Contend Earnestly: Should I Home School My Kids?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Should I Home School My Kids?

For most of the Christians out there, I have found out, that the answer to the question above is a resounding YES! I am going to do my best to show the pros and cons of home schooling and to do this, there will be some generalizations. I know there are exceptions to every rule. I know that for every con I put out there, you will have a rebuttal because little Billy-Joe never experienced any of the things that I state. If you want to put all your chips on Billy-Joe instead of critically thinking through issues, that's up to you and the box you're in.

This post is going to be the pros and cons and I have decided to put forth follow up posts on each of these to include a post on "Common Misconceptions". This will answer some objections to things that I have heard and hopefully help people to see through some of the mischaracterizations or Bible verses that they have used for years to prove the point of their desired educational response.

For home schooling, I know that there are many ways that this is accomplished. From a quasi Amish style all the way to what looks like a private school that meets together, but just doesn't have a mascot or team colors. Again, because of the wide variety I will have to generalize, so I hope that in the comments you will be forgiving and also put forth the different ways you have seen some of the pros and cons lived out differently. I totally welcome all comments, you can even call me a retarded public school moron, but just be ready for the aftermath...remember, I can control a lot since this is my blog :).

Please also know that I believe that home schooling is a viable option for Christians. I know many who home school. I know many who have failed in home schooling their kids and I could unfairly concentrate on those failures. I also know many who have succeeded greatly in home schooling, and I could unfairly concentrate on those victories. My job is to balance this so that we will all critically think through these issues and answer the reason of "why" we school the way we do, not just the different ways we have seen it work, or not work.

The Pros of Home School

I know that it might be strange for some of you to hear a public school kid say anything positive about home schooling, but I am not blind or deaf, so I know of some.

1. Total Parental Involvement

This has to be the biggest pro for home schooling. There is no fighting with curriculum, either with secular thought or theological convictions. The parent has total control of showing how God's glory is seen in all parts of every subject, whether science, math or economics. A hard working parent who home schools will be able to continually show forth why God gave us math (order), why God gave us science (to point to the creator) and why God gave us economic thought (to show that God gives us the power to create wealth) all for this glory. Not only this, but your personal theological convictions are able to be put forth as well. The Arminian doesn't have to worry about a Calvinist speaking about election, predestination and other correct theology and the Calvinist doesn't have to worry about the Arminian putting forth their craziness of libertarian free will and how God continually changes based on the prayers of those that chose him freely.

This type of involvement will put forth your children to think just like you do, however that is. To be honest, in my convictions, I want my children to critically think like I do. I want them to have the same convictions that I do, because I believe all my convictions are correct. This might sound quite prideful, but if I didn't believe my convictions were correct, I would change them.

The parent also gets to hopefully be the one to introduce why the kid shouldn't do drugs, look at porn, shoot people, shank others, etc. Through home schooling the influence of the outside world is mitigated, and this can be a plus. Especially since public schools hand out guns and drugs when you walk through the door.
If you work out the average amount of hours kids will be in school from age 5 to 18 you would come up with about 14,000 hours. Those 14,000 hours are redeemed and given back to the parent if you home school.

2. Freedom of Education

How do kids learn? Every child is different. With home schooling you can completely tailor the way your kid learns and not have to worry about him learning audibly if he is a visual learner and vice versa. They can learn through a lot of different ways and experiences. This is difficult if they are in private or public schools. Much of their day is impacted by how the school has to educate a mass audience. Although teachers differ, it will be hard if your child learns differently than the status quo.

This freedom is also extended in the fact that if a child has a learning disability or some sort of mental retardation, the parent can change and take as much time with that child that they need. This is a huge plus with home schooling. Some children that have mental issues can't concentrate for longer than 20 or 30 minutes and so breaks need to be taken often and those breaks might need to be drastic. Such as taking a walk, spending time outside, etc. This is just very hard for the public school or private school to accommodate. My pastor's family is a great example. His son had major heart issues, even to the point where he had a heart transplant. He would have missed so much school it wasn't possible. He told me because of this, they chose home schooling for their family. I totally support that.

There are many other freedoms for the home schooled. Such as the freedom of the family to do missions trips together, serve in the church together in ways others can't, etc.

The other freedom for home schooling is that you can take a vacation whenever the family wants, you can wake up late, learn on the couch and watch Judge Judy...and that's just cool. Okay, maybe Little House on the Prairie and not Judge Judy, but since home schoolers don't have TVs this can be quite tricky. Okay, okay...enough. :)

These are the pros that I see in home schooling. There are pros that others see in homeschooling, which I don't believe are pros, so because I am the one writing these, will not include them. You can include some more in the comment field if you would like.

The Cons of Home School

1. Removal of Christian Thought in World

This is my biggest issue with home schooling. If you look at church history, the biggest turn in why our culture has changed so much to secular thought happened when the church left the cities and went to the suburbs. Although most of the NT flowed from Paul going to the major cities of commerce of the day, the church left the cities to take refuge from the biggest culture maker, which is the big cities. Everything flows from the biggest cities to the smaller ones. It was a mad dash to get out of the cities, and we are now seeing the effects.

The same is happening in our public schools. Whether we like it or not, the major social and cultural aspect of children comes from the big cities, to the schools and then flows to our suburbs, home school and private school. It isn't the other way around. The danger of the removal of all Christians from public schools is to remove the Christian voice against the darkness of this world. Notice Paul went to where the learning was happening, not to the outskirts of its effects.

We need strong Christian families to invest in public schools to give a voice to intelligent strong Christian convictions, if not, we will be removed altogether in the education of tomorrow's leaders. Who is going to stand against the atheistic teacher if there are no Christians in the classroom? We are handing them a free ride with no alternative voice of God's design.

The church has tried to put the evidence forth that since the removal of prayer from schools, they have gone down hill. False. It isn't the removal of prayer, but has been the removal of the prayer warrior from the schools. When Christians are removed, Christian thought is removed, we shouldn't be surprised.

I am not saying, please hear this, I am not saying that we should then only have people go to public school, but to remove the Christian from the public school system altogether silences Jesus in our greatest learning institutions.

2. It's not the Real World

This sounds like an overstatement..and it really is. Please read to see what I mean. There is something called the Protestant work ethic, which came from the outflow of the Reformation. Before the Reformation, the Roman Catholic always put forth that the highest calling comes to the one who works as clergy within the church. The Reformers put forth one of the greatest solas, "Soli Deo Gloria" or "For God's Glory Alone." The Reformers reminded everyone that God told us to do all things for the glory of God, including our work. So, they put forth that working within the church is not the greatest calling, but the greatest calling comes forth that where ever God has placed you, make it your mission field and do it for the glory of God and not man.

Same can be said for school. Personally I grew up in the public school system but everything flowed from my parents convictions of the Bible. So, when the big bang stuff started coming up, I laughed. When atheism was put forth, I laughed harder. Now, I was not the best example of a public school kid, but examples of me or anyone else is moot, we don't act based on what we see but what God says.

The fact is when your kids leave your house (age 18, etc.), they might be trained, taught and challenged by non-Christians or by people that don't have your same theological convictions. The biggest con of home schooling in this area is that the child can be coddled so much that they have only learned what parents have told them without really getting the chance to practically deal with the questions of the kind atheist, the kind Mormon, the kind Muslim who ask them tough questions and live a life that looks a lot like theirs.

When I went to a private College, we could usually tell who was home schooled. They were not accustomed to answering and defending opposing world views. They would spout what their parents told them to say, but never had real experience on how to deal with those were thoughtful, insightful and very kind, but totally opposite in every way when it came to convictions and world views.

Does this have to be how it is with home schoolers? No. Of course not. There are many ways that a home school family can try and defend against this, and I have seen this successfully done.

3. Real Involvement with the World

Here is where I have seen the most difficulty with my teens in youth group. They admit that they just don't have many lost friends. These kids are very good kids, very involved in many things, but in the end, they just don't have many friends that are lost. This is hard. Things can be done to try and mitigate this, but from what I have seen over the years, this is a big deal to those kids that I see that desire to evangelize and show off the glory of Christ to the lost, but just don't know how to have some sort of "community" with the lost.

Personally, growing up, my parents didn't do enough investigation, but because I was public schooled, I have many different kinds of friends that know where I stand, that I have spoken and lived Christ out in front of their eyes. They see my faults, they see my victories, but hopefully most importantly, they see my hope. Have I seen home schoolers who have done the same thing? Yes, of course. But, it just isn't the norm.

Jesus was called a friend of sinners, and home schooling can be a deterrent to this. Notice I said could be, not always will be.

I have found this to be more of a conviction of Christians than I first thought. It really did surprise me. When homeschooling, you must ask yourself why you are doing so. If it is because you want your kids to get better grades, be more smart, or to win scholarships for intelligence, you totally miss the point of being a Christian. Sometimes we must give up some stuff for the sake of the glory of Christ.

If, on the other hand, you desire to home school because you believe that it is the best for the glory of God for your family, you have asked the correct question. Anytime you start with your child, above the glory of God, you are working in a false dichotomy. Being a Christian in this world is dangerous. It is dangerous physically, spiritually and emotionally.

We are called to be a people on mission for the glory of God. If your mission is home schooling, because it is the best way your family can glorify God alone, then so be it...I fully support you. If your mission is trying to get your child the best education that fits them...that is wrong.

In my facebook status someone asked, "So, Seth when your children are in JR high and the teacher says they will fail the test if they do not say the earth took billions of years to make, what do you tell him to do. Be a light and fail, or shut up and answer the question the way the teacher wants him to?"

My answer: Be a light and fail. It is worth failing and hardship to show off the glory of the cross and our God.

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 10:26-33


DJPLB said...

I homeschooled from 5th to 8th grade, the pluses were I learned to think outside the box and didn't have to deal with the harshness of pre teen and teen social life...swearing, sexual, negativity on religion ... but I was a bit naive when I entered back into high school. Homeschooling is easier for larger families because there is more social activity and a must is getting involved with a good homeschool network for PE and sports for boys

Jake said...

Seth - I think you summed it up well. I think maybe one way to understand the homeschooling world is to realize there are two separate worlds.

There are those who homeschool for pragmatic reasons, such as a child's learning style, disability, or similar reasons. For example, my pastor (who is as far from the stereotypical homeschooler as possible) homeschools their oldest daughter because Mike's day off is Monday and they want to have that day as a family day. But when Mia gets older they intend to put her in public school. My parents were similar too, they felt like they could do a better job teaching me basics in elementary school at home. Then when the material got too difficult for them to handle, they sent me to a private school.

But there are also those who homeschool for ideological reasons. They believe that allowing a public institution to educate their children is an act of disobedience to God in light of biblical exhortations to raise one's children well. It's a reasonable, though I still think wrongheaded, conviction. Where the problems develop is the culture created by that attitude. It seems to lead inevitably to self-righteousness and the sort of repressive, backwards culture that causes so many non-Christians to run away screaming from Christianity.

As far as my own story goes, my parents never fit into the ideological mold. But, most of the families at our church that homeschooled fit it quite nicely, so we were always stuck in the middle. I remember going to home school "graduation" ceremonies where the speakers used misleading statistics to suggest that homeschooling was always superior academically (an assertion that is laughable to anyone with extensive experience in the homeschool world). Then they'd use horrific exegesis of biblical text to argue that anything besides homeschooling was sinful. And it was absolutely disgusting on so many levels.

The man had no respect for truth, as indicated by the fact that he was willing to twist numbers to suggest things which weren't true. (Then again, most homeschoolers are Southern Baptists... Sorry, couldn't resist. Too easy.)

Second, he had no respect for his brothers and sisters that held to different convictions. He was content to build straw men, douse them in gasoline, and light them on fire. He never made any effort to actually engage critically with what we were really arguing.

Third, his exegesis of the texts cited was so awful, it showed no respect for the Bible.

So those are my thoughts... pragmatic homeschoolers, we're groovy. Ideological homeschoolers? I have a much greater struggle with them.


Seth McBee said...

I feel ya.

I didn't even get into what happens when the parent isn't qualified to teach. This will come out somewhat in tomorrow's post.

thanks for your thoughts.

Seth McBee said...


I don't get this statement:

and didn't have to deal with the harshness of pre teen and teen social life...swearing, sexual, negativity on religion ...

Are we in heaven or on earth?

My kids hear some of those things now, because of my non-Christian friends we hang out with. Part of me training my child's worldview and understanding of glorifying God through our actions, responses, etc.

Rob Hill said...


I agree that influence of Christian thought is being removed from the world. I would however contend that it isn't being removed from just the classroom. It is being removed from the workspaces, the hiways, and the byways of life. I don't know that it much matters if we remove Christian thought from the classroom if we aren't going to have it anywhere else.

Our homeschooled kiddos will be allowed on campus to partake of PE and they will have some presence. Even if they weren't allowed on campus, I would be okay with removing them from the school. Again, my reasoning for it is purely from an academic standpoint.

You postulated in your post (is that redundant?) that Christian kids these days do not have any non-Christian friends. I recognize that I am loosely paraphrasing your statement. I would ask moms and dads who are Christians, "How many of your friends are non-Christians?"

There is a dearth in America of the idea of a church in motion. We seem to have forgotten that faith results in fruit. What the fruit looks like is more followers of Christ. Note: I try to shy away from the word Christian because it is becoming too much like 'religious' or 'religion'. It is rapidly becoming void of its authentic meaning.

To follow Christ means that we are the light and the salt in the world. The salt is useful in retarding corruption. It doesn't remove corruption--it retards it spread. The light we are is to remove ignorance from the world. We won't remove all ignorance, but we are to shine a light.

The one thing to keep in mind about being salt and being light, Jesus' words came closely following (immediately after) the beatitudes. If you are going to be salt, and if you are going to be it with the characteristics of the beatitudes.

You can be salt and light in the context of homeschooling, public schooling, private schooling, school of hard knocks, etc. The point is to be intentional about building relationships with those around that views a person as, well a person. A person imbued with the image of God. A person who may or may not need to hear the gospel message.

The only way to tell if a person needs to hear the gospel message: Get to know them! Hear their story! Find out what their passions are.

There is no one right answer to homeschooling. I'll be honest with you: If the academics were better at this elementary school, that's where I kids would be.

I plan on maintaining a presence at the school though. In the community as well. The school and our church have a 30 year old arrangement that has more than 90 percent of the student body over to the church for 'God Squad.' A sort of Awana-esque type program.

Even though this has been going on for 30 plus years, the incidence of teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, rape, drug use and abuse, violence, crime, etc. have all gone up in this area.

Though this is far from empirical, it does highlight that just having a superficial influence isn't enough. It has to be deeper than that.

Um...sorry I went so long. It's your blog. Not mine. :o)

My summary statement is this: Removing Christians from the PS in order to homeschool does not have to result in a complete removal of Christ's influence in the individual lives of the public school kids. Nor does it have to result in a complete removal of Christ's influence in the lives of the neighborhoods. And I am most certainly not saying everyone should homeschool! That is an individual decision/right to make after much prayer.

Seth, I applaud you for your decision to public school yours and this is possibly the most important thing to take away--I applaud you for how you came to the decision to public school.

In Him


DJPLB said...

Seth - A junior high or high school environment is most likely going to be a shock to a home schoolers system, in both junior high and high school there is more rebellious thought and behavior than (most)a "sheltered child" could fathom, I found that when homeschooling I lost touch with the harsh aspects of the real world and my friends from the "public environment" and I spent my time with other homeschoolers and found that they too were very naive. It is easier to control right and wrong and/or bad and good in a controlled environment and when it comes to homeschooling the family is your world with its own relative extremes

Seth McBee said...


thanks for the clarification...

Brian Senecal said...

First let me say that I home school my kids...not because I think it is what God wants us to do or not doing so would be sinful, but because where we live, for my children, I believe it is the best option.
Our schools are far from the greatest academically, they don't seem to well suited to handle discipline problems, and the JR Hi and HS have violence problems. While I agree we need to stay in the world and be a light, I will do that myself and alongside my children and not send my child out alone to do that for me. We are very involved in our community and have many points of contact...including close friends...with non-Christians. I think the problem here isn't home-schooling in and of itself, but that a large pctg of those who choose to HS also choose to severely shelter their kids. I have known a number of home school families who were properly socialized, intelligent, and could hold their own when confronted with an opposing worldview because their parents taught them how to think, not what to think. One of my pros on homeschooling is that I get to give my child the opportunity to learn how to think and not what to think which is what goes on in a lot of public schools today.
I guess my point is that homeschooling is right for some, and not for others. We need to make this decision with our children, our mission, and our families in mind. And if you choose to homeschool---make sure you are living missionally who Seth's cons here will become truth for you.

Anonymous said...

On Con 1, The Christian voice has already been silenced for the most part.

I also think children in general are not the right soldiers for the battle. If we want to have the Christian voice heard, we oughta send seasoned disciples, not our green recruits. Even the Apostles where usually sent out in teams.

Cons 2 and 3 are quite optional. Since you have already though those risks through, you can mitigate them.

I would also argue that homeschooled kids really get more "real world" involvement than Jr. High and High School kids. Frankly I think most of us spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn the social skills we acquire in that subculture. The Gossip, backstabbing, manipulation etc. In real world situations, those kind of behaviors just don't fly. Homeschool kids that I have seen have a lot less un-learning to do, and generally fit in better to the adult world.

Overall, you have a lot more control in a home school or a private school than you will in a public school.

Each of us have to make our own choice, but I would tend to prefer the most radically biblical position that is practical. Without a doubt, I think that It is my responsibility to train them up. I want to leave as little to chance as I have to.

Seth McBee said...

can someone explain the "better education" argument from a biblical standpoint? I don't understand it

Reforming Baptist said...

great insights and balanced too.

Reforming Baptist said...

great insights and balanced too.

Karen Cook said...

I don’t usually read blogs, but when I stumbled across yours, since it dealt with homeschooling, I took the time to read your thoughts, and it got me thinking. I have four daughters, three attended Christian school for three years and then graduated from public school, and my youngest (age 17) has been homeschooled exclusively since third grade. After our older daughters’ public school experience, my husband and I decided to homeschool our youngest. Why?

1) We believe that the Lord has led us to do so. We don’t believe it’s a sin not to homeschool, nor is it the only acceptable option for Christians. We just believe that for our family at this time homeschooling is best.

2) Public schools are anti-God, plain and simple. They adhere to and teach from a secular humanistic philosophy and I choose not to place them in authority over my child.

3) My daughter has not been called to be a missionary . . . at least not yet. While the notion of sending our children into a public school setting to be salt and light sounds wonderful, in truth, children are just not prepared to be missionaries. Nowhere in the Bible does God command children to to go forth and evangelize the world. I agree with you that we need strong Christian families to invest in our public schools, but the adults in the family should be the ones investing – as administrators, school board members and, most importantly, teachers.

4) Being sheltered and naïve is a good thing. Somewhere along the line being naïve became a bad thing, being protected and sheltered from the “real” world was seen as being weak. Being worldly and hardened has become something to be desired. But until a young person’s brain is fully matured (somewhere around the mid-20s), they are susceptible to illogical thinking, temptation, and negative influences from our ungodly world. Remaining safe and sheltered in an exclusively Christian environment helps to insulate them from peer pressure and foolish choices until their brains are “done” and they are mature enough to think for themselves, without worrying about what other people may think about them, not unlike keeping seedlings protected from the frost until they are mature and strong enough to weather the storm.

Just my two cents. Thanks for listening.

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