Skeet Savage is the Founder of Wisdom’s Gate, Editor of HOME SCHOOL DIGEST, An Encouraging Word, and Brush Arbor Quarterly, and author of the book, Homeschooling for Eternity.
Skeet began homeschooling in the 1970s and successfully home educated six children against numerous odds. In the face of court battles, social service visits, and the threat of having children removed from the home for being “truant,” she stood firm and helped to pave the way for the modern homeschool movement.
CBD: You’re a pioneer in the homeschool movement. How have you seen homeschooling change, especially over the past five years? How do you think this will affect the community going forward?
Skeet Savage: Homeschooling today is nothing like it was when I first started teaching my children at home in the 70s. Along with the increased blessings God has bestowed on the homeschooling community over the years have come a new set of challenges.
In the first place, the legal climate (at least on the surface) has presented a tolerant atmosphere as state governments have given a legal nod to homeschooling (though, in most cases they have continued to withhold a hearty endorsement). Homeschooling no longer carries the stigma of truancy as it has it has increasingly come out of the closet and become far more socially acceptable.
While this has been a welcome relief to most, in many cases, the bedrock of conviction required in the face of potential legal repercussions regarding the decision to embrace the responsibility for the training of our children has been replaced with an almost whimsical view of homeschooling. In some circles, it is almost a fad -- I would even say fashionable -- to be able to claim homeschooling status. However, homeschooling still requires the same commitment and determination as always, and those who seek to casually approach and minimally invest in the education and training of their children are usually the ones who will opt out when things get the least bit rough.
Curriculum is much more readily available as book manufacturers have long since recognized the validity of the homeschool as a potential market base. Whereas, in the 70s, finding educational resources was one of the greatest challenges, today’s homeschooling parent can feel utterly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of study options available through a multitude of sources. The wise parent will prayerfully research all the options and make choices based on which educational tools best fit their child’s learning style as well as the family’s lifestyle and goals.
The internet has not only changed the way we do business, it has literally changed most every aspect of our world as we have known it -- and not all of that has been for the good! In the early years, homeschooling was a very hands-on, inter-relational learning experience that enhanced family values and connectedness. Flash forward to the contemporary homeschool scene where the average young person today can easily spend far more time cozied up to their computer casually interacting with an online community of virtual friends than enjoying genuine face-to-face relationships with parents and siblings under his own roof. Yet, with supervision and restraint, the internet can be a valuable resource to enhance the homeschool experience.
Yes, the homeschooling times, they certainly are a-changing -- and I am more excited about homeschooling with every year that passes!
After twenty years of ministering to homeschooling families, we are now seeing the children who grew up reading Home School Digest beginning to marry and have children of their own -- what a joy it is to see the good fruit of our labors coming to maturity!
CBD: Home School Digest has been published for 20 years now. What inspired you to start a magazine publication? What are some of the most important lessons or insights you’ve learned along the way?
Skeet Savage: The founding of Wisdom’s Gate Ministries and Home School Digest was definitely a calling from the LORD which came shortly after I came to know Him twenty years ago and to understand His heart in the establishment of the home as the premier training ground for children. As time has gone on, I have come to see more clearly that homeschooling is not only God’s plan for family discipleship, it perfectly fits His eternal purposes and plans for the advancement of the Kingdom in these critical times in which we live.
In your book “Homeschooling for Eternity”, you emphasize God’s requirements as the most important standard in homeschooling, and recommend cultivating “a balance in customizing and prioritizing subjects and levels of knowledge…in light of the outcome we hope to achieve.” Understanding that all families are unique, what did a holistic Christian education look like for your family?
My approach to homeschooling was very hands-on -- an almost apprentice-style approach to learning where education took place in a real-life context and learning was always viewed as the necessary process for taking us to the next level of where we were heading in the reality of our days.
For example, as we studied health, we learned that free-range eggs were better for us than the store-bought variety. That led to research and study on the raising of chickens. We did the math and were able to “count the cost” of acquiring, housing and feeding our egg and meat supply, and calculate it as a bargain in light of rising healthcare costs. This hands-on learning experience also provided us with an understanding of the burden and responsibility that goes along with caring for livestock (as well as stewardship of our own bodies) and taught many character-building lessons along the way.
Wisdom’s Gate, our faith-based family ministry which includes our local mission outreach, as well as traveling and speaking at events across the country, and the day-to-day operations of our publishing business, provided a wonderful opportunity for spiritual, educational and social development.
Our reasons for homeschooling will ultimately determine the outcome of our efforts. Early on, I understood that academic excellence includes a solid grounding in the Word of our God. It was never my desire to raise a bunch of smart little pagans or politically-correct citizens. Believing the Biblical command, “Whatsoever you do in word or deed do all to the glory of God,” my goal was to home educate my children to that end by training them to be servant-hearted laborers fit for service in the Kingdom of God.
The Scriptures teach us that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” I consider my children to be one of the most wonderful gifts God has entrusted to me and, because I am looking forward to spending eternity with Him, nothing matters more to me than knowing that my children will be there too -- which is why everything I did as a homeschool parent was focused in that direction. If something held the potential for taking us in another direction -- no matter how popular or how many stars it got from reviewers -- it would never be incorporated into our homeschool picture. The Bible served as our roadmap to guide us all along the way through our homeschooling years -- and beyond!
CBD: You use the metaphor “Setting up an educational buffet” to motivate kids “to pursue learning on their own initiative”; what are some ways you’ve found to “set the buffet” and nurture educational desire?
Skeet Savage: The possibilities for learning are endless! My approach to big-picture learning was very simple and pretty basic in its application and yet it has proven to be quite successful. Rather than standing up in front of the room and teaching my children classroom-style from an educational scope and sequence compiled according to someone else’s idea of what should be taught when, I sought to instill in them a hunger for knowledge and truth, and a love for learning. I purposefully focused on teaching them HOW to learn and equipping them with the tools necessary for real, functionally applicable education. In other words, for example, I taught them how to read -- and then provided plenty of books and practical opportunities to guide them on their educational journey.
CBD: You’ve raised children with ADHD and dyslexia, and have written that such difficulties are challenges that can be overcome, though often requiring a unique approach. Do you have any tips, ideas, or thoughts for those homeschooling children with learning differences?
Skeet Savage: Not only did I raise and home educate children with those challenges, I came to understand along the way that I, too, had struggled through my whole life with severe, undiagnosed dyslexia -- which made it very interesting some days! There was no such thing as a simple lesson. For example if, when teaching the children to drive I said, “Okay, when you get to the corner, TURN RIGHT,” I would inevitably hear, “My right or your right?”
Every child is unique and our interaction and relationships with them should be approached prayerfully. God knows His plans for each one and we will be most effective in the training of our children if we stay closely in tune with His heart for each one of them.
If our children are to succeed in this life in spite of physical restrictions and learning challenges, character flaws and shortcomings need to be recognized and dealt with firmly and consistently according to God‘s Word. On the other hand, idiosyncrasies born out of organically inherent limitations must be patiently and creatively overcome through discipline and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
When we, as parents, settle it in our minds once and for all that God purposefully and strategically placed each particular child in our care, we can embrace the opportunity (however challenging) to do our absolute best to train each of our children -- with all their God-ordained uniqueness -- for His glory.
CBD: What types of books do you find helpful and enjoy reading? Do you have any favorite author(s)?
Skeet Savage: I have received much benefit from reading biographies and hearing the testimony of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. I would say the one that impacted me the most is A.T. Pierson’s biography of George Mueller.
My hunger for learning is insatiable and with over 4,000 books in our library, it is hard to pick a favorite. However, Greg Hinnant, author of numerous books including Gold Tried in the Fire and Walking on Water, is one of the most inspirational contemporary authors I have read. And Glenn Meldrum, author of Rend the Heavens and Rescue Me (published by Wisdom‘s Gate, and available through CBD) would have to be one of the most compelling and challenging voices in print today.
CBD: What encouragement would you give to this generation of parents training up their children?
Skeet Savage: Despite the ever-changing times we live in, as Christian parents we need to remind ourselves that we belong to “the God who changes not” and that He loves our children even more than we do! It is our joyous responsibility to steward these precious gifts that we call “our children” according to all that our God has taught us in His Word. In doing so, we can labor confidently through this process of training up our children for the glory of God and draw great comfort in the sure promises of our God for a positive outcome “when they are old.” I truly believe there is no greater calling or privilege than to make disciples -- starting with those little people living right under our roof!