Most of us know when we decide to home school that we will face objections from friends and family who either don’t understand or don’t agree with our decision to teach our children at home. Recently, one of the objections many of us have heard is that by home schooling we aren’t allowing our children to be salt and light in the public schools. I ran across this article today by a home schooling dad who answered the objection really well. Here are a few excerpts from his article:
In short, if we send our children into the public schools we send them into an environment that is fundamentally unbiblical, though it may at times appear to parrot a traditional biblical ethic. Keep in mind, this is not an indictment of any particular school or teacher, rather it is the zeitgeist of the age―the water we swim in, the air we breathe.
As homeschooling parents we are not looking for a Christian gloss (or some moral equivalent) over an unbiblical foundation. Rather, we desire to live out an educational model with our children that begins with Christ and the biblical worldview. We will fail in many ways, but if we do not aim at that target, then at what are we aiming? It is our obligation before God and for the sake of our children to think this through. We have the privilege of homeschooling. We give up a lot to do it, but we still do it. Certainly there are many others, single parents for example, who find it much more difficult to homeschool. I do not discount public education as an option, but I am convinced that Christian parents must be particularly thoughtful about how their children are educated. We easily forget that we are much like sheep among wolves―how much more so are our children.
But what about the question of sending one’s children to school precisely because one is a Christian and feels the pressure to be missional? I believe Christians are called to be salt and light. And I believe the gospel is fundamentally both personal and social. We are to be personally transformed by the gospel, and we are called to take the good news to the world. However, I have concerns about feeling the missional pressure myself and then making my children take the brunt of responsibility for it. In other words, I do not want to assume it is the purview of my children to do something that is fundamentally an adult activity. And I do not want them to inappropriately get hurt doing it.
As Christians our first responsibilities lie with our covenantal relationships: with God, with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, and with our local churches. All these come before our responsibility to the world at large. We are to be salt and light to each other first, even to the least of us, and then to others. I applaud the goal of reaching out to one’s neighborhood, but I question whether putting one’s children into the hands of the state is the right way to do it. I realize that at the heart of the Christian life is the spirit of martyrdom (it has always been that way ever since the cross), but as parents we must be wary of thrusting our children into that role.
Finally, there may be more felt pressure on pastors to send their children to government schools as an example―to model “missional” for their congregations. I would argue that, perhaps, a better route is the one of modeling salt and light (to both congregation and the community) by not only extending oneself missionally into the world, but by extending oneself missionally to one’s children through a loving, Christ centered, biblical worldview-based homeschooling education.
As I said before, there are no easy answers. I believe that loving, Christian parents can, with a relatively clean conscience, send their children to public schools. But I doubt it can be done without at least some harm being done to the children. The questions are: what is the nature of the harm, for what purpose is this being done, and is the harm being offset by something of greater value? Just like a government should not mandate how one’s children are educated, neither should a church. Rather, one’s church should provide guidance, wisdom, and support in helping parents fulfill their God-given obligations of cultivating their own children in wisdom and virtue by nourishing their souls on truth, goodness, and beauty so that their children are better able to know and enjoy God. For us the choice is clear that homeschooling within a Christ-centered worldview and with a classical methodology best accomplishes this.
One thought on “Salt, Light, and Home Schooling”
This is an excellent article. I especially like the point he makes about making our children carry an adult’s responsibility to be salt and light. I think a better option for being salt and light is for teachers to teach in the public schools as my daughter does. It is a very, very difficult environment for Christians, particularly for the children.
I appreciate that he takes notice of the problem of single parents who may see no option to public education, and I wonder if the local church might find a way to help in that regard, either through scholarships to Christian schools or by cooperation by home-school families in that church (don’t know if that’s legal or not) or by some other means. We do need to be careful not to place a burden of guilt on parents who may not, for whatever reason, be able to provide other than a public education for their children.
As he rightly points out, this is not an easy question, and questions which involve the welfare of our children are liable to become emotional and personal very quickly. Our children were educated–at various points and for various reasons–in public schools, a private Christian school, a private “Christianish” school, and home-school (back in the 80’s when it was truly scandalous and barely legal to home-school.) All of them graduated from a private school founded by a Presbyterian church on the Stony Brook model (little inside joke there) but which is no longer what I would characterize as a Christian school. I wish that classical Christian education had been an option back in the old days! I can honestly say that there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these, particularly when you account for differences in children even from the same family.