Tuesday, November 5, 2013

To Homeschool Or Not To Homeschool

My son handed me a paper entitled Why I Do Not Homeschool he had downloaded from the internet.  The paper was written by a gentleman named Tim Challies who is identified as a Christian and Reformed Calvinist.  In his paper he explained why he and his wife chose not to homeschool their children.  It was a well-written and gutsy article but, IMO, fell short.  I’d like to explain why.


The paper was presented in two parts.  In the first part Mr. Challies discussed strong and weak Christians and the various convictions people might have for homeschooling or sending their children to private or public schools.  I am not sure how helpful this first part was.  Suffice it to say, everyone has some conviction which launches motivation and we should all evaluate our strengths, weaknesses and forbearance toward one another.  It wasn’t until part 2 (http://www.challies.com/articles/why-i-do-not-homeschool-part-2) that Mr. Challies offered his reasoning in answer to his title.


It is not my purpose here to make an argument for or against homeschooling.  I am simply seeking to point out what I found to be logical and interpretive shortcomings of his thesis.


In short, Mr. Challies and his wife want their children in public school “For Missions.”  I certainly applaud his desire to play his part in the Great Commission and prepare his children to do the same.  But his reasoning, I believe, begins to unravel when he seeks to explain how enrolling his children in public school provide the best method to this end.


Mr. Challies answers the objection that children “are unready to be evangelists” by observing that children are “filled with the same Holy Spirit as you and I.”  Being filled with the Holy Spirit, in Mr. Challies’ estimation, stands in isolation as the necessary prerequisite for ministry.  He, therefore, draws the conclusion that “They are equipped to reach out…”  With all due respect, being filled with the Holy Spirit does not necessarily equip one for ministry.  This can easily be shown in 1 Timothy 3:6 where Paul warns against a new convert being an elder lest he “become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”  The new convert most certainly has the Holy Spirit but this does not mean they are equipped for ministry.


Mr. Challies explained that he and his wife feel that homeschooling their children would inhibit their ability to “reach out to the neighborhood.”  If they kept their children at home they could not “honor God” they would “lose credibility…lose friendships and lose access to the hearts of both children and their parents.”  He had earlier pointed how grieved he was that none of his neighbors had been to church.  As a Christian with four children between seven and seventeen, who we have homeschooled from day one, I must say that this has not been our experience.  Many of our neighbors have been to our church and we have long and deep relationships with those neighbors—people who send their children to private and public schools.  In homeschooling we have not lost credibility, friends or access to hearts.  I am not entirely sure why we would.  There are numerous other ways to access neighbors than by sending your children to the same school. 


Fear of “worldliness,” Challies explains, is not a legitimate concern which would lead one to homeschool.  He explains “we do not avoid worldliness by secluding ourselves from the world.”  At a certain level that may be true.  Forming an agrarian cloister group may be at odds with the call to “come out from among them” (2 Corinthians 6:17).  In other words, separating from the world isn’t necessarily geographical.  But Mr. Challies seems to utterly ignore the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).


Mr. Challies’ argument that it is “far better to let them see it (what the world has to offer) when their hearts are tender, their confidence is in their parents, and their abilities are limited” is, at the risk of sounding harsh, simply na├»ve.  “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15).  Children are easily deceived.  And for a small, immature (even Christian) child to be in an environment where the lion’s share of their attentive hours is bombarded with something quite contrary to a Christian life and world view seems foolish.  He continues this thought by explaining, with words I found chilling, that he believes “it is easier for children to avoid worldliness when they are exposed to the world.”  Of course there may be a sense where this is true (but I would want to be holding my child’s hand through this experience), but the Apostle Paul counsels otherwise:  “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Ephesians 5:11, 12).


Mr. Challies then makes the argument that if you visit a Christian college, experience will show that you will “not find a difference” between children who were homeschooled or attended public or private school.  I am not sure what kind of scientific study this is, or what he means by “experience.”  One can just as easily say “experience shows there is a great difference.”  But these types of assertions mean little until you show what difference you’re looking for and how many people actually demonstrate the difference and what they would have been like had they gone to a different school, etc.  In short, there is a great difference between a valid argument and a bald assertion.


I do appreciate that Mr. Challies made a public argument and he seems willing to participate in irenic dialogue and reconsideration of his points.  I hope my critique has not seemed harsh; it was not my intention.  As I said, merely wanted to point out what I saw to be logical and interpretive shortcomings.


Pastor Paul Viggiano

Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church