Sunday, August 15, 2010

School Choice: Christian, Home, or Public?

This week Eva and I took the plunge and enrolled our children for the first time in a public school system. This is a matter that we have wrestled with for years and in particular in the last six months. Much consideration, research, and most importantly prayer went into the decision. And since the issue of schooling is perhaps the number one topic that I discuss with parents of young and school-aged children, I thought I would share a few of the key reasons behind our decision. Before I share these reasons however, let me state the following caveats:

· I'm not sharing all of the varied factors that influenced our decision, only the ones that I believe will be the most important to my readers.

· What I'm sharing isn't prescriptive; in other words, I am not telling you what schooling you should provide for your children. That's for you to decide.

· I am very thankful for the Christian school that my children have attended for the last 6 years; for a number of reasons (see some below) we have decided that a change is what is best for our children (and us) at this time. That might change in the future. Only God knows.

Those caveats behind, let me elaborate on several key reasons for our decision:

1. The Scriptures are clear that parents are responsible for the development of their children (Deut 6:1-4, Prov. 22:6, Ephesians 6:1), not the school or church. There is no Biblical mandate for Christian education, or home education, any more than there is for public education. The Scripture holds parents, and parents alone, responsible for raising their children. God has given parents the church and school as a tool to help them in this task, but at the end of the day, I will be the one who is held accountable for how my child has been raised (note I didn't say turns out; ultimately the child has to answer for himself).

2. I have been involved in Christian education in some way, either as a student, a teacher or a parent of students, for all but 5 years of my life. And during my 10 years as a pastor I have interacted with hundreds of public and home-schooled children. Here is what my unofficial research has determined: the number one influence on a child, by far, is the parents. You might be saying, well, duh, of course, but here is what my "research" also shows: when parents follow Proverbs 22:6 (i.e., shepherd their children spiritually) it doesn't matter what school they go to, the children will grow up to walk with the Lord. While this is not always true (Proverbs 22:6 isn't a guarantee, simply the way of the wise) it is true most of the time. It certainly was for me; I love the Lord today largely because of my parents involvement in shepherding me spiritually, not because of (and actually to some degree in spite of) the Christian school I attended.

I have also found the converse to be true: when parents don't follow Proverbs 22:6, children normally don't grow up to walk with Lord, regardless of where they go to school. In fact, and this is what scares me the most, when parents abdicate their role to shepherd their children to the Christian school (and the church), children often see little connection between what they see in school/church and the home, and often leave the church (and the faith) as soon as they leave home. This leads me my next point.

3. Here is what I have come to realize in recent days: I have been using the church and Christian education as a crutch. I have slowly and subtly abdicated my responsibility to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Since I knew they were receiving Biblical instruction at church and school, I have bought into the thinking (lie?) that they were getting all that they needed. In reality, what they need the most is what only I can give to them (Fathers, bring them up in the training.....).

4. Finally, my family, and in particular me, live in a Christian bubble. We are a Christian family. We go to a Christian church. A Christian church I work at. What's missing? Involvement with those who aren't Christians. How can I be salt and light when I am never around those who need the salt and light? How can I train my children to live a missional life and share their faith if they don't see me doing it?

Here's a transparent moment for you: we lived in our last home for 7 years. During those 7 years I can count on one hand (without using my thumb) the number of significant conversations I had with any of our neighbors. That has to change. And in our recent move we have determined that we are going to begin to break out of the Christian bubble, begin to build relationships in our community, begin to attempt to reach our neighbors for Christ, and use the relationships that our children and their activities help us make to do so.

Oh, and one more thing here. I have an 8-year old daughter who I am convinced God has given the gift of "relationship-building". She can walk into a room with people she has never met and in five minutes she will be playing with a girl who is her age. She has never met a stranger. And she wants to tell them about Jesus. What a gift. As her father, I believe that it is my role to help her develop this gift. How will she ever do this if she is never around non-Christians?

As I said earlier, these are not the only reasons, just the most important. I know you might not agree, and you don't have to. But I would be happy to hear your thoughts none the less. Either way, I hope this helps as you consider how God would have you lead your children.


  1. WOW! Great reasoning. What a pleasure to read this. My hope is that I can have one of your children in my class. :O)

  2. The caveats that you have shared are so good i like it and also share with my other friends they also like it.

    Character Education

  3. Great post -- I especially love the part where you talk about not really conversing with those who aren't Christians. Kudos to you to realizing you have been in a bubble. The public school system is, of course, a different animal and I'm sure you're aware that your kids will come home at some point with lessons that aren't what you thought. David Millette, who's a Christian educator in a public system is starting a series of books ("Today in Science Class that is written to counter theories taught in public schools that run counter to a God-created universe. I think you'd find them very worthwhile. Well, the first one anyway, because that's all that's out! That one is Ben's Big Bang Botheration" and is about the origin of our universe, about causation, and that God is a necessary cause for the existence of our universe. It's a great resource for Christian parents; it combines two book formats for students and parents of different levels of understanding.

  4. As a product of the public school system, all I can say is be diligent. Know that they are truly saved. Connect with them daily and ask what they are learning and who they are meeting and hanging out with. Best wishes with your intentions. I hope that they truly are a light to the lost.

  5. We are taking the plunge next Friday. Lexys will be entering Kindergarten and conversations will definitely become more intentional! I am praying over her now and will your kids too.

  6. I enrolled my daughter for the first time in public school, she will be a sophomore. Tomorrow is the big day including busing. There are a few reasons why I considered making this change, and I am apprehensive. I have prayed about this all summer and your points above are spot on, particularly points 3 & 4. Amongst other things I have prayed for her to be discerning with the influences that will be upon her, and that she will be bold with love in inflencing others. Thanks for the post Chris, it is affirming and quiets the small voice that says "your throwing her to the wolves" I trust in the Lord and keep praying for her and all of our children.

  7. As someone who will be sending my kids off to Christian school for the first time next week, I have been thinking a lot about the bubble we live in as Christians. But is it in our children's best interest to throw them out of the bubble first and then we follow or should we be more diligent as parents to be finding ways to get ourselves out of that bubble first and our children will follow? I have a really hard time throwing them out first, while I am still stuck in my bubble.

    Also, how do you feel about the fact that they will be taught contrary to what you are teaching them in the home and at church? Should a young child be expected to be able to decipher these kinds of things or will they be sucked into lies?

    I would love to see a follow up post in 6 months or after the first year telling of the challenges your family has faced and the growth your family has shown through this.

    We will keep your family in our prayers as you face these new challenges.

  8. Before you take the plunge, you might like to think about the weighty matter of parenting from another angle. I like your thinking on getting out of the Christian bubble, but does being salt and light require believing parents to force their children to violate Psalm 1 so their children can fulfill Matthew 5? When you consider the Salt and Light reasoning, have you looked at it in the context of grown men who would spend massive amounts of time walking alongside Jesus? Wasn’t Jesus warning in that passage about losing their saltiness resulting in lack of any real influence?
    Just as you said, your parents had the greatest influence in your spiritual development. You conveyed that your educational experiences were in some ways obstacles, not assets to your growth. From all I see in the scriptures, children need parents to train them the same way Jesus made disciples: Massive amounts of time walking alongside them so he could personally oversee their training and selectively commission them. Sounds like Jesus took charge of their education to me.
    I love your desire to share the hope we have in Christ, but why not do that as a family. It requires a lot of time and training with children, but minimizes the risk. I can think of few things that stand out more to a world looking for answers~than fully trained respectful children who are learning to relate well with God, family, and friends.
    Before you take the plunge, would you consider the privilege God has given us as dads to bring up a flock of fully trained followers of Christ to engage the next generation. There is no one more qualified to teach and mentor your children than you and Eva.

    Herb Devine

  9. Hi Chris,

    I appreciate your openness and transparency on such a personal issue, and hope your decisions work out in the long run, however, since you said it's ok to disagree, I'm going to take you up on that option. :-)

    I think the word strongly declares that the children of God's people should receive a thoroughly biblical education. This is not possible in an educational system that teaches our children for some 14,000 school hours, through out 12 years of schooling, that the God of the bible is irrelevant.

    I came up through the Chicago Public School system, and my wife came up through the Department of Defense school system, and both of us will tell you without hesitation, these are not places for Christian children. In fact, the Christian's I do remember, were silent, passive, ashamed, and made fun of quite a bit. They were not equipped to handle the assault on their faith that they endured.

    Can God raise up a King Josiah, Jeremiah, and King David, who can defend their faith at an early stage in life, Absolutely, but we shouldn't put our children in the Lion's den and 'hope' they come out alive.

    Sorry if these are strong words, but I'm passionate about this subject as a father of eight.

    Thoroughly biblical education is what I adhere to, however this can be accomplished.

    Two books I would recommend if you haven't read them are:

    1. "Safely Home" by Tom Eldredge
    2. "Excused Absence" by Douglas Wilson

    God Bless brother Chris!

  10. Steve and Herb are raising some excellent points. I recently had a public teacher write me and say:

    "I'm a former public school teacher, and I can tell you firsthand that those statistics are dead on. The Christian children are usually not "beacons of light" for the others. They usually end up conforming to their peers, to the utter exasperation of their parents. I can think of only a few examples of Christian kids not caving to peer pressure in all of the 5th through 8th graders that I have taught. I will be home-schooling my daughter and any other children the Lord blesses us with. Going to a Christian high school might be a possibility depending on the circumstances, but she and any other children I have will never see the inside of a public school classroom unless it's on the news or something. I don't care what sacrifices I have to make to make that happen."

    I've actually had many public school teachers share the same sentiment with me.

    There also seems to be some alarming trends:

    The Nehemiah Institute's worldview PEERS test shows that 83% of the children from committed Christian families in public schools adopt a secular humanist or Marxist socialist worldview by the time they graduate. In addition, the SBC's 2002 annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life reported that 88% of... the children raised in evangelical homes who attend public school, leave church at age 18.

    Last year Pastor Voddie Baucham of Grace Family Baptist Church addressed this very important topic in an article entitled Top Five Reasons Not to Send Your Kids Back to Government School that might be of interest:

    Have a blessed day...

  11. Ran into your blog via a google search, I'll start following it. Hey just curious to how the public school experiement is working out? Would love to see a follow up blog.

  12. Education at home is definitely an ideal method for us Christians. This will help keep your family relationship stronger. Moral values can be easily taught and applied at home because we respect each other. Your child will also not be influenced by the bad environment outside the house. Security is also the main advantage of taking class a Christian home school. There would also be less conflict on the beliefs since the values your child is learning is based on the family core values. With American Academy, we make every Christian home school the place to enjoy education with your family.




About Me

I am a husband to Eva, father of 4, pastor, and most of all passionate follower of Jesus Christ. The focus of my life is to make the most of every opportunity God gives me to bring glory to Him. Outside of the time spent in my role as a pastor, I spend most of my time with my family -- a good deal of that coaching various sports teams that my children are involved with. Every fall and winter you will find me rushing to the woods of Indiana and West Virginia in search of a monster whitetail buck.