Before Homeschooling, Let’s Think Like Christians
The following article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians, Your Future ‘Other Half’: It Matters Whom You Marry, and Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth.
Covid has rearranged a lot, including education. Children across the country and the world are dealing with disrupted schedules, new methods of instruction, difficulty making the grades they used to, and missing friends. Parents are facing hard decisions, from arranging work around their children’s new timetables to bailing on their old system. Some are opting to homeschool.
That’s a trend that professionals are watching closely, to see what the impact will be on the public system and the generation that walks through alternatives. As Christians, we need to watch closely for additional reasons. Homeschooling is not just an educational choice. It is a way of life that effects every individual in the household. It changes a family’s relationships, priorities, schedule—and, yes, there will be books and papers everywhere.
So as Christians, we need to have things clear in our minds before we try and make them work out practically. Here are some very simple truths about homeschooling that we must consider in order to be faithful in our decision making as parents.
First, Scripture does not command us to homeschool. It does tell us to raise up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, but nowhere—nowhere—are we told to give them a classical education.
Second, Scripture does command us to do other things. For women (who tend to take on the burden of homeschooling) those things include teaching the younger women, loving our husbands, caring for other Christians, and being kind. We are all told to welcome strangers, be devoted to prayer, and not neglect meeting together for worship. The means of grace are paramount.
If homeschooling means that we would have to disobey a clear command of Scripture, then we aren’t supposed to do it. When a legitimate option crowds out essentials, it means that the option is no longer legitimate.
For some people, this is not an issue. They find ways to open their homes to strangers, mentor younger Christians, bring their crew to worship and prayer meeting, and teach them during the day. But there is another extreme that this side can tend to. Instead of allowing homeschooling to crowd out the things that God has called us to, we can homeschool while being so busy with “fellowship” and church activity that our children actually suffer academically. Instead of neglecting the church, we intellectually neglect our children. We end up stealing an education from them. Because if we choose to homeschool, we also choose to be solely—or largely—responsible for stewarding the intellectual resources that God has entrusted to us in them. This is a serious thing.
While Scripture commands certain things, it also forbids others. Investing in our children at the cost of the church is as wrong as investing in service at the cost of our children. There are other pitfalls, but these two tendencies are prevalent in the homeschool community. I was homeschooled grades 1-12: the first “real” class that I sat in was a university English class, two decades ago. And while a lot has changed in the homeschooling world in the last 30 years, these two dangers are still the big ones that threaten homeschoolers today. Children whose parents invested in them at the cost of obeying Scripture tend to walk away from the faith. Children whose parents prioritized “character” at the cost of academics often end up living below their God-given potential, with undiscovered, underdeveloped gifts never brought to bloom. I had friends in both circumstances, and both are sad.
Thankfully, I also had friends whose homeschooling parents struck a balance, and the children are living fruitful, faithful lives. As we try and navigate the uncharted educational waters that COVID has churned up, let’s think like Christians. Let’s consider the Bible’s call on our lives, on our responsibilities, and make our choices out of that infallible framework. There is no one size fits all because not all have the same circumstances. We must seek balance in our families. Unless there is a clear violation of biblical standards, we cannot judge another family’s decision. What is right before God in one home might look different in another, from curriculum to setting. That’s why we need frank, gracious discussions about choices, and support where those are made in wisdom and faith. That’s why we need to think like Christians.