Educating Our Kids: Exploring the Options

41xJ1AnTzGLIt’s the “back-to-school” time of year: the season of buying textbooks, gathering school supplies, and meeting your kids’ teachers. But should it be?

Should Christians leave the public schools and send their children to private or Christian schools? What about homeschooling?

Nothing revs up a parent more than having a family’s educational choice questioned or challenged. But I believe it’s important to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to schooling, and I think we can do so in a civil and respectful manner.

The book Perspectives on Your Child’s Education presents four major options for the Christian family. Each contributor makes a case for his preference and then defends it after being critiqued by the other contributors. Here are three of those choices (I’ve combined the “open-admission” and “covenantal” Christian schools into one), and the strengths and weaknesses of each:

Option #1: Public School System

Troy Temple makes a case for considering public schooling. He does not believe parents should send their children there as “missionaries,” though some speak that way. Neither does he believe public schooling should be required of all Christians. But he does believe public schooling in places where teachers are at least respectful to Christianity is a legitimate option.

The Case For

  • The Christian family has opportunities to serve the school and be involved in the lives of the lost.
  • The Christian family has the opportunity to be a witness in conversation and communication.
  • Shelter and safety for our kids should not be the priority of Christian parents, but the Great Commission.

The Case Against

  • The secular worldview of the public school system distorts the goals of education and excludes value judgments that are an important part of education.
  • Should Christian families allow 30 percent of their children’s waking hours be in an environment that is implicitly anti-Christian?
  • It is not necessary for the Christian family to partner with the public school in order to fulfill the Great Commission.

Option #2: Christian School

G. Tyler Fisher makes a case for open-admission Christian schooling, and Mark Eckel argues for covenantal Christian schools. These positions are more alike than different, so I will treat them together here. These authors believe that holistic education must include Christian teaching (over against the public school advocate) and that teachers well trained in their fields are best equipped to give children the skills to succeed (over against homeschool advocates).

The Case For

  • Education is unavoidably theological, and a Christian school provides a biblical framework that builds God-centered purpose into every part of life.
  • Christian teachers serve as partners with Christian parents to instruct children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
  • A Christian school trains children to identify, analyze, and critique unbiblical worldviews.

The Case Against

  • Christian schools create a “huddle” mentality and can isolate children from opportunities to interact with unbelievers in the world.
  • Christian schooling is not as efficient as homeschooling, and teachers can never replace parents as the primary educators.
  • Christian schools do not necessarily do a better job than public schools when it comes to academics.

Option #3: Homeschooling

Michael Wilder makes a case for homeschooling, since Scripture places on parents the ultimate responsibility for a child’s education. Because public schooling fails to utilize a Christian philosophy of education and because many Christian schools do not live up to their high standards, Wilder believes homeschooling is often (not always) the best choice.

The Case For

  • Formal education is one aspect of a larger, integrated discipleship process – a responsibility that belongs to parents.
  • Parents can be flexible in the educational environment they create and in how to best instruct their children.
  • Homeschooling takes responsibility for education back from the state and returns it to the family.

The Case Against

  • Parents may not have the education they need to prepare their children to succeed academically. Schools provide expert interaction beyond what parents can provide.
  • Isolation from the culture can hinder the church’s mission in the world and lead the family into a “clannish” mentality.
  • Unless parents intentionally seek social opportunities, children may experience inadequate socialization.

Which Option Do You Choose?

Before opening the discussion, I believe it’s important to remember that the church is united by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, not by agreement on the best approach to educating our children. It worries me whenever I visit a church where every family has chosen the same educational path (whether it be an exclusively homeschool family church, Christian school clique, or public school involvement). Bible-believing Christians can and do come to different conclusions on this matter.

But our differences should not preclude good and open conversation. Whichever option you choose, you will be served well by people who disagree with you, who point out the weaknesses to your approach. That way, we can acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of each and then seek to minimize whatever weaknesses our approach entails.

How have you come to a conclusion regarding education? And why?

Comments

  • Editors' Picks

    Why the Church Must Start Talking about Domestic Violence
    Why the Church Must Start Talking about Domestic Violence
  • Don't Think of Church as Your Own Spiritual Power Bar
    Don't Think of Church as Your Own Spiritual Power Bar
  • So You Think Theology Is Impractical?
    So You Think Theology Is Impractical?