, either.
Israel: It wasn’t something I had modeled for me, but it’s the most important thing that I do apart from homeschooling, and I would strongly encourage: dads, if you haven’t done that, to make that a priority. And, there’s not necessarily a right way. You don’t have to do it like I do it. You don’t have to do it like Garritt does it. You can do you. You do you. If you just-
Yvette: Right, right. Yeah, and I think some dads feel like, “Well, I’m not a pastor. I’m not a church leader. I don’t know enough about the Bible.” Simply open it up and read. If you can read, then you can lead your family spiritually, and it is such a sweet time. I love that time with our family and it’s all our girls know. If we come to … we usually do ours in the morning time, but sometimes, you know, if we have to be somewhere early and we don’t get it done before bed, our girls will say, “We haven’t done family Bible time yet,” because it’s almost … you feel like you haven’t put on your seatbelt when you get in the car like you’re just missing something, and, you know, it’s just so, so, important.
And, I think, also, our kids seeing us spending time in God’s word is so incredibly powerful. A lot of husbands don’t take that step of leading their family spiritually, and that’s where I would tell the moms, “Pray, just pray, and ask that the Lord would convict them of that, and that doesn’t mean that their husbands don’t love the Lord, but, you know, pray that God would give them that conviction of leading their family spiritually, but, for the moms, too, goodness gracious, especially if your husband is not leading your family in family devotions each day, let your kids watch you, and not to do it like the Pharisees and have it be a show, you know, “Look at me reading my Bible, kids,” but, let them see you in the word of God. Let them see you on your knees praying. Let them see you digging in and trying to learn because like Heidi St. John says all the time, “You can’t give your kids what you don’t have. You can’t teach them what you don’t know.”
If we don’t know the word of God, we can’t teach it to our kids, but, you know, we can take the time to learn it on our own. So, wow: so much good stuff. You are so encouraging. I feel like I could talk with you for hours and hours and I’m so encouraged by what God is doing through you and through your ministry and through your family. I appreciate that you take your time to go and talk at homeschool conventions. Conventions were huge for us, for Garritt and I when we first started thinking about homeschooling. And, the reason that we decided to homeschool was because we really didn’t have a choice. We’re from Los Angeles County. The schools in our area were terrible and we thought, “Well, we don’t have any other options so I guess we’ll homeschool even though we said we would never ever, ever homeschool,” and, when we decided … and, we started talking about it. We had some friends invite us to CHEA, which is the California homeschool convention, and so we went there our first year, and, literally, in one weekend, our hearts were turned around and God just opened our yes up and we said, “Homeschooling is not what we thought it was, first of all. And, second of all, this is going to be amazing and it’s going to be hard at times, but it’s going to be the best thing for our family.”
And we’re so thankful for speakers like you. God has given you that platform to go out and to encourage families face-to-face and through books and through your ministry and your podcast and your Facebook page and all of that, so thank you for all that you do. Thank you, Israel, so much, for your time and for your ministry and just for how you’ve blessed our family and how you continue to bless others. And, thank you for being part of Schoolhouse Rocked. We are super excited to have you as part of the cast, very exciting.
Israel: Well, I’m excited about it, as well, and thank you guys for what you do. I believe God’s going to do big things for this film.
Listen for Yvette on Israel’s excellent podcast at https://ultimateradioshow.com/family-renewal/
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