Someone asked the question, "What's your view on homeschooling?" in the comment section of my post on going secular for righteousness' sake. To give that question the thought it deserves, I figured it would be better to write a post on it than a book in the comment stream. I'm no expert on this subject, and there are differing opinions on what to do. For example, in the denomination to which our church affiliates, high profile men like evangelist Franklin Graham and Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, have fallen on differing sides of the issue at a recent annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting. So adding my small voice and puny intellect to the mix could be risky. But I'll try to give my thoughts in a logical and concise manner.
1. Educating children is the parents' responsibility. In God's wisdom, children are not born to governments or the church. Children are born to men and women who will be held accountable for how they are raised. For instance, in God's list of charges against the Old Testament nation of Israel, we read: "And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, 'Why does he not?' Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 'For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless'” (Malachi 2:13-16). In another place, we read: "He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" (Psalm 78:5-7). Paul's version: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). So it is the parents' first responsibility to raise children to set their hope in God.
2. All education is indoctrination. This is something that Christians seem ignorant of. At best, this ignorance is just a lack of belief in what the Bible says and what history has proven. At worst, it's a willful ignorance, because to accept this notion means parents will be faced with many inconveniences they don't want to think about. So I fear many parents put their kids on the big yellow buses and go back in the house with their hands over their ears yelling, "LA LA LA! Everything's okay!" But it is undeniable that he who controls education controls the future. It is impossible to teach anything without an underlying philosophical worldview coming through. It grieves me that I even have to make this point because it's so obvious.
3. No indoctrination is neutral. If all education is indoctrination - not just passing on facts, but handing down values - then we must accept that indoctrination is aimed at something. Here's a basic lesson in worldview: "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3). The world is set up against God and under the blinding power of Satan. People aren't neutral toward God. They are actively, willfully opposed to him. So education is not neutral toward God. Again, it grieves me that I even have to make this point because it's so obvious. Just look at when children start to fall away from the things they've always believed.
4. Government education cannot build love for God, but it can destroy it. If we don't start with the right theology, everything else goes downhill from there. Government school is not interested in God. It's interested in the earth. This is understandable since the whole institution is under the control of Satan. If this sounds radical, go back to the Bible and learn the basic principles of the gospel all over again. Now, having said this, I'm not suggesting there aren't people who teach in schools that want what they think is best for children. But what they think is best is not always best, and many kids and parents have the scars to prove it. I don't know many kids coming out of school that say they're faith is strengthened because of school. But I know of kids who left behind dumb, hick, unsophisticated religion for the facts of natural humanism.
5. Kids without proper training are not missionaries. I almost ended this sentence with an exclamation point. If I hear one more parent tell me how little four year old Johnny is going to go to school to be a missionary, I'll puke. This line of reasoning just doesn't make sense, even though I've heard otherwise smart people say it. I was in the Army. You don't send kids into battle. You train them first. There's a phrase we used to have for untrained soldiers going into battle. It's called DOA - Dead on Arrival. Not only is it foolish to send untrained saved kids to government school to be missionaries, most the people that use this argument have kids that aren't even Christians yet. So how does this idea hold water with them?
6. School isn't for convenience no matter what you choose. I know of some who homeschool for the convenience of not having to deal with the evil in the world. They want to shelter their kids from anything bad like monks. I don't think this is a good reason. At some point, children are going to grow up and face the evil in the world. They better be ready for it. So we don't homeschool in order to hide out in a fortress. If God wanted us to be safe, he'd take us to Heaven right now. He wants us in the world without being of it. On the flipside of this, I know of some who send their kids to school because they don't want to have to deal with their kids all day. Some parents talk about school like it's their break time from parenting. Or they don't want to give up a paycheck to keep them home. Both, keeping your kids at home to shelter them, and sending your kids to school because it's easier for you is sacrificing your children on the altar of convenience. It's a type of idolatry. So what's the alternative?
7. Intentionally train your children. Parents need to teach their children the ways of God and the sinfulness of the world. It is not the school's responsibility to train children how to function in the world, and it's not the church's. It is the parents'. The parents can delegate this role to others, but they're still responsible for how it all works out. Kids have to become gospel-centered through continual training. This kind of gospel-awareness must start at birth and be tailored to each child as they grow. The goal of this is simple: we're intentionally training ambassadors for Christ. So if you've trained your children, if they understand the gospel, if they know what to expect from government school, and if you keep abreast of their progress daily, then send them to school to be that light you think they could be. But if you think school would crush their faith, then come up with an alternative like homeschooling.
8. Evaluation should precede evacuation. Some parents get scared to death because they're child comes home talking about sex or global warming or evolution. Make no mistake, this stuff is taught every day to all ages of children. I'll never forget the time one of the children in our church couldn't figure out how Adam and Eve fit in with the prehistoric caveman ancestors of modern man. That's the danger of teaching a young head full of mush two opposing theories of everything. But that doesn't automatically mean you should pull your children out. Evaluate your child and the situation. Is your child a strong Christian who is wise to the ways of the system? Then teach them the folly of what they're learning and why those poor people think that way. Is your child weak in faith or knowledge and is truly falling in line like a zombie with all the indoctrination? Then you may want to reconsider your decisions based on conviction rather than convenience.
9. Your child is not a social experiment. Don't send your child to government school to prove wrong all those radicals who think homeschooling is the answer. And don't homeschool your child to prove to your family and friends that you're more righteous than them. My goal with my children is to raise them to become strong missionaries for God, wherever they happen to live and work. My wife has always homeschooled our children. We have five of them, and my oldest is eleven. Our oldest, Jason, is probably headed for government school next year for the first time. We haven't come to this conclusion lightly. We wouldn't even consider it for our other four, and don't know if they'll ever go that route. But Jason is a Christian with a strong mind, but soft conscience. He isn't a follower. He's also been trained from the time he was a baby in the gospel and the culture. He has non-Christian friends and he's a light to them (while still being just as ornery). Why are we sending him? Because I think he's trained well enough to be an effective missionary to his culture, so long as he has the daily encouragement and support and oversight of his parents. I'm not convinced of any of that for the other children yet.
10. This issue isn't cut and dry. If I thought homeschooling was commanded in Scripture, then this post would have been about three sentences. But it's just not. In a way, it would have been much easier if God would have commanded one way or the other. But I think he left it open because he wants us to know all of Scripture. In a way, the whole education debate is a small picture of the age-old debate about how the church is supposed to relate to the world. Wisely is my only answer. But I'll leave it to the conscience of each parent what that will look like. My strongest advice is whatever decision you make, make it based on a conviction shaped by the Bible, and not out of convenience.
There are tons of books written on this subject, so a blog post is going to be weak. I think the goal of child-rearing is missions. Period. And if that's your goal, I think it will guide your decision-making in this area in a way that is both wise and faithful.