Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Making an Educational Decision (Part 5)

I have promised to deliver on strengths and weaknesses of homeschooling, public school, and private schools as we have experienced them. It has taken me a while to get around to that list. The reason it has taken so long is because I have had to reflect so much. My slowness in reflection is driven by two considerations:

1. I not only have my own children who have been through all 3 educational platforms, but I have seen and worked with thousands of kids who have gone through these various systems.

2. I want to be careful how I approach this as the academic platform you are using is what Protestants call "adiaphora," or "indifferent matters," or "matters Scripture does not directly address or drive you to by good and necessary consequence." By saying an academic platform is "adiaphora," I don't mean that you don't have a clear command to disciple your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I also don't mean you needn't exercise wisdom in how that is best accomplished. I mean that the Bible does not prescribe a particular academic platform, and your wisdom as to what is best does not constitute a law for everyone else.

So what follows is my best attempt to summarize what I have seen as strengths and weaknesses in short form. I am not claiming these strengths and weaknesses are researched facts of social science. I am merely commenting on my own observation, so take it with a grain of salt. I hope this will be mildly helpful to you.

Important note: I have not been comprehensive. This is a short list. Further, some of the strengths and weaknesses that are shared by public / private schools in contrast to homeschool have been left out and assumed in my list of strengths and weaknesses in homeschooling.

Public School Strengths

1. It's already paid for by your taxes. Let's face it, some people have financial struggles.
2. In our local area there are some fantastic teachers and administrators who will bless you and your children.
3. There are many opportunities and activities that are not afforded by other options due to the sheer wealth of money going into the public schools.
4. It can be very good for your children to be exposed to unbelievers and have to trust in Jesus in a more hostile context.

Public School Weaknesses

1. Your children can, and likely will, be overwhelmed by the sheer force of secularism in the classroom and worldliness on the playground. This secular and worldly encroachment is growing daily through the laws being passed by our state legislature.
2. The worldview of the curriculum (and sometimes the teachers) is something you will have to spend time counteracting on a daily basis.
3. The public school system is compulsory and thus they tend to believe your children are on loan to you and belong to them.
4. There are several poor teachers who have gained tenure. You will likely run into some.

Private Christian School Strengths

1. The curriculum is generally well-aligned with a Christian worldview.
2. The teachers are free to pray and discuss the faith with your children during class time.
3. The playground environment is often better controlled than at a public school.
4. Private schools understand that your children belong to you and thus are less likely to infringe on your parental rights.

Private Christian School Weaknesses

1. They can be quite expensive.
2. They tend to overwork students with homework because they believe this is tied to superior academic achievement.
3. There are often less opportunities than the public school (except in large private schools).
4. The schools are often so ecumenical in approach that one wonders if the theology your child is learning is really better than what is offered in public schools. At least your kids are abundantly aware that the public school curriculum is hostile to their worldview.

Home School Strengths

1. You have control over curricular and schedule decisions for your children.
2. It is far less expensive than private Christian school options.
3. You are able to flex your educational decisions around the unique needs of your individual children.
4. There is more time to establish a family rhythm of worship and play.
5. Your children are less exposed to worldliness and secularism at young ages.
6. You can expose your children to some of the best classics of western literature that they will sadly never read in private or public school due to the tragic decision in those circles to predominantly use textbooks in the humanities.

Home School Weaknesses

1. It is a lot of work. It should not be taken on by those who won't follow through.
2. It is naturally more isolated from other people. This can take a toll on both mom and the children.
3. It can lead to not engaging with unbelievers which is never good discipleship.
4. The pressure of the responsibility of leading all day in the home can overwhelm some moms. They are not faulty women because they can't do this well. They are not less committed to the Lord or their children.
5. Young boys, particularly those approaching or in their teen aged years, can be stifled by being under the thumb of their mom all day.
6. There are less abundant activities and opportunities for your children, unless you are in a more wealthy family or attached to a homeschool cooperative program with a local private or public school.

One Last Matter

If you are against homeschooling, you might point out that I left out the fact that homeschool children are more likely to be socially weird. I am not convinced that is a problem with homeschooling. I think that is likely because they are being homeschooled by socially weird parents. Let's be honest, we have seen weird kids in all kinds of settings and they are usually the product of weird parents.

A Final Note about the Holy Spirit and Parental Responsibility

Won't sending my kid to public school damn them to a secular worldview and a life of ungodliness? Won't putting my child in Christian school make them into a snob and a natural Pharisee? Won't homeschooling my child make them into a person who is unable to cope with the real world? Doesn't one choice insure a better product in the end?

The answer to this question is emphatically, "NO!!" Your child is born a sinner. They don't catch the sin disease from other people. The enemy of sin is not only outside your home. Further, there is NOTHING you can do to guarantee your children will be born again and walk with the Lord. The faith of your children is in the hands of the Lord. I have watched public school kids with ungodly parents become some of the strongest Christians I know. I have watched homeschool kids with godly parents become atheists. There is no educational system you can choose with guaranteed spiritual outcomes.

This does not, however, absolve you from the responsibility of making the wisest possible decisions for your children. You must pray fervently for them. You must teach the Word to them. You must model love for God and others to them. As you fulfill your responsibility, you must point them relentlessly to Jesus as their only hope. You must also insure that you never lead them to believe you, or they, are the hero of their story. Jesus is the only One who can save your kids. Without him rescuing them there is no hope. Please remember this when choosing an educational setting for your kids.

What we Decided

For those who care and who have bothered to read this far, we decided to return to homeschooling this year. We look forward to the coming years of discipling our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.


Brandy Vencel said...

I only have experience as a homeschooler, and I have to say I appreciate that you said this:

"1. It is a lot of work. It should not be taken on by those who won't follow through."

I feel like this is one of those things that doesn't get talked about among homeschoolers. In fact, I think it is a very prevalent mindset right now among curriculum providers to market curricula that will help a child "teach themselves." A certain extent of this really *is* possible, and children learn best (in my opinion) when they are responsible to learn, but what I've seen lately are parents who are *shocked* when their child asks a question the curriculum doesn't cover, or when the child goes through the curriculum's explanation, and still doesn't get it. These parents weren't really prepared to become *teachers*, to master subjects so that they could answer questions, and the education of the children has suffered as a result.

Chad Vegas said...


I couldn't agree more. I spent several days of my vacation selecting curriculum, planning the execution of said curriculum, and putting together an implementation plan for Teresa and the kids...and we haven't even gotten to the point of actually working the plan with the children and helping them learn as they read and study. It is true that as children get older they become more independent. However, even then there is a lot of work involved in making wise choices educationally and following thru with helping your children in their learning.