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A response to recent criticisms and a look at the heart behind homeschooling

Thirty years ago, my parents pulled my younger sister and me out of the private Christian school where we were enrolled. My mom, a teacher by training, decided my sister needed some focused one-on-one attention to master reading, writing, and arithmetic. Their plan was to put her back in school in a year or two. I asked them to homeschool me too, and they agreed.

Thirty years ago, homeschool families were 100 miles beyond unusual. People brought up questions about socialization and quality education and looked at us askance. For a variety of reasons, each year all the way through high school graduation, my parents chose to teach us at home. Twenty years ago, when I arrived at college, my friends trotted out the same arguments against homeschooling (socialization and quality education) plus a new one – Christians shouldn’t abandon the public schools. I argued back that my 3.8 GPA testified to my quality education, and the fact that they were my friends proved I had fine social skills. (They could, of course, retort that I was/am plenty odd, and I’d reluctantly agree. But oddity is like personality. It knows no educational bounds, nor is it a product of socialization or lack thereof.)

It’s astounding to me that today, twenty years later, the arguments haven’t changed.

I will be the first to concede that homeschooling has its weaknesses, as do the public schools (the current teacher strike in Chicago is a prime example). It isn’t fair to paint all homeschoolers with the same brush any more than it’s fair to lump all public schoolers together. Homeschools can be (though they don’t have to be) insular and over-protective. Public schools can be (though not all of them are) brutal and negligent.

Last week, Tony Jones painted homeschooling with an unfair brush. He wrote:

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society— like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect them from polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

In a follow-up post, he defines missional as “showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation” and asserts that “missional means being the salt seasoning in the world, and you cannot be that seasoning (no matter your age) if you withdraw from society.”

His critique has three weaknesses.

1. Sending one’s children into the public schools is missional living by proxy.

Based on the posts in question, Tony is not going into the public schools to be the hands and feet of Jesus; his children are. Certainly, parents of students have a small presence in the school system; however, if Tony believes he has a God-given obligation to show Christlike compassion in the public schools, shouldn’t he be the one going in? How is his children’s presence in the classroom him being salt and light? A Christian who works in the public schools is showing Christlike compassion, shining God’s light, etc.

In addition, some children are ready to be God’s hands and feet. Some are not.

Joy Bennett Joy grew up in a Christian home, and should know the answers to all the usual faith questions, but she doesn’t. She has delivered four babies, handed two over to heart surgeons in the hall outside an operating room, and buried one in a cemetery just a few miles from her home. She has no idea how she managed to marry a man who would love her and their kids through all of the upheaval, but she did. She has been writing since the second grade and blogging since 2005.

More from Joy Bennett or visit Joy at http://joyinthisjourney.com/

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  • https://laughingsarah.wordpress.com Brandie

    Great article. I especially like point 3. Thanks for writing!

  • Pastor Stew

    “But oddity is like personality. It knows no educational bounds, nor is it a product of socialization or lack thereof.”

    That’s simply not true. If someone were to put you in a highly social community or an anti-social community (which is an oxymoron), you would develop sociological responses to that and it would shape certain attributes about you, be it an oddity or personality.

    As for the rest of this, his statement of being missional is focusing on the fact that he, as a parent and as a Christian, has an influence on teachers, faculty, staff, and other parents. A parent in public school has a myriad of ways to get involved with their child’s school. So it is a legitimate argument that public schooling offers a greater mission field to the Christian parent than homeschooling.

    If it is an argument about quality education, try supplemental education. Put your child in the best public school you can, and then help them along the way. You can give them extra books to read, or aid them in their homework. In fact, you can even volunteer in the school to help kids in small group interactions or a mentorship program. You, as a parent, can impact other kids who may be coming from very broken families.

    There is nothing to fear about public education, and actually Christ can work through you and your family to reach more people. The Holy Spirit can change lives through you loving these kids and families with the Holy Love of the Trinity. The greatest travesty of the Church today would be if every Christian decided to homeschool their kids. Where is the spreading of the Gospel? Your kids may come out okay through homeschooling (a point to be debated at another time), but what about other kids and families who do not know Jesus? We are still called to reach the world today. It starts with the places where we live. Even your child, who may not stand in the halls shouting the name of Jesus, can impact other children with how they treat them because he/she comes from a solid background of a loving, gracious Trinity-centered family. If my parents would have homeschooled me, I would have never known Jesus.
    Please do not think you are helping your child by sheltering them, keeping them from watching certain things, listening to certain things, or being in public school with all the heathens. While boundaries are important while learning in a healthy fashion, those kids will one day go out into the world, and they will be rocked. I’ve seen it happen. I watched whatever I wanted to, listened to whatever I wanted to (not something I’m necessarily suggesting you do, I am just stating that I was in a rough place at home), and I went to public school. When I met Jesus, I didn’t want anything else, He was better. Do not confuse help and support with closing their ears and eyes so they do not have to see the world. The world is a tough place, and they will find that out one of these days.

    Things to know about me: I am finishing my seminary education currently, and I am married to a First grade teacher. We were both in public education throughout life, and while there were some tough parts of public school, the Lord used them to shape us and make us even more relatable/relevant to people who are upon our mission field. I would never change my experiences there, and I am anything but brainwashed by a system. Even if you aren’t up for considering how your child is affected, consider that so many more people can be reached if you chose to enter the public school. My wife sees some really tough families. Believers are few and far between, let alone any familial stability. She chose this particular school because of that fact. She is submitting her gifts and abilities to Jesus to impact these kids and their families. Even at the First grade level, huge changes can happen in a school year, and she gets to walk with parents in how to best love their children. She has volunteers and mentors that come in to love these kids even more. Don’t demonize the public school, love it with the most amazing Love the world will ever know, the Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.