Homeschool or Public School?

December 15, 2022

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Do you believe Christians should favor homeschooling more than public school? In this video, Elizabeth Urbanowicz take an in-depth look into the debate between public and homeschooling, particularly from a Christian perspective. We explore the pros and cons of each option, as well as discuss what biblical principles should be taken into consideration when making such an important decision.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Elizabeth Urbanowicz:

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the kids God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter so they can understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me today for another episode. Today's question says, "Do you believe Christians should favor homeschooling more than public schooling? Why or why not?" And now this is a question I actually receive frequently because when we're thinking about discipling our children, we know that part of that discipleship process is their schooling. And so this question, do I favor homeschooling over public schooling? Why or why not? And my answer to this question is, I do not believe that there is a one size fits all schooling answer for every single family.

And the reason for that is that God has called different families to different locations of the country, different locations of the world, different ministry context, different... He's given kids different strengths and weaknesses and abilities and needs. And so all of those things need to be taken into account when we're making a schooling decision for our child or for our children. So I do think that there is a one size fits all answer and that one size fits all answer is intentionality. That we need to make sure that whatever decision we make regarding our child's schooling is made intentionally. We shouldn't just go to whatever our default is. We shouldn't send our kids to public school simply because we went to public school or because most of our friends are sending their kids to public school. We shouldn't send our kids to private school simply because we went to private school or most of our friends are sending their kids to private school.

We shouldn't homeschool simply because we were homeschooled or that's what most of our friends or church family are doing. We need to make sure that the decision that we make is intentional. And the reason for this, which you probably already know, is that our children spend a massive amount of their formative years in an educational setting. And while preparing for this podcast, I just decided to run some of the numbers just so we could have a mental idea in our mind exactly how much of our children's time is taken up with schooling. So when you think about children in school age from ages five through 18, when you add up the hours that you have or that your children have between the ages of five and 15, it comes out to roughly 14,000 hours. So during this time of schooling, your children have roughly 14,000 hours in their lives.

Well, then you think about the amount of sleep that a child or a teen should be getting, and when you take out the amount of time that they should be spending sleeping, they're left with roughly 70,000 hours when they're awake from ages five to 18. So we have this 70,000 hours that we get to help our children invest wisely. And then out of these 70,000 hours, children spend roughly 16,000 hours in school or in an educational setting. So when you think about 70,000 hours and then 16,000 hours, that's almost one quarter of the time that our children spend in life from ages five through 18.

And that's not even including the time that then spent on homework. Generally, if kids are going to some form of schooling outside of the home, they have anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours of homework an evening. And then when we think about extracurricular activities that our children could be involved in, whether that's sports or music or the arts or any other kind of club or camp or thing that they're involved in.

And so that quarter of their life is just the physical time that they're spending in the classroom, not time spent on homework, not time spent of extracurricular activities. So this is almost a quarter of their time with us when they're growing up through the ages of five and 18. And so we need to think about, okay, what do we want this to look like? Think about it like this. When you think about what your children intake through their diet, you're probably thinking about how many vitamins and nutrients they're getting, how much protein they're getting, how many carbohydrates they're getting. And when you plan out meals, you're probably trying to plan out a balance between these things, making sure your children aren't having too much processed food, making sure they're not having too much sugar, they're not having too many refined carbohydrates. And so when you think about your children's diet, what do you want a quarter of their diet to be?

What are things that you would allow a quarter of their diet to be? Well, you might allow a quarter of their diet to be fruits and vegetables. You might allow a quarter of their diet to be whole grains. You might allow a quarter of their diet to be lean protein, but think about how intentional you hopefully are with the food that goes into your children's bodies. And then think about a quarter of their life when they're at home with us in school. How do we want that quarter of time to be spent? And so that's why I say that the one size fits all answer is intentionality. Okay, we'd never just leave a quarter of our kids' diet up to whatever they felt like or whatever we happen to have around. We're intentional about what we feed them. And in the same way, we need to be intentional about the decision we make for their education.

So what I recommend that families always do is think through and pray through what is the end goal that you and your spouse have for these children that God has placed in your care? Now, I hope that that end goal is that they would know and love and trust Jesus, and that year by year, they would be slowly conformed more into the image of the Son of God. And so then when you think about this primary goal and maybe any other secondary goals that you have for your children, ask yourself, okay, this education setting that's going to take up a quarter of their life while they're at home with us, is this education setting helping to meet that primary goal and then these secondary goals that we have for our children? Now, we know from scripture that whenever a disciple is fully trained, he is like his teacher and a disciple is a student. Okay?

The person who is the discipler is the teacher. And so we need to think who is our children's teacher. Now, usually what we think of is we think of the person who's actually running the classroom or running the homeschooling situation. And yes, that person is their primary teacher, the person who's running the classroom or you as mom or dad as their teacher at home, in homeschool. But then we need to think through what are or who are the secondary teachers that our children have in this environment? Secondary teachers include the people they're sitting in class with. Okay. Now, I know from a classroom teacher, I can tell you that in the classroom I was the most influential person on my students because I was the one that set up the timing of our day. I was the one who was up in front of the class, who was always facilitating the activities and the discussions and the different exercises we did.

So I had the most influence, but there were many times throughout the day, either when my students were sitting at their desks working independently or working in small groups or when they were at the cafeteria or when they were out at recess or when they were at PE or music class, and their peers were teachers as well. That I noticed very frequently, I would always put my students in pods. So they would be in groups of floors, so that they could work together so they could easily break off into pairs. And the students who I partnered together, if they were seated together for a long enough time, they started to pick up some of the characteristics of the children who were seated next to them. And they picked up a lot of the characteristics of the children that they chose to spend their lunchtime or their recess time or any free playtime that they had with together.

So the peers in the classroom are also teachers. Now, we're never going to find a classroom setting where every single child is just this wonderful little Christian who's following all the rules and loves Jesus, but we need to think of who are these children that our children are going to be influenced by each day? And do we want our children influenced by these other little mini teachers? Something else we need to think through is the curriculum that's being used, the books that are being read.

Those are also things that are teachers that are teaching our children how to live life, that are getting our children to think in a certain way. So we need to think through, okay, who is the teacher? The primary person who's teaching the class, but also the other little teachers who are peers, who are the curriculum, even the culture that's created at the school.

We need to think through all of those things. And when our child graduates from this school, do we want him or her to look like the teachers there? So that's a really important question that we need to ask ourselves. Then one thing that I would encourage you, I know that some of you watching this, you've already had your children in a certain educational setting for years, and you like that setting, and you're going to keep them there. And then I know others of you watching, you may have infants or toddlers or preschoolers, or you may have a kindergartner or first grader and you're not sure if you made the right educational decision or you haven't made any educational decision yet and you're just choosing. And if you're in that case where you're still making that initial decision, I would encourage you, don't be afraid to step outside of the traditional paradigm.

Don't be afraid to think outside of the box, because this idea that we have that kids go to school Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. They leave the home, they're broken up into grade level classes, even though this is our paradigm and all that we've ever known, this is by far not what most humans throughout human history have known. It's really only been over the past 150 to 200 years that this model that we have of secular education has really been in place that in the past, children were educated by private tutors or they were educated in a one-room schoolhouse, or they were educated just by mom and dad at home. So I would say don't think that whatever educational decision you make has to look like this Monday through Friday, eight to four, broken up into grade level classrooms. There are so many different models of education that are available today, especially post COVID.

There's so many different creative things that you can do. I mean, one thing that's really growing is the classical model of education where in the younger years it's called the grammar phase, where children are doing a lot of memorizing. And then when they get into the middle years, it's the logic phase where they're learning how to think well. And then when they get into the upper grades, it's the rhetoric phase where they're learning how to speak and to write and to defend arguments well. So the classical model is a great model of education that's really focused on teaching children how to think, not just pumping them full of content.

Now, the one thing I would encourage you, some people get really curious about the classical model, and then they flip back and forth between classical and then traditional US model. Please don't do that. Those are two completely different systems of thought and of learning, and it's really hard for a child to flip flop back and forth between those two.

So choose a model. And once you've made the decision, stick with it. Another model that's available that I think is really exciting that has really grown post COVID is the collaborative school model where there's some parents who think, you know what? I want to homeschool my kids. I want to be with them. I want to be together with them, but I don't know if I have enough skills as a teacher. I don't know if I can invest these eight hours a day, five days a week. And if that's you, look into the collaborative model. I have a number of friends who have their children in these types of schools where they will go to school either Monday and Wednesday, and then they'll be homeschooled Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, or they'll go to school Tuesday and Thursday, and then they're homeschooled Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And so just look into some of these other models that are available in your area.

And then homeschooling. There is so many resources available for homeschoolers today, which in some ways makes it very, very overwhelming. I understand that. If that's you, look for a homeschooling mom or dad in your area who you have seen do things well and learn from them. If not, you can go to a homeschooling conference and just look through the different curriculums that are available to something that's going to be simple, but it's also going to get your kids to think really well. And if you're choosing homeschooling, also don't underestimate the value of also teaching really important life skills. I graduated from high school. I was valedictorian of my class. I took a number of AP classes. I could do calculus. I can't do it anymore, but my senior year, I could do all different forms of calculus. I could write a really great essay. I knew a lot about history, and these things are important, but you know what I didn't know how to do? I didn't know how to make a meal. I didn't know how to do my own laundry. I didn't know how to research a political candidate.

I didn't know how to change or even just to check the oil level on my car. I didn't know anything about the basics of plumbing. These are things, life skills that can be really, really important and valuable. So don't underestimate the time that you have at home to be able to teach these really important life skills. And for those of you who don't homeschool, also just be aware that your children, there's some basic life skills that traditional schooling is not going to cover with your children that you can choose to do with them at home.

One other encouragement that I would have for everyone. I know for so long, public education has just been kind of the default model where now after COVID and just after so many curricular decisions have been changed in the classroom, and it's just become very obvious, which it's always been there, it just hasn't always been that obvious that the foundations of our public education system stem from the humanist worldview. As parents are thinking about potentially intentionally sending their children to public school, one thing I would just encourage you to think through very carefully is many parents in the past have had this mindset that our children are going to go to school and they're going to be little missionaries. They're going to shine the light of Jesus. And now, in certain cases, that is possible.

In my own case, I have always been a deep thinker. I've always been very skeptical. I was not one of those little kids who every time at church they were like, do you want to ask Jesus into your heart? That I raised my hand. For a long time, I would hear those conversations. My mom would talk to me about them, and I'd be like, no, because I didn't know, even as a four or five or six year old, I didn't know if I could really trust Jesus.

And then God, when I was six years old, was very gracious, and he saved me. He opened up my eyes to the truth. He reconciled me to himself. And from that moment on, it's not like I was a perfect little missionary, but I did feel like I was prepared to be able to look at the ideas that I came across in the classroom and say, okay, are these biblical ideas? Are these not biblical ideas? Who are my friends who don't know Jesus that I can share the light of Jesus with? None of my teachers knew Jesus. How can I share Jesus with them? So there are some children that are prepared to do that. By and large, most of them are not. Most of our children are not prepared to be little missionaries. So if that is your goal in having your child in public school, I would just ask you to just be very prayerful and intentional in discussing with your spouse, is our child ready for this?

Is this faith that we're seeing firmly rooted? Do they really understand the gospel? Are we immersing them in scripture? Are they prepared for all they are going to face? Because even if you live in a very conservative town, even if you live in a place that you think has more traditional Christian values like the South, there are so many things coming into the school system that contradict the biblical worldview. Not even just to mention, I think I'm going to do a whole webinar on this one time because it deserves almost a whole hour of teaching. Just the fact that the education model that we have where kids do leave the home for eight hours a day and are separated by grade levels, that does not stem from Christianity, even though we've adopted it into the church, into our Sunday schools and our kids' ministry, that does not stem from Christianity. That stems from humanism and a desire to break down Christian values, specifically as attached to the family.

So I would just encourage you, if you are making a decision to send your children into government-sponsored public schools, please just make sure you're being very intentional. And if you have the mindset that you're sending your children out there to be missionaries, please very carefully consider whether or not they're prepared for that.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, as we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that God would richly bless you as you continue to intentionally disciple the children that he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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