I was homeschooled before it was cool to be homeschooled. Actually, I don’t know if it’s currently considered “cool” to be homeschooled, but it’s certainly much more accepted now than it was twenty years ago, especially now that there are 23 different flavors and varieties of homeschooling (homeschool, unschool, charter school, uncharted school, etc.) And I was a pureblood, kindergarten through 12th grade homeschooler, as opposed to those hybrid, mudblood (see: Harry Potter), public school turned homeschooled people. I learned to sing, spell, read, and write, I taught myself Algebra, and I took a lot of “field trips” (when you’re homeschooled, basically anything can count for a field trip). So yeah, I know a thing or two about homeschooling.
I used to think homeschooling was the way to do school. You know, the divinely designed method of schooling. And although I wouldn’t quite come out and say it, I kinda looked down on parents who didn’t homeschool. Why? Because I was a self-righteous idiot who drank a lot of his own awesome sauce.
Then I made a few discoveries that changed my mind regarding the issue of schooling.
I discovered that the Bible doesn’t specify how a child is supposed to be educated. The Bible is very specific on the principles of raising children and very vague regarding the specific practices of raising children.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says:
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
The principle is clear: I’m supposed to take every opportunity to teach my children about the Lord. Talk to my kids when they’re at home, when we’re traveling, when we’re waking up, and when we’re going to sleep. I’m supposed to raise up my children in the way of the Lord. That’s the big, overarching principle.
In his wisdom, God doesn’t specify exactly how a parent is to teach their children. Throughout the centuries, the principles never change, but the way those principles are practiced will change. The Israelites lived in an agrarian society. The teaching that took place between parents and children revolved around the rhythms of planting and harvesting. I don’t live in an agrarian society, and so the way I apply the principle of Deuteronomy 11 will look different than it did for the Israelites. I’m not doing much “walking in the way,” these days, but I do drive around a lot with my kids.
The principle remains the same: teach your kids to know the Lord. The practice will look different across societies and cultures and centuries. The way a poor Chinese family teaches their children about the Lord is going to look very different from the way a middle-class family in Boise, Idaho does it, and that’s okay.
When I insisted that homeschooling was the way to educate kids, I was going beyond the clear teaching of Scripture. I was taking a good principle and turning it into a legalistic law. Bad things happen when I add to the word of God.
I also discovered that homeschooling didn’t always produce stellar Christian kids. I know a lot of kids who were homeschooled. I know a lot of kids who went to public school. I know kids that went to Christian schools. Some of my homeschooled friends are walking with the Lord and some are addicted to drugs. Some of my friends who went to public school are pillars in the local church and some are atheists. Some of my friends who went to Christian schools are on fire for Jesus and some think Christianity is a lie.
Turns out that homeschooling isn’t the golden ticket of salvation. Only Jesus can give someone salvation. Homeschooling is not an educational funnel that leads to the kingdom of God. Only the Holy Spirit can make a dead heart come alive.
I’m not one of those angsty adults who is vehemently opposed to everything in his childhood. I’m not anti-homeschooling at all. Even though my daughter goes to public school, I’m still a big fan of homeschooling. It has some great benefits. If you homeschool, good for you.
It do strongly believe that insisting on a particular education method is harmful to the church and runs contrary to God’s word. When we insist on a certain practice, we create an “in” crowd and an “out” crowd, with those who are in being more “spiritual” than those who are out. When we take principles and turn them into hard and fast practices, we make the commands of Jesus burdensome.
God doesn’t do “in” and “out”. In Christ, we’re all in, and that’s good news. Let’s not mess with God’s good news.