The Education Choice Is Not One-Size-Fits-All: Four Things to Consider
As I mentioned in my post a couple days ago, we are indeed homeschooling our girls again this year. But that decision did not come easily. It took months of anguish to decide. We finally chose to homeschool again for one primary reason: our global calling to missions and our desire to keep including our kids in all that entails. Though our permanent address is now in the US, our kids have lived the bulk of their lives overseas and we have always been fairly nomadic. The next year looks to be the same with continuing roles and responsibilities in Europe. As long as cheap air travel cooperates, we will always bring them along and value their contribution to our work. The flexibility of homeschooling makes involving them in missions much more doable.
The decision was extremely difficult for us to make because we highly value both public school and home education. Mark and I were both raised in public school settings. I hold dear my Denver Public School experience and the wealth of diversity in friendships and experiences that it afforded me. But we’ve also loved homeschooling. When our firstborn was five years old and we lived in Japan we came to an abrupt realization that we either had to enter her into local Japanese public school or learn how to homeschool, which had never been a dream of mine. We didn’t speak Japanese and we weren’t ready to take on that adventure, so I honestly googled “how to homeschool,” ordered some curriculum, and we were on our way. We’ve loved the opportunities that homeschooling has given us. In the last ten years our girls have done it all—home school, public school, Christian private school, and even boarding school—and each educational method has been a blessing.
Now that we’re back in the States, I’m amazed at all of the educational options we have. It has frankly been paralyzing to me. As with almost everything in the Christian walk, God has called us all to different things for different seasons for different reasons. The following are some principles for any Christian family to consider as they make the educational decision for their children.
1. As parents we are ultimately responsible for our children’s formation and education.
The famous Shema in Deuteronomy 6 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
We parents are all called to form in our kids a Biblical worldview—it will either happen during the school day at home, or after the school day at home. If you choose to homeschool then this will naturally happen during each subject. But if you choose to send your child to public or private school you will have to spend time each evening engaging with your kids and finding out what kinds of views they were exposed to during the day and either confirming or realigning those views through discussion. I often say to friends, “We all have to homeschool. It’s just a matter of when we do it.”
2. We have a responsibility to consider the needs of everyone in our family.
The goal of education is to educate our kids. We muddy the waters when we inject fear, or pride, or keeping up with the Joneses, or thinking that one choice is godlier than the others, or just following what others do. Let’s pray to the Lord for wisdom and make a choice based on his leading and his provision. Each family is different—each parent’s and each child’s personalities are different. Walk in freedom as the Lord leads your family with its unique giftings and needs.
3. Education is, in fact, a matter of justice.
As with all areas of the Christian life, we must apply what Jesus calls the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). For those of use who have the wealth and privilege to homeschool, send our kids to private school, or send our kids to outstanding public schools, Jesus says we do not have the option to forget children and parents who are without a choice. Children born into families that cannot offer them educational support or into neighborhoods with sub-par schools deserve our attention. Just as we are called to feed the hungry in far away nations, we are called to meet the needs of the underprivileged in our own cities. We must consider how we might spend some of our time, talent, and treasure on the educational opportunities of those who do not have the option to choose what’s best.
4. Resist the temptation to think your way is the best way.
This issue can be contentious, especially amongst Christians. There seem to be feelings of guilt and shame, as well as superiority and pride on all sides of the education debate. I’ve met homeschool moms who question the salvation of anyone not providing a home education to their kids. And I’ve met believers who are neck deep in their local public schools and think it’s downright sinful to be any other way. But as with all callings, the Lord speaks to each of us uniquely. He has gifted us uniquely and he calls us uniquely. Submit yourself to him, cry out to him for wisdom, and walk in confidence that he will meet your needs as you embark on this coming school year.
I welcome your questions on the nuts and bolts of how we have tackled the various forms of schooling in our family, both at home and overseas. May you and yours find God faithful in the coming school year.