What’s a Christian to do? Homeschool their children? Send them off to a private school? Or send them into the world of public schooling? From speaking with other parents I have come to conclude a few things as far as what Christians should do in this area. The answer? It’s different for each family and sometimes, even different for each child or possibly each season of life.
But what does the Bible say? Well, the Bible says we’re to “train up a child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6). Families choose to do this differently. Let’s go through a few of the benefits and reasons Christians choose for their choice of schooling.
Perhaps parents disagree with or dislike the public or private schools in the area and/or cannot afford private ones. Others choose this method simply so they can spend more time with their children. Some do it for specific reasons because their specific children seem to do better at home than in other environments. Whatever the reason, many Christians choose this option. Let’s quickly cover a few of the critiques of this option and debunk some of the misconceptions.
- The kids are anti-social! Well, they can be, but just because a family homeschools does not automatically make their children anti-social. Getting children involved in a church’s youth group, a sport or activity, or even being a part of a homeschool co-op gives children a social aspect.
- I don’t know enough to homeschool my kids! Thankfully homeschooling curriculum these days has advanced enough that many times a parent does not have to know everything in order to teach their child what they need to know. Also, many homeschoolers join forces in a type of co-op and have one adult teach all the children something specific that might require more skills than the average parent feels capable of teaching. For instance, science or biology. Others might join forces for physical education because that works better in large numbers etc.
- We can’t live our Christianity in a bubble! Yeah, just because a family chooses to homeschool doesn’t mean they live in a bubble. It might, but it’s not a guarantee. We all want to protect our children to an extent. This might just be the one area where a family chooses to protect their kids.
For the moment, I am not differentiating between Christian, Catholic, or non-Christian schools. Private schools vary in their education value as well as their Christian teachings. The main reason I hear of Christian parents choosing this option is because they want their child to have a good quality education, they do not themselves want to homeschool their children, and/or they do not agree with or do not see the public school as a good option. Private schools also tend to be smaller in size and better able to give more focused attention per child than public schools. This might be a desire of other parents. So let’s look at some of the critiques.
- It’s expensive! Yes, it’s not cheap. But people will find a way to pay for what they find important to them. I know of many families where a parent will take a job working at the school (as a teacher, in the cafeteria, or otherwise) in order to receive a discount and help pay for their children to attend the school. Scholarships are also available for some. A few private schools actually base their tuition on a sliding scale based on parents’ income anyway. So it costs less for those who make less. Yes, it’s expensive, but there are ways to make it affordable.
- Why would you pay for that when the public school is so good? This makes a lot of sense, but you never know. Some children thrive better in smaller school settings. A certain college might prefer those from private schools. Then a certain private school might offer a specific specialty that interests your child whereas the public school does not. (For instance, their golf team might be better. Or they might have a language focus that you value.)
- We can’t live our Christianity in a bubble! Just because they choose a private school certainly does not mean a child will be sheltered from the world. Even Christian schools have their fair share of sin occurring in the students and teachers alike.
I think a lot of parents are debunking this option too quickly these days, while others are choosing it without putting enough thought into it. Yet I understand their reasons. Some put their children in public school because the schools around them are excellent quality. Others choose this purposefully as a way to help prepare children for life in the world. Some areas do not have private school options and homeschooling just doesn’t work for some families. Other families have parents working in public school settings so they believe they should support public schools by sending their children through them. Public schools often offer a lot more as far as sports and activities than our other two options. They also tend to be larger and so the likelihood of your child finding other children like them is high. So what are the downsides?
- My poor child will be ruined! Yeah, that’s possible. But they could really be ruined anywhere and your influence as a parent is a lot stronger than you think. No parent can protect their child forever from everything. Public schools vary a great deal depending on location, teachers, and administration (just like private schools). Your child could turn out just fine.
- I disagree with what’s taught there. This is an excellent reason to avoid public schools. However, depending on the teachers, administration, and culture of the area where the school is located, you might find yourself agreeing a lot more than you realize with what’s being taught. Teachers cannot always choose what they teach, but they can often choose how they teach it. If their beliefs line up with yours, you might really appreciate them as a teacher!
- What if my child loses their faith? Well, this could be the result of being influenced by the other students or teachings at a public school, but in reality, this could just as easily happen at a private school as well. As we’ve said before, no one can shelter their child forever. Your child might on the other hand end up sharing the gospel and bringing many friends to church.
Whatever your family decides, the important thing is to pray about is and seek the Lord’s direction for what He desires for your family. It may be different than other families or it might be for different reasons. Some families have even chosen differently depending on each child. But you cannot go wrong by seeking the Lord’s direction, in this and every decision. Our role as parents is to train up our children in the Lord (Proverbs 22:6) and that might look different for all of us.