In the course of just a year and a half, our girls have attended a Christian school, been home-schooled and now are in a public school. By next school-year it may change again! Which one is right? Which one is right more specifically for a Christian family?
Over the years, especially while I was pastoring a church, people have shared with us their convictions (or their very strong opinions). Some of them made us feel we were sinning if we didn’t home-school. Others made clear that while they home-schooled, it wasn’t for everybody. Still others shared of the difference it made in their child’s life being moved out of public school and going to a Christian school. And yet others, had horror stories of their time in a Christian school and how despite being in that environment they rebelled worse than others who went to public school. And finally, we heard and saw examples of those who went to public school and were real testimonies; while others were influenced and led astray.
I have heard convincing arguments for all three. I have had my own strong opinions of all three at different times in my life. I’ve heard and read the “pros” and “cons” of each. Just this week in a wonderful book I just started to read, written by a friend of mine from NJ, he writes about the “spirit” in which the American public school system was created. And there is no doubt or denying that the “spirit” or “philosophy” on which it was built and certainly prevails in today’s public school system is very “anti-christ” and having a damaging and even damning impact and influence on children. Here is part of what he writes in his new book “Undivided”:
“Karl Marx famously said, “We must destroy the family… we must replace home education with social.” Again, “Take away the heritage of the people, and they are easily persuaded.” Public education is a major obstacle in teaching and imparting the faith to the next generation. At its core, it was established as a progressive institution to form a new socialist society without God or Biblical values as the foundation. Horace Mann, known as the Father of the American Public School System, rejected the Scriptures and the Trinity, and revealed the spirit behind secular social public education, “parents have given their children to our cause.” John Dewey is the Father of Modern Education and the founder of the National Education Association. His infamous quote, “The great task of the school is to counteract and transform those domestic and neighborhood tendencies… the influence of home and church.” His beliefs, “There is no god. There is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion.” Distinctly, different voices had opposed such opinions about education at the founding of America. Noah Webster, the Father of American Scholarship and Education said in 1828, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. Additionally, founding father Benjamin Rush, Father of American Psychiatry, who started five schools and universities, agrees, “We profess to be republicans [not political party] and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetrating our republican form of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible.” With even greater foreknowledge he precisely predicted our modern incarceration and violence epidemic. “In contemplating the political institutions of the United States [if we remove the Bible from schools] I lament that we waste so much time and money punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them.” Ancient Israel forgot the Lord their God quickly after their supernatural and prosperous beginning. America has followed suit.” Hyland, Shawn (2016-01-11). Undivided: A Greater Sense of Urgency in Reversing the Trend of Biblical Unbelief (Kindle Locations 424-441). Move the Earth. Kindle Edition.
Well written. And important to understand and be aware of. It is not something to turn a “blind eye” to or simply ignore the reality of.
But as I briefly outlined above, when it comes to the individual, there are both “shining” testimonies and “horror” stories in regard to all three forms of education.
So which is right?
Being that we have now had our own experience in all three worlds, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not as “black and white” as any of us might like it to be. In fact, I would even argue what is right for one family (and even child) may not be right for another family (or other child). Going even further than that I would argue what might be right in one season, may not be right in another season. I believe this is an area where we must seek God’s wisdom and be led by His Spirit.
But before I elaborate on that let me actually get to what I believe is even more the issue than which education system our kids should be in. And it is this: whether you home-school or not, it is first of all the parent’s responsibility (particularly the father), to bring up their children in the way of the Lord and fear of the Lord. It is not first of all the responsibility of the school or church. It is the parent’s responsibility.
There are so many verses in the bible in this regard. It would be well worth it to take the time to read and remember Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Many who advocate for homeschooling use this passage in defense of homeschooling. But the point beyond or deeper than that is that the parents are to live and model a life of faith and obedience themselves first; then impart and teach their children what it means to walk with God. This is to be a lifestyle lived not just words said or sermons heard. Without walking it yourself you have no true authority to teach others to walk. Children are not stupid, they are very perceptive. Especially as they become teenagers they seem to have an extra sensitivity to hypocrisy; perhaps because it’s a particularly vulnerable time to be tempted to rebel and hypocrisy is the perfect excuse. But the point remains here, as in the NT (Ephesians 6:4), parents (again I will note the emphasis in Scripture on the presence and responsibility of the Father) are to model and teach their children. They are to be the main influence in their children’s lives.
To me this is more the issue than what form of education your child is placed in. For some, because of various life situations, it is not even possible to home-school. Also, such as in our current situation, even if we wanted to (which we don’t right now), we are not in a position to put our kids in a Christian school due to not being able to financially afford to do so.
The issue is this: are you (we as parents), modeling for our children a life of faith and teaching them the faith? Are we walking with God ourselves and teaching our kids what it means to walk with him?
As I look back on this last year and a half I am grateful for each setting our kids have been in. The Christian school they started in (Saint Paul’s Christian School, in Brick, NJ) helped lay a wonderful foundation. Their teachers were so good with helping them come out of their shell’s and gain confidence in their skills educationally, socially and spiritually. Then, when we moved, we had a season of homeschooling them. While it had its challenges, it was a joy to spend that quality time with them and experience the joy of seeing the “light-bulb” begin to come on in certain areas and have more control over what they were being taught. But now, having moved again to a new state, we felt that for this year (for a variety of reasons) we should place them in a local public school. While we have been greatly concerned about the influence especially of other kids around them, it’s been an opportunity where in being exposed to “the real world” we have conversations about that. Psalm 1 and Romans 12:1-3 have come more “alive” and bring about making real decisions about “which way” they will go and “who” or “what” kind of people they will be. It has also been an opportunity for them (and us) to potentially be examples, witnesses and testimonies (salt and light). Just this week in fact, we received such an encouraging little e-mail from our one daughter’s teacher. She wrote this:
“Ava has been doing an amazing job in school! She participates in everything we do and has an excellent attitude and behavior. I am so happy to have her in my class.”
Our daughter tells us that most of the kids in her class do not really listen and tend to be disobedient. So this little note was so meaningful to us. One of the things I do, (when I am home and not traveling), is make it a priority to take the girls to school every morning. I use that time to pray together and encourage them (and myself) to be an example, to do everything to the best of our ability for the Lord and to not join in with others who are doing wrong, but to do what it is right. It is such a joy to know that the fruit of the Spirit is being seen by others in her life…even noted by her teacher!
And I believe, in this season, it is a wonderful opportunity to use the situation they are in to teach them important truths they would need eventually anyway, living in this “anti-christ” world. Jesus made clear that as Christians we are the exception not the norm. We are different and do not belong here. Yet while we are not of this world, we do live in this world and will be exposed to, and have to contend with, the spirit of this world. Now is the time to teach our kids to “fight” the good fight of faith.
Will we keep our girls in public school? Maybe not…in fact probably not. My wife is right now having an itch to maybe home-school them again. We plan on looking to buy our first house, so in moving again, they will probably find themselves in another setting. But I believe whether home-school, Christian school or public school, there are life-lessons and opportunities that Christian parents must take advantage of to teach their children the faith. I also believe we need to be led by the Spirit of God and guided by the wisdom of God, day in and day out; year in and year out. This requires a personal walk and personal prayer life and personal time spent in His word. And I believe this is what is needed more than ever; a genuine, thoughtful, intentional, close walk with the Lord…beginning with the parents. Our children are our responsibility. Listen and learn from others examples and arguments…but ultimately each of us needs to gain wisdom from God to do what is best for each of our children. And that may change from season to season depending upon many factors and be different from family to family, even child to child. Don’t let others guilt you; let the Holy Spirit guide you.