The Real Risk of Homeschooling

Dr. James Emery White
Dr. James Emery White
2020 30 Apr

Let’s face it. We’re all homeschooling now. It’s not just a group of parents who all along felt it might be best, but rather the majority of the nation who have now been forced into its rigors. 

Beyond some parents feeling they might be dropping the ball (the insecurity of every homeschooling parent, even those who eventually place their kids in Oxford), many parents may find it not only doable, but desirable.

In steps Erin O’Donnell from Harvard, writing breathlessly of her own perceived “risks” of homeschooling. Even to the point of seemingly calling for a ban on the practice.


It not only violates a child’s right to a “meaningful education” she says, but… wait for it… “may keep them from contributing to a democratic society.”

This is worth unpacking. The idea is that public school teachers are “mandated reporters” required to alert authorities to abuse or neglect. Okay, but are we simply talk about physical abuse or neglect? No. The abuse includes how “… surveys of homeschoolers show that a majority… are driven by conservative Christian beliefs, and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture.”

This is perceived as a threat to U.S. democracy. The idea is that the government has the right to educate children as it sees fit. This, to be clear, sees the government as the parent. And what does the government as parent entail? Indoctrination, as in “… that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.” In other words, our culture’s modern secularism.

The mainstream Christian understanding is that parents have absolute rights that prevent the state from intervening to try to alter the child’s education in the name of “protection.” The argument being made is that “requiring children to attend schools outside the home for six or seven hours a day… does not unduly limit parents’ influence on a child’s views and ideas.”

The true agenda is made clear when parents are portrayed as the “power,” to which O’Donnell adds: “… do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? … I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless and to give the powerful ones total authority.”

As opposed to, say, giving that same control over to government? Let’s be clear about the real risk of homeschooling, the one that is being felt so keenly by many who oppose it:

Children might just be taught, and then embrace, a Christian worldview.

James Emery White


Erin O’Donnell, “The Risks of Homeschooling,” Harvard Magazine, May-June 2020, read online.

Brandon Showalter, “Harvard Prof. Calls for Ban On Homeschooling, Responses Emerge,” The Christian Post, April 20, 2020, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.