On Schooling

I know there are lots of different opinions on schooling among readers of my blog. Some were raised homeschooled, others in private schools, others in public schools, and yet others, some combination of the above. I've got public school teachers reading here, private school teachers, charter school teachers, and homeschooling parents. I have readers planning to homeschool their kids and others who chose to send their kids to public school and others who have plans but "reserve the right to change their mind". And these are just the readers I know! (I'd put names by the categories above, but I'll instead let y'all self-identify only if you want to ;-) )

Most of what I read on Christian "mom blogs", if any opinion is expressed at all, says that Homeschooling Is The One Christian Way to educate a child, and any other way will corrupt the child with anti-Christian Government Propaganda. I, for one, was in public schools until college, in three different states, and had a good experience- but that was my personal experience, at specific schools, with my specific learning style and personality.

So, after hearing all the criticism of public schools, I was surprised when I came across an old blog post from a blogger I read (he's on vacation and posting old posts while he's gone) titled "Death to Homeschooling"

He argues:
But it seems to me that if we are truly committed to living a missional life, then we must enroll our kids in the public school. That is, we are committed to living lives fully invested in what I might call the “Jesus Ethic” or the “Kingdom of God Ethic,” and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that we live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society.
The comments are long, and some are very pointed. I encourage you to read them. I tend not to agree totally with Tony Jones (the blogger) but instead with a commenter a ways down who says:
I think the problem here is that by positing it as an “either-or” connumdrum (you’re misisonal if you attend public schools, and you’re not if you home school), you negate the possibility that one can be missional in any circumstance. Isn’t that a primary point of the kingdom ethic–that we can share the light of Christ in every situation in which we find ourselves?
As for what we'll do with our future, theoretical kids... I can't say, because I haven't met them yet. I think that's the biggest issue for me. Each child is individually unique, and something best for one child isn't necessarily best for another. We've ruled out private schools, but that's about it. I do know homeschoolers can be 'missional' and well-adjusted- I've seen it in friends who were homeschooled their whole lives. I also know for a fact that children can be Christ-followers in the midst of a government-run school. I was there!

I'd say there's no Right Answer here, but I'd be interested in hearing what you think about:
  • the discussion on the post,
  • why you've made the choices you have (or what you plan to do, or how you are thinking through it),
  • and what your educational experience taught you.

Any ideas?


Anonymous Cogitations said...

I haven't read the blog post you referenced yet but I do want to post my current opinion. If and when we have and/or adopt children, I plan on treating each child differently. Depending on their maturity, I might let them choose or I may decide for them between public, private, and homeschooling if our situation allows. I went to a private Christian school through second grade and hated it. The other kids were mean and spoiled. I went to public schools after that and was much happier. My perpetual student attended a public school up to about junior high and had a horrible time. After that he attended a private Christian school and loved it. His younger brother who is a year and a half younger did the same thing as my perpetual student and would have had a better childhood if he had stayed in the public school. The main difference between my situation, my perpetual student's situation, and my brother-in-law's situation: classmates. Your classmates can make all the difference.

I have a friend that grew up in a large family and her parents let each child choose if they wanted to be in a public or private school or if they wanted to be homeschooled. It seems to have worked out pretty well for each child. For example, her youngest sister decided to be homeschooled so she can take art and music lessons.

There are so many variables: your child, classmates, quality of the school, etc. That is why I don't believe the issue is cut and dry.

Marie said...

* the discussion on the post:

I don't see a biblical directive to send kids out as missionaries. It is always adults who are sent as missionaries. So, I kind of disagree with the whole premise.

This is not to say my kids are not to be good witnesses, and they are - two of their friends have made professions of faith through their witnessing, and there's been lots of good fruit from their many efforts/lifestyle/habits/words. But I don't SEND them out to be missionaries. They are still children.

Daniel was kidnapped, you know, and did the best he could, and God used him, but it's not like his parents said, hey, let's pack up our child and send him to Babylon, see if his little light shines!! Seeing a child's first role as being a missionary sort of reminds me of the "Children's Crusade," rather ugly.

* why you've made the choices you have (or what you plan to do, or how you are thinking through it)

As a non-Christian going through public school I have horror stories to fill a book. My husband from another state has many, also. So we are of one mind about keeping them out of public schools. We were open to Christian or home schooling - but it turned out we couldn't afford Christian school. So we home schooled by default.

It is so easy, inexpensive, and effective I don't think we'd normally send our kids to Christian school even if we could afford it, now.

* and what your educational experience taught you.

Well, as a student, I learned to stay the heck out of public schools! (I was not a Christian child) Kids abusing drugs, teachers abusing drugs, kids selling drugs (I sold pot in high school), designated smoking areas for children, extraordinary profanity, child molestation, bullying, ridicule of Christianity and beliefs (not that I cared much at the time), usurpation of parental rights, teen sex and experimentation, the resulting abortions and STDs, the promotion of a homosexual agenda, sexualization of even those kids who desired abstinence, cliques of agony, and a serious effort to promote communism and undermine patriotism, and anti-military rhetoric. Coupled with the frequent absence of legitimate teaching of a particular skill (my husband learned the "whole word" method of reading, I never got any geography, etc.) and the lack of teachers' ability to legitimately discipline troublemaking students, and Yak! Not gonna go there.

As a teacher, I've had the joy of teaching each one of my kids to read, instilling patriotic values, keeping them out of drugs/gangs/sexual situations, keeping them safe from abusive or predatory students or teachers, teaching Biblical sexual values, and enforcing decent behavior. I've been able to let them pursue areas of particular interest to them. (My daughter knits for art a lot. My son gets to apprentice as an auto mechanic. My other son can work in food service. Etc.) In areas where they are weak or slow, they can get extra attention and slow down. In areas where they are strong, they can surge ahead.

Downside: It's a lot of work. Then again most things worth something are a lot of work.

Downside 2: I have to tell my kids what to do a lot. I wish someone else could dictate school stuff to them so I could issue fewer orders, but so it goes.

Becca said...

I think about this subject all the time. I have a dear friend who felt it would be more missional to send her child to public school. However, James and I deal with "alternative" parents quite often while volunteering/community service. These parents are not sending their children to public school. No way do they want their children "indoctrinated." You want to be involved (be missional) in these folks' lives? You go to their drum circles, their market startup meetings, and so forth. You don't influence adults by sending children.

As you can see, I have thought about this a lot. The whole issue of being missional in public schools is so very touchy with me...

Becca said...

Wow Marie. Great comment. I just read it all. Well thought out.

Marie said...


Beckie said...

We chose to put our oldest son in private Christian school after having trouble with our local public elementary school. It is a sad thing when our children get labled as troubled in first grade. When it was time for our next to go we were happy with this school and just sent him too.

I never thought I would do private school for my kids, I grew up in the public school system. However, for my situation, it was the only alternative that was right.

Schooling is one of the hardest decisions families face. I think we as parents try to make the best decisions for our situations as possible. I would reccomend one thing, don't say you won't try a particular type of school. You might find out that it could be your best alternative.

Beckie said...

I also agree with Marie's comment on missional children. We the parents are to be missional and hopefully our children will be when they grow up. To expect them to be as they grow up is another stress they don't need.

James Kubecki said...

Joanna, as you know, Shannon and I currently homeschool our 8-year-old. This is a matter entirely of personal choice, and there is no right or wrong answer. I think Tim Challies gave a good overview of the subject here, more eloquently than I ever could.

I think the important thing to remember is that either way, we have a clear biblical instruction as parents to teach our children. And while there is no explicit biblical teaching about how that is to occur, we need to be involved in our children's education, regardless of whether it's at home, in the church, in a private school, or in a public school.

Joanna said...

James- I appreciated those blog posts (the one you linked to and the author's subsequent post on the topic). The author frames the issue as a choice- not a right or wrong side, but an issue of true Christian freedom. I think this is wise.

As the blog author James linked to (and Tony Jones, more boldly) have said, there is good reason to have Christians influencing our public schools, to be among the children and parents and teachers. And, as many of the commenters here have said, there is also good reason in some cases to educate your children at home- for the reasons listed by you guys, or even more practical reasons, like the homeschooled friends I had growing up who were homeschooled because their dad was in the military, and changing schools every 3 years would be detrimental. Or the boy who I taught in Sunday School, who was homeschooled because his dad worked a night shift in his job, so the only way the kids would ever see their dad would require they have an alternative sleeping schedule. There are situations where homeschooling makes a lot of sense. And there are situations where public school, or, as Beckie pointed out, private school, makes a lot of sense.

As I said, we've got time (lots of time!) to figure this out- and all your comments are helpful. I'm determined we won't make a decision until we actually meet our children, though, and see who they are and what best serves them.

Anonymous said...

Kevin went to Kindergarten Round Up today and I was the nervous one. I could write and write on the topic of your blog. I am just going to have to take a leap of faith on this one and send him to the school that is right down the street from us. We can't afford private school and the main thing they have over public is that they have the right to kick a child out. If I could kick a child out for some of the lovely things Marie talked about in her post, then the education of our future would be a whole new ballgame. Unfortunately, I must accept all and that means a less than ideal environment for the kids that want to learn.
Please pray for your child's teachers. I know I'll be praying for whomever Kevin gets in July. If you are looking for a missionary, then look no further than your child's teacher.
I have to put my faith in the fact that we've raised Kevin to be a good kid. He will survive, he has brains and YES I will have to do my part at home to ensure that he learns. Teaching cannot just happen between 9-3:30. It is a partnership between the child, teacher and parent. If one link is missing, then the education of your child will be lacking.
I am a teacher who cares, but I am not a miracle worker.


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