Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Two Extremes Parents Must Avoid

In their book Indivisible, Jay Richards and James Robison write that parents must avoid two extremes:  Overexposing your children on the one hand, and quarantine on the other.  Instead, parents must pursue "inoculation."  Richards and Robison write,
"Millions of parents, including Christians, expose their children to deadly ideas and influences for dozens of hours every week.  They assume that an hour or two of church a week plus some short conversations at dinner should be enough to counteract thirty-five hours of TV per week, another thirty-five hours of secular schooling -- a place where God is 'He who must not be named' -- another few hours of Internet surfing, and several more hours of breathing in the ambient secular culture, not to mention the often unwholesome influence of classmates and friends.  Exposing your children to all this bilge defiles common sense."
Avoiding overexposure is the reason many parents, like Lydia and me, have chosen either homeschooling or private-schooling.  But there is another extreme that we must avoid:  quarantine.  Richards and Robison write that quarantine is essentially telling your kids what they are supposed to believe, but never giving them good reasons to think these things were true.  It's telling your kids what to believe without working to show them why the Christian worldview is superior to all others.  Thus many Christian kids are unprepared for the challenges to their faith that they receive in high school and college, and eventually they abandon the faith.

The right approach is what Richards and Robison refer to as inoculation.  Inoculation is essentially giving someone a vaccine.  When doctors inoculate children, they give them a less dangerous form of a virus.  This causes their immune system to kick in, and the child builds up resistance.  This resistance then protects them from the more deadly virus.

For parents, inoculation involves not only teaching your child what to believe, but why.  It involves not only teaching your child the truth, but also exposing them to the alternatives and showing how Christianity can withstand the attacks.  In the words of the authors,
"Inoculation means that we expose our children to the best and strongest ideas that the world has to offer, but expose them in a way, and in an environment that allows them to build up intellectual immunity.  We must acquaint them with the best arguments on all sides of an issue, and teach them to evaluate the arguments critically."
Lydia and I believe that the best way for us to train up our children is through homeschooling, but we don't use homeschooling to quarantine our kids.  Rather, we use homeschooling to inoculate our kids.  It allows us to protect them from overexposure, and it provides the ideal environment to teach what to believe, why to believe it, and how to defend it against competing worldviews.  For example, our homeschool curriculum, Sonlight, intentionally includes books with unbiblical ideas for this very purpose -- inoculation.  And then it includes instructions for how to use these books as opportunities to teach kids to recognize unbiblical ideas, as well as an argument for why the Biblical worldview is superior.

Whether or not you choose homeschooling, you must avoid the extremes of overexposure and quarantine.  Don't just protect your kids.  Prepare them to stand against the enemy. 

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