To Think About: A Practices Audit

Especially Traditions, Everyday Traditions, Faith, Paideia January 29, 2016

So, the question is, Are there habits and practices that we acquire without knowing it? Are there ritual forces in our culture that we perhaps naively immerse ourselves in–and are thus formed by–that, when we consider them more closely, are pointed at some ultimate end? Are there mundane routines that we participate in that, if we are attentive, function as thick practices aimed at a particular vision of the good life?

To get at this requires quite a bit of patient reflection and analysis, both introspective and communal. Consider taking some time this week to engage in a bit of self-inventory > a “practices audit” < perhaps journaling about it. Then talk about these issues with friends. Use the following questions as prompts:

  • What are some of the most significant habits and practices that really shape your actions and attitude–what you think and what you do?
  • What does your time look like? What practices are you regularly immersed in each week? How much time is spent doing different sorts of activities?
  • What do you think are the most important ritual forces in your life? And if you were honest with yourself, are these positive (forming you into the kind of person who embodies the kingdom of God) or negative (forming you into someone whose values and desires are antithetical to that kingdom, oriented toward another kingdom)?
  • What do you think are some of the most potent practices in our culture? Or, if you have kids, what are the culture forces that you don’t want your children shaped by? And why on both counts?
  • If you step back and reflect on them, are there some habits and practices that you might have originally thought were neutral or thin, but upon further reflection, you see them as thicker and more significant?
  • Is there any way in which you see worship as a thick habit? How so? How not?
  • If Christain worship is a thick practice, what do you think are its most significant “competitors”?

J A M E S  S M I T H | DESIRING THE KINGDOM (Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation)

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What About Socialization?

Paideia August 31, 2015

If you have homeschooled for more than a few weeks, you’ve probably been confronted by someone who is quite concerned about your children’s socialization. The minute you begin homeschooling, well-meaning relatives, friends at church, neighbors, clerks in the grocery store, waitresses, pediatricians, trash collectors, school board members, legislators, reporters, and folks who have never noticed you or spoken to you before all feel compelled to ask you about your child’s socialization.

As a homeschooling mom, I often wondered how Jesus would have answered the question “What about socialization?” As I pondered this early one morning, it dawned on me that Jesus had an interesting way of dealing with people’s questions, especially those of a critical or hostile nature. Consider these examples:

Question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:10).

Jesus’ answer: “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? (Matthew 12:11).

Question: “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” (Matthew 15:2).

Jesus’ answer: “And why do you break God’s commandment because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).

Question: “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

Jesus’ answer: “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authorityI do these things. Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 2:24-25).

In every one of these conversations, Jesus answered a question with a question. Interesting, isn’t it?

We, of course, don’t have certain advantages that Jesus had when He answered these questions with questions. We can’t perfectly discern the other person’s motives. We don’t always know more than the people questioning us. We are not divine authorities on any issue. Jesus can call someone else a hypocrite because He is perfect; because we are far from perfect, we had better be careful about pointing fingers.

Despite these factors, I do think we can effectively employ some of Jesus’ techniques in dealing with other people’s questions about our children’s socialization, so long as we maintain a proper attitude.

Years ago, I started answering these questions with questions of my own. The questions I ask vary depending on whether I am talking to an educator, a neighbor, a legislator, or a prospective homeschooling parent. Here are a few:

  • What is your definition of socialization?
  • Are you pleased with the socialization your children are receiving where they’re in school?
  • Do you think all socialization is positive?
  • What do think causes negative socialization?
  • What does negative socialization cost our society?
  • Who should socialize children–their peers or their parents?
  • What does the Bible say about socialization?

Sometimes people who ask about socialization just want to know if your kids have any friends or if they ever get out of the house. But socialization is a much deeper issue. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines socialization as “the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.”

I believe the biblical response to this definition of socialization is discipleship. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe everything He has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ call to discipleship certainly includes discipling our children. Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary gives this definition of the verb disciple: “To assist and mentor new believers to mature in the knowledge of the Lord through continual oversight of their life and through edification and discipline.”

Lawrence O. Richards, author of The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, simplifies the concept further:

Jesus defined the goal of discipling when he said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Likeness to Jesus himself is the goal God has for you and me.

What a magnificent goal for our discipleship efforts–to have our children become more and more like Jesus!

Homeschooling is a powerful marriage of education and discipleship. We can teach our children two commandments most important to God–to love Him and to serve their neighbors–as we teach them academics, as we do chores together, as we go out into the community, and as we worship together. Most socialization in a traditional school environment leads to peer dependence and a self absorbed focus on popularity. At home we can emphasize the importance of loving God and putting others first–we socialize our children by discipling them.

This emphasis on discipleship over the traditional view of socialization doesn’t mean our kids won’t have friends or know how to conduct themselves in a variety of social environments. On the contrary, most homeschooled kids are very involved in activities in their neighborhoods, communities, and churches. They play sports, sing in choirs, participate in 4H clubs, play in orchestras, volunteer in campaigns, take mission trips, teach Sunday school, and enthusiastically embrace life (most of the time). More and more, college admission personnel actively recruit homeschooled students. As counterintuitive it may seem to some, homeschool students show a strong propensity for leadership.

When all is said and done, we want most for our kids to love Jesus. This love will propel them to be involved in the lives of others–to engage and improve their culture for the good of their neighbors and the glory of God. We want our kids to know what it means to learn, live, and defend their faith. That is socialization at its finest.

Z A N  T Y L E R (Director, Apologia Press)

Life Together

Faith July 29, 2015

“Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that service reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”

“It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”

Excerpts from ‘Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community’
by D I E T R I C H  B O N H O E F F E R