This is my first attempt in notes at putting together an apologetic for parental responsibility in educating their own children. In the replies that follow, I argue that public schooling is the wrong choice, and home education is the right choice, with private christian schools somewhere in the middle.
Table of contents:
.0 This introduction and table of contents
.1 Parental responsibility and accountability
.2 Mass education vs. at-home instruction
.3 Facts to consider about home schooling
.4 Answers to some common objections
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov 22:6)Several points to consider regarding the education of our children:
"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." (Deut 4:9)
"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deut 6:7)
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.' 'Therefore, come out from them and be seperate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'" (2 Cor 6:14-17)
"Now the overseer must be above reproach...He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)" (1 Tim 3:2-5)
"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim 5:8)
1. The education and upbringing of our children is our responsibility as parents, and we will be held accountable for what they are taught. If we delegate the responsibility for the education of our children to someone else, we are still the ones accountable for what our children are taught, because it was our responsibility to begin with. When we as parents decide to marry and consequently have children we take it upon ourselves the responsibility of raising them in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord.
- It is a poor example to set, by delegating major parental responsibilities to others, especially those we scarcely know.2. By sending our children to worldly institutions, we are demonstrating to our children by our actions that we approve of everything they teach. It is not enough to "tell" our children that many of their teachings, ideologies, value systems, and philosophies are wrong:
- It is a poor set of priorities to place job, "ministry", etc. above the upbringing of our children.
- "Telling" them that what their teachers are teaching is wrong while at the same time expecting them to be obedient to their teachers and excel in their studies is contradictory.3. Instilling the fear of God and imparting the knowledge and application of God's word is more significant than the learning of secular knowledge and skills. A less educated man of good character might be capable of doing less educated things, yet can always learn more on his own initiative. In contrast, a more highly schooled man of bad character will misuse the fruit of his learning and become a liability to society. Therefore, a teacher's character is more important than his scholastic qualifications and hence it is shortsighted to consider a child's potential secular scholastic achievement while neglecting to give greater consideration to the educator's spiritual character. It is negligent at best to place our children under the influence of role models (the educators and the classmates) who profess no fear of God.
- "Telling" them that what their teachers are teaching is wrong while continuing to submit them to that teaching is hypocritical.
4. It is hypocritical to claim that we the church are to be a "light" to a world that is living in darkness, while depending on the world to provide "light" to our very own children.
5. It should be noted that those who are in leadership positions in the church are under even greater scrutiny, and must be careful to provide the correct role model for others to follow within the church. In any case, attending to the needs of one's family takes priority over time spent on church ministries. It is of great importance that a church leader who has children provide the model example of how to raise children, so that others may follow in this example.
Social skills are learned most effectively in an age-integrated and one-on-one environment and least effectively in an age-segregated setting. Children need social role models who are older and more mature, rather than peer role models who exhibit the same level of immaturity, and consequently have little of value to contribute. Mass education primarily involves peer interaction and one-way communication by the teacher. At-home instruction involves two-way interaction by the teacher, and an age-integrated environment where older children and adults can be observed as models. The age-segregated environment is also not representative of real-world social scenarios, whereas the age-integrated environment is. Mass education isolates children from the real world and hinders their social development.
Children are individuals with different scholastic strengths and weaknesses. The model of an "average child" cannot be expected to fit every child. Personal instruction allows scholastic achievement at different "grade" levels for different subjects, and tailoring of educational methodologies and programs to fit each child in each subject. Mass education caters to a child fitting only a particular theoretical model.
Personal instruction allows each child to progress at his optimal rate in every area. Mass education imposes an average rate of progress for all subjects across all students in a "class". Every student will either be held back by too slow a rate of instruction or not be able to keep up with the rate of instruction.
Home instruction is highly efficient, compared with mass education. Children do not wait in line, travel to and from the institution, go from class to class, fill out forms, sit in "study hall", have recess or extended lunch time, etc. Structured lessons at home can typically be accomplished given 2-3 hours a day of instruction, compared to 6-8 hours at an institution.
Parental instruction brings families closer together by increasing the amount of time and interaction between family members. Parent-child bonding and sibling bonding is consequently greater. Family team effort is encouraged.
Parental instruction encourages respect by children for their parents as authorities, and allows parents to have more control over their children. Children are supervised more closely by the instructor, and the instructor is the parent himself.
Home education (in the U.S.) provides children with immunity from arbitrary intrusion and interrogation by social service agencies. A social worker or other state official needs no parental permission to interrogate a child in a public school setting, and no search warrant to take custody of the child from the parents. Social workers or other state officials need a search warrant to enter your home without your permission. To get a search warrant, they have to appear before a judge and demonstrate probable cause that criminal activity is occurring on your property.
Home instruction accomodates and is not impacted by family schedule needs, such as vacations, major illnesses, off-shift work schedules, etc. Mass education is not planned around the schedules of those educated, or their families.
It's legal. Home schooling is legal in all 50 states of the U.S. A national organization (HSLDA) is available to defend the rights of member homeschool families against the occasional adverse contacts and legal problems that continue to occur in each state, and is extremely effective in doing so.
It works. Home-schooled children as a group perform scholastically better than non-home-schooled children as a group, typically in the 70-80th percentile (where 50th percentile represents the average over the population.)
You can do it. Studies have shown no correlation between the academic qualifications of the parents and the scholastic performance of the home-schooled children as a group.
You can afford it. Even the most expensive and elaborate curriculum materials and supplies cost only a few hundred dollars per year. This and your "lost" salary (from staying at home) will be more than offset by the additional time and dedication your children will have towards your family's economic interests. Your children are "pearls of great price". Sell your home and move into a slum if need be.
You have help. There are more home-based curriculums available than you will have time to peruse through. There are conferences, support groups, magazines, and books on home-schooling.
Point: They need exposure to the real world, not isolation from it.
Counterpoint: Public school and mass education is not representative of the real world. It is in fact there where children are isolated from the real world and placed in a highly artificial, concocted environment. The mass education environment is an environment that is only representative of other mass education environments.
Point: They need to be exposed to evil, so they know how to deal with it.
Counterpoint: This is absolutely contrary to the scriptures. Were the Israelite children sent to the Philistine camp to learn there? In fact, were any Israelites sent to the Philistine camp or the nations surrounding them to benefit there? "Don't be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" (1 Cor 15:33). "'Therefore, come out from them and be seperate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'" (2 Cor 6:14-17). "...overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) Constant exposure to only good makes one so accustomed to good that evil is recognized immediately as deviant. Constant exposure to evil causes one to be accustomed to evil and dulls one's senses to it, besides providing unnecessary temptations to embrace it and participate in it. Woe to those who put evil for good and good for evil!
Point: We need to be a light to the world. Our children can be a good witness.
Counterpoint: Are your children ready for the mission field? If so, then send them off to Africa and be done with it. In reality, your children are still learning and are not ready to teach. In reality, your children will be influenced more than they will influence. Then, when they grow up, they will pass on these ungodly values that they learned as children and consequently turn people away from the path of righteousness. Don't be fooled!
Point: They are learning non-spiritual things at school, like math and etc. We teach them about God at home.
Counterpoint: Firstly, this is a double standard, that they get a godless education at an institution and then a godly education at home. Secondly, it is naive to suppose that they are not learning spiritual principles from their teachers and classmates at school along with the targeted educational skills. Thirdly, home instruction is better and more effective than mass education. In summary, education should involve the whole person and integrate spiritual principles along with the practical ones. Don't sit on the fence!
Point: So-and-so went to the public school, and he turned out okay.
Counterpoint: Did so-and-so turn out okay because of the public school, or in spite of the public school? Rather, you should say, 'So-and-so turn out okay, by the grace of God.' Survivors do not justify the system they survived.
Point: I send my children to a Christian school. It is a good Christian school.
Counterpoint: You still scarcely know the teachers, you have little control over the teaching, you have no control over the peer influences, you still have all the problems of mass education vs. personal instruction, you are delegating a major parental responsibility to others... At the very least, it is safe to say that they will do better at home. Why settle for less? They deserve the best you can give them. They are *your* children.
Point: Easy for you to say. I am a single parent, and must earn my own family's living with my full-time job.
Counterpoint: This is an issue for which I confess I do not have a good answer. Ideally, the church is supposed to support widows and those in need. As it is written, "There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." (Acts 4:34-35). And, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) In practice, the contemporary church is devoted more towards putting on Sunday morning worship and collecting money than aiding those in need -- that is the sad reality. My advice is this: Knowing that God intends for you to raise your own children and not send them off to the Philistine camp to be raised by others, make up your mind that this is your goal, no matter what the cost, pray for a way out, and I believe God will honor your faith and make provision for you. And by the way, have you considered a home business?
Point: I hear what you are saying and know that you have a valid point. However, I and my children are doing well, and I currently choose to continue the way we are going.
Counterpoint: Have you not read the following scripture?: "...When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, 'I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.' This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The Lord will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven." (Deut 29:19-20)
2013 update: I am leaving the last Point vs. Counterpoint in this post for historical reasons. However, if I were writing this article today I would not include it. While technically a correct citing from the Law of Moses, we are now ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18), preaching the good news of the blessings and grace of God under the New Covenant, not judgment. There is also the danger that it could be misunderstood or taken the wrong way.
I grant this work to the public domain.