The WHY of Home Schooling: A Three-Tiered Decision

by John W. Thompson (revised May,2000)

If you DON’T home school, have you ever investigated the biblical ground for doing so?  And if you DO home school, do you do so for distinctively biblical reasons?  Or, do you educate your children at home for the same reasons as the non-Christian family down the street–academic superiority, educational flexibility, closer family relationships and healthy social development, to name a few?  Make no mistake, these are certainly worthwhile considerations.  But is there a more uniquely Christian basis for home schooling, something rooted in biblical beliefs?  As I have studied the principles, precepts, practices, promises and prudence of the Scriptures, I have become deeply convinced that God’s intended model for our children’s education is arrived at through a three-tiered decision, like creating a three-layer cake.  See if this makes sense to you.

 MAKING EDUCATION “CHRIST-CENTERED”–THE MOVE FROM SECULAR TO CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

The first tier, or layer, of our decision to home school involves making our children’s education completely and continuously “Christ-centered.” This requires that we move our children’s schooling out of the domain of secular education and into the realm of Christian education where our children are taught only truth, i.e., knowledge from God’s point-of-view (Ps. 25:10; 40:4; Prov. 21:28; Col. 2:8).

Secular education, which by definition leaves God out, does not “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  Education in truth views all knowledge through the lens of Scripture (Jn. 17:17) and teaches all subjects from God’s point-of-view (Col. 2:3).  Since God is the Source and Standard of all truth about everything, knowledge which does not correspond with God’s point-of-view (as revealed in Scripture) is not truth but is false knowledge. That is, apart from their relationship to God, facts cannot be rightly perceived, interpreted or applied.

In addition to teaching only truth, a Christ-centered education must attain the biblical purpose of education.  What is the target toward which we are aiming our young arrows?  The preeminent, overall goal of education (as well as all else that we do) is to bring glory to God–literally, to make God “weighty” in one’s own sight and in the sight of others.  “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  So, when we teach His truth–whether math, science, geography, or whatever–we must teach it (and have our children practice it) in such a way that His splendor shines through, it bears witness to Him and He is given all the credit (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:20; Gen. 1:28).

Lastly, a Christ-centered education of children must be continuously godly.  According to God’s instructions through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:7, our child training in His truth and for His glory is to be taught “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way” and “when you lie down and when you rise up.”  Moses uses here a common Hebrew figure of speech called a “merism” in which two extreme opposites denote all activities in between.  This is a very graphic way of saying that godly child training is to be continuous, including everywhere and always.  How can that take place when our children sit in a public school classroom?

Obviously, it cannot!  But what line of reasoning convinces a Christian parent to move his children out of the traditional classroom (even a Christian school) and into the home?

MAKING EDUCATION “HOME-BASED”–THE MOVE FROM CLASSROOM TO HOME EDUCATION

The second tier, or layer, of our decision to home school involves making our children’s education “home-based.”  This second conclusion requires that we move our children’s schooling out of the injurious environment of the classroom and into the nurturing habitat of the home where responsible parents, not classroom instructors, are the primary teachers and socializers of their own children (Deut. 6:1-9; Prov. 6:20; Ps. 78:1-8; 1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 13:20; Jer. 10:2; Luke 6:40).

As I understand the Bible, a God-honoring education of children in all subjects of God’s truth must be exercised primarily by the parents and is, on the whole, not delegable to a secular or even a Christian school.  Why?  Because of the relational, discipleship model of biblical education (cf. Ex. 18:13ff for a biblical model of delegation).  The father is personally responsible before God to see to it that his children are given godly discipline and instruction through his daily oversight and hands-on involvement as he sits at the window of their heart, a privileged position given specifically to parents.  Thus, the Bible throughout pictures the father himself frequently with his children, teaching them both formally and informally (Deut. 6:1-9; 11:18-21; 2 Ki. 4:17-18; Ps. 78:1-8; Prov. 1-9; Eph. 6:1-4).  And the content of the father’s instruction, according to Psalm 78:1-8, encompasses both God’s Word and God’s works–including math, science, language arts, history, and all the other school subjects.

When the father is legitimately unavailable due to other biblical responsibilities, the Bible pictures the mother, NOT some school teacher, as his primary assistant for the child discipling/education task (Prov. 1:8; 6:20; 31:1).  And when both Christian parents are genuinely unable to upgrade their ability in a particular subject, a father may, according to the biblical pattern for delegation in Exodus 18, delegate minor responsibilities to a private tutor (minor meaning less in quantity and significance).  But that tutor, standing in loco parentis (in the place of the parent), must accurately represent the parents by teaching only truth, by imparting the father’s values and by submitting to the father’s will (1 Chronicles 27:32).  Still, the vast majority of the children’s education comes from Dad and Mom.  So, except as the Scriptures allow, we cannot delegate or hire out our child training responsibility any more than we can hire out our responsibilities to witness or to pray. 

Delegation of responsibility may never be assumed, but must always be based upon patterns of godly living found in the Bible.  That is why Paul exhorted in Philippians 3:17, “Brethren join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17; 10:11 Phil. 4:9; 2 Tim. 3:10). 

In addition to the parents being our children’s proper teachers, a second argument for changing from classroom to home-based education pertains to our children’s proper social environment.  As I read the Scriptures, a God-honoring education of children must be carried out primarily in the home, i.e., in the context of an obedient, Christian family.  “Do not be deceived,” warns the Apostle Paul, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 13:20; Jer. 10:2; 1 Cor. 14:20; Rom. 16:19b).  Christian children should not be molded by the sinful and destructive values, attitudes, philosophies, vocabularies, behaviors and lifestyles of other immature children (yes, even in Christian schools), but by mature, responsible, godly parents.  That is why God created the family.  So, parents must remain the key social, spiritual and academic role models as God intended (Deut.6:6; Lk. 6:40).

But what if home-schooling parents need assistance and encouragement for this overwhelming task?  Has God designed home schooling to be carried out in isolation?  Or is there some sort of network or support structure in His plan?

MAKING EDUCATION “CHURCH-RELATED”–THE MOVE FROM INDEPENDENT TO INTERDEPENDENT EDUCATION

Whereas the first tier of our decision made our children’s education Christ-centered and the second tier made it home-based, the third tier (layer) of this biblical decision to home school addresses the issue of the “church / home-school relationship.”  This final component of God’s education model concerns moving our children’s schooling out of the posture of self-sufficient independence and into the position of self-giving interdependence within the local body of Christ–home schooling under the umbrella of the local church’s assistance, encouragement, accountability and protection (1 Cor. 12).  The home is still the classroom, and the parents remain the teachers of their children.  However, the local church is welcomed as God’s appointed agency for equipping, encouraging, and assisting dedicated parents in their most crucial disciple-making task, namely, their own precious children (Eph. 4:12).

Through the church’s built-in framework of body life and spiritual gifts, all Christian parents can be successful in discipling their children in all the necessary subjects of God’s truth (language arts, science, history, math, and so forth).  God has not intended us to be self-sufficient and independent of each other, resulting in failure, frustration and falling away of some (Mark 12:31). Instead, our Creator-God has designed His body members to assist one another interdependently. 

Where parents lack the necessary knowledge, skills, gifts, organization, or self-discipline, GOD WILL SUPPLY through His built-in framework of body life helps.  We simply need to be faithful in pursuing His intended design for child discipling through church-assisted home schooling.  

As we said at the outset, this Christian perspective on home schooling is rooted in biblical beliefs, not mere pragmatism.  Academic superiority, educational flexibility, closer family relationships and healthy social development are not, in my opinion, the REASONS for a Christian to home school; however, they are the blessed RESULTS of faithfully following God’s intended model for child discipling.  Making your children’s education Christ-centered, home-based and church-related will produce fruit beyond imagination.  I know.  I have tasted the fruit.

[For how these biblical convictions apply to higher education, see my article, “College at Home for the Glory of God”].

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