Why Church Isn’t the Place for the Homeschool versus Public School Debate

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I don’t spend a lot of time scrolling Facebook. I spend most of my social media time on Instagram or Twitter, but occasionally I’ll log in to Facebook, scroll a moment, and get sucked into a post. Before I know it I’ve spent half of my day reading, overthinking my response, typing said response, deleting it, and starting over again.

I was reminded recently of my no-scroll policy when I found my way into a thread discussing why pastors “should be calling for their congregations to leave the public schools and choose homeschooling.” I could’ve used that afternoon to do twenty other things, but I jumped into this one because I wholeheartedly believe church isn’t the place for a homeschool versus public school conversation.

Why Church Isn't the Place for the Homeschool versus Public School Debate

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Most of the people who wanted their pastors to take a verbal stance from the pulpits were well-meaning. I’m sure they had the best of intentions while sharing concerns like these about public schools:

  • school shootings
  • inappropriate encounters between staff and students
  • bullying
  • controversial sexual ideas being taught
  • promoting worldly behavior
  • attacking Christian beliefs

Good intentions or not, I’m still not able to get this dialogue off my mind because the homeschool versus public school debate doesn’t belong in your pulpit, small groups, or Sunday school class.

From a ministry perspective and from a Christ-following perspective, I can’t stand behind someone who argues that the church should promote a clear split between Christians and public schools.

Church Isn’t the Place for the Homeschool Versus Public School Conversation

You don’t have to spend much time with me to know that I’m a homeschool advocate through and through. My kids have never been enrolled in public or private schools and we have no plans of changing that.

We are still completely committed to homeschooling our kids. We know we’ll never regret homeschooling and talk it up with every opportunity, but we also know that our time at church shouldn’t be spent promoting homeschooling. Here’s why:

1. Homeschooling Isn’t the 11th Commandment

I’m quick to refer to scripture when talking about our decision to homeschool and I love sharing how homeschooling allows us to fully live our faith. Even so, it isn’t the only way to parent with intention or provide children with a quality education. Simply put, we choose homeschooling for lots of reasons, but none of those reasons are mandated in the Bible.

It’s awesome if your church leadership supports homeschooling, but it’s another thing altogether for a pastor to preach against public schools.

Truth or Legalism?

Friend, it’s legalism to hold our own expectations in the same hand with God’s Word. While there are plenty of scriptures we can look to for confirmation or direction, homeschooling as we know it isn’t there. What’s more is that it’s not even possible to achieve this first world idea of homeschooling or education in every country and culture.

If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true. – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

If we can’t say it’s true for Christian families across the world and timeline, then it’s not true for us now. It can be a great choice and even the best choice in most cases without bringing legalism into it. That’s why the homeschool versus public school thing isn’t okay in your church.

Why Church Isn't the Place for the Homeschool versus Public School Debate
We can celebrate the privilege of homeschooling and encourage others to get in on this way of life, but we’ve got to acknowledge that everyone doesn’t have the opportunity. We’ve also got to be okay when someone who does have the opportunity chooses another path.

It’s okay to wish you could help a church friend recognize the benefits or to feel bummed when a friend steps away from homeschooling, but we take it too far when we expect our churches to find biblical basis for those feelings.

2. Homeschooling Isn’t Always Best

Building on the what’s true for one is true for all idea, homeschooling isn’t the best option for all families — Christian or non-Christian — across the board. My friend Misty wrote that every Christian family should consider homeschooling and I fully support that, but saying that every Christian family should consider it and should homeschool are two different things.

For sure, homeschooling is an overlooked or abandoned option for many families, but we’re kidding ourselves if we really believe it’s always best for every situation. Let’s face it, public schools are a blessing to many families and provide a welcome dose of consistency for all too many kids, and sometimes those kids are from Christian families.

Ultimately, it comes down to acknowledging that an unhealthy Christian homeschool doesn’t trump all educational options. For example, parents who view education as a chore aren’t likely to lead their children well in pursuing a lifestyle of learning. That’s true whether we’re discussing homeschool or overseeing homework in a private school or public school setting.

Also, homeschool may not be the best choice when unforeseen circumstances arise. It simply may not be possible in all seasons for all families. Health issues happen, financial struggles come up, addiction creeps in, relationships go through challenges that may or may not end well.

Why Church Isn't the Place for the Homeschool versus Public School Debate

In a perfect world, life would always go as planned and every parent would be bright-eyed and eager to learn and teach. But we don’t live in a perfect world; that’s why the homeschool versus public school debate doesn’t belong in a pulpit.

Once again, if it’s not true for everyone, it’s not subject matter for your pastor’s next sermon series. It can be subject matter for a respectful discussion at the coffee shop later in the week, but there’s still a difference between conversation and calling out.

3. It’s Hard to Love Your Neighbors
If You’re Judging Their Choices

You can be pro homeschooling without alienating those who don’t homeschool or those who serve the public school system. It’s an important thing to keep in mind regardless of where or when you’re having the homeschool versus public school conversation.

While I’ll always advocate for homeschooling, I also know that we serve our communities well when we lock arms with local schools and do what we can to support the teachers who are there being salt and light. Teachers need to know we’re rooting for them and we’re grateful for what they do even when it’s not what we choose for our kids personally.

Why Church Isn't the Place for the Homeschool versus Public School Debate

Within a church body, families with kids attending local schools need to know that we’re here for them, ready to serve them, and help them make the most of the time they’ve got with their kids. It’s all part of loving our neighbors without bringing our educational choices into the equation.

Us Versus Them

Ultimately, this homeschool versus public school issue simply isn’t something that belongs in a pulpit, foyer, or church classroom because us versus them never builds the kingdom. And if I have to choose between preaching Jesus or homeschooling, I choose Jesus every time.

If I have to choose between preaching homeschooling or preaching Jesus, I choose Jesus every time.Click to Tweet

Church is where we worship together, serve together, and focus on making Jesus known in our communities and the world. If we focus on what divides us and shift away from Jesus himself, we’ve lost sight of our purpose.

In closing, have the homeschool conversations, but have them somewhere else. Talk it up, be an ambassador, and celebrate it whenever you have the chance, but trust the Holy Spirit to guide your church leadership on what belongs in the sermons and teachings.

Finally, remember that you can take advantage of the gentle opportunities to speak up for homeschooling without losing your chance to speak to hearts about what matters more.

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6 thoughts on “Why Church Isn’t the Place for the Homeschool versus Public School Debate

  1. I think church is the best place to help people realize who might be capturing the minds of our children and how to combat that in our own choices. You present it like a debate is going to be all black and white and that’s not a debate or discussion, it’s a mandate. So the title of your column doesn’t really reflect the topic of the column.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      To clarify, my point is that this topic doesn’t belong in church as a mandate from a pastor or conversations in other church gatherings. I agree it’s good to help our fellow believers “realize who might be capturing the minds of our children,” but sending an anti-public school message or suggesting that all public schools should be avoided by Christ followers isn’t the way to do that. As believers, we can’t love our communities as a whole and be salt and light to them if we publicly or privately villainize public schools in our churches.

      In other words, we as churches can encourage and equip parents to lead their families well without making our public school teachers feel like crap and shaming the families who don’t choose to homeschool.

      1. Emily, Thank you for your thoughts. I wholehearted agree that this issue as well as many other political issues have no place in the pulpit. Christ alone is to be preached.

  2. Please point me to the scriptures you used to say that we should send our children to someone else (public schools) for their education and upbringing. I’ve been searching, and can’t even find an example of one person in the Bible who was sent away for their education and/or upbringing. Even Moses, who was sent away to spare his life, was raised and educated by his own mother, when she was hired by Pharo’s wife.

    1. Hi Nan,
      This post isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t send your children to someone else for education or upbringing. In fact, that’s not referenced at all.

      I only mentioned that it’s not possible for all families to homeschool and that it’s not best in every situation across the board. I also mentioned that we can still encourage and support teachers in public schools without personally sending our own children.

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