Monday, March 30, 2009

The Trouble with Homeschooling

A friend recently loaned me a copy of Home School Enrichment Magazine so I could read two articles of interest. As I scanned the rest of the magazine, I came across an article called “Crazy about My Kids,” in which the author describes all the “excuses” Christians give for not homeschooling their children. I laughed out loud when I read, “Homeschooling is definitely not the norm – in the world or in the church.”

I’m not sure where she goes to church, but it certainly isn’t anywhere I’ve been in the past fifteen years. Of the four friends whose birthdates and residence could possible put them in the same class as my preschool-aged son, three will almost definitely be homeschooled, and the mother of the fourth hasn’t entirely decided against it. I am almost afraid to admit I plan to send my children to public school.

Let me first say that I respect and appreciate the commitment, time, and money that goes into quality homeschooling. I can also understand the desire to homeschool, especially in my school district, where the school board was sued and voted out of office after asking teachers to allow their students to hear that (gasp!) people who believe in a Creator actually exist. (Contrary to many news reports, the district was not even “teaching” intelligent design, simply reading a statement at the beginning of a unit on evolution that said some people disagreed with the theory.)

I won’t say that I would never consider homeschooling my children – I can envision a few specific circumstances where I might. However, I would homeschool only after other options were exhausted. Why? I see the mass exodus of Christians from public schools as the church literally telling everyone in those schools that they can go to hell.

The Bible tells us to be salt and light in our culture (Matthew 12:13-16).* If no Christians are in the public schools being salt – preserving the remaining moral character of the schools and challenging ideas that are inconsistent with a biblical worldview – public education is left to rot. If no students are there being light – standing up for what is right and showing their peers faith in action – many will graduate from high school without ever hearing the name of Jesus used as anything but a curse word. And students who do not know any Christians personally can imagine that all Christians are all the bad things we’re said to be.

Homeschooling has many advantages, but most benefit homeschooling families and not the culture at large. By taking our children out of the public schools, I fear the Christian community is contributing to –even worsening – the very problems with public education that make homeschooling so popular in the first place.

I know a lot of you disagree with me on this topic. Please leave a comment and tell me why!

*A great book on being salt and light in our culture is Roaring Lambsby Bob Briner. I highly recommend it – it’s an easy read, but it really influenced my thinking on these matters.

6 comments:

  1. This is food for a lot of thought.

    My sons are in public schools right now, and they're really not doing that badly. I'm not sure what we'll do with my daughter (20 months) and my next son (due in July), but they'll probably wind up in school, too.

    There are definitely pros and cons, but it's probably a bit over the top to deride Christians who don't homeschool.

    I also wanted to let you know that I did get your submission for the Christian Carnival. Thanks!

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  2. I agree with you 100% !!
    Christian children need exposure to other people that are not like themselves. Bad and good character building from school can overall be a good thing, like a lot of life experiences.

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  3. In order to be salt, you have to be...salty. You can't fill a salt shaker with non-salt the majority of the time and then expect salt to come out when it's shaken. It's just not a given that the children of even very salty parents are going to be salt & light themselves. Sure, the parents can be (and I do appreciate those parents who are a sanctifying influence on public schools...and I know many), but it's foolish to think that the kids can be when they haven't been firmly rooted and established first. As a homeschool mom, I'm able to pour salt into my kids the majority of the time, and then give them opportunities to be salty on the soccer field, in Scouts, while playing with the neighborhood kids, or even in Sunday School class (where the majority of their peers are in public school).

    Also, I think that as most homeschool graduates enter the world after graduation, they will benefit society at large. Jesus Himself did not begin his public ministry until He was 30, and just think of the closed Jewish culture in which he grew up. Was he really advocating that we send our 5 year olds out on their own to be missionaries in the Sermon on the Mount?

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  4. Homeschooling for the purpose of purely a religious thing is wrong. I'm not against homeschooling, in any, way, shape or form; but not for religious purposes. Children should be exposed to the schools theories also. Imagine the shock they will get in life when they leave home and find out - they will feel lied too and may even feel that they can no longer trust their parents/religion. What they need is to be exposed to these things and in return - talk about them as a family and love them.

    Homeschooling, however, should be considered when the school is not working for the betterment of your child - ex: temperment and learning style of your child doesn't match what the school expects, and the school is unwilling to change anything, or if your child needs individual attention that the school is unable to provide. Than, homeschooling is a viable option.

    As much as you love your kids, you can't shield them from the world. Better that they learn the evils of the world NOW when you are able to talk with them and guide them than 20 years down the road when they feel they are "free" and no longer trust their parents who never told them about the world they live in.

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  5. Although I was raised in a Christian background and considered myself a Christian from a young age, I was not deeply committed to being salt to my public school peers until I was 16. At that point, it was good for me to be in a public school. The persecution made me stronger and I pray that I made a difference to someone there. Prior to that, the influence was all going in the other direction. Let's at least wait until our children have decided (if they do) to become Christians and have a fundamental understanding of what that entails. Before that, they are reeds blown in the wind (and public school sure is a windy place).

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  6. I will definitely home-school my kids because of several reasons:
    The quality of the education
    What is actually being taught
    The negative exposure that kids receive
    The wasted time
    I want to raise my own kids
    etc.

    However, I think the biggest factor to home-school or not comes down to this, the call God has placed on our lives. My friend would never home-school his kids. He is a teacher, but more than that it comes down to how God has made him. He is evangelical in nature (meaning he does things based on trying to witness to non-Christians). My gifts are in discipleship (meaning I want to take Christians deeper in their relationship with God). The fact that I want to teach/raise my kids makes sense according to my calling. The fact my friend wants his kids to be in an environment to witness makes sense according to his calling.

    The trick is to not get caught up in our callings though, and be open to how God has also wired our kids. If they are evangelical in nature and wish to go to a public school then we should be open to this, same thing likewise. When the time comes for my own kid to make a decision (middle school or later probably) I hope I am able to allow them to make their choice based on how God wired them.

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Thanks for your comments! Agree or disagree, but please comment respectfully.