I wanted to take a moment to write to you on the topic of homeschooling and explain why your mother and I chose this educational path for you.
My mother began homeschooling me in the late 1970s, before homeschooling was even legal. It was a bold choice, and we faced a lot of opposition. Almost no one supported us (not church, not family, and certainly not neighbors or local school administrators). In fact, we ended up in court several times, having to defend our freedom to learn at home. Your mama began her homeschooling journey in 1983, after having attended a church-run preschool.
Because homeschooling was such a new (or more accurately, renewed) concept at the time, there were very few resources available. At first, because homeschooling was not a recognized legal option, no Christian homeschooling curriculum publishers would sell to us. So we ended up using non-Christian textbooks and hand-me-down curriculum we bought at library sales.
When I was being homeschooled, through the 1980s, I didn’t have any friends who were home educated. It was a very unpopular decision culturally. Because it was so new, there was a lot of pressure on us as students to perform well and to score high on standardized achievement tests when they were required. To some extent, we weren’t merely trying to prove that we could personally succeed: we needed to demonstrate that homeschooling itself was academically viable.
The good news is that God was faithful, and He has demonstrated that we don’t have to sacrifice sound academic learning just because we choose a home environment in which to learn. In Matthew 6:33, we are told to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” I believe this even includes academic skills.
In the early days, a lot people were concerned about us receiving proper “socialization.” Many feared that if we did not have the experience of being in a school classroom, with thirty to forty other students our own age, we would not fit in socially or know how to interact with others. Much of this myth has been empirically debunked,1 so you won’t hear it nearly as much as we did when we were growing up, but it was definitely a major concern for many.
The Christian School Option
Ironically, the socialization issue is one of the major reasons why we have chosen to homeschool. Because there weren’t homeschool exemptions from compulsory attendance laws in many states in the 1980s, I found myself in private Christian schools in second and sixth grade. Rather than being forced into putting us into a government school by a court order, my mother chose the other legal option, Christian schools, until the legal smoke cleared. Then she began homeschooling us again the next year.
One of the things I learned in school was that there are three teachers in every classroom. There is the person who stands up front and says, “Good morning, class, I’m your teacher.” The second teacher is the curriculum. But the third teacher is the one that actually influences a child the most. That third teacher is the student’s peers.
Even though the curriculum and the paid teacher may be Christian, that doesn’t mean the other students are. A couple of years with students who had learned how to play Christian when their parents and teachers were looking but acted like the devil any other time convinced me that I would never send my children to Christian school. There are certainly wonderful Christians who attend Christian schools, and there are some schools who successfully transmit a biblical worldview to their students. But research from NehemiahInstitute.com and the Gen2 Survey both indicate that the majority of Christian schools have been dramatically declining in the effectiveness of their biblical worldview training for the past couple of decades. There are a number of factors in this, but I believe the negative social environment of Christian schools is very often overlooked as the major detriment to classroom learning, even in a supposedly Christian environment, that it is.
The Government School Option
Your mother and I have always wanted to find out what the Bible has to say on various issues and follow God’s design. We have never found a single passage of Scripture that says that God wants the government to educate children. We have only found passages that say that parents should teach and train their own children.
Proverbs tells us repeatedly that the fear of the Lord is knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. We believe that all education is ultimately the study of God’s nature and character as He has revealed Himself through His created universe. We believe that any education that does not begin with the acknowledgment that God is, and that He rewards those diligently seeking Him, lacks faith and therefore cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).
The Biblical Mandate
While the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt homeschool,” it does tell us this (in these and dozens of other similar verses) about what God requires of us as parents:
Psalm 34:11: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
Proverbs 1:8: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”
Isaiah 38:19b: “The father to the children shall make known thy truth.”
Joel 1:3: “Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.”
Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
We take seriously God’s instruction to us on these matters. We dare not be negligent in our carrying out of these commands, nor dare we abdicate them by expecting someone else to do our job for us.
Salt and Light
There is a view held by many in the church that if you are a good Chrisitan, you will put your children into a government school so they can evangelize their non-Christian peers. We believe that this is a wrong-headed idea, and it is certainly not backed by any substantive evidence that it works. There are, of course, individual Christians who are led to Christ by their fellow students in school, but this is a very rare situation compared to the hundreds of thousands of students each decade, raised in Christian homes, who emerge from their K–12 government schooling experience as atheists and agnostics. Far more churched youth are being effectively evangelized by the world than the other way around.
In Psalm 127, the writer speaks of children as being like arrows in the hands of a mighty man. The purpose of those arrows is to do much damage to the kingdom and cause of the enemy. We believe that, spiritually speaking, you are like those arrows. Just as ancient archers would shape and hone their arrows, working on them for a long time until they were prepared to fly straight and true, we recognize our responsibility to keep from releasing you into a hostile battle until the right time—until you are truly ready.
This does not mean that we don’t take evangelism seriously. We believe that as Christians, we are supposed to share the gospel with others, but we believe there are better contexts for that than a government school classroom where you are to listen to over 10,800 hours of instruction that ignores (or undermines) the lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of life.
As I wrote before, we believe that every subject is ultimately the study of the God who made it. Therefore, in our home, we have endeavored to help you recognize what God’s character and nature are, as expressed through every distinct academic subject. We want you to realize that mathemetics reflects God’s order, precision, logic, and unity. Biology reflects His unity but also His diversity, as reflected in the myriad of varieties within particular kinds. Language arts teaches us that God is a communicator, and since we are created in His image, we desire to understand and be understood.
Our desire is to create a context where you can truly meditate on God’s law both day and night (see Psalm 1).
We want you to embrace our family mission statement, which says, “We exist to know, love, and serve God and to love and serve others.” We desire for you to enter into relationship with your Creator through His Son, Jesus Christ. We also hope to be able to spend time with you and to cultivate a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship of love and respect with each of you, and you with each other. We want you to enjoy your time at home with us, and eventually, if God desires, we hope you will start your own families and teach, train, and disciple your own children to embrace their true purpose as well.
We hope this letter will help you understand that home education is not something we have chosen for you in any kind of random or haphazard way. We have given careful and biblically deliberate time and thought to what we believe best fits what God instructs us to do in His Word. Our prayer is that through you and your lives, generations who have not even been born yet will be led to Christ (see Psalm 78).
Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker and director of Family Renewal. His books include Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview, Full-Time Parenting: A Guide to Family-Based Discipleship, Questions God Asks, and his latest title, Questions Jesus Asks. www.FamilyRenewal.org