Education Options Part I: Introduction
I don’t often write in my own blog. I usually cut and paste other articles that I find helpful, info rmative, encouraging and motivating. I don’t have time to do much more than that. But recently, the topic of education has been on my mind almost non-stop. Maybe it is because our Visionary Womanhood group has been focusing on home education for the past two months, and we’ve had many new visitors to the group…mostly young moms with small children who are just beginning to look into their education “options”…and home education is on their radar screen as one option to consider.
Our church offers a seminar once a year on “Education Options” in which three families…one representing public education, one for private education, and one for home education… talk about the pros and cons of their choice for their children. This week end I was talking with a young mom who attended this seminar last year, and she told me that before she went to the seminar, she and her husband were leaning toward home educating their children. But after hearing what the three families had to share, they felt that perhaps public education would be the better choice for their children.
I found that fascinating. And a little tragic. What in the world is being shared in that seminar? It makes me very CURIOUS to find out.
No, I’m not sure what those three families say about their choices because I have never attended that seminar. For me, when I heard (back in the 80′s!!) about the blossoming freedoms in our country to provide a private, tutorial education for one’s own children at home, I knew that was the route I would take. I was only in high school myself (that’s public high school, mind you…) but I was so excited about the home education movement. I could see the hand of God in it.
In college, majoring in English Education, I wrote some papers on home schooling…and didn’t get a real good reception from my professors or peers. I could have cared less. I knew God was in it…and for me, that was all that mattered. I could hardly wait to jump in and disciple my own children full time! (I had to wait a few years before I met my husband and then had those children!)
So, I guess I never felt a need to go to a seminar explaining my options.
For one, I had grown up in public school, so I knew all about that option. What more could anyone teach me about an option that I spent the vast majority of my life experiencing? And as for private education, I taught in a Christian school after graduating from college, so I knew how that worked as well. Truth was taught. The teachers were solid Christians. But it was similar to public education in many ways. And home education? I finally met some families who home educated their children when I was a young single, teaching English. I used to babysit for some of these families and I was blown away by their intelligent, articulate, happy, well-mannered, mature, confident, faith-filled children.
Recently a young mom told me that her mother pointed out that home educated children were “too weird”. Hmmmm….I’ve met a few public schooled children that are “too weird”. Could it be that some children are just weird? Actually, most people are weird in different ways. I might think her mother was a little weird. In fact, I think I do. Who cares? Can we not be mature enough to accept people the way they are? Or do we have to accept the cultural “norm” that to NOT be considered “weird” you have to measure up to a certain “cool” standard. The whole thing is sheer foolishness.
Home education was the choice for me.
I read many books on the subject in order to learn more about the various ways to home school…and I got so excited! TALK ABOUT OPTIONS! (Hey…now THAT would make a great “Education Options” seminar! Am I biased? I’d be a walking CORPSE if I wasn’t. Everyone is biased or dead. If you end up deciding you don’t like MY bias, I can assure you that you will be able to find 7 hundred bizillion blogs out there that will express a bias you will be more comfortable with. Isn’t it great to live in a free country? (Probably won’t for long though…one of the “options” involves indoctrination of youth. Even if YOUR youth is able to maintain a Christian worldview…the others are not. And, like it or not, they will be the ones to shape public policy in 30 years or less.)
Education Options Part II: Public Education
This option is, by far, the most popular choice for American Christians. In fact, between 85 and 90% of American Christians select this option for their children. (See The Harsh Truth About Public Schools by Bruce Short)
I would like to start by pointing out what we all know is true about public education, but are too afraid to talk about. Secondly, I’d like to focus on why public education might be the right choice in some rare cases…and what that choice might look like from a Biblical standpoint. I’m going to share a bit about my own experience in the public school system as a young, out-spoken Christian student. And finally, I want to wrap it up by giving some statistics as well as some passages from Scripture worth studying in regard to this very critical issue that has major implications not only for this life, but for eternity as well.
It’s my guess that most of us were educated in the public school system and are familiar with it. We all know that children educated in public schools spend 6 plus hours a day (14,000 seat hours total) in classrooms socialized by humans who are at the same stage of social, mental, and emotional development. The curriculum is religiously based against the Creator God that Christians claim to worship, and it is biased toward the religious claims of Secular Humanism. The view of God held in public schools is atheism. The view of man is evolution. The view of truth is relative. The view of knowledge is materialism/naturalism. And the view of ethics is cultural. Right and wrong is defined by personal choice and dictated by what the current culture declares is right/wrong. (For example, in today’s culture aberrant sexual behavior and killing babies is right, while being a virgin until marriage and praying outside an abortion clinic is wrong. Beautiful world, huh?) (By the way, I got this from a little chart in the book Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham. I highly recommend this book.)
Public schools are plagued with problems like drugs, alcohol, and violence. Christian ideas are suppressed and even openly declared unworthy of discussion in the public arena. Freedom of speech is celebrated only when the speech is politically correct and void of any mention of Jesus Christ, the Creator and Savior of the world. Doesn’t sound real promising when you read it in black and white, but there really isn’t much to argue here. These are known facts today.
The teachers, bless their hardworking hearts, are tragically trained in the socialist saturated universities and unwittingly pass on their brainwashed bias to the children. (The most recent result? An openly socialist president who is even scaring the heck out of the intelligent elite of his own party. Well, who’s voting? The American people have only voted for the kind of government they’ve been systematically taught to believe is right.)
Public education is a failed experiment.
Did you know that public education has only been around in America since 1870 and was modeled after the Prussian format? It was opposed by the Christian community for 5 decades, and as late as 1900, two thirds of American children were still being educated at home or in the churches.
There are books out there written by former educators that spell out all the gory details. Just for starters, you could read Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto, a teacher in New York City’s public schools for over 30 years and is a recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award. A much-sought after speaker on education throughout North America, his other books include A Different Kind of Teacher (Berkeley Hills Books, 2001) and The Underground History of American Education (Oxford Village Press, 2000).
Why do you think leaders, historically and today, select private education for their progeny? Public education was made available to help the poor and underprivileged. But the elite would never put their mootchkie nootchkies in the public schools. Not even Obama. Public school is for the masses. And 85% of Christian parents cheerfully and enthusiastically embrace this type of education for the children God has entrusted in their care.
Now, nobody has a right to judge anyone’s motives for choosing this option. Some Christians have no other choice. Single parent families often have no other options. Families dealing with illness or other issues out of their control may not have the luxury of selecting a different path. God gives grace and help for those folks finding themselves in difficult circumstances. We need to be supporting and encouraging these brothers and sisters as they walk the path God has chosen for them…not standing in judgment and condemnation of their circumstances.
In addition, some Christians really ARE called by God to go this route! So I’d like to talk about how this would look from a Biblical standpoint. Because I think it is an exciting, adventurous, and faith-building option when done under the direction of Scripture and led by God.
I can see a young couple exploring, studying (reading books like the ones above so they know exactly what the challenge is going to look like), praying and considering what GOD would have them do. I can see them reading Scripture and seeking answers from the revealed will of God so that when the times get tough, they will have Scripture to fall back on and their faith in God’s leading will not waver. I can see them evaluating their children’s maturity level…both emotionally and spiritually…and reassessing this each year as they navigate the challenges of a public education. I can see them grounding their children in truth every night…faithfully discipling them and opening up discussions that will enable those children to “download” and “deprogram” from the bombardment of lies and discouraging influences they face each day. I can see them preparing their children spiritually, emotionally and socially to faithfully and boldly articulate the gospel with their peers and teachers…and to be ready for the persecution that will follow that witness. I can see them garnering prayer support at church…and perhaps even a support group of other like-minded families who are going this route…getting together regularly to pray over their children, to discuss problems, issues, challenges…and to encourage those children in the spiritual battles they are facing each day. I can see them reading books with their children that will counteract the false history and science that they will be learning at school, grounding them in a biblical worldview.
If a family is truly called to send their children out into the public schools as missionaries, then the fruits of the Holy Spirit will be developed in their hearts through the hardships they will face. I can speak to this first hand. I was raised in the public school system, and I was very open about my faith in Christ. I also endured four years of pretty serious persecution…both verbal and physical…almost every day for those four years. My relationship with Christ became very intimate and real during this time. My faith was stretched, and I learned to stand alone. This has been instrumental in my life’s purpose even as an adult.
Now I would never choose the hell I went through in public school for my own children. But I believe God DOES call some to this battlefield. And He will pour out His grace on those children and show Himself faithful to their calling. The point I’m trying to make is that if you are called to place your children in the public education system, you are taking the most difficult, most time-consuming, most spiritually risky, most emotionally and spiritually draining route. If God has called you to this, then He will be glorified in amazing ways through the testimony of His faithfulness to your family as you follow Him obediently along this path.
The question is, are those 85-90% of American Christians called to this?
Are all these families really looking seriously and soberly at the risks, the challenges, the implications for their posterity and seeking God’s will for their children…totally surrendered to whatever God would have for them? Well, let’s consider just a snapshot of the fruit of this choice from some statistics found by the Barna group.
70-85% of youth raised in evangelical churches have nothing to do with spiritual things by the end of their freshman year in college.
Less than 10 percent of people who call themselves “Born Again Christians” in America operate from a Biblical worldview.
Only 4 out of 10 say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith.
85% of church youth said that what was right for one person in a given situation may not be right for another person in the same situation. (Situational ethics…taught…guess where?)
The average Christian family spends less than 30 minutes a WEEK studying Scripture together. (So much for helping the children navigate the public school minefields.)
Just taking a brief peek at the fruit of this particular education option should cause all Christians to tremble and take a long, hard look at WHY we REALLY choose this option MOST OF THE TIME?
Could it be that, for most of us, it really ISN’T God’s special call on our children, but rather the comfortable, “default” choice? The “normal” thing to do? The thing that won’t get us into so much trouble with our own parents and relatives…and even a lot of other Christians? I’m sure there are as many reasons Christians put their children in these schools as there are Christians. I’m just not sure they are all noble, Christ-seeking, Christ-honoring, and driven by the Holy Spirit through Scripture.
Let me be VERY CLEAR.
I’m not saying public education should never be a choice for any Christian. I’m just saying it should be the rare choice. Why? Because it is the most difficult option to pull off, and frankly, it would take an extremely mature, focused, driven, available set of parents, along with a heavy dose of God’s grace to successfully traverse the challenges. And it should be a choice (just like the other choices!) bathed in prayer and made with careful consideration of what Scripture has to say on the subject.
But the Bible doesn’t really talk about education, right?
I discovered last year that the Bible has so much to say about education…it’s startling! No, it doesn’t use the word “education”…but God has a LOT to say about training our minds. Is that not the same thing?
I challenged our Visionary Womanhood group to do a study this year as they read through their Bibles. I challenged them to write down the Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How questions regarding education and the Word of God.
Who does the Bible say needs to be “educated”? Who needs to have their minds trained, instructed, taught, disciplined, etc. Who are we to be learning from? Who are the kind of teachers God wants us to be “walking” with? You’ll find LOTS of information on this in the Bible.
What does the Bible say we need to know? What’s the curriculum God says we should be learning? What’s the body of knowledge all human beings need to be grounded in? You will find lots of information on this in the Bible.
Why do we need to know the above things we have found God wants us to know? What’s the purpose behind learning that stuff? You’ll find lots of information on this in the Bible.
Where are we to be learning? You’ll find lots of information on this in the Bible.
When are we to learn? Is there a time frame? A limit? A certain age? You’ll find lots of information on this in the Bible.
How are we to learn? What does the Bible teach is the proper methodology? You know what I’m going to say…
Want some verses just to whet your appetite?
Luke 6:40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher?” Who is teaching you? Who is teaching your kids?
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Why are the vast majority of evangelical youth leaving their faith in the dust after their first year of college? Could it be that they are just going in the way they’ve been taught at school?
Psalm 1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night….” Where and with whom are our children walking every day? Standing? Sitting? What do they delight in? What are they meditating upon?
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge….” Do we really believe this? Because they don’t at your local public school.
Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Are your minds and the minds of your children being renewed daily in the Word of the Living Creator? Are you being tested and finding out what God’s will is as you search diligently for it in His Word? His will is good, acceptable and perfect. Beautiful!
2 Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….” Are we teaching our children to destroy the arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of Christ…or are we immersing them in those Godless teachings and letting those teachings have their way with our children’s minds and hearts?
Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.” Are we careful to avoid this in ourselves, but neglect to see how the schools our children are in are successfully taking THEM captive?
I Tim. 6:20 “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”, for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” Are we teaching our children to avoid the “babble and contradictions” of what is falsely called “knowledge”? Or are we enthusiastically throwing them into a daily, heaping dose of them at school?
I’d like to close by reminding us that everything we do here in our brief existence on earth is about one thing and one thing only: bringing glory to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. That includes the choice of who will be educating our children. Will our choice reverberate into eternity? Yes it will. So choose wisely.
I think Voddie Baucham said it well: “If we continue to send our children to Caesar for their education, we need to stop being surprised when they come home as Romans.”
Education Options Part III: Private Education
I have some experience with private education as I taught Jr. and Sr. high English in a private, Christian school. The teachers were dedicated, mature, competent and caring. This school used Christian curriculum that presented the subjects from a Biblical perspective.
With private education, parents are delegating their responsibility before God to train up their children in a Creator-centered education to other Godly, mature individuals who have the same vision the parents hold. If God truly is at the center of all things, then it stands to reason that He will be the centerpiece of all education. Depending on the choice of school, a parent can utilize this option to offer such a God-centered education.
Parents need to carefully examine the world view/curriculum/doctrinal statements etc. of the school they are interested in, and then select an institution that most closely reflects what they want their children to grow up believing/understanding. The school then becomes an extension of the parents and works together with the parents to provide righteous, Christ-centered instruction. Private education is an attractive option for parents who desire their children to be educated with a Biblical worldview, but are unable to home educate.
I recently read The Children Trap: Biblical Principles for Education by Robert Thoburn, a former member of the Virginia House and nationally renowned educator. I recommend this book if you are interested in examining options outside of the government education system.
A couple of downsides to private education would include the financial investment which can be fairly heavy, depending on the school. Another downside is that the students are still being educated on a conveyor belt with other students of the same age, in spite of the fact that any given student may need to go slower or more rapidly through their education depending on how God designed them emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. In other words, the education is not tailor designed with your student in mind. This problem can be offset somewhat by parental involvement at home.
A final problem to consider is something I saw first hand as a teacher. There are always some students placed in the school because the parents are hoping to “reform” them. These students can make teaching and learning extremely difficult for everyone else. Extra care for these types of needy children pull teachers away from the other students who may also have needs, but are not “pressing” for attention. I taught an 8th grade class that had three such needy children. That whole class suffered in every single subject and was the topic of much discussion and prayer among the staff. The bottom line was that, although we all worked together to try to give the best possible education to all of those students, many of those children slipped through the cracks due to the ones who demanded so much time and attention. I thought this was a shame. Parents were investing large amounts of money to send their children to this school believing that they were getting the kind of education, attention, and care that they would offer at home, and this simply wasn’t the case for this particular class.
Education Options Part IV: Home Education
I have not had any time to write up my own article on home education as the third educational option, but I think most of you know that is the “option” Joe and I chose for our children, and I frequently post articles that describe home education. The following is one such article. I decided to use this as my “Part Four” post! Enjoy! (Credit is given to the source following the article.)
Tabithah is 5 years old, small for her age, and just over her baby lisp. She could carry a tune before she was 2 and count to a hundred before she was 3 and a half. She wears Sunday dresses nearly every day of the week. Mom lets her, because what are pretty clothes for if not to wear them?
A few days ago she busied herself rearranging bright plastic letters on the fridge door and pronouncing the resulting words. Mom called down from upstairs, “Taba, what are you doing?”
Without turning around, she shouted, “I’m teaching myself to read!”
Tabithah’s announcement made us all laugh. She’s only one in a long list: One sister is teaching herself algebra and biology, I’m teaching myself English Lit, my brother is teaching himself computer programming. Another sister is in a massage therapy program and comes home spreading anatomy and physiognomy facts like fairy dust; they are, she tells us, very enriching.
I bear the unusual distinction of being a homeschool graduate. While homeschoolers are more and more common, grads are still a reasonably rare breed. By virtue of my upbringing, I probably get into more discussions on education and childrearing than most single women in their 20s, but I don’t object. I hope I have something unique to add to the conversation.
I loved being homeschooled. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m all the more grateful for my parents’ decision to keep us home for our education. Homeschooling has had more impact on me than any other parental decision except remaining open to children. Thanks to that second choice, my life is blessed with 11 truly wonderful siblings. To the first choice, homeschooling, I owe nearly all of my perspective on life.
And to that, I owe nearly everything I am and do today.
But the word “homeschooling” is misleading, and I’m not especially fond of it. Homeschooling is not primarily about school at all. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It encompasses nearly every aspect of life and family, and its influence is far greater than anything found in the pages of Saxon math or Charlotte Mason-approved novels. It’s that lifestyle I have loved, its foundations I am so grateful for, its inherent ideas about life I’m still living out. If I have children, I mean to homeschool them.
Sheltered at Home
Homeschooling is sharply distinct from the lifestyles of those who “go to” school, first because homeschooled kids don’t “go” anywhere. They stay home. What does that mean to a child? It means shelter, security and greater ability to be children in a world that wants people to grow up too fast.
It’s curious that “sheltering” is a charge often leveled at homeschool parents as though it’s a bad thing. Of course children can’t stay sheltered forever, but they won’t stay children forever.
Many homeschool parents like to use the greenhouse analogy. A plant that is tenderly nurtured in a greenhouse, protected from predators and the elements, can later be transplanted to live a healthy, thriving life. One that is always outside may simply be eaten, or stunted and destroyed by wind, sun and snow it’s not ready to encounter.
I like to say that a puppy thrown to the wolves will either be eaten or learn to be a wolf. A fully grown dog stands a fighting chance.
Our home was sheltered. I remember realizing at a very young age that many of my friends were scarred and jaded by their experiences at school — and I’m talking about children under the age of 10! They were already cynical, already hurt, already worldly-wise.
In many ways my siblings and I were naïve and innocent, and we knew it — and were glad of it. We did encounter evil. We learned about sin and consequences, hell and heaven, cold hard reality and the need for grace. But we didn’t learn about these things by falling prey, nor were we left to figure things out for ourselves. We learned by our parents’ side.
In the process, we grew into a unique and close bunch of people who tackled life together. Every family is a community, and they form cultures of their own. Homeschooling families seem to do this in heightened measure. My family culture is a wild and wonderful one, and it has grown from our household atmosphere of shelter, discipleship and creativity.
Discipled at Home
Recent NCES statistics show that 83 percent of homeschool parents have chosen this lifestyle because of “a desire to provide religious or moral instruction.” For most homeschooling families, discipleship is a top priority.
My parents took 2 Peter 1:5 as their homeschool verse: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.” Mom and Dad wanted us to grow up with a solid knowledge of Scripture, a strong understanding of the gospel and a virtuous character.
It’s interesting that Scripture so often presents these very topics in the language of parent to child — in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms and even the epistles. God designed the home to be a primary place of discipleship. He commanded the Israelites to keep God and Scripture constantly at the forefront of their home lives, discussing the commandments of God constantly with their children:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deut. 6:6-7)
Many homeschooling parents choose to bring their children home because they believe it is their God-given responsibility to disciple them.
Discipleship extends beyond spiritual concerns to character and life training. My mom practiced discipleship when she spent hours teaching us to scrub a bathtub properly, to cook a pot of spaghetti sauce from scratch and to wash our socks with homemade soap. We learned practical and business skills at home from our parents. We spent serious time with them, watching them in action, gleaning from their character and experience. And we learned how all these things related to who we were in God.
Can children be discipled while they’re going to school? To some degree, yes. But most homeschool parents don’t feel they can properly disciple children who spend eight hours a day away from them, five days a week, for 13 of the most foundational years of their lives.
Homeschooling offers parents something unbelievably precious. It offers the same gift to children. That gift is time.
Learning at Home
My father was a public school teacher who had the usual problems with public schools — rampant immorality, poor discipline and ungodly worldviews taught as truth. But he also disliked modern education itself. Dad was never a typical thinker, and he wanted our education to be natural, interest-led and largely independent.
I often joke that I got my education because my parents taught me to read and said, “There’s the library.” It’s a joke, but it’s not far off the mark. Academics at our house have always been an unusual mix of painful self-discipline and wild adventure. I remember falling asleep over multiple math books, but I also remember pulling off the road in the mountains at 2 in the morning so Dad could point out the constellations, or stopping to watch purple lightning and talking about what makes a storm.
We never really had “favorite subjects,” because learning wasn’t divided into little boxes like that. We learned at every opportunity. We pursued our passions. We probably missed a lot of things — yes, we have “gaps” in our education — but then again, we learned how to learn. Gaps can always be filled when needed.
Education in a homeschool family can take many forms. Some people buy whole 12-year curriculums and stick with them. Others go the unschooling route, tossing out curriculum altogether. In between are a thousand variations on education, all bound together by the single idea that God made us to learn and to teach each other, and with love and creativity we can do it. Homeschooling is education emancipated!
Sent from Home
An adult now, I grow more aware all the time of homeschooling’s fingerprints on my life. In some ways, it’s made me different. I come from a different cultural background, a different set of peer and family relationships, and a very different approach to education. But I’m grateful for the differences.
There’s a biblical word we don’t use much anymore. The word is “consecration.” It simply means to be set apart for some purpose. (My father used to illustrate consecration by saying that even a garbage can is consecrated: it’s consecrated to hold garbage.) My parents set out to consecrate their children for the purpose of serving God and living life to the fullest. A homeschooling lifestyle was key to doing that.
I still remember the day, freshly out of kindergarten, when my father announced that next year I would not go to school. Did he sound slightly anxious? Did I suspect that he was trying over-hard to assure me — a child who had not liked school and was not worried about leaving it behind — that everything would work out well? Perhaps he did. Perhaps, back then, homeschooling made us nervous.
It doesn’t anymore. I am a deeply grateful homeschool graduate, aware that homeschooling as a system is not perfect any more than public schooling is, but equally aware that homeschooling as a lifestyle is one of my parents’ greatest gifts to me. These days, my friends are getting married and having children. And every time another child is born, I bite my tongue and wish the parents would ask — “So how did you like homeschooling?”
Usually, they do. And it’s all I can do to keep from saying, “Please, please homeschool your children.” Instead, I stay calm and share why I loved it. Why I would homeschool my own, absolutely, yes. Why it worked — not just as a form of academic education, but as an enricher of childhood, a builder of family and character, and as preparation for life.
Copyright 2009 Rachel Starr Thomson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. This article was published on Boundless.org on March 20, 2009.