Home School, Christian School, Public School?

In their book, The Bible and the Task of Teaching, Smith & Shortt present four approaches for education within a biblical perspective:

  1. The Bible does not mention schools, but places educational responsibility in the hand of parents.  Christians should therefore reject the schooling paradigm and turn to home education instead.  It is parents who are called and authorized to educate children, and it is not the place of the state or the school to usurp this role.
  2. The Bible does not mention schools because the school institution as we know it did not exist in its day and culture.  As times passed, and industrialization has progressed, the amount of specialist knowledge which children must acquire has increased dramatically.  Our situation is therefore quite different from that of ancient Israel.  Schools are now necessary.  We should continue to heed the biblical injunctions for parents to nurture their children in faith and godly conduct, while accepting that other aspects of education need to be undertaken in schools by specialists, who need not be Christians.
  3. The situation has changed as described in #2 above, but we should look for the underlying educational principles in the biblical passages addressed to parents and apply these new forms of teaching and learning such as schooling.  Schools as we know them were not around then, but if they had been, the same principles would have applied.  Schooling is now needed, but it should be Christian schooling, biblically grounded and carried out by Christian teachers as an extension of the parental task.
  4. There were village schools, synagogue schools and pagan schools in New Testament times, and there are no instructions in the New Testament for Christian parents to withdraw their children from such schools.  We must therefore assume that the children of converted parents continued to attend them, and that this was not considered a problem by the believing community.  This suggests that we would be justified in adopting the same attitude towards today’s secular schools.

Notice how each position makes a claim based on scripture…and that there is really no way of making a conclusive claim as to which position is “more biblical.”

So why the tension among Christians on this issue?  Is it because each party seeks to not only uphold their personal theology/philosophy on this matter…but to also proselytize thier choice as “more biblical?”


~ by Dave Smith on May 27, 2008.

5 Responses to “Home School, Christian School, Public School?”

  1. Why any tension at all?

    A wise man once told me to “never villianize the options you do not choose, as tomorrow they may become your only options.” (Dave McClellan)

    Anyone who thinks the other options are “wrong” is arguing from a limited perspective. And to further think you can back your position with scripture? Sheesh.

    Do what seems best for that kid, on that day. Tomorrow it might all change.

    And work hard to honor parents who have chosen differently. They’re probably doing the right thing for their family.

    I can’t even believe someone would think there is a *biblical* position on this!

  2. Yea, there is definitely a difference between saying their is a “biblical position” on the matter, vs. making the decision while being guided by scriptural principles.

    I am not saying there is an answer…just saying that if “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16) then it would appear scripture has something to say on the matter either directly or indirectly.

    I kind of feel that the key here is to always first ask the question, “what is best for the mission?” Some may answer that and say…homeschooling, to best equip my kids for the mission and allow our home to be a better, more constant strategic blessing to the neighborhood. (I think a similar answer is given for Christian School.) And for public school the answer may be that they choose secular school for a greater missional connection with the unchurched. Either way, I see no RIGHT answer…but answers flowing from the best question.

    Unfortunately I think the main filering question for many isn’t “What is best for the mission?” but “What is safest?” or “What will make my kid the smartest?” I don’t particularly see those as high priorities or values within scripture.

  3. good comments rich and dave.
    even though the following quote does not directly mention choosing schooling, i think it relates well w/ this on how we apply Scripture.

    to quote c.s. lewis from mere christianity:
    “Christianity has not and does not profess to have, a detailed political programme for applying ‘Do as you would be done by’ to a particular society at a particular moment. It is meant for all men at all times and the particular programme which suited one place or time would not suit another. And, anyhow, that is not how Christianity works. *When it tells you to feed the hungry it does not give you lessons in cookery.* When it tells you to read the Scriptures it does not give you lessons in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar. It was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and sciences: it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal.”
    (*=my highlighting)

  4. I think CS says it well…however, I wonder if some would then ask the question:

    “So you’re saying that God’s word doesn’t inform us about how to educate people…nor how to raise our families?”

    Could one then ask the question, “If the Bible is ‘a director which will set’ their child’s educational avenue towards ‘new life,’ then what would that look like?”

  5. This has been a fasicinating journey for me the past 3 years.

    My brother-in-law (from what I understand) is the first person in Ohio to go K through 12 as a homeschooler. I’ve had numerous conversations with the in-laws on their mindset in choosing this option (and sticking with it) for so many years and so many children (4 out of 5).

    I’ve served on the board of Christian school for the past 3 years. In the past I’ve neaver really had positive exposures to Christain schools, the experience helped changed that.

    And last, I’m the product of a public school system, and as the cliche goes – “I turned out all right.”

    I think the tension exists b/c parents often find themselves in situations where they feel the need to justify their decisions to other parents, and the more “spiritual” (i.e. biblical) reasons they can come up with and to attach to their reasons the better they feel about themselves.

    At the same time, with no matter what option you choose, each comes with it’s own baggage. So the choice becomes highly personalized and emotional…and the result?

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