Christians today seem to find a way to argue and even divide over just about everything, don’t we? There is a growing rift in some churches and between some Christians over the decision that parents make about how to educate their children.
Our four children went to Christian schools, public schools, and even homeschooled a little. We tried it all. We found a system that worked well for us – the Miller System of Edumacation! We put our kids in Christian schools through eighth grade to get a solid foundation, then put them into the public schools where there were educational and extracurricular opportunities that simply were not available in Christian schools. One son (with help from another) designed and built from the ground up an electric car that competed in Electrathon races (I won’t tell you that his car broke the state record, because that would be bragging.) My younger son and daughter were involved in show choir and drama – again, opportunities not available in the local Christian school. Jenni homeschooled our daughter one year in elementary school.
The Miller plan worked well for the Miller kids.
But other families have other plans for educating their children. Some parents believe that they should be their children’s teachers not only in spiritual things, but in math and science and reading and everything else. So, the school their children at home. Others, for various reasons, either cannot or choose not to take on this burden and pay the tuition to put their children in Christian schools, partnering with the teachers to instruct their children. Many, whether out of necessity or conviction, send their children to the local public schools.
That is a choice each family must make on behalf of their own children. Unfortunately, some people are not content to let each family make its own decision on these issues. They appoint themselves as the church’s “ministers of educational meddling” and go around telling everyone else how they should educate their children. That, of course, usually leads to hard feelings and even division.
Some are absolutely convinced that homeschooling is superior to every other form of education and that those who do not homeschool are letting their children down and compromising spiritual values. Others believe that it is wrong to shelter children and that it is best to guide them to live righteously in spite of peer pressure – even to be witnesses and influences in the spiritually needy public school system. Some kind of split the difference by sending their children to Christian schools.
Every family is different and every child is different. While certainly, parents are to be the primary influence on their young children, how they teach them to read and write and do arithmetic is not something the Bible mandates. Each parent should do what is best for their children.
And they should leave other families alone.
I was a youth minister for five years early in my ministry and I’ve continued being involved with youth throughout my 30 years in ministry. I’ve seen a lot of children grow up and become adults. I’ve seen homeschoolers and public schoolers and Christian schoolers. And I simply have not seen evidence that one form of schooling is de facto superior to all the others. I’ve seen some wonderful homeschool children grow into godly young men and women. And I’ve seen some homeschool kids who grew up to be real stinkers. I’ve seen kids grow up in Christian schools and become men and women of spiritual depth. And I’ve seen some whose faith is about as genuine as Kim Kardashian’s wedding vows. I’ve seen public school kids who gave in to the ways of world and some who learned to stand strong against the pressures of the world and serve Jesus!
I do not believe that there is one way to educate children. But I do believe that when parents try to impose their educational decisions on others, they cause aggravation and even division in churches. I have become increasingly aware of conflict in churches that roots in divisions over the way parents choose to educate their children.
Each of these forms of schooling has its advantages and disadvantages. I’ll give you my observations about each. But I believe it is your choice as parents how you are going to raise your children. And I think that spiritual busybodies ought to stop trying to impose their educational choices on others.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Schools.
Obviously, public schools are less expensive and offer opportunities for sports, the arts and some academic subjects that other schools don’t have. While public schools offer greater temptations and more negative influences, they offer parents the opportunity to teach their children to resist peer pressure and to be witnesses to those who need Christ.
The biggest problem with public schools is that they have often become devoted to educational philosophies that are contrary to the Christian faith and are even sometimes hostile to Christianity. That varies from region to region around the country.
Another disadvantage of public schools is that they have to educate everyone. Sometimes, they focus more on the struggling student and less on those who are academically advanced. So, an advanced student can become bored with school while the teacher focuses on meeting the needs of the ones who don’t learn as quickly.
Of course, public school education usually guarantees that a child will come in contact with a wider variety of people – races, nationalities, socioeconomic levels, and such.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Christian Schools
Not all Christian schools are created equal. The Christian school my children attended in Cedar Rapids maintained high academic standards – at one point the parents actually had to band together to say that we felt that perhaps the demands were getting out of hand. But my children got an excellent foundation in reading and in other core academic subjects. And my children could be involved in sports and others activities that perhaps would have been much more competitive at larger public schools.
The downside of Christian schools is that some are poorly run and not as academically advanced as the one I just mentioned. Some present a Christianity of rules more than a vibrant faith. Young people can grow up in a Christian school and be “good kids” without a vibrant faith based in a personal relationship with Christ. Christian schools can sometimes pressure outside conformity to faith without producing inner passion for Christ.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschooling
Obviously, the best part of homeschooling is that the parents are the primary influence on the children. Children are shielded from the sinful world. Homeschoolers are able to spend less time on school and so are free to get involved in fun activities in addition to their studies. Obviously, if you watch the annual spelling bee, homeschoolers have the freedom to pursue their academics and some become very advanced. In fact, if you have a very high IQ student, homeschooling makes more and more sense.
But contrary to what some homeschoolers have told me, there are some serious disadvantages to the homeschool experience – dangers that should not be ignored. Here are some I have seen.
- If dysfunctional parents homeschool, they tend to magnify the dysfunction in their kids. Some of the best kids I’ve known have been homeschoolers, but some of the most messed up as well. It comes down to parents.
- I’ve known homeschool parents who were lackadaisical and disorganized in their education duties and their children did not receive a very good education.
- Here’s the big one. Some homeschool families seem to operate as isolationists. They only want their kids around other homeschool kids who share their values. They don’t participate in youth groups or children’s groups if there are kids attending who have “worldier” values. But you cannot obey the Great Commission at the same time you isolate yourself from the needy world. There is one church in our town that is basically a homeschool-only enclave. Good people. But I don’t think that a church like that understands the missional purpose of the church.
1) Make an informed decision about what is best for you and your children. There are options.
2) Do not try to impose your choices on others. Let other families make their decisions as you made yours.
3) The church is not a country club for superior saints, it is a hospital for sinners. Our youth and childrens ministries need to reflect this. We cannot be the church and keep sinners out of our fellowship. Sinners may have children that are not as clean, tidy and well-behaved as our little angels, but if we do not welcome the poorly behaved child into our church, I think we offend God. Churches need homeschoolers, public school kids, those who attend Christian schools. That diversity may be difficult, but it is beneficial for the church and even for those who are
Is the conflict that I have seen in churches in this region a problem in ministries to children and youth in other areas? Do you observe that homeschool/public school dichotomy that I have seen? Maybe this is only a problem around here? I wonder.