What is best for the
"Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and
men" (Luke 2:52).
A parents first
concern should be what is best for the children. Although they may
not express it in distinct terms, most parents want development
of the complete person as indicated in Lukes statement about
Jesus: mental, physical, spiritual and social. Schooling is not
all about facts and skills. It is about growing and learning. Obviously
the home is the first growing and learning place. The question is
this: What other opportunities for growing and learning should parents
provide? How much should come from a formal academic curriculum,
how much from church, community, friends and specialized training
to enhance individual gifts and talents?
How can parents decide?
Confusion over school choice may result because advocates of various
types of schooling tend to go to extremes. Some overly emphasize
negative aspects of public schools in order to promote Christian
schools or homeschooling. Some have more interest in marketing materials
than in helping parents make appropriate choices for their families.
When three options are available, decisions should be based on the
parents understanding of the needs and personalities of their
children as well as their own feelings, motivations, and qualifications.
After praying for guidance, the best course of action for parents
is to carefully examine positive and negative aspects of each option
and make specific personal applications.
If you are a parent with
options, here are some points to consider:
Successful homeschooling begins with a positive motivation
to give your children the best possible opportunities for growing
and learning not in a spirit of anger and rebellion against
public schools and popular culture. The strength and value of homeschooling
is not that it protects children from outside influences, but that
it cultivates their special interests. It guides them in the formation
of values and goals, and allows them to focus on individual achievement
rather than competition in a fixed system. It releases them from
the need to defend their Christian beliefs and adjust to peer pressure.
More of their energy can be devoted to family activities and spiritual
Studies of the results
of homeschooling are mostly positive. Those schooled at home are
accepted at Harvard and other prestigious schools. Their test scores
compare favorably with students from the best public schools. The
reasons most often cited for these positive outcomes are parental
involvement and attention to the individual needs of the student.
The average scores of homeschoolers are higher because homeschoolers
are fewer and they receive individual attention, whereas public
school scores represent masses of students from all types of homes.
This can mean that homeschooling is better. Or it could mean that
the involvement of parents always makes a difference.
The advantages of
homeschooling include the following:
- The home is strengthened.
Families are kept together with shared goals.
- Schooling can be tailored
to each childs potentials and needs.
- Individualized, flexible
schedules allow for more learning opportunities.
- Families can take
advantage of community events and volunteer services.
- Large classes and
rigid schedules are avoided.
- Less time is spent
on routine matters required in public schools, so more time is
given to learning.
- There is a spirit
of learning together with less competition.
- Spiritual and moral
development can be emphasized.
- Qualified parents
who enjoy reading and are enthusiastic about teaching.
- Flexibility; willingness
to find what is best for the children and the situation.
- Careful attention
to regulations and standards of the school district and the state.
- Ability to invest
the required time and finances.
- Ability to choose
resources and make appropriate adaptations.
- Ability to provide
suitable social activities and opportunities for special interests.
Like homeschooling, the decision to enroll children in a Christian
school should be motivated more by positive considerations than
by a desire to escape negative aspects of public schools. It is
true that public institutions are influenced by politics, economic
interests and cultural changes. Good ideas, such as civil rights
and equal opportunities, can get twisted to extremes that cause
conflicts in values. Children can become torn between parents
teachings and a "postmodern" school environment. Especially
for new Christians and those without a stable Christian background,
Christian school is an excellent choice. It is not unreasonable
for parents to feel apprehensive and express a need for support.
Support is a key word. A primary function of the Christian school
is to reinforce home values. From early childhood through the teen
years, children notice when parents and teachers agree.
The advantages of
Christian schools include the following:
- Biblical knowledge
and spiritual growth are educational aims.
- Many have accredited
academic programs equal to or better than public schools.
- Curriculum materials
are both excellent in academic quality and true to Christian values.
- Christian schools
provide suitable peer groups for the students.
- Christian teachers
are role models for the students.
- Christian parents
can form a supportive community, help and pray for each other.
- Many of the school
programs are integrated with childrens and youth programs
in the church, so students have good opportunities to develop
talents and interests.
Dissatisfaction with the public school system has been widely reported.
On the other hand, there is much evidence that Christian parents
and their children can have exceptional experiences, both educational
and spiritual, as a result of involvement in public school. Parents
are the most important factor in any childs education.
In his book Creating
a Positive Public School Experience (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Eric
Buehrer suggests that public school can be the right choice if the
parents do the following:
- Establish family goals;
discuss goals; encourage individual goals.
- Emphasize spiritual
growth through church attendance and family teaching.
- Initiate opportunities
to get to know teachers in the school.
- Have appropriate understanding
of the schools student culture, customs and beliefs of personnel.
- Are able and willing
to encourage and support the child at home.
- Display interest in
the childs school subjects and lessons.
- Read together with
the family, and talk about what they read.
- Limit television time,
monitor programs and discuss program content.
- Promote thinking skills
through conversation, sharing ideas, active listening.
- Promote family togetherness
family traditions, pleasures, feelings of security.
For Christian parents
who are able and willing to provide the required guidance and support,
public school can be a unique opportunity to cultivate Christian
character. Children who experience Jesus love and develop
faith at an early age can learn to think of themselves as leaders
at school, rather than objects of peer pressure. As they are exposed
to errors and wrong ideas, they can learn to think critically without
questioning their parents values. As they grow they can learn
to analyze and evaluate without doubting the reality of truth. Often
such young persons are especially sensitive to ministry opportunities,
receptive to Gods calling, and likely to be among the strong
Christian leaders of tomorrow.
Davis, Ed.D., is a former writer and editor of educational materials
for Gospel Publishing House and a professor emeritus at Evangel
E-mail your comments