At times I fail to appreciate the literature and speakers that are at the forefront of the homeschool movement. I mentioned this to a friend and she said, “That’s because they are not Reformed.” “Reformed” I mused; “I thought homeschooling was academics; what did ‘reformed’ have to do with it?” The question remains continually in the back of my mind. The concept “Reformed” has become a word that can mean almost anything these days. The term can mean anything from American-Dutch culture to hyper-Calvinism. For those who have attempted to define “Reformed” with application into the corporate worship service and daily living, it has become a confusing, illusive term causing much dissension and argument. I am not going to attempt to get into this topic on that level. I hope to apply this in a way that most readers from any Reformed background can understand, with examples of how we practice it in the home educator’s environment.
First, a Reformed homeschooler will never become a recluse. These are not families that go off to no man’s land never to be heard from again, taking up a hermit-like existence, in order to protect their children from the worldly influences. Reformed people accept the fact that God is Sovereign. They do not have to hide from the world and all the dangers in it, but work hard to obey God’s command to fellowship with the saints and to be a light to the world.
Second, and more elusive, yet distinctive, is the type of curriculum Reformed families might select. Some of this might be cultural, but then so is our Reformed heritage. Most Reformed parents have been educated in private schools, so standards tend to be set high. They tend to require more structure in their daily life and curriculum. History and science tend to be the watershed between the Reformed homeschooler and homeschoolers in general. Many people react to the current curriculums in the public school, and even private schools, and tend to jump at anything that is reminiscent of a more innocent era, never mind accuracy. In contrast, a Reformed homeschooler will look for material that will give a broader and more accurate view of world. This is a big job because it is up to the parents to seek wisdom and knowledge to give not only a Christian perspective, but a complete perspective. The history of the Christian church will naturally be included in the Reformed homeschool setting. The curriculum in the other subjects will be substantive and in depth. Major concentration will be given to the basics such as math, science and the communication skiUs of writing and speaking. thus preparing children to support themselves and ultimately to serve in the Christian community.
Third, since we believe that we and our children are totally depraved, and we are, we are not left up to our own devices. Children are accountable to parents for their work and parents in turn are accountable to others. In my case, I have advisory teaching where the kids are tested and I send in the tests. Other parents choose other types of measuring devices to make sure they are on target. Then there is the subject of depravity and character. There are whole curriculums that are developed around character study. Character is a spiritual aspect of the person that encompasses every area of their lives, not only in subject matter but also in attitude. It cannot be neatly put into a category and then lived out. Only with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, knowledge and power of the Word, and the will of the Father can the character or spirit be changed. This doctrine alone sets the Reformed apart from Arminian brothers and sisters.
Doctrine brings me to my last and most obvious point of difference. Some Reformed families prefer to use a more formal or structural approach to teaching points of doctrine, such as the catechism. Others prefer to use an informal approach using the Bible and relaying points of doctrine as they come to them. For instance, a Reformed homeschooler will not disregard the Old Testament as just another dispensation and focus only on the New Testament. They will teach the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the fact of our sin and need for a Savior. Naturally, all Reformed families, whether in the homeschooling circles or the traditional day school are interested in this aspect of educating children. As Reformed families it is important for us not only to know what we believe, but to articulate it. Application must be taught alongside these truths that give our faith a structure and can be passed down to the next generation in an age that desperately needs truth and discernment.
Connie Sikma and her husband Douglas are members of the Seventh Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Mrs. Sikma homeschools her four children, ages 12, 9, 7 and 5.