Budapest, Hungary & Sovata, Romania – November 2003

Home School and Family from a Biblical Worldview

We were well received and graciously cared for by the sweet saints in Hungary and Romania. One of the most encouraging aspects of our visit was the obvious impact of Reformed teaching on the lives of the seminary graduates. First, they often brought up points, even in casual conversations, that showed a deep understanding of the truths of Scripture. Second, and of equal importance, was the evidence of a strong bond in Christian brotherhood that permeates the group. These men’s hearts have obviously been quickened and joined together by the gospel of our Lord.

As we brought them information about homeschooling, it was clear that they had a fledgling concept of its basic tenets. Although there was not a sense of overwhelming acceptance or endorsement, everyone listened closely and many became engaged in the topic. I believe the strength of our presentations was in the Scriptural base for every component as they were most interested in “grappling” with God’s Word. However, there are still significant gaps in their understanding and practice.

The primary issue for many seemed to be their inability to leave behind the government school model of specific ages and stages. Questions were regularly raised about when to start certain activities or introduce certain concepts. In homeschooling, we explained, it is possible/desirable to move a child along as they are able and interested. We also emphasized the idea that while institutional education is usually more about teaching, homeschooling is about learning. Thus, the focus is on the child’s development.

We pointed out that there are three areas to consider when setting goals for children: spiritual, personal and intellectual. Although people usually think of the intellect when they consider education, it is the spiritual area that drives both the personal and intellectual development. This is an important concept for Christian parents who are overseeing virtually every area of their children’s education.

In our interactions with families we noted that some are applying the majority of their efforts on the intellectual component (child asked to perform higher math was still counting on fingers) while others are afraid to venture too far into that arena (six year old with no reading skills). Some seemed engaged in “busy work” (five year old circling three cherries) with children who were clearly prepared to go forward academically. We are praying that our presentations will encourage them to rethink their own definitions of school and education, and to specifically seek the Lord as to His direction for their homeschools.

The second major area in the acquisition of the Christian homeschool model is the development of a Christian family dynamic. As we explained, choosing the homeschool option for education is really a lifestyle choice, thus, these two components go hand in hand. Both a Scriptural philosophical foundation and a Biblical pedagogical process are necessary to sustain a Christian homeschool, and this must be grounded in the Christian family. We encouraged each couple to consider these issues and to write out their conclusions. We also directed them to seek the Lord as to His goals for their family as a whole, and for each member in the spiritual, personal and intellectual areas.

We impressed on them the idea of form being the basis for freedom, not only in their homeschool but in their families as well. When there is a regular schedule and clear lines of authority children are more secure, days run more smoothly, and accomplishments are greater. The implementation of this concept seemed to put many of the attendees into a quandry. This is a concern because the lack of order, especially in a homeschool setting, will lead to chaos.

It was clear that many families were coming to grips with some of these issues for the first time. Questions were raised about how to discipline children without making them afraid all the time, when and how to move into teaching reading, what is the Christian way to celebrate Christmas and Easter in the face of cultural, unbiblical traditions. One specifically telling question was asked about what to do if the father believes there should be more order and obedience yet the mother doesn’t agree. It was evident that these parents want to grow Christian families, but in a very real sense have few ideas about how to do so. Our prayer is that the presentations
we made will encourage and empower couples to begin to think about family issues from a Biblical perspective.

Education Recommendations
1. The RHSA curriculum needs to be adjusted to meet the needs of beginning homeschoolers. The current curriculum entails programmed instruction without specific lessons to be implemented in conjunction with the scope and sequence of the Romanian school program. (Many of the women have difficulty understanding the Romanian language.) Frankly, this level of expectation with only vague assistance would be overwhelming even to an experienced homeschooler such as myself. The 68 hours of teaching with the added dynamic of adapting instruction for children of varying ages is daunting. The difficulty of the task is increased when they must be undertaken against the demands of making a home in an economically depressed setting with limited homeschool resources. Further, these women are being asked to carry this responsibility virtually single-handedly. Having the support of a simple, easy to understand and follow curriculum with goals and suggestions will provide much support for a successful outcome.

Specifically, there needs to be more detail in the kindergarten curriculum that will include specifics from the state curriculum, i.e. topics, vocabulary, expectations. This added information will be helpful not only for providing instruction, but also in building confidence and in “pacifying” the state. Assistance is particularly important in the area of Romanian language as parents feel grossly inadequate to teach this at even the most basic levels.

These changes could be undertaken with the help of Juliana, a Hungarian woman who teaches level one and has already expressed her interest and willingness by assisting one family, by attending the two day conference, and by lending her support in discussions.

2. There needs to be added support for the development of a truly Christian family dynamic. Every parent who spoke to us understood the problems of coming out of a pagan background and expressed a desire to build Biblical families. It was clear that they have a serious lack of understanding and/or experience in how to go about it.
We used obedience as the example to explain the connection between the spiritual, personal and intellectual facets of our lives. We explained that as we teach our children the Scriptural truth that obedience is an act of love, and train them to adopt it into their personal lives, they will be more able to pursue their studies for the glory of God. However, there needs to be further training in the particulars of how to develop a whole framework of authority, discipline and obedience within the family.

There are a host of other topics which also need to be addressed: wife’s submission to husband, husband’s cherishing of wife, child’s honor and respect for parents, and full participation of children into the worship service. These couples appear to be prepared to submit themselves to Scriptural principles, but often are not sure what that looks like in every day life. There needs to be more practical teaching/training in these areas.
Support and encouragement for building Christian families could be provided in a number of ways:
a. articles on family issues in the RHSA newsletter;
b. emails on parenting topics for distribution and discussion;
c. participation in the Eastern European website set up by Steve Demme;
d. visit to US by one or two couples to see homeschooling in action;
e. week-long retreat on building Biblical homeschool families; and
f. ongoing mentoring relationships with US Christian homeschoolers.

Education Legislation
Based on our informative meeting with Dr. Ionescu, I would like to make the following suggestions for pursuing legislative relief as quickly as possible for those families interested in homeschooling.
1. Begin and maintain the process of memorializing events with written documentation between integral parties.
2. Work on setting up the meeting Dr. Ionescu recommended with the full Education Committee and the Senate, as well as the press.
3. Confer with Chris Klicka concerning the pros and cons of pursuing the creation of a private school vs. formal legislation to allow homeschooling.
4. If Chris sees the benefit, work on an agreement for a “pilot project” to gain immediate relief for current homeschooling families, to include:
a. specific number of families, i.e. less than 30 or 50;
b. specific time frame, duration of discussions about homeschooling;
c. specific supervision, RHSA responsible for record keeping; and
d. specific oversight by Romanian and US educators,
parent/teacher training (already received many hours),
curriculum/program to include Romanian school standards, and
regular evaluation (samples, tests).

Conclusion
Inasmuch as Curt and I have begun what we believe is a healthy working relationship with the HHSA and RHSA families under the Westminster Biblical Mission, we would like to make ourselves available in whatever capacity our God may see fit in order to assist them in living to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

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