One of the most heated debates in churches these days is how to school your kids. Public schoolers argue on missional grounds that kids can’t reach the world unless they’re in the world. Christian schoolers respond that kids can’t be ready for the world unless they’re equipped with a Christian worldview. And homeschoolers disagree with both on the basis that any school environment is liable to corrupt your kids. For this post, I want to address the third approach, the homeschool option, highlighting in particular some dangers of homeschooling
I want to first of all say that it would be arrogant and narrow minded to say that homeschooling is the only way or even the best way for every Christian family to raise solid Christian kids. Homeschool parents may be raising their kids well, but this doesn’t mean that it’s the best way for every Christian to raise their kids. I’m particularly sensitive to this as a son of a divorced mother, who worked three jobs when I was 10 years old just to make ends meet. I was not privileged enough to be homeschooled—it takes a lot of time and money, and my single mother had neither. Homeschooling may be a good option for those fortunate households that can afford to live on a single income. But for single moms or dads, or lower middle-class families, homeschooling may not be an option and they shouldn’t be made to feel like they are less Christian because they put their kids (oftentimes out of necessity) in public schools.
Homeschoolers sometimes think that homeschooling will have a better chance as producing godly kids. I haven’t read any statistics on whether this is true, but in my experience, I would not agree. I’ve been teaching at a Christian college for the last 8 years, and needless to say, I get a lot of homeschool kids, private school kids, and public school kids. And I can say quite confidently that homeschool kids are not always more godly than public school kids. Some of the most Christ-exalting, grace-believing, enemy-loving students I’ve ever had were shaped spiritually through their public school years. Maybe they partied a little too much, or cursed like a sailor, or perhaps they lost their virginity. Some of the most God-honoring students I’ve had sinned a ton during high-school years but ended up cling to the cross of Christ with a white-knuckle grip. Their past sins cultivated an addiction to grace; these were some of my favorite students.
As far as the homeschoolers I’ve taught, some of them are super smart and some are quite godly. But I wouldn’t say it’s a higher percentage than the rest. In fact, I would say that homeschooled kids are more prone to self-righteousness and judgmentalism. I’m sure this will offend some of you, but rather than taking offense, see it as a warning and challenge. After all, it’s natural that homeschool kids, having been protected from the world, will struggle with seeing themselves as better than all those unbelievers out there. But this is the greatest danger of all.Homeschoolers take note: Jesus ripped into judgmental, self-righteous people more than anyone else. If (since?) homeschooling has a greater potential at cultivating such posture, then homeschoolers need to be relentlessly fearful of producing a bunch of really smart Pharisees.
Now, the typical stereotype that’s lobbed at homeschoolers is that they will be socially awkward. And it’s true, some homeschoolers I’ve met had a hard time living in the real world once they graduated from homeschool. But I think the stereotype, while true to some extent, confuses correlation with cause. That is, the fact that some socially awkward kids are homeschooled doesn’t in itself mean that homeschooling was the cause. Quite frankly, I’ve met a lot of socially awkward public schooled kids as well. And I’ve meet some socially outgoing and mature homeschool kids. Oftentimes, socially awkward parents raise socially awkward kids—regardless of where they go to school.
In any case, I would say that on the whole, homeschool parents need to make an extra effort in developing their child’s social skills, especially in how they relate to non-Christian kids who haven’t been enveloped in a thick blanket of Christian values their whole life.
The danger of social awkwardity is overplayed, but it’s still a very real challenge.
Does homeschooling better ensure obedient children? I’m not convinced. I’ll never forget the day when the cops showed up at the Christian university where I used to teach. They arrested an 18 year old freshman who was homeschooled his whole life. He was caught with a ton of illegal porn downloaded from the internet. Not just any porn; it was the real dirty, creepy stuff. He seemed like a good kid, but the second he got a taste of freedom, he didn’t know how to handle it. I’m not convinced that homeschooling your kids will ensure that they will be more obedient when they enter the real world.
Plus, what do we mean by obedience? Jesus rebuked judgmentalism, mandated the love of enemies, and told us to forgive others 70 x 7. I usually see homeschool kids struggle with these commands of Jesus, even if they’ve never let an f-bomb drop from their lips. Homeschool parents need to make sure that they’re teaching the whole counsel of Christ to their kids and not just a clichéd religious moral standard.
All in all, homeschooling does not ensure that your kids will be more like Jesus when they enter the world. All parents need to do the hard work of discipleship regardless of where they attend school.
Oh, and by the way, my wife and I homeschool our four children—always have. So obviously I think there are some very positive things about homeschooling, which I’ll talk about in a future post.