There are many reasons to homeschool children. Conversely, there are just as many reasons to send your child to the local public or private school.
We are not anti public school; we are anti public school for our child. That is a significant difference. Having taught at a private Christian school for seven years, I would love to have that option, but financially it makes no sense.
Today, however, I want to counter one argument I hear Christian parents use all the time to justify their choice to send their children to public school:
“But Jesus commands us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. So I’m sending my child to public school to obey Jesus.”
I will be honest: this is typically said either in a very defensive tone, or very dismissively, as if homeschooling families are somehow ignoring the great commission.
(but that could just be how people say it to me?)
This justification is based on two verses of Scripture, found in Matthew 5:13-14:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…” (NASB).
The problem with using these verses to explain placing a young child in a secular schooling environment is this:
Your child – my child – no young child, I would be willing to guess – is spiritually mature enough to be considered salt and light.
Contextually, these verses occur in Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount.” They immediately follow the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a series of verses on suffering and persecution, and what a Christian’s response should be to such things. They are followed up by the verse commanding Christians to let our lights shine before men, so that they see our good works, in order that God may be glorified.
Parents need to ask themselves, “Is God going to be glorified by my child’s education and his or her choices at school?”. If a parent’s ultimate reason for sending their child to public school is to evangelize and influence their classmates for the Lord…that is a stunning amount of pressure to place on an elementary aged child. Especially if that child has not yet received the Holy Spirit.
“But my child is a Christian,” I hear you protesting already, “she was saved when she was four. And now at eight she’s already read the Bible seven times!” That very well may be the case, and praise God for your child’s salvation and thirst for the things of God. But she is still a baby Christian; she is not, in today’s popular vernacular, “a fully developed follower of Christ.” She is not the Christian who has moved from the milk to the meat that Paul discusses in I Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5.
Can baby Christians lead others to Christ? Yes, of course they can, and sovereignly God uses all sorts of people to draw them to Him. However, at most, she can tell people Jesus loves them; she can’t use apologetics to explain why the Big Bang theory is just a theory, or why it’s wrong that the older kids are playing kissing games on the playground.
What sort of pressures are parents putting on children when they expect them to be salt and light without having first received the Holy Spirit?
If a parent is expecting their child to lead others to Christ, are they confident that they, themselves, have first led their child to Christ? What kind of spiritual training are parents giving their children outside of an hour of Sunday School, an hour of youth group, or a school sponsored Bible club one morning a week?
I do believe Christians need to be involved in public schools; we need teachers, mentors, lunch room workers, school board members, and people who live in the neighborhood who take care of each other. It is not my suggestion that Christians abandon public schools. It is my suggestion that parents think very carefully about why they are sending their children into a very spiritually dark place, expecting them to be a light if they aren’t yet ready.
If the reason you’re choosing public school is really to be a positive influence, that means you, as the adult mature Christian, need to be in the classroom as much as possible. If you want to be a positive Christian role model, that is fantastic. But it is my contention that Christian parents be exceptionally careful with the expectations they place on their unsaved and/or recently saved children
I attended public school for middle and high school – because that’s when my mother decided I was mature enough to face what I would face and I would be salt and light. Was it the best decision? That’s debatable. Did God use me? Absolutely. Am I convinced He sovereignly protected me from things I had no business being exposed to? More times than I care to count.
Scripture commands us to bring up our children, and part of that is making hard decisions. Educational choices abound, they are difficult, and often involve sacrifices we aren’t willing to make. As you think through your choices for next year, be careful about assigning spiritual weight to a child who isn’t ready to bear such weight. The world is not getting brighter, and the lights of the world have to fight harder and harder to shine. Be sure your child is ready for that dark world before you send her out into it unprepared.