|The Tree of Freedom
By: Dick Karman
As chairman of the board of OCEANetwork, I cannot think of the miracles of the last 25 years without thinking about Galatians 6: 7-10.
That was a season of watering and growth. The tree of homeschool freedoms which had been planted by the waters was taking root and giving freedom a “good name.” For those who do not know the story, over 1,000 homeschool parents dropped what they were doing and with just two-days notice came to Salem from all over the state for a hearing on proposed homeschool rules on a Tuesday afternoon. This immediate response to the threat against our freedoms gave us a reputation for peaceful, obedient and tenacious lobbying that lived for years. I believe that God gave us this victory as a means to strengthen our trust in HIM.
The seasons continued on. In 1995, homeschoolers introduced a bill to protect homeschool freedoms by limiting the Department of Education’s ability to change the homeschooling rules. Although the bill died in committee, this was the start of something BIG. As homeschool families lobbied for the 1995 bill, they became well grounded in the principles of freedom, and the tree of homeschool freedom grew strong limbs.
In those turbulent years of the mid- 1990s, OCEAN changed to OCEANetwork, an infant non-profit corporation. Yet we were not timid; we plunged in to expand homeschool freedoms. We worked to develop lines of communication with the Oregon Home Education Network. Together we still work toward the same goal, total homeschool freedom.
The tree of freedom was becoming well developed spreading ever stronger limbs.
In fact, two years later, we no longer took baby steps – we took a giant step. We asked God to give us total freedom from government oppression. These are big words for a small grassroots organization. We submitted a total freedom bill. Our friends in the legislature said they would sponsor the bill, but did not expect miracles. They reminded us that we still had the same governor in office.
But God had done a mighty work in homeschool families. This was the opportunity for each family to understand the principle that home education is PRIVATE education. Lawmakers notice families taking a stand on principles (not something often observed in our Capitol). We saw support that we never thought we’d see.
Even though the tree was strong, there was a little bit of blight among the leaves and branches. As a board we used every effort to educate families and legislators about the principle that God gave children to parents, not to the government. But in the back of our minds we doubted and were getting ready for another gubernatorial veto. The bill had suffered a little pruning itself and did not give total freedom, but it did reduce the amount and frequency of testing.
The session was drawing a close in the summer of 1999 when God did a miracle. While OCEANetwork board members were struggling with how to let the families down gently while keeping them encouraged for another two years, a legislative aid said, “Have you heard? The governor signed your bill today!” It was virtually the same bill that the same governor had vetoed two years earlier!
That taught us a lesson we need to review and renew every year, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1). GOD had pruned our doubts.
Our conference theme in August was “Passing the Baton.” To look at it this way, Dennis Tuuri ran the first leg of the race for each of us before many readers were parents and before all current homeschool students were born. Pastor Tuuri passed the baton to OCEAN, but that pass was through a very reluctant runner (me). I took the baton, not because I aspired to political leadership, but because GOD wanted me there.
My wife, Dorothy, and I are not young. Dorothy as a wonderful and loving help-mate did more than her share in Salem. In the last 7 years we have been able to pass that baton to Rodger Williams. He ran beside us for years, now he’s running his leg of the race. And soon he will be passing the baton on to the next generation of homeschoolers.
The tree of homeschool freedom has grown and protects homeschool families in Oregon. The branches have spread and made new families very comfortable in the shade of years of growth. In this “shade tree” season some have grown a little lazy or at very best too relaxed to see that the tree still needs to be nurtured.
Christian families are forgetting (or they don’t know, as we didn’t when we started homeschooling) that education is not “neutral;” it is not void of religious presuppositions. For that reason, they don’t see the danger in taking government funds for home education even though those funds come with the suffocating strings of “Thou shalt teach nothing religious with these funds.”
When parents lose sight of God’s plan and choose the world’s plan, they’re losing sight of how we reached this shade tree season. They, without really thinking about it, decide “I’ll take some of the government money to fund my homeschool. It’s no big thing: I just have to put up with those heathen textbooks, and, OH, yeah, I can’t teach God’s principles to my children between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. The government will want to tell me how to teach. And I guess I can’t have a Bible on the computer that they are providing. My house becomes a government building. OH, and they will want me to teach to the test – the same test that tells me it would be a good thing to read “Heather has two Mommies.”
Giving up your ability as a Christian to “take every thought captive” for Christ – in history, science, writing, even math – may be a caution for Christians to avoid government-funded school-at-home, but why do many secular home education leaders caution families against homeschooling, too? There are two reasons. The first is how homeschool families lose personal freedom and independence when they homeschool. The second reason impacts us all. The legislature wants accountability for money it spends (as I believe it should). Cheryl Walker, former Oregon legislators said it clearly when she wrote a lobbying piece against our total home education freedom bill. “I suggest that if they really want freedom from state control they stop accepting State Department of Education money. . . Taxpayers who are paying for home-schooling should have accountability from the students.”
Are we being paranoid? No, these are explicit things that homeschoolers in other states have had to put up with in order to homeschool with government money. The shade tree comfort we are enjoying right now is because God has honored those who have stood firmly on the principles in HIS word. It takes years, and often decades to get to this leg of the race. HE has allowed us an unprecedented place in Salem: We are a group that stands on principles; we are a group who doesn’t want money. We want freedom to raise our children.
The future of homeschool freedom could be grim. In other states hundreds and sometimes thousands of families have either forgotten or never been taught God’s principles. They have lusted after the government dollar and have followed it to its eventual, but inevitable location, in the government purse which is held together by government strings.
But we hear those who know the principles and choose to ignore them say, “before it gets that far, I’ll pull out.” It will be too late to “pull out” once regulation has caught up with government spending. It will be just like the frog in the pot of water: when the temperature gets too hot it will be too late.
OCEANetwork does not tell families how they should educate your children, but we will admonish you, God gave you those children - Won’t you please trust HIM to give you the funds (free from government strings) to educate them God’s way?
Luke 1: 16 (speaking of John the Baptist) says, “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous. . .” Why? “. . . so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
That’s why OCEANetwork exists – not just to turn hearts of parents to their children so that family life can be richer and more fulfilling – we exist to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. We will Honor God and continue to fight for the freedom to disciple our children by home educating them . . . to make ready a people prepared for the LORD. We will stand on godly principles and not give in the pressure of a corrupt society . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. We pray that the next generation will be ready to take the baton . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
If we grasp and hold on to one principle, it would be that homeschooling is not just education at home – not just academics, not just pencil and paper; homeschooling is discipleship . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Is the tree that I discussed still growing or is it withering? I think the leaders across the nation see it withering. It needs support – the support of people with principles who are willing to take the baton and continue the race.
If the baton is dropped, it is very difficult to regain the lead. If the runner fails the pass the race is worse than lost. That relay team has to wait until the next race. They will have to go back to starting blocks. What happens if we lose the grip on the baton?
If we are not vigilant, I can see a time when another reluctant young man starts his walk down the hallways of Salem – not knowing that it will take at least 25 years to get to the level of homeschool freedoms that we have today.
I won’t be here – God has numbered my days. It is a goal of the OCEANetwork board to raise up a generation of parents who have principles and have a vision of raising a generation of leaders who won’t be afraid to not only take the baton, but to pass it on. I pray that my children’s children will be able to homeschool — not for academics, or accolades — but to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. >
This message was based on a keynote message Dick gave at the 2007 OCEANetwork Conference.
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