The most outstanding characteristic of homeschoolers is that they have thought intentionally and critically about their children’s education. And we know this because they have made a very intentional decision about that education that requires quite a bit of hands-on involvement.
Homeschooling is not for everyone
Be that as it may, having a parent stay home and school all the children for their whole education may be neither possible nor the best choice for every family. It wasn’t for ours. And as I promised, I will never hold you to a higher standard than I have achieved. So the bar is low. Nevertheless, all Christian parents can and should think intentionally about their children’s education. Whether you homeschool full time, participate in group classes, employ online educational resources, pay for private school, or send the kids down to the local public school, you are responsible for your children’s education. This means you engage with your kids about what they are learning and what they are thinking. This is what Christian parenting is about.
If you have an opportunity to homeschool and want to do so, I highly encourage it, especially in the children’s younger years when you can lay a solid foundation in academic skills and spiritual understanding. If that is not what your family wants to do, then do what works for you. Just don’t just give your kids to another group of people or the government to educate without some discernment about what you expect and want to happen.
The public school option
Some options give you more control than others. Unfortunately, public school officials generally don’t believe that parents are the responsible parties when children come in to their classrooms. They, being the trained experts, feel they know what is best educationally. So you have to decide how you intend to keep control of the public school educational process. You could opt to fight the school on every issue you have an issue with. This approach will generally sap the life out of you unless you really like confrontation. I recommend a different approach, and it is one that can give you some advantages over the homeschoolers in some ways.
The opinions and priorities of outside educators can give you a multitude of opportunities to engage with your children about what they are learning and to offer a counterpoint to opinions they may be encountering for the first time. Whereas a homeschooling family may strictly control the access their children have to divergent, maybe even heretical opinions, the public and private school parents have to stay on top of issues and research the facts that their kids come home with. This can lead to all of the family learning and engaging with each other.
You also are free to introduce topics earlier than the public school and to get in your opinions and facts first. In fact there is nothing children like better than to be more knowledgeable than their peers. (Heck, there is little that adults like better as well.) So think about certain issues and why you believe as you do. It is very easy to hold unchallenged opinions, but when your opinions are challenged by your children or their teachers, you must be able to articulate rational reasons for holding them. This will make you a stronger Christian and a better parent.
So, why is parent-directed education better than homeschooling? Because every Christian parent can engage in it. I hope the articles on this site will give you resources for learning, thinking, and engaging with ideas.
I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but some Christians sitting in church never seem to think about anything beyond their present activities. Their conversation is always about what their children are doing, what their plans are for the weekend, and what they watched on tv. But rarely do adults have opportunity or even desire to talk about the deep and abiding questions the human condition produces. We probably thought about them at one time, but life keeps us very busy. Nevertheless as children begin to grow and learn, they do think about these things—because one can’t be human and not consider them. And this gives us parents another remarkable opportunity to do some of that thinking we have gotten out of the habit of doing.
So don’t let these opportunities pass you by. Engage with your children and let them ask you questions. You don’t have to always have all the answers. Some human problems are intractable this side of paradise. But you have to be open to questioning and to doubt and to wonder. Carpe diem, people, carpe diem!