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Hypocrisy in the Homeschool Ranks?

June 13, 2014
Hypocrisy in the Homeschool Ranks?

There has been some discussion recently about homeschoolers producing hypocrites. No doubt among the millions of us there are some families that have produced little hypocrites. In what group is that not true? And every family is at risk of an occasional hypocritical response in certain situations. At one time or another, all of us have looked in the mirror and discovered a hypocrite hiding in our home. That is why we all understand the meaning of the word and despise it so much. A vice is never so ugly as when we discover it is our own.

In its inception homeschooling was less about quality of education and more about quality of soul. Not so much today. We sought to provide a context where we could control the influences and steer our children into a life of emotional stability, creativity, intellectual freedom, and, most of all, spiritual maturity. We wanted them to love Jesus and be his faithful disciples.

Why would homeschoolers, conservative Christians, be singled out as perpetrators of hypocrisy? He who advertises his goals, brags about his achievements, and recommends his practices becomes a subject of scrutiny and acquires a thousand volunteer referees to throw down the flag when he makes a foul. He who sets the bar the highest falls the farthest. Folks not willing or able to play the game are ready to tell the players where they went wrong.

As long as we seek to escape the sinkhole of society, those caught in its powerful suction will resent our withdrawal from the norm. They interpret our successes as an uncomfortable indictment upon them. Are they not good parents? Don’t they love their children as well as we do?  “What do you mean, I’ve made a poor choice in sending my children to public school? Who do you think you are? Do you believe you are a better parent than I? You hypocrite!”

It’s True Sometimes

Again, why would homeschoolers be singled out as guilty of hypocrisy? Because it’s true—sometimes. I have observed parents, who are not hypocrites at heart, employ tactics that result in instilling hypocrisy in their children. In total ignorance—clueless—they desperately instruct their children in righteousness, drilling them in “Christian” virtue.

At one point—not so much now—there was a strong movement among homeschoolers to publicly exemplify high moral standards. Children were taught to “look and act” like Christians. Emphasis was placed on dress and etiquette—“Yes Sir” and “May I, please.” In some circles there was an organizational attempt to recreate the old patriarchal family with a dictatorial father as head of the clan. Children were viewed as dutiful ambassadors to the world who exemplify the exceptional lifestyle of the dedicated Christian family. The public was always a boardwalk where everyone was expected to model homeschool fashions. Children were raised under the mandate of, “Everyone is watching; be on your best behavior.”

Some young adults, who were brought up to pay more attention to their public appearance, now characterize their young home-life as hypocritical. True to form, with their own children they are swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction, lowering the standards, and seeking more identity with progressive world standards. I predict that in ten years these parents are going to be greatly disillusioned when they discover that though they did not raise any hypocrites, they did raise little hedonistic heathen. The world is not a forgiving place, and it is not conducive to morality, sanity, stability, or happiness. It is a battle to raise godly children. If your parents made some mistakes, don’t think that just by avoiding their error you will succeed in parenting. There are more ways to fail than you can imagine. You avoid one disease of hypocrisy, and there are a hundred other plagues waiting to consume your children.

Instruction in Hypocrisy

Just the other day I heard a young mother say to her son, “That is not kind. A Christian should be kind and loving.” I have heard others instruct their children, “A good Christian wouldn’t do that.” Or, “What are people going to think when they see that?” Twenty years ago, in my book To Train Up a Child, I addressed this issue:

“I have cringed at seeing parents use God to intimidate their children into obedience. A child has been “bad,” and the mother warns, “You shouldn’t do that; God doesn’t like it.” Or, “God is going to get you for that.” Again, “Mama might not see it, but God does.”  Talk about negative, counter-productive training! If you constrain a child by threatening him with divine displeasure, he will come to hate God and will throw off religion as soon as he is old enough for independent action. It happens with regularity. Never, I say, NEVER use God to threaten or intimidate your child into compliance. You are causing the child to associate God with condemnation and rejection.”

Many parents who are not guilty of threatening their children with God will nonetheless challenge their children to live as should a Christian, placing the emphasis on performance.

Avoiding Hypocrisy

How then should we instruct our children in righteousness? If children fail to be kind, do not challenge them to do kindness so as to conform to Christian practice or so as to please God. Read that sentence again; it is the heart of this article. A pure heart does not look at the loss of respect or influence, nor seek to maintain a certain public image. A pure heart acts out of love for one’s neighbor. Virtue speaks for itself. Kindness has an innate value because of the effect upon others. Encourage your child this way: “Johnny, how would you feel if someone treated you that way? Would it make you angry or would it provoke you to love?”

Don’t instruct your daughters to dress in a certain fashion because it is necessary to “dress like a Christian.” Rather, instruct your daughters in the nature of men and of their passions and lust, and then encourage them to choose their dress so as not to be a temptation to the boys and men.

Though many interpret it as such, Christianity is not a religion with certain forms and rituals. It is life in Jesus Christ, motivated by the Spirit of truth and love. Address all character and social issues on their own merits. To tailor your life to the opinions of others is hypocrisy. To do, or not do, because someone is watching may gain you a reward on earth but not in heaven (Matthew 6:1-5).

One young lady told how her large family would watch movies at home but were warned to not reveal that fact to their peers. Another young man tells how the family had one set of rules for public consumption and another, less strict set of rules for their private life at home.

When a family joins itself to a community of believers who espouse certain standards and practices, and they know they must maintain the perception of conformity lest they be shunned as unworthy, it creates a decided formula for the growth of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is dishonesty, and fear is a major cause of hypocrisy. When we are insecure with our convictions and direction in life, we cling to others for meaning. We fear rejection and will be dishonest in order to maintain social acceptance.

Hypocrisy is an act of desperation. As a last resort we pretend to be what we believe we ought to be but cannot or will not be.

Hypocrisy is trading the eternal for the temporal, the here and now (Matthew 5:1-5).

It is valuing the opinions of men more than one’s self-respect. Hypocrisy is the certain path to raising children that will not respect you.

The popular phrase, “Get real,” is not from the Bible; but it very well could have been! (2 Corinthians 8:21.)

Know what you believe and what the will of God is for you and your family, and then let love and honesty be your primary motivation. Your children will rise up and “call you blessed” rather than “hypocrite.”

And we will just ignore those spying spectators who resent our lifestyle and call us hypocrites in an attempt to make us ashamed for choosing a higher road.

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8 comments on “Hypocrisy in the Homeschool Ranks?”

  1. Thanks for writing this article. It's interesting to note how subtle comments can produce such an unfavorable outcome for our families. I have at times used the 'God sees everything we do' threat and will take care not to use it again.
    We've had Christian friends who seem to really have it all together except that their children were disrespectful & even wicked and we have been at a loss as to understand where the parents were going wrong (and so to avoid it ourselves).
    Your article provides wise councel and may God spare us all from messing up our children in this way.

  2. I would love a more detailed explanation of why we shouldn't say God sees us even when there isn't any person in the room. If there is anyone who we should "fear," it is God, right? Of course in a healthy way. The Bible even says he sees and knows all, and in my own life, I'm not scared of God watching me, I do feel like knowing his presence is with me helps me stay on task and want to please him. Like, doing my work as for the Lord (Colossians). So would you say we should never talk about God seeing us all the time? Or is there a time to do it carefully?

    1. Hello Rebecca,
      Mike never said that you shouldn't say "God sees us even when there isn't any person in the room." He did say to "...Never, I say, NEVER use God to threaten or intimidate your child into compliance." What he is warning against is using the truth of the Bible to manipulate your child to your own end.
      The fear of the Lord is something that parents definitely need to teach their children! Here are some articles that may help clarify your question:

      1. Thank you for your reply. Yes, I know he didn't say those exact words. I admit I was extrapolating what he did say, but just wanting to make sure I wasn't saying something harmful unknowingly. Thanks again!

  3. I do not find telling our children to not talk about certain things at church or with church friends to be hypocritical at all. We allow our homeschooled children to read books and watch movies that their homeschooled church friends are not allowed to partake in. We do not see anything wrong with these books/movies but our friends do, so out of respect for them we have instructed our children to refrain from discussing these things that are off limits to their friends, as to not encourage their friends to disobey their parents. It's not about putting on a show, it's about respecting the convictions of our brothers and sisters in the Lord even though we do not hold them ourselves.

  4. I’m sure we were guilty of this to some degree when we were raising our kids. ? It can sometimes be easier to rely on our own efforts rather than the work of the Holy Spirit. Good thing we serve a God of mercy, love, forgiveness and grace. ❤️

  5. “It is a battle to raise godly children. If your parents made some mistakes, don’t think that just by avoiding their error you will succeed in parenting. There are more ways to fail than you can imagine.”
    Comments like this and others that I have read from you have me wondering...
    What does it mean to “succeed in parenting”? Does it mean that our children will get saved?
    And what does it mean to “fail”? Does that mean that our children will not be believers and will someday go to hell?
    Good training = Christian.
    Bad training = heathen.
    Did I get that right?
    If it all hinges on our parenting (training), why do we need Jesus?
    Isn’t that a really heavy burden to put on parents?
    Which of all the characters that we read about in the Bible became a Christian as a result of the godly training they received growing up?
    Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the work of the Holy Spirit, not a work of training. It is the result of an encounter with the living God!
    Training is good, and parents should train their children as the Bible teaches. Just be careful not to imply that perfrect training will produce salvation. Perfect training produces perfectly trained children, that’s it.
    Only God can change a heart!

  6. Good article. I really believe this is one of the particular pitfalls that us homeschooling conservatives face based on my own experience growing up in the homeschool movement. The minds of our children are engaged, but not their hearts and that produces insanely smart people but who lack understanding. As a conservative, you have the mind and it can be tempting to think you have it all buttoned down, prim, and tied with a bow, ready to put on public display for everyone to see how life SHOULD be done. I mean, I've got my i's dotted, my t's crossed, I do all this right. I mean, you could almost start quoting "I thank thee Lord that I am not like others, I fast and tithe and..." It's a real temptation for conservatives, I think, but God said the publican went to his house justified, not the Pharisee. Genuineness is a matter of the new heart. A friend of my sister's once said that the furthest 12 inches in the world was the distance between your head and your heart and I think that was a wise statement.