Homeschooling: That’s in the Bible, Right?

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empty school deskIn response to observing an ever-increasing movement within the church, the contributors here on PS23 thought it opportune to evaluate the FIC (Family Integrated Church) from a biblical perspective. As John Chester noted in his post earlier this week, while we would contend that the FIC has done well in identifying many problems in today’s church and family, it only offers narrow-minded solutions to those problems, “rather than exclusively on biblical answers.”1 Consequentially, the line between strongly held personal preferences are muddied with clear biblical commands. That has damaged the church:

Parents don’t often see the difference between strongly held personal preferences and explicit biblical principles, and therefore their consciences often become the “rule” of what defines a “godly” home life.  It isn’t long before various forms of elitism and legalism can have the appearance of more “spiritually faithful parenting,” and particular preferences (e.g. prescribed, formal “family worship” times, educational choices, etc.) are viewed as biblical mandates.

Families are vulnerable to these ideas because many conscientious parents—desiring the most biblical approach to parenting—are already easily beset with sinful fears (emphasis is original to the author’s) about cultural influences without the balance of a strong faith in the sufficiency and protection of God’s word (Ps. 23:4; 37:18-19; 112:1-8; 127:1).  Elevating personal family preferences to the level of biblical mandates plays on those sinful fears, the net result of which is the temptation to manufacture “godly” children through external controls.2

warning signToday, it is my task to evaluate then the FIC’s perspective on homeschooling onlyism. To that end, it is incredibly discouraging to me to see how various philosophies and methodologies of education have polarized so many in the church. Even worse, in some cases they’ve actually created division, and generated feelings of great hostility and malice. I think even Voddie Baucham (a major leader of the FIC movement, and whom I otherwise respect) has only contributed to that with horrifying bluntness:

Begin to cry out to God for these truths to come to the fore in your church.  Talk about these things with your friends. Start to implement them in your home.  Perhaps God will use you as a catalyst to wake the sleeping giant and move your church toward family integration.3

That is… so not right! No pastor has the authority to say that. That is not how God has ordained the church to function. In fact, this would seem to contradict Baucham’s own call for elder rule governance! The method he proposes above is congregationally democratic and works by changing your elders’ positions by numerical pressure from the congregation. But if your elders are men of God, they won’t succumb to pressure. If you believe your personal preferences are a better way, then the right thing to do is to discuss the matter with your elders – not under any circumstances by creating an undercurrent in the body of Christ.

That’s not so much the nature of today’s post though. I want to address what seems to be a “my way or the highway approach” in the context of parenting and education in the FIC movement. In the FIC environment, parents can seldom seek biblical parenting advice from other parents who have a different philosophy of education. It is far more common for the parent-counselor to blame the other parent for the child’s sinful behavior or rebellion (“Well! What did you think would happen!?”) in a disdainful act of cruelty. They are told they’ve “shirked their God-ordained responsibility” to be the “exclusive instructor of their children” and now they must watch as their children suffer the consequences of their bad parenting.

So why are we so divisive about this? Why has it become such a sensitive subject in the church? Unless… we believe that homeschooling is a biblical mandate. boxing glovesOr, that it is practically a mandate. Parents who don’t home-school are often viewed as “compromisers,” “without conviction,” or even “reckless” in raising their children. It’s even worse for parents who once home-schooled, and decided for whatever reason it was no longer for them. They are then often alienated and viewed as having betrayed the FIC cause.

That is sinfully legalistic; it’s so legalistic it’s alarming.

But home-schooling as mandate has become the acceptable legalism in the church today, being thinly veneered as “wisdom.”4 Many even wrongly assume that parents who send their kids to public school are uncaring and unconcerned about their child’s spiritual well-being, as if it were home-schooling that nurtures faith. In fact, in a recent article by one well known author, I was disappointed to read, “Is public school an option? For Christians who take the Christian worldview seriously and who understand the issues at stake, the answer is increasingly no”5. However, a celebrity status doesn’t make you right, and what he and others have failed to consider with their overtly sweeping conclusions is that a parent might send their children to public school for their child’s spiritual well-being!

Let me explain… and to do that, I will first show you that home-schooling is not a biblical mandate, but only a preferential application. Then I’ll show you how public school might be an equally valid application.

Homeschooling: Just a Preference

context mattersMany appeal to Deuteronomy 6:5-9 as the clearest example where God has ordained that education belongs exclusively to the parents (#badhermeneutics). There are a number of problems with this. First, it’s an argument from silence, which is weak anyway.6

Not only that, but the point this passage is in the context of “spiritual education,” not subjects of literature, history, mathematics, etc. If it was, then why did the Jews send their children to synagogues to study? BTW… remember that even Jesus was taught in synagogues by leaders of an apostate religious system. Yet nowhere in the NT do we see a mandate that even alludes to something like, “And do not send your children to synagogues where they will be corrupted.”  Instead, the NT leaves the parents’ decision in making what they believe is the right decision regarding the education of their children, STRICTLY in the realm of Christian liberty. That means that to admonish parents for not following your philosophy of education, making them feel guilty or that they’re dishonoring the Lord for not following your philosophy of education, or making them feel even that they’ve made the wrong decision because they didn’t follow your philosophy of education, is legalism.

Can you apply principles from Deut. 6, and other passages like Eph. 6:4 or 1 Cor. 15:33 to lead you to a decision to home-school? Yes! But the moment you’ve made your application of Scripture binding on others, you’ve subscribed to legalism.

Public School: Just Another Preference

Now, we might be willing to admit that home-schooling is just a preference, but is public school education actually a viable option for the Christian parent? Well, it might be because a parent wants to honor the Lord, and train their children in His instruction that they actually decide to send their kids to public school! Actually, I can make an equally valid argument for it from Scripture as can be made for home-schooling. But again, that’s only because Scripture simply doesn’t tell us how we’re supposed to train our children in the Lord’s instruction. It just says we’re supposed to do it.

AND to do this, I’ll use verses that are commonly used by home-school onlyism advocates.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:9, I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people. 

question markDoesn’t that seem to help the case for home-schooling as a biblical mandate? Not quite, because the next verse reads, I did not at all mean with immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world! 

Now, as I said in my previous post, I have no problem with home-schooling per se. Where I DO have a problem, is when home-schooling (or any method of education) is presented as the only viable option for the Christian parent. For that person, I want to ask, “How do you reconcile this verse with your philosophy of education? Are you doing this?” You may or may not be, but be aware that Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for disassociating with the immoral world!

I’m not sure how much more clear Paul could have been about it either. He doesn’t want believers remove themselves from the world system, at all. Is it dangerous? Yes! But is it God’s design? Yes! We have to take seriously the warning that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33), but we need to understand that verse in its context too. Paul is talking about bad company in the church. He is not talking about “bad company” in the world! Is that to say that the world will not negatively influence our thinking? No, but that simply isn’t what Paul is saying here. And this is where I want to point out that it just might be that some Christian parents are making a wise, and even discerning decision to keep their children in public school to train them in biblical instruction. 

i think i got itThis parent teaches their children, “This is what the world does. This is what the world looks like. Don’t do as they do.” In that sense it’s easier not to be persuaded by the world’s evil, because you know it’s of the world. You are on guard because you know your classmates and the people educating you are unregenerate. Consequentially, you expect them to act like they’re unregenerate.7 That’s actually what Paul said back in 1 Cor. 5:11, But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person. Association with evil inside the church is far more dangerous than evil from without.

So, don’t assume that because a parent is sending their children to public school that they are not training their children in the Lord’s instruction, or that they aren’t practicing wisdom in their philosophy of education. Each parent needs to make that decision on their own, and carefully evaluate each child’s heart. For some, that might mean that the best thing is homeschooling. For others, it might not.

For some, homeschooling might even place an overwhelming burden on the family, and rather than giving up homeschooling, they begin to forfeit other biblical mandates like serving your husband/wife, being hospitable, or serving the church. In that case, commitment to your preference is making you sin (and remember, serving your family is not the same as serving your church, and nowhere in Scripture do we see any circumstance where we can abdicate that responsibility as believers). Awhich wayt the same time, other parents need to be warned of the dangers of public school education, and those dangers are real. Public school education is not a good option for the parent looking for an “easier way,” and if you’ve chosen to send your children to public school just because it’s cheaper or because you just don’t care, then I’d say you’re laziness and abdication of your biblical responsibilities as parents has caused you to sin too.

You might decide that the best way for your children to be strengthened spiritually by home-schooling. Or, you might determine that this will happen best through testing and refinement in the public school system, and if you do, that’s okay! A wise parent, after all, realizes that it is only a matter of time before any child will be tested by the world – whether now or later.

Personally, I would rather that happen while my children are under my roof. I want the world system to reveal sin in my children’s hearts while I’m there to shepherd them through it (note: the world didn’t put the sin there; it was already there – nor did the world corrupt my children; my children were born corrupt). My reaction should be to evangelize my children and then help them in their victory over sin. Simply removing my child from corrupting influences doesn’t solve the problem in my child’s heart.

born a sinnerWill that be difficult? Undoubtedly, but the fruit of it can be great. That places tremendous responsibility on my wife and myself to shepherd our children. It doesn’t mean we’ve forsaken it. It means we have to be acquainted with our children’s curriculum, have personal relationships with their teachers, be involved wherever possible at their schools, get to know their classmates and their classmates’ parents. We need to know their coaches, and arts instructors, so that we know the battles our children are facing. We will need to set up certain guidelines and rules as our children’s weaknesses reveal themselves. We will need to proactively teach our children to be faithful, and respond righteously in a hostile world. As Tim Challies said well, we won’t send our children to public school. “THE FAMILY GOES TO PUBLIC SCHOOL.”

And will I have to spend every evening “un-teaching” all the lies the public school taught him or her? No… because they aren’t being taught lies from 8:00-3:00. Will there be philosophies and ideologies that contradict a biblical worldview? Absolutely. So we will use that as an opportunity to teach our children to make a defense of their faith, to be an apologist. Will students be cruel to our children? Undoubtedly. We will use it as an opportunity to teach our children to show the grace and love of our Savior. Will other kids act in inappropriate ways? No doubt! So we will teach our children that their only hope is in the Gospel.

Am I saying that this is what you should be doing? Absolutely not. Again, this is just my preference, which also means I’m not committed to my philosophy of education. I can change my mind.

Just as you do not have the biblical authority to tell me I need to send my children to Christian school or home-school because of your application of biblical principles, I have no biblical authority to tell you to send your children to public school because of my application of biblical principles.

saved by graceThere are pros and cons to each system, and we need to remember that our philosophy of education will not save our children. What’s more, we need to be careful, VERY careful that we don’t succumb to legalism over the issue, and we should DEFINITELY not make it the dividing issue in the church that it is today. That makes a mockery of the unity we have in Christ. And don’t equivocate your application or methodological preferences to Scripture, or think lesser of another because they haven’t made the same application as you.

Be warned by the words of John MacArthur:

Evangelical Christianity today is so hopelessly fragmented that you see in the home-school community a sort of microcosm of the macrocosm of evangelicalism…

We are [putting] too much emphasis on methodology. Methodology will always be divisive because methodology is not inspired in the Bible. If we would all get back to the Word of God and the sound doctrine of the Bible, we are going to find the common ground. We are never going to find common ground fussing about methods—and methods, I might quickly add, are a poor substitute for the real deal.

The real thing is sound doctrine. There may be lots of ways to teach it, but I find that when people will live and die for methods, it is probably true that they have abandoned the sound doctrine. There is only one way to convey sound doctrine, and that is to teach it. The best way to teach it is from one person to another person. There isn’t a system, there isn’t a computer program, and there is not even a book that is as effective as one-on-one teaching of the truth. I think that is critical.

One of the problems is that people, home-school people as well, are sitting in churches where there aren’t powerful, clear, definitive sermons, sound in doctrine, explaining the Word of God. Bible teaching and doctrine is being depreciated, and whenever it is depreciated, the methodologists rise to the surface. They just rise. They just sort of float to the top in the vacuum, and they take over, and then you get the chaos…8

So, I support home-schooling parents, but I support public school parents just as much.

Neither one has more biblical merit than the other, and quite honestly, it’s ridiculous to even suggest that parents who send their children to public school don’t “take their Christian worldview seriously.” That attitude is unhelpful and doesn’t consider grace.

legalismIt fails to consider parents who send their children to public school because they want to teach them how to live faithfully to Christ in a wicked world. It fails to consider the wife whose husband deserted her, forcing her into a situation where she must work, making homeschooling an impossibility. It fails to consider other countries (like Germany) where homeschooling is illegal. It fails to consider the wife who submits to her husband’s desire not to home-school. Can we say that she doesn’t take her “Christian worldview” seriously?

That’s precisely what legalism does though. Where Scripture allows for flexibility in the practice of our Christian worldview, legalism does not. We need to remember that neither educational method is in the Bible, and we need to leave it at that.

For further reading, I’ve found the following tremendously helpful:

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Public Schooling
Does Deuteronomy 6 Mandate Homeschooling?
Does the Bible Mandate Homeschooling?
Raising Bubble Babies
Which Kids Don’t Leave the Church? 

***DISCLAIMER***
I am not saying that homeschooling parents are legalistic by merely being a home-school parent. Nor am I suggesting that by home-schooling your children, you are not teaching them how to be faithful in the world. I know many great parents that home-school who are faithful Christians that lovingly serve the Lord’s church and who also have a biblical perspective about a parent’s decision to, or not to, home-school. However, before assuming you fall into that category, I admonish you to search your heart and repent of where you may have imposed your preferences on another, making them feel guilty as if they were disobeying God. Or, perhaps, you have led them to believe they have compromised or do not take their Christian worldview seriously. AND… seek forgiveness from that person.

 

  1. http://www.expositors.org/resources/the-expositors-blog/a-critique-of-family-driven-faith-part-three/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 204.
  4. I have no problem with saying that by choosing homeschooling, a parent may be “practicing wisdom.” I have a problem with equivocating homeschooling to wisdom. It may or may not be.
  5. Al Mohler, https://answersingenesis.org/public-school/is-public-school-an-option/?
  6. The argument is essentially, “The text calls fathers to train their children. Therefore, others cannot train your children.” I find that argument incredibly hypocritical anyway, since by the same argument, we should say that moms cannot train their children since the text only tells fathers to do it.) But not only that, the argument is self defeating. To say that education exclusively belongs to parents, well… what about the equipping ministry of the church? The FIC contends that it is never permissible to “delegate” (which they equivocate to “abdicate”) the training of our children to others. So, Deut. 6 says parents are to train their children, but it doesn’t say that others can’t train your children! More importantly though,  in the context Deut. 6, these instructions were given to Israel, not the church.

    Deut. 6 is part of the Mosaic Law, which was abolished by Christ in its entirety (the point of Galatians). Paul argues that if you keep one part of the Law, you must keep the whole thing. That means that if you want to use Deut. 6 to support home-school education as a biblical mandate, then you should also require your kids to walk around with the Law bound around their hands. And you need to write the Law on your doorpost. AND, you need to keep all the rest of the Deuteronomical Law too.  For more on this, I would strongly recommend this article on TheCripplegate.[1. Dr. Nathan Busenitz is a pastor at Grace Community Church, professor of Historical Theology at The Master’s Seminary, editor for numerous books by Pastor John MacArthur, and all in all, a great guy!

  7. I remember when I was in public school, I wasn’t so much tempted to participate in the sinfulness of my classmates. Where I was the most tempted, was where I saw fellow classmates from church participate in sinfulness. That was the real battle, because it was no longer, “This is what the world does,” but, “They’re Christians too. Why can’t I do that?”
  8.  http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A298/the-old-schoolhouse-interview-on-homeschool?Term=homeschooling
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  • Yarn Sculptress

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on your main point. Homeschooling is a preference. I know nothing about the church movement you speak of. I think most movements in the church today are of another spirit anyway, so I can’t speak to that part of your article. However, I really want to speak to your heart as a dad.

    I want you to really think about the nature of our enemy and how strong he has become in these days.

    I went to the most exclusive private Christian school in our area from pre-school through 8th grade. The only reason I didn’t go for High School is because it wasn’t built yet. I want you to know that out of all the students from my grade and my brothers grade one ahead of me I could name, by name, 2 people who came out with their faith fully intact at that young age. I’m sure it had to do with parental influence. But what I want you to know is that even in a Christian school in the 2nd grade (almost 30 years ago) I was already hearing all manner of nasty and lewd things a child that young should not hear. By the time 8th grade rolled around I was already lost and twisted in my thinking due to the influence of the other children. I can only imagine how much worse it is now.

    We shouldn’t put others down for their choices. And some people have to put their kids in public school. But our enemy is a roaring lion just looking for someone to devour. And he loves children because they are easy prey. If he can own the next generation his job is done.

    If we put our focus on what a good and godly job we are doing, then our homeschool becomes our idol and that is wrong.

    However, I would just ask you to think about what you’re putting your kids through. If you were in a job where people treated you cruelly, made fun of you on a daily basis and forced you to conform to the “norm” regardless if you were ahead or behind what would you do? Look for another job most likely. But these kids can’t. They are trapped. They are trapped in these rooms all day without a loving and caring guide, the one whom God placed in their lives to protect them. They will have plenty of opportunity outside of a school room to learn about mean kids and how to respond in a godly manner. Trust me on that one, we’ve lived it!

    You may know their teachers, and that’s fantastic. But you’re denying the human condition. Every person has the propensity for evil. We are ALL in sin and teachers are not immune. Have you read the news lately and seen how many teachers (men AND women) are arrested for sexual or physical abuse toward a child? Is “it won’t happen to mine” a legitimate plan? Will trying to mend and heal their spirit from something like that be an easy task? What will that do to their faith in God? What will you tell God when you stand before Him and say, “I let the one you gave me to protect be spiritually and physically molested because I thought he was strong enough to withstand the enemy as a child”. Somehow, I just don’t want to be the one who has to answer for that.

    No, keeping our kids home won’t guarantee their salvation. It won’t guarantee them a good life or anything more than what public school kids will have. In fact, if done wrong it can do more harm than good. But that all stems from the same human condition. We parents are sinners too. Nothing can be done well without Jesus. But like it says in Matthew — what good will it be if we gain the whole world yet forfeit our souls. I look at this through the lens of being a parent as well. What good will it be if I serve the entire church yet sacrifice my children on the alter of service. All things need a godly balance. I’d also like to mention Titus where it speaks of how the elder women should act. They are to teach what is good, and be keepers at home. That doesn’t mean we have to homeschool but it’s an excellent exhortation and it keeps God’s plan for the family in tact in a way that separating us does not. The fastest way to gain someone’s mind and emotions is to separate them from their families. Look at how cults work. Think about Stockholm syndrome. Okay, that’s a little extreme but it makes the point.

    As an adult you have the choice where to go to do God’s work. You have the choice with whom to socialize and can therefore follow more closely God’s command of being in the world yet separate from it. Kids don’t have that choice. Especially in the classroom. And I’m sorry to say this but to expect a young child with no home training to be out in the battlefield and do a good job of being a light for Jesus is putting a lot of pressure on someone whose time in life is just to learn and grow.

    Why do we value college so highly as Americans? Is it because we want someone well trained and ready for the demanding positions we are going to put them in? Why don’t we want to hire someone with no training and then just expect they’ll learn on the job? Because everyone knows that’s a very hard row to hoe and those employees will be more likely to struggle and not be good performers. Why should we expect our kids to “learn on the job”? Did you just walk into your church one day after high school and say “Okay, I’m pastor now”. How many years of training did you receive to do your job?

    So, you’re right. No matter where we put our kids they will become what God wants them to become. This will be especially so if they are taught from a young age to seek and follow His will. But I know from experience how very difficult it is to learn the truths of God when you’re being bombarded by the enemy at every turn. I know how hard it is to just get your life straight again before you can even THINK about God’s will. And I know that is a direct result from being out in the world as a child. I feel sorry for most children these days — homeschool, public school, private school, church goers or not.

    Things are so messed up from God’s original plan and Satan and his legions are really ramping up their efforts to kill, destroy and pervert.

    I would exhort your other readers to really take heart to what you say on this church movement though. The church was never intended to do anything other than lift up and glorify God and His Word and serve one another. Never listen to man’s doctrine. Let God be true and every man a liar.

    • Jason

      Yarn, is it possible? or is there any way to send your child to public school AND still provide home training? Also, you say, “If you were in a job where people treated you cruelly, made fun of you on a daily basis and forced you to conform to the “norm” regardless if you were ahead or behind what would you do? Look for another job most likely.” But doesn’t Matthew 5:9-16 provide some insight on this issue? Why can’t we sent our kids to public school to be a light in a dark world?

      Finally I’ll agree with you if you can show me as a parent, my #1 job is to protect my children. My #1 job, from what I can gather from Scripture is to “train up a child” in the Word. I’m to evangelize my boys, love them, pray for them, and if they become believers, disciple them. Of course I’m not going to put a gun in their hand, but why can’t I interact with what they see in the world, talk about it, show them worldly thinking compared to biblical thinking, and use the world as an example of human nature?

  • Eric Dodson

    Very helpful article, Matt.

    I’d add that the admonition in the disclaimer could be made to parents who prefer public schools, who have made homeschool parents feel guilty and as if they were not taking their children’s need to be “in the world but not of the world” seriously. Sadly, I think both sides of this issue try to make their preference a rule.

    • Very true… I’d say that was the pervasive attitude about ten years ago, and it’s interesting how the tide has changed. I spend much thought on your time above, but didn’t include it in the disclaimer simply because I felt it was said in the contents of the article, even if briefly: “Just as you do not have the biblical authority to tell me I need to send my children to Christian school or home-school because of your application of biblical principles, I have no biblical authority to tell you to send your children to public school because of my application of biblical principles.”

  • Jason

    Personally I think the entire debate and conflict exists because most people have bought into the lie that environment and circumstances change and effect outcomes. I get the sense we’ve deceived ourselves into thinking our hearts are secondary to environment. If we can protect them from the outside influences then we can keep them saved . . . this line of thinking neglects, abrogates, and undermines the cross, our Lord, and regeneration. So I guess I’d argue this issue exists because people have a practical deficiency regarding the cross and how God transforms people. Maybe we shouldn’t focus primarily on the kind of school, but the kind of Gospel we teach our children.

  • Pastor Darren Paulson

    Excellent work. Very frustrating when people attempt to do the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of Christians. Allow the Spirit to direct/lead a Christian in these decisions … especially in those arenas that the Bible does not speak directly about.

    We need to be counter-cultural without being anti-cultural. The more opportunities to interact with non-believers, the better.

  • Yarn Sculptress

    I didn’t say it wasn’t possible. What I’m saying is often parents are making it harder when they put them in the world too young. Your statements seem to suggest that the only way we learn is through trials and mistakes. If that is so, then I should probably sleep around with a couple of men just to then make sure I really love my husband and then I can appreciate that I chose the right guy even more once God brings me back to him? Silly.

    What is the end goal? Is it becoming something on earth or is it being with God in heaven? You say it negates God’s ability to transform people? Well, even though it is through ZERO effort of our own, we will be presented as a pure and spotless bride to our Christ. That’s the end goal for Christians. Pure and spotless as regenerated and transformed by God.

    So, we aren’t dirty enough at birth? We need to dirty ourselves up a little more to make God’s job worthwhile? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. We’re lost and filthy sinners upon birth. God works to make us more like Christ in this life. Does God need a challenge? That’s ridiculous. There is no challenge for God.

    God is the potter and we are the clay. So therefore we should give God a harder job by making sure to toss in a few handfuls of dirt and rocks? Then he can pick them out before He begins shaping us? Just because everyone is capable of being saved should we make sure our kids really, really need it? I don’t understand your logic. Every experience your kid has is a learning experience. Every one leaves a mark, good or bad. They’re going to have plenty of bad in this life without adding to that count.

    And why do you think it’s not possible to teach your kids about the world and their ways while homeschooling? My children are VERY savvy on the world’s ways and what God’s Word says. My children have interacted with people from all walks and are excellent at discerning for their ages. That’s a wonderful benefit of homeschooling. They get to actually be OUT IN the world with a teacher (someone who knows and loves them and has their best interest at heart) rather than locked in a building 8 hours a day. Believe me…. there are ample opportunities for home schooled kids to see and experience the world. And guess what… a parent is there immediately to answer their questions and guide them through the issue from a Biblical standpoint. How much will happen to a public school kid that gets filed away in the “nothing happened at school today” department that they will never even come to you about?

    Maybe our #1 goal isn’t physical protection of our kids their whole lives, but until they are old enough and able, it is absolutely our goal to protect them spiritually. They can’t do it on their own or they wouldn’t need parents. I wonder how your wife would feel if you told her it wasn’t your job to protect your sons from a sexual predator. Also, I’m making an assumption that your kids aren’t actually school aged yet. Most of the public school families I know barely have time to breathe, much less have quality time.

    I never said you had to do it my way. I shared my personal experience in hopes that you would know that damage CAN be done to kids from being in school, even private schools. Maybe you’ll be a lucky one and your kids will continue to look up to you as a super hero through their teenage years. Maybe they’ll ignore all the lies from school and other kids that make them feeeeel really good while mom and dad sit at home and try to teach him that he needs Jesus because of how depraved he is. It’s possible. All things with God are possible.

    But when Paul talked about making another man stumble he said don’t even EAT a food in front of him that make make him stumble in his beliefs. Don’t do something so simple as to eat a food that another man thinks is inappropriate before God because it may cause him to stumble.

    He says of our children:

    “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”

    Putting your kids in the middle of temptation for hours and days and years on end and thinking they will have the strength to be the light through it all without sufficient foundation first — I’d call that a stumbling block.

    I will agree with you though, it really isn’t about method. Children grow up in public schools and go on to be good Christians. I’m just contending that you make YOUR job as a parent more difficult, you make your KIDS’ jobs of growing up and learning to choose right from wrong more difficult. If you think it’s all a wash in the end, then yeah, let them go. I’m just personally not willing to roll that pair of dice.

    • Read the article again… I’d say you’ve made FAR reaching assertions that I never made… Unless this comment is misplaced, and is supposed to be in response to Jason below. In that case, I’ll let him answer it 🙂

    • Jason

      Yarn, I don’t care if a believer home, private, or public schools. I care when someone takes their preference and says you better do it this way. Though you give credence to this, how else should I come away from your point other than to think, “Yarn really believes every child should be home schooled.” You’ve made such sweeping statements to an issue that requires many layers of analysis.

      1) Is the wife / husband gifted and wired to homeschool?

      2. What if this is a single mom? How does she homeschool?

      3. Can the family afford to homeschool. Maybe there are legitimate issues forcing both to work?

      4. Is the child strong and discerning enough to interact and not be influenced by unbelievers?

      5. Is this school district as bad as those we read about on CNN? Maybe I live in a part of the US where “cultural” Christianity is accepted and people don’t go against the Bible?

      I think the better questions to ask as a parent are:

      What is my situation? How do I instruct, evangelize, and disciple my children? Is my wife able to do the work? Am I working to train my children? I’ve seen non-homeschool parents disciple their children well and do it while their kids attended “liberal” California schools.

      Finally, what’s the most dangerous thing in the world? I live in Sin City America. But I guarantee my city is not the most dangerous place in the US to me, you, your kids, my kids, my wife, nor my church. Environment is NEVER the most dangerous place in the world. Alone, by yourself, is the most dangerous place in the world.

      See here: http://www.parkingspace23.com/most-dangerous-place/#.Va_z73g4FRE

      • Yarn Sculptress

        Actually, I don’t think everyone should be homeschooled. I wish that our world was a much better place and that good schools were a reality. It’s not the schools or their programs as much as the fact that there’s really no room for growth for the individual in a school classroom. But I’ve made that point.

        I think that we just need to take the nature of our enemy more seriously than we do. And as a MOM, I’m sure I do that more stringently than you would.

        Just as you think that God will be able to overcome the ills of the world and shine through to the heart of a child in public school, I think that God will be able to overcome any obstacle to raising our own children. Again, with God anything is possible.

        I’m not one of the typical home school moms. I’m more worldly than I’d like to admit. But I will also say that there are WAY more people who would love to tell families they cannot home school than home schoolers who would tell others then cannot public school. At least in my experience. Plus, the secular home school community is really growing and thriving these days. It’s not all about religion. Our kids in America are really struggling and need better one on one.

        I think you take my personal experience as an attack on your choice to public school. You shouldn’t feel so threatened by my story. Your story is yours, mine is mine. Mine wasn’t great and I want better for my kids. If teaching them myself is the wrong way to do it… I’ll be the one to have to live with it.

        And I’m not sure I agree with your statement that alone is the most dangerous place! I read part of the article you referenced, and I get the point that going our own path is dangerous. But Jesus spent a lot of time alone and it was a very necessary thing.

        PS Sorry Matt for the misplaced comment.

        • Jason

          Jer. 17:9, Heb 3:12-13, & Prov. 18:2 warn of the heart being the most deceitful thing in our life, needing people in the church to help prevent self-deceit, and the danger of isolation. Satan and the world do not make people do something against their own will. People are not let off before the Lord because, “The World made me do it.” The world simply provides rationale for my deceitful, sinful lusts and desires.

          I have NO reason to take anything you say personally . . . that would be silly pride in my life . . . I’m just a man, Scripture is the standard for truth . . . At best, if I took anything personal it would be your silly comment that being a MOM makes you “take the nature of our enemy more seriously than we do” . . . that made me laugh, honestly 🙂

          But since the Bible says my heart is the greatest danger to me, I interpret that to mean I am a bigger danger to me than the world, yet I recognize the world will try and influence my sinful thinking and sinners use the world to justify sin and deconstruct God’s holiness. As long as a parent is aware of this danger and the only remedy is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then I don’t care how you school your child because you’ll understand the real problem and solution and do whatever you can, in the circumstances the Lord places you in, to honor Him and teach your children. THAT is what I care about. I’m glad you have good homeschool experiences and know that truth. As long as you don’t assume, making hasty judgments regarding private / public school students, then I think, you operate in a way that honors the Lord. Don’t read into my words, I said them all carefully being very literal in my intended meaning 🙂

  • Greg Pickle

    Underlying both movements (home-school only and age-integrated only) is an overreaction against the same flaw: 1) on the one hand, parents who don’t teach their kids the Bible, don’t model its truth, don’t help them think critically about things through the Bible’s lenses, and 2) on the other hand, churches who (at best) don’t teach the truth on every level, thereby creating a culture of spiritual immaturity. These two things spiral downward until the kids are hopeless against the lies of a hostile world system. No wonder they leave the church – I would (and did!) too! Let’s not blame public schools and the existence of youth groups for what parents and pastors/churches haven’t done. A faithful set of parents who are thoroughly engaged with their families in a faithful local church, age-segregated or not, is no less useful through public school settings than through home school ones.

    We had to work through these same issues over the past few weeks as we considered sending our kids to public school for the first time (we homeschooled the last two years). Though we haven’t received any personal opposition as we made this decision, there is a ton of it out there in written form, it’s amazing how hard you have to fight the homeschool-only attacks upon your conscience to see this issue clearly.

    We made the decision to public school this year with all the factors above, as well as others, clearly in mind. As a dad who went to public school K-12 and for five years at the local state school, I’m walking in with eyes wide open. But we trust the sufficiency of God’s word and the power of the gospel and look forward to the unique areas of Christian instruction our children will get through this opportunity.

    • Well said Greg! Thanks for the insightful comments.

  • Jason

    Are any of us just ready to say the FIC movement has gained popularity because it fans the flame of child idolatry? A lot of us parents are prone to idolize our kids and does the FIC movement encourages it?

  • Karl Heitman

    Matt, I think you’ve made a fair point overall. This is always such a hard topic to discuss, especially in a blog because it’s impossible to cover all the ins and outs in a short article. In order to have a comprehensive understating of a biblical philosophy of education, ample amount of explanation is needed because each side brings so much baggage to the discussion. Overall, I think you did a good job hitting the foundation for the discussion. Namely, our method of education is not a black/white sin issue. That said, I have 2 thoughts for your consideration:

    1) In regards to 1 Cor 15:33, I don’t think you can limit the application to merely carnal people within the church. Paul is telling us that in associating with false teachers who deny the resurrection, we will be adversely influenced by them. When we associate with or take delight in the company of people with worldly morals, due to their heretical theology, which all unbelievers have, we run the risk of mimicking their behaviors, their language, and their habits. I see it all the time in my church, and being a military man, where the culture is extremely immoral, it is easy for even solid, born-again believers to start talking and acting like immoral people. Soon, their conscience becomes seared due to a lack of true Christian fellowship simply because they spend more time around immoral people. So, what needs to brought to this discussion re: homeschooling is the sheer amount of time the typical kid spends in school surrounded my immorality vs. time spent with mom & dad and their church family. The average kid goes to school from about 8am-3pm, then either goes home and does his homework (or plays a sport and goes home and does his homework), then he eats dinner, washes up, maybe watches TV for a while, and then maybe there’s a little time for discussion/discipleship before bed. That’s only if the parent(s) is on top of things. Think about the typical day: he spends the overwhelming majority of this life surrounded by “bad company” in the season of life where the boy/girl is most vulnerable and easily enticed. Now, generally speaking, a child or teenager will have much less discernment and maturity, which makes it much easier to mimic the immoral examples instead of “standing firm.” It’s folly to have the simple mindset of “well, the world is already in my kid’s heart, so it doesn’t matter what company he’s in. If he’s saved, he’ll be able to withstand the peer pressure, temptations, and lies.” To have a balanced approach to education, public school families really need to be firmly aware of this and therefore must work harder than the homeschooler in this area. Paul Washer said, “Your children will go to public school … and they will be trained for somewhere around 15,000 hours in ungodly secular thought. And then they’ll go to Sunday school and they’ll color a picture of Noah’s ark. And you think that’s going to stand against the lies that they are being told?” (Sermon, “The Christian Life,” part 1). The spirit of this quote intends to let parents know that it takes a lot of work, which involves time, in addition to all the normal day-to-day responsibilities to help a child or teenager biblically evaluate what’s being taught and modeled for them in public school. In addition, some school districts are much more liberal than others. That also needs to be taken into consideration. It might not be a huge deal to send my kid to public school in TX, but maybe not in LA or Seattle…for obvious reasons.

    2) This point is not necessarily addressed to you only but in general. As we discussed, so that you guys don’t paint an unfair and inaccurate picture of the NCFIC, of which I’m NOT a member of, by the way, you need to make it clear that not every local church registered with the NCFIC network are “homeschool onylists.” For some troubling reason, people in our camp have a knee-jerk reaction upon hearing the term FIC or even the name Voddie Bauchaum. It’s because of a caricature we’ve allowed to remain or maybe it’s based on our limited experience with FIC INDIVIDUALS while being totally ignorant of what they officially profess as a whole network. Just like there are many Independent Fundamental Baptist churches that are not rabid KJV onlyists, there are hundreds of FIC churches that are sound and don’t condemn the public school family. If one just spends 30 min. on the NCFIC website, one will find out who they really are (i.e., not a bunch of cultish, legalistic whackos who idolize the family). They explicitly say, “Churches are listed on the NCFIC site by indicating that the church is in agreement with the NCFIC Declaration” (https://ncfic.org/about/frequently_asked_questions_about_the_ncfic/). Guess what? Their “Declaration” says nothing about homeschooling. I repeat: NOTHING about homeschooling.

    • Hey Karl! I don’t think I limited the “application” of 1 Cor. 15:33 to just carnal people in the church. Note that I said, “We have to take seriously the warning that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33), but we need to understand that verse in its context too. Paul is talking about bad company (and false teachers) in the church… Is that to say that the world will not negatively influence our thinking? No, but that simply isn’t what Paul is saying here.” So, I recognize that the passage can certainly be applied to the world system. That’s why we need to be discerning. Beyond that, again, I recognize the dangers you noted, but what’s your point beyond reminding me that there are dangers in the public school system? I’m not arguing that home-schooling ISN’T valid. It is perfectly fine, and many parents make a wise decision, for various reasons. But we need to remember at the same time that the environment will not be the determining factor in our children’s faithfulness to the Gospel. Is the public school system worse? Yeah… but that doesn’t mean my child is going to participate in that evil.

      I remember high school well… though I wouldn’t say I was “popular” by any stretch, I was a pretty well-known athlete, was voted to be on the home-coming court, was captain of the soccer and track teams, etc. But I had a lot of enemies too. There was even this weird little club of guys who were constantly wanting to fight. Why, I don’t really know. Guys would threaten to curb stomp me, I’d get my lunch stolen, the whole bit. On Fridays I’d get invited to drinking parties, and every Monday I’d hear who slept with who, who got drunk, who got in a fight over which girl, and who got high. Guys would pass around the porn, and random girls would ask to make out… and then some. I was taught sex-ed in 8th and 10th grade, and a school rep even handed me a bunch of condoms once, and told me, “There’s not a single guy who isn’t going to be sleeping around.” I was taught evolutionism and liberal ideologies, and because many of my classmates knew I was a Christian, many of them deliberately TRIED to ‘trick’ me into sinning. Did all that make it hard to keep my testimony? It certainly challenged me, but as a believer, I was NEVER tempted, as the Lord promised, “beyond what I was able to bear” (1 Cor. 10:13). Did that mean I was perfect? Not by a long shot, but it was NOT because of my environment that I’d sin.

      I am still thankful for that experience, because it forced me to study the Word harder. I remember praying often on the way to school for Gospel opportunities, and had a lot of lunch table conversations making a defense against what we were being taught. I studied HARD, searching the Scriptures to see what it had to say about what I was being taught, and that increased my convictions. It didn’t shake them. It also made me not sound like an idiot 🙂 when making my defense. I remember kids saying, “I admit, that’s compelling.”

      So, for parents who have children that believe, we need to remember that we’re promised that they won’t be tempted beyond what they can bear as well. There are challenged presented by public school. ABSOLUTELY. But also in home-school. But if a public school kid flies off the handle, our response shouldn’t be, “It’s the fault of the public school.” Likewise, if a home-school kid flies off the handle as soon as they’re no longer under their parents’ roof (which happens), our response shouldn’t be, “It’s because they were home-schooled.”

      For your second point, you’re right… there are many different flavors of the FIC, and their declaration says nothing about home-schooling – obviously – because their declaration’s purpose is to explain the family’s relationship with the church. BUT, so far as I can tell, every single leader in the FIC is a home-school only advocate (and in some exceptions, you can consider Christian school education, but NEVER public school). In their churches, even if they don’t actively teach home-school onlyism, they have ‘generally’ (not all) created an atmosphere that demeans families that don’t home-school.

      Again, thanks for the input though Karl!

  • Michael Beck

    Matt, thanks for addressing this issue. There is much legalism in homeschooling communities and the churches built around homeschooling methodology. But then again, there is legalism in evangelical Christianity on many other issues as well!

    Regarding your citation of Mohler’s article, it seems you take his point out context. His use of Deut 6 and Eph 6 is only to say that parents are responsible to make the decision for their children’s education. He is not making an exegetical argument for homeschooling (which is the point your post addresses) but rather he is noting a trend that Christian families are withdrawing from public schools based on the progressive liberalism found there. John Piper said the same recently when he posted on Facebook, “State school. There is now no legal way for your children to be taught any normal view of human sexuality.”

    Given that gay-marriage will be taught in public schools, that “gay history” is a required subject in CA public schools, and that 6th graders can get IUDs in Washington and 15 year olds can get a sex change in Oregon (both without parental knowledge), there needs to be a discussion of using biblical wisdom to direct our children’s education in the safest environment. Once we set aside the legalism and bad exegetical arguments, all of us as parents must address the quick descent of modern society — a descent that public schools are not immune to.

    • Thanks Michael! You offer some good insight. I hope that I misrepresented Dr. Mohler, but after reading the article again (I read it twice before writing this article to make sure I understood him), I have to say, I think I represented him fairly. He cites Deut. 6 and Eph. 6, and then IMMEDIATELY, in the same paragraph, he says, “The duty of Christian parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord cannot be ‘delegated to anyone else – not to the state, not to the schools, and not even to the church.” Then, my citation comes from his conclusion. It’d been one thing to say in that conclusion, “For many parents, public school education is no longer an option.” He went beyond that though, and to say, “Is public school an option? For parents who take their Christian worldview seriously, the answer is increasingly no,” and that is another matter entirely. Again, I hope I’m misunderstanding him… I just don’t think so. To say the least, that statement is confusing and sends a wrong message. As for the your second paragraph, I agree… I don’t deny AT ALL the many challenges presented by public school education. And yes! AMEN! WE must as parents “address the quick descent of modern society,” with the GOSPEL!

  • Jason

    I made a remark yesterday, since removed, due to lack of clarity. I’m concerned about people, prone to idolize their
    children, use the FIC to justify their idolatry. I know other pastors have experienced similar people. None of us believe leaders in FIC churches promote any idolatry. But we pastors need to encourage all parents, regardless of school
    preference, to make sure life is about Christ primarily not our children, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21).

    • Karl Heitman

      Now, that’s a statement I can say ‘Amen!’ to.

  • Aaron Palmer

    Hi Matt,
    Excellent post. While I am not familiar with the terms for these movements (FIC, etc…), I wholeheartedly agree with you. I personally am leaning towards homeschooling when my children enter school, but understand it is a preference.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post on the subject.