This blog post was co-authored by Pastor of Christian Education Randy Frey and Trinity Homeschool Collective leadership team member Bridgett Maggs.
This time of year, many families are making important decisions about how their children will be educated in the upcoming year. Within the context of our church family, we are thankful to have seen a narrowing of the options, as families have witnessed the devastation brought about by the public school system. Two telling articles from National Review are available here and here. At Trinity Bible Chapel, many parents are now deciding whether they should homeschool or send their child to a solid classical Christian school. There are pros and cons for each option and the decision is not one to be made lightly. We would like to present you with some principles that can help guide your choice as you prayerfully consider the direction you should be taking in order to educate your children.
Being a parent is a calling. If you are wondering if you are called, simply look around you to see if God has granted you children to take care of. If he has, then you are called by God to be a parent. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the LORD.” The KJV translates this as the “nurture and admonition of the LORD.” This incredible responsibility of raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord does not stop or change gears when it comes to education. All parents are responsible for the education of their children. Whether you decide to delegate some of that responsibility to a classical Christian school, or you choose to do the lion’s share of the work by teaching them at home, you are accountable to God for the education of your children. With each option, you are responsible for instilling in them godly virtue and knowledge of both God and the world he created. Because you have been called by God to have the primary responsibility in the education of your children, the choice to homeschool or to send to private school should not be taken lightly and should be made prayerfully.
Lightly Weighted Factors
There are some factors that weigh heavily on the minds of parents as they consider school options. Often the question of finances comes to the fore, especially as this can be a primary stress in marriage for some. Money, or a lack of, should not be the reason to either homeschool or send your children to a classical Christian school. Few of us would have enough disposable income to send a child to a private school without it being a considerable household budget line item. It usually requires sacrifice and strict budgeting to make it happen. If we truly believe that God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10), then we can believe that He is able to provide the funds needed to send our children to a classical Christian school.
Conversely, simply because you have the money readily available doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t homeschool. Homeschooling your children is not about saving money. It is a calling to invest in your children and participate with them more directly in the journey of their education. We should not be looking only at our material circumstances to decide what path God would have us take on the road to educating our children, nor should we only be asking how much we are willing to sacrifice in order to be obedient.
It takes great faith to raise children, and their education is no exception to this. As stated above, there is no option that gets you off the hook for educating your children. If your children are at home, you need to be educating yourself constantly in order to be a better teacher. It is almost impossible to teach them what you do not know yourself or are not willing to learn. Immerse yourself in the lessons they are doing and guide them along. Fathers, actively participate as the headmaster of your homeschool and vet the curriculum to ensure that it is God honouring. If your children attend a convictional Christian school, you still need to oversee their education, even if it is in a more indirect way. Discuss their schooling with them daily and be aware of the material they are currently studying, whether it’s Bible, Literature, History, or Math and Science. Educating children through the use of a school is a partnership, and parents can’t check out simply because they’ve delegated the primary share of the teaching.
When considering how your family will educate your children, identifying to closely with an educational method is also something to not weigh too heavily. What we need to get away from is having our educational choices define our household. The question should be “what is the best option for each child?” For one child it might be homeschooling for another it might not. Too often families can make the way they educate their primary identity. It should not be the case that, if your situation changes and you forced by circumstances to enroll a child in a classical Christian school, you feel like you are betraying the homeschool community or your educational ideals. Similarly, if paid schooling isn’t working for your child and you need to bring them into the home for their education, you should not feel like you are in some way betraying the school. Our prayer for the community of Trinity Bible Chapel is that we never have an “us” versus “them” attitude toward education. We want us all to seek to educate excellently, with a distinctly Christian worldview, and to see everyone as on the same team with that end in mind.
Obviously communities will be formed. Families that primarily homeschool will spend more time with other families that made this choice. Children in Christian school will inherently spend more time together as they are in class most of the day. This is a good thing, and supporting one another is a biblical mandate. What we need to steer away from is making our educational community our primary family identity. A method of education shouldn’t be the thing that defines your family; you are a Christ follower first.
Heavily Weighted Factors
After looking at what not to consider, we do need to clarify that there are most definitely things that must be considered. The first thing to consider was alluded to above. That is, answering the question of what is best for your child. Obviously there are many factors at play when considering this, and there are pros and cons for each option. Homeschooling emphasizes the truth that parents are the primary educators of their children. It rightly places an emphasis on the family and parents being able to have control over every aspect of curriculum, as well as how their children are learning. It allows the family to be more flexible, and you are better able to quickly switch gears or take a break if something isn’t working. Schools on the other hand offer more structure and give the added benefit of having someone who, as a vocation, is able to put more energy into lesson planning and focusing on making sure they know the curriculum and content inside and out. These are generalizations, as there are some homeschools that are more structured than a classroom, and there are flexible schools out there as well. The question you need to ask yourself is, “What is best for my child?”
Doug Wilson made a good observation regarding the gender of students and some of the things we need to look out for. He writes, “Girls who are being homeschooled are growing up in an environment for which they are suited and being prepared. But boys are called by God to go out into the world. A wise father needs to watch his daughters closely if they are enrolled in a school – girls can become detached from their homes in an unfortunate way. But, as I stated in Future Men, a wise father should also watch a homeschooled son. He can become attached to the home in an unfortunate way – one boy among sisters, taught by Mom.” While this should not be a determining factor in your educational choice, it should be something that is thought about, regardless of your final decision.
While there are many other factors that you will consider when making a decision about how to educate your child (and so fulfill Ephesians 6:4), we will look at one more, and that is capacity. You should consider the capacity that you have and determine if your capacity has been reached or surpassed. This relates to the previous comments about educational identity. There are moms that are sitting around and doing nothing all day that should be homeschooling. Some are hesitant because they do not feel equipped to teach, but it could be the lack of a desire to study in order to teach. There are also moms whose homes are in crisis, with no order or dominion being taken over the home, and the children’s education is suffering as a result. We should be honest about our capacity and when things are not going well. Admitting there is a problem and praying for wisdom and an expanded capacity should be our first response. After prayer, at the very least, get help to get things back on track. Wilson makes the following observation which is helpful: “But as age and numbers of children increase, the schools do have the advantage of the division of labor.” Keep a finger on the pulse of your family, and no matter your situation, get help when needed. That might look like a seasoned homeschool mom coming alongside you, or it might look like taking advantage of what a classical Christian school can offer.
Being a parent is not for the faint of heart. Educating your children requires wisdom, strength, and patience that only the Lord can provide. Remember, you are called to educate your children with diligence. Parents, and in particular fathers, are given this command in Ephesians 6:4. We hope that you take this job seriously, no matter the decision you make in regard to your educational choice. Get on your knees and pray about it. Then, regardless of your decision, put the work in to ensure that the education of your children is done with excellence and that, by the grace of God, you cultivate virtue in their lives.
 Case for Classical Christian Education pg 200