Switching to Public School Education
A few weeks ago, my wife and I came to a final decision for our family. We’ve decided to stop homeschooling and delegate the formal education of our kids to our local public schools. If you know us well this may be a little bit of a shock, so this article is a transparent explanation of our thought process and Biblical considerations.
Before we go any further, I need to make a few things clear. First, we don’t have any ill feelings towards families who choose to homeschool. This is a decision that our family made in the context of our own observations, family needs, and spiritual growth. Secondly, this is an area of wisdom not law. That means that, biblically speaking, families are free to choose how their children are educated as long as they abide by biblical principles. Third, the information we share as a family is not trying to sway anyone from their position, but rather provide a biblically based perspective along with our own heart-revealing stories to anyone who’s trying to work through this difficult decision.
We love you whether you homeschool, hybrid, private, or public-school your kids. No hate. Seriously, we do.
Ever since we got married, my wife and I planned on sending out kids to public school. We were not sure whether we would send them right off the bat, or move them into it over time. Before our oldest was ready to start kindergarten, I had a deep conviction that we should not put him in public school. We could not afford Christian school, so homeschool was the only other option. My wife and I discussed it and together agreed to try homeschool for a year.
About a month ago, my wife and I were feeling overwhelmed. We had many things on our plate in professional, ministry and personal realms. We were underwater and feeling trapped. As we began to evaluate the things we were responsible for and the way we were carrying it out, we took a second look at homeschool. It took a significant amount of time and energy to do well and biblically we didn’t see a requirement to be the ones doing all of the formal, subject-based education for our children (as distinct from biblical education and discipleship). This lead us to begin questioning why we were choosing to continue homeschooling.
The Big Factors
As we sat down and began evaluating our reasons for homeschooling, the drawbacks, the benefits, and so on…a few key themes emerged:
- Our vision wasn’t coming to fruition. Originally, we had hoped that homeschooling our children would provide a greater opportunity and flexibility for ministry involvement and kingdom building. After two years of struggling to balance the two, we realized that it wasn’t creating the opportunities or flexibility we were striving for.
- We were introducing problems that we couldn’t overcome. It was taking a TON of work for our family to invest into and do well in homeschool. We were finding that with all of our effort, time and training, we were actually introducing problems along the way. No education is perfect, but we had hoped to build a more ideal educational environment for our children. What we were accomplishing was helpful in some ways, but less helpful in others. The areas where we were failing would be a natural part of the traditional classroom education environment.
- We live in a great, well performing school district that is perfectly equipped to educate our kids. Some school systems may not be a great environment and homeschool education might be a better option, but that wasn’t true in our case. In fact, we moved to our neighborhood because of the great school district.
- Our own hearts were deceived (and this was a big revelation for us). We were attempting to educate our kids into salvation. If you would have asked us about 3 months ago, we would have sworn it wasn’t part of our reasoning, but after much deep and honest conversation we began to find its presence lurking in the shadows. Yes, it’s critical to teach our kids about the Gospel and instruct them in the ways of the Lord, but we do that on a regular basis whether in formal education or not. We regularly spend time as a family engaging the world in God’s truths and teaching Scriptural truths.
There were certainly many more topics that we considered and discussed, but these are the biggest themes in our conversations as parents. It wasn’t an easy decision, but when we evaluated these few points Biblically, we began to see a lot of our own agendas and less of God’s agendas.
Biblically, there isn’t an abundance to say about the education of our children. One of the most prominent statements is made by Paul in Ephesians:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
— Ephesians 6:4
In the context of this passage, it is a command to fathers to ensure that children are taught and disciplined their children with Biblical instruction rather than forsaking this responsibility and provoking them to anger and frustration. Considering the context and use by Paul, it better informed the scope of my responsibility as a parent in my kids education.
Another key passage that was a main inspiration for homeschooling was:
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
— Deuteronomy 6:7
Over the past two years I have come to understand the place of this passage in its context in Deuteronomy (and the Old Testament) more deeply. Make no mistake, we are to teach the things of God to our children in the regular flow of our life. However, I was worried that I would not be able to do this as a father if my kids were away at school all day and I never saw them. When I began to evaluate the time they are in school and my place at work during the day, my argument quickly broke down. Certainly we can interweave a biblical worldview into all the spheres of education (and we should), but public school education doesn’t remove our ability to shape and instill a biblical worldview, rich with God’s truths into our kids for every subject they learn.
This wasn’t a decision we made in a vacuum. We sought out the wisdom and counsel of many believers who were ahead of us in their walk who had made this decision (and came to differing conclusions). We are grateful to our Godly friends who sacrificed their time to help us have a biblical mind about this.
We also found some articles and resources online that helped us to gain a broader perspective as we made our decision whether to switch to public schooling for our children. There was a great article by Tim Challies that a dear brother recommended. My wife also read a very helpful article by Jen Wilkin. I’m so grateful for these two Gospel-centered individuals who invested their time in sharing, as well as putting themselves in this very vulnerable posture. Thanks Tim and Jen.
Yes, in the end we decided to switch from homeschooling to public schools. I want to reiterate that I don’t see this being a black and white issue of obedience or disobedience to God. The actual act of homeschooling, christian schooling, or public schooling isn’t clearly directed in Scripture. We don’t see homeschoolers as backward or ignorant, in fact we see the benefits and understand them. Nor do we see public school as superior or ”the only right option”. This was a decision made by my wife and I for our family in our unique situation.
Lastly, we didn’t make the decision in secret from our kids. We invited them into the conversation at times to hear their concerns and thoughts, doing our best to understand their view of the decision. Ultimately the decision was left to us as parents and we made that decision, but we felt it necessary to consider things from our children’s perspective as well.
As we evaluated our situation, some helpful questions began exposing the deep waters of our hearts.
- Pretend you are going to switch schools tomorrow, what immediately pops up in your mind? (Fear, joy, relief? What’s behind those emotions?)
- What clear biblical instruction are we required to follow, and how does that practically work out in our lives? (It’s helpful to have some wise, fellow believers help you think through this.)
- What does homeschool education offer you as a parent?
- What does homeschool offer your kids?
- What does public school education offer you?
- What does public school offer your kids?
- How does each option negatively impact your family in the short and long term? (“It doesn’t” isn’t an appropriate response.)
I hope our struggle and choice to share this decision with you has proven to be helpful as we all seek to please God in our role as parents. I’m certain we’ll face difficulties and challenges along the way, but we will rely on God’s sovereign and comforting hand through all of it.