Passionate advocates of Christian home education often talk about the wonderful blessings homeschooling is bringing to families all over the world. Closer family relationships, better education, the ability for parents to pass on their faith and convictions—all of these are among the advantages we discuss.
Sometimes, however, it seems our enthusiasm isn't as well received as we would prefer.
Some time ago, as I was browsing through homeschool websites, I came across a blog entry written by a homeschooling father. As a relatively new homeschooling dad, he was still adjusting to our unique culture and environment. He didn't like everything he was seeing.
He had attended a homeschool convention and was concerned that the keynote speaker was representing homeschooling as something almost like another gospel. The speaker wasn't named, but apparently he was expounding on the problems found in our public education system, how homeschooling addresses those problems, and how we can reclaim our culture through homeschooling.
The point this homeschooling father was making was this: public schools aren't the problem—sin is. And homeschooling isn't the answer—Jesus is. This dad felt that calling public schools the problem, and homeschooling the solution, was putting home education in the place of Jesus. Thus, an alternative gospel—one that displaces Christ and inserts homeschooling—was being preached.
Is this a valid point? Are those of us who are passionate advocates of homeschooling in danger of preaching a new gospel, one that removes Jesus from His rightful place? It's a question worth asking ourselves.
Looking around, we see problems beyond number. A glance at the headlines on any given day reveals more cases of conflict, corruption, and depravity than we care to know about—and these are just the stories important enough to make the headlines. We don't read about all the domestic fights, the messy divorces, the rebellious teens, and the many other tragedies acted out around us each day.
It's easy to look around and lay the blame in any number of places. If only our elected leaders had more integrity, if only corporate America wasn't so greedy, if only the culture wasn't so immoral, if only our celebrities weren't such poor role models—the list could go on and on.
Ultimately, all of these things are only the external outworkings of the real problem—sin. By nature and by individual choice, each one of us is a sinner. When Adam and Eve violated God's command in the Garden of Eden, they plunged the entire human race into the darkness of sin and separation from God. The problems surrounding us in the millennia since then are nothing more than the natural outcomes of our sinful condition.
As homeschoolers, it's easy to look at our public education system and point our fingers and shake our heads at the sad condition of our nation's schools. And truly their condition, by and large, is sad. But are we justified in laying blame at the doors of our schools?
Yes and no.
Ultimately, sin is the problem—not our schools. In this sense, our schools aren't to blame since they didn't make anyone a sinner. Yet even as we say this, we are compelled to realize that, in many cases, the environment in our schools has become increasingly toxic to anything like Christian values. A letter recently appeared on Townhall.com, written by the mother of a 2010 public school graduate, lamenting the fact that despite having attended one of the nation's top schools, her son didn't know what country Napoleon was from, even while he was learning about homosexual men in Samoa during his social studies class.1
Every child is born a sinner in need of a Savior. Each one of us, left to himself, is capable of committing any sin known to mankind. Yet it is possible to be hastened on our way by those who have followed the path of depravity further than we. Jesus did not hesitate to lay blame at the feet of those who offended children who believed in Him. His judgment was startling in its directness: it would be better for them to have a millstone hung about their necks and be drowned in the depths of the sea. A sobering denunciation indeed.
Schools aren't the ultimate problem, and removing our children from school isn't the ultimate answer. Yet that in no way lessens the fact that our schools—by their exclusion of God and their acceptance of a humanistic worldview—are hastening untold millions of children along the path of destruction.
We can remove our children from school, yet they still have the same problem they had before—sin. Removing them from the harmful influences of a godless worldview and negative peer pressure is certainly worthwhile, yet it doesn't solve their ultimate problem. Only Jesus can do that.
We need to understand that the fundamental problem for any child is not environmental. A poor environment may exacerbate their natural condition, but it does not cause the condition. Thus, simply transferring our children from school to home doesn't fix the root problem. The problem isn't an environment issue, but a heart issue.
Only Jesus offers cleansing and healing for the ultimate dilemma—the problem of sin in each human heart. Public school didn't put the sin there (however much it might help draw it out), and homeschooling can't remove it (however much it might curb the outward manifestations). The answer to sin is the blood of Jesus—nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Only here do we find the answer to our deepest problem.
Each one of us eventually reaches an age of accountability, a time when we're capable of understanding right and wrong and are able to comprehend the message of the gospel. When this time comes, we have a choice to make: either trust Christ or reject Him. No one can do this for us. Christianity isn't genetic; it's a matter of individual faith.
This is the point at which each of our children needs to arrive—that moment of recognition that they can do nothing to redeem themselves, and that Christ is their only hope.
Even after salvation, children need their own continuing walk with God. Protecting and sheltering your children from evil influences is appropriate, but it won't remove their natural propensity toward wrong behavior.
Ultimately, every one of us has personal choices to make. Your children will still wrestle with their own challenges, their own temptations, and their own besetting sins, simply because of being human. You can't wage war against the world, the flesh, and the devil on their behalf—they have to do it for themselves. You can pray, you can provide support and accountability, but it's your children who have to stand in the strength of God against sin.
Sheltering children from negative influences is important. There's no reason to pour all the filth of this world into their minds simply because they're born sinners and are going to wrestle with sin anyway. But at the end of the day, your children are still human, and they'll still have to confront temptations in their own lives. Jesus again is the answer. Only as they submit their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ will they have any hope of standing firm against the temptations of this life.
The problem our children have is sin. The answer our children need is Jesus—both for redemption and for a victorious life.
Where Does Homeschooling Come In?
Perhaps this leaves us wondering what homeschooling is all about. After all, if it's not the answer to our children's greatest problem, what's the point?
Perhaps it will help to think of it this way. A math equation has multiple parts. The final answer is what matters most, but we can't ignore the components that lead us to that correct answer simply because they are not the answer in and of themselves. In a similar way, we can think of homeschooling as one part of the equation. No, it's not the final answer, but that doesn't mean it's unimportant.
Like most analogies, this one breaks down if pushed too far (homeschooling isn't necessary for salvation in the same way that two numbers are necessary in a multiplication problem), but it's a simple way to express the general idea. Simply because homeschooling isn't the answer doesn't make it insignificant.
Here's another way to put it: we can't just preach Christ and ignore the principles and instructions of His Word. Yes, Jesus is the first and final answer to all our problems, but we can't live any way we choose and then simply claim Jesus as the solution to whatever mess we create.
The fact is, enrolling our children in a godless form of education will have consequences. God has instructed us in His Word to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If we ignore that command, we'll have problems. We can't educate our children the world's way, claim Jesus as the antidote, and expect positive results. He expects us not only to trust Him, but also to follow Him and His ways. Instructing our children in righteousness is part of that equation.
Consider a different scenari if a husband and wife are experiencing marriage difficulties, can they claim Jesus as the answer to their problems? Absolutely. But they can't continue in whatever destructive behaviors caused the problems in the first place. Something has to change in their day-to-day actions. Jesus can and should be the divine source, inspiration, and strength to make the changes, but the changes need to be made. The couple can't continue living with destructive behaviors, put a Jesus Band-Aid on the problem, and expect everything to be fine. Until our actions conform with our words, nothing is going to happen.
It's exactly the same way with our children. Yes, every child has a sin problem. Yes, every child needs to trust Jesus Christ as Savior. But even Christian kids all too often go the wrong direction when they're subjected to a godless education and all the negative peer influences that typically go along with it.
Homeschooling is still vitally important—not as a replacement to the true answer, but to point our children toward that answer.
Jesus Is the Reason
Ultimately, homeschooling isn't an academic pursuit, but a spiritual one. It's not about producing geniuses, but raising a generation of godly young men and women to impact our world for the cause of Christ.
Because of this, the message of the cross should be central to your homeschool. We don't homeschool as a substitute to the cross, but because of it. The message of the cross must be as central to your homeschooling as it is to the work of any missionary on a foreign field.
Without Jesus, we as homeschoolers will succeed only in raising young people to be whitewashed sepulchers—perfect on the outside, but stinking and defiled on the inside.
Homeschooling without Christ is akin to taking your children off a sinking ship and putting them in a leaky lifeboat. You may slow down the destruction, but the ultimate consequence will be the same. In either case the end result is a life sunk in the depths.
It's far better to remove your children from the sinking ship and then point them toward the only Lifeboat truly capable of rescuing any of us. That's what homeschooling is all about.
Where Is Our Trust?
As we have seen, bad schools aren't the root problem, although they often are an accessory to the crime, so to speak. This is why homeschooling is still vitally important.
As valuable as homeschooling is, however, we need to be cautious that we don't begin viewing it as the complete solution. We would do well to ask ourselves, "Where is our trust?" Are we placing our faith in homeschooling, or are we instead placing our faith in God to work through homeschooling? If we're trusting homeschooling alone, we're actually trusting our own efforts. We need to place our faith in God and in His power and ability to work through us as we perform the responsibilities He has entrusted to our care.
The paradox of the Christian life is that we're supposed to work and labor, yet leave the results to God. Others have observed that we're to work as if it all depends on us, and trust as if it all depends on God. These two perspectives tend to pull against each other, and it can be a constant struggle to maintain the proper balance between them.
There's no excuse for laziness on our part. Unless there's literally nothing we can or should be doing, we can't simply sit back and say, "Well, God will take care of it!" At the same time, we shouldn't work ourselves into a frenzy, forgetting that the results are in God's hands. It's a careful balance. Jesus told us that we needn't worry about our daily provision, yet Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that if a man won't work, he shouldn't be allowed to eat. Trusting God is mandatory, yet it's not a free pass when we have a legitimate responsibility to fulfill.
Homeschooling is similar. It's absolutely true that Jesus is the answer to our children's sin problem. Yet that doesn't mean that as parents, you needn't fulfill your God-given responsibility to train up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Your trust must be in God, yet you must do your part. As we have already noted, God's equation for raising the next generation includes you.
Work hard and trust God—those are two sides of the same coin in the Christian life.
The Bottom Line
It is absolutely correct to preach Jesus as the ultimate answer to life's problems. When we do so, we are giving Christ His proper place of preeminence. Yet this demands that we maintain consistency between our words and our actions.
If we piously say that Christ is the answer for our children's lives, and then enroll them in a school that every day tramples His name and His word underfoot, we are at risk of maintaining a dangerous double standard. We must suit our actions to our words. This doesn't mean we transfer our trust from Jesus to homeschooling, but we must be consistent.
The public schools of our nation are secular. By definition, they exclude God and His word. Those who say "Jesus is the answer" would do well to consider the wisdom of sending their children to a place where they will never hear of Him except to hear His name mocked and His word scorned.
We could sum it up this way: a godless form of education is seriously at odds with our elevation of Christ. On the other hand, self-consciously Christian homeschooling is completely consistent.
If we are going to claim Christ as the answer our children need, then let us show them by practical example that we believe what we say. Let us give them an education and upbringing that will point them in the right direction, rather than the wrong direction. If we say that Jesus is important, yet send our children to a school where He is given no importance, let us consider well whether we are paying only lip service to God, rather than living out our convictions in our daily lives.
No form of education is the answer our children need. But while secular, public education excludes any mention of the real answer, as a homeschooling parent, you can exalt Him every day. That's the difference. That's why homeschooling is worth it.
Homeschooling never has been—and never will be—a substitute for Jesus Christ. But homeschooling is worth it because of Jesus—because we love Him, because we desire to honor Him, and because we yearn to point our children to Him.
Jesus is the answer your children need. Point them toward Him today. And then press on in homeschooling so you can continue pointing them toward Him moment by moment, day by day.
Jonathan Lewis, 27, is a homeschool graduate, and glad of it! In 2002, he helped start Home School Enrichment Magazine with his familiy, and now enjoys writing and speaking from his perspective as a homeschool graduate. If you would be interested in having Jonathan speak to your group (or to get in touch with him for any other reason), drop him a note at [email protected]. He would love to hear from you!
This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct 2010 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Request your own FREE sample copy by visiting http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com