What is the Faithful Educational Option for Christian Parents?
We live in a world where Christians needing to educate their kids have a lot of options. I mean, there are a lot of options, there’s a number of different ways to do it, there’s a number of different combinations of options. But for the purpose of the podcast this week, let’s think in terms of three big categories of options that are available to Christian parents who need to educate their kids. First, there is a public school, then there is a private school, and then there is homeschool. Sometimes there are ways to actually do both, break these up into various combinations and combine a couple of different things, there are hybrid options and that kind of thing. But if we think in terms of public, private, and homeschool, we’ll be thinking of the three big options that are available for Christian parents to choose from. I want to be really honest that there is a fair amount of conflict and animosity between Christians on this. It is not uncommon at all for Christians to get their backs up about the options that they have chosen for their kids. Depending on which side of the conflict you’re on, those conflicts can lead to prideful attitudes or to guilty feelings. Here’s the dynamic. As Christians, we know we have a responsibility to our children. As Christians, we know we have a responsibility to educate our children. The reality is that of those three options, public, private, and homeschool, the more time and money that you are able to invest in your kid’s education, the more likely you are to be on the prideful end of the conflict. You start feeling pretty good about all the time you’re investing and your kid’s education about all the money you’re investing in your kid’s education. As that investment of time and money goes down, you can be on the guilty feelings end of the conflict. There are people who are doing the very best they can for their kids, and that means less investment in time and money than other Christians who have different opportunities and different advantages. Because we’re talking about kids, because our kids are our kids, we love them, and we’re devoted to them. Those feelings of pride and those feelings of guilt can be very, very strong.
The Negatives and Positives
What I want to do is think through apart from a conflict and apart from attitudes of pride and guilt. I want to think through what is the most faithful Christian option. That’s the way we’re framing it so that we can talk about it on the podcast. But look, I need to be very honest with you. There are negatives and positives to everything in life. Most things in life are not usually as cut and dried as we often like for them to be. We love to have one good, right, clear, black-and-white answer. There’s a lot of gray in life. There are a lot of circumstances in life that make one solution good for one person and another solution good for a different person with regard to the negatives and the positives of those three basic options for schooling. Public school is a great option for many Christian families who are in great school districts. There’s an affordability that comes with it; there is a convenience that comes with it. But there is a negative to those positives, and that is public school is risky. It’s risky. The spirit of the age is pervasive in public schools. There is censorship of religion, there is censorship of basic Christian ethics, and there is pervasive sin that is traded in and amongst the children in the schools who come from various backgrounds. The secularism of public schools is a big risk that we have to put against the convenience that makes it an option for many families.
Then there are private schools, private schools, an awesome option. It is particularly if you’re talking about private Christian schools, and there is a Christian worldview that is informing the way classes are taught, the way teachers are hired, and the way students are selected; it can be an awesome environment for many, many kids. There are negatives to private Christian schools. First of all, private schools don’t remove the risk of interacting with sin and unbelief that I talked about in public schools. The Lambert kids have spent their fair share of time in private schools. And they’ve been introduced to a lot of sin in those private schools, so you don’t remove the risk of exposure to sin because you send your kids to private school. Another negative is it’s really expensive. The expensive private school simply makes it not an economic reality for a lot of families. I’m not talking about people who choose not to afford it because they prioritize other things; I’m talking about there are faithful Christians who legitimately can’t afford a private school education. So that’s a negative.
Then there’s homeschooling. Homeschool is another great option; close, individual instruction is tailor-made to your kid’s nurture in the home. There is a huge benefit to homeschooling, but my goodness, there’s a negative and a positive to everything in life. And there are negatives to homeschooling as well. First of all, any parent who’s honest knows that homeschooling doesn’t eliminate your kid’s exposure to sinful people. Because Christian parents sin too, the kinds of sin that a kid is going to notice in the life of their parents who have given them homeschool instruction, we could pray, hope, trust, and believe will be less and different than, than a kid their age who doesn’t love Jesus, but you’re still going to have to deal with sin. Also, homeschooling is exhausting. It also can be expensive in its own way. A lot of parents feel the limitation regarding their expertise. We’ve done some homeschooling in our family, and one of the things I have found out as a grown man in my 40s talking to my kids who are in middle and high school is there’s a lot of stuff I forgot. There’s a lot of stuff; I never knew that well. And so they’re just negatives and positives to everything in life. I want to let you know honestly that in the Lambert family, public school, private school, and homeschool, we’ve done all three of those. I was brought up exclusively from kindergarten through the 12th grade in public school, my wife was exclusively in private schools growing up, and our kids have done both private schools and homeschooling depending on the season of life that we were in. So I feel like I’ve got some exposure, just as a member of my family, to all three of them.
What Does the Bible Say?
The question I’m asking is, what’s the faithful option for parents? Well, let me answer that question by drawing your attention to a text of Scripture. Deuteronomy, 6:6-7, a famous passage of Scripture, where Moses says, “Here these words that I command you today, they shall be on your heart, 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.” There are other passages in the Bible, of course, that we could talk about. But that is a classic passage that weighs heavily on the mind of every Christian who wants to honor the Lord in their responsibilities to their children. This passage tells us very quickly, tells us very clearly, that there is a responsibility to teach children the truth of God. That responsibility is the parent’s responsibility. Parents can bring in help as they fulfill this responsibility. We can contract with other people, we can bring people into our homes, and we can send our kids to other schools, but we can never transfer that responsibility. There’s no tuition check that we can write. There’s no certification that any teacher can receive that makes them the person who’s in charge of that burden to instruct children that in a way that trumps the parent. What God is telling us here, he’s actually in this passage, and in no passage is he prescribing how this burden is to be discharged. He is simply saying that it must be discharged. So the biblical burden is to bring your kids up in the fear and instruction of the Lord, to quote a different passage, Ephesians 6.
What is the Most Faithful Option?
I’m going to be very honest with you. You can fulfill that burden with any of the options; you could also blow that burden with any of the options. If you are a parent who’s sending your kid to the most secular public school in the country, and every day, you’re picking them up, and you’re walking with them through their day, and how they interact, and you’re helping them think biblically about the conversations they had with the friends and you’re helping them think and apply a Christian worldview to what they learned in their mathematics class that day. If you’re doing that, you are actually doing Deuteronomy 6 better than a so-called Christian parent who writes a big fat check to a private school, where they’re not receiving any particularly Christian instruction and where you’re not helping them apply the truths of God to their life. What the Bible demands is not public, private, or home, but that we bring our kids up in the discipline and instruction to the Lord and that we teach our children the truth of God. This is a biblical burden; it’s the biblical burden; you can fulfill that burden with any of those options. And you can dismiss that burden with any of those options.
I think every Christian parent out there must invest as much energy, time, and money as they possibly can in their children’s education. I also think we need to be honest that not everybody has the same amount of time, energy, and money to invest in their kid’s education. So we want to, of course, hold out the expectation that we’ll put in as much to our kids as we possibly can. And we need to hold out the grace that not everybody can do the same thing as everybody else. That will help us to eliminate pride and will help us to eliminate guilt when we understand that not everybody has the same resources. I want to say, what’s the faithful Christian option? And the answer is, honestly, it depends. That’s going to be a balm to some of your souls out there who are feeling guilty about your circumstances in life that are requiring you to invest less time and money in your kid’s education than you would like to. That’s going to provoke some of you out there who are investing a lot of time and a lot of money in your kid’s instruction more than some other people. You are going to want to feel like, no, what I’m doing is better. I’m not saying that there aren’t ways to maximize our kid’s instruction in the Lord and those kinds of things. I’m not saying that, but what I’m saying is nobody listening to this has the same advantages and the same circumstances as anybody else. Everybody listening to this is in a different set of circumstances. Here’s what we need to do. We need as Christians not to be proud and fight about this. We need to not feel guilty about this. What we need to do is encourage one another to biblical faithfulness. Biblical faithfulness is teaching your kids the word and pointing your kids to Christ. Let’s be grateful when there are Christians that we know who have a great opportunity to invest massive time and massive money and their kid’s education. Let’s be understanding with Christians who have to make different choices than we make because their circumstances are different from ours. Let’s embrace biblical freedom here. The burden that’s on each of our hearts and on each of our lives is the Bible, not our neighbor’s preferences. I don’t have to bear your burden, and you don’t have to bear mine. And so we can be faithful Christian parents, teaching our kids about Jesus, pointing them to the word, and understanding our circumstances, whether that’s public, private, or homeschool.