Dear Countryside Parents:
As a father, and as a pastor in our church, I share with you the weighty responsibility of raising our children to the glory of God, both for their salvation and for their vocation. Child-rearing involves many things, but I am writing this letter to you about one topic. May I speak with you about the education, or future education, of your child?
In education, it is good to have options. Each child is unique. What may be right for one child may not be right for another child, or even for the same child the following year.
In Michigan, we have four options—public school, charter school, private school, and home school. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
The public school is free, has some excellent teachers, and excels in activities, but its environment is often ungodly and its curriculum is literally God-less, lacking the acknowledgement of God. Some Christian students are able to shine and make it their mission field; many, however, struggle socially and morally. And even if their integrity remains intact, their education lacks its foundation in the fear of God, which is “the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). At the very least, it is a missed opportunity. Sometimes, it is a tragedy.
Both charter schools and private schools allow more Christian content in their curriculum, but since charter schools are state-funded, I suspect the curriculum is limited to morality and lacks the authoritative teaching of the gospel. Private schools require tuition payments, but this funding gives them the freedom to be explicitly religious—even biblical—in their content. For some private schools, this freedom means weekly chapel and perhaps a Bible class. In a thorough-going Christian school, a biblical worldview permeates all classes with the goals of worship and wisdom—knowing God for salvation and for all of life (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Home school gives the most freedom. Parents can teach their children whatever they want, using diverse methods such as unit study, so-called “unschooling,” or the classical trivium. Perhaps the biggest advantage involves time together, with parents and children knowing each other better. The biggest disadvantage is the burden of responsibility. It all hangs on you! As a result, I once heard some educators call homeschooling “no schooling,” due to parental delinquency. Another risk involves social isolation. Although often overblown, the risk does exist if the family itself is reclusive and if the children are not involved in a variety of social settings, such as community athletics, employment, and church involvement. Done well, homeschooling gives young people a significant amount of interaction with a variety of adults, which can help the transition to adult responsibilities.
Which option would be the best for your child?
This is a decision you alone must make before the Lord; however, since decisions should be made with counsel, here are some thoughts for consideration.
First, while only some of us will home school, all of us must home educate.
As Christian parents, we must bring up our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). God commands it, and we owe it to them. Primarily, this duty involves saturating our home with a godly example and with persistent instruction in the word of God, just as the Jews were taught in the Law to love God fully, to have His words on their own heart, and (only then) to teach these words diligently to their children (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
As one of the pastors at Countryside, I urge you in the Lord to take home education seriously. If your child is in a public or charter school, you will need extra diligence, both to prepare your child to be openly faithful to Christ and to supply what is lacking in his or her knowledge of God regarding the natural and social worlds. I would be happy
to supply resources or to give counsel in this area, as would the other pastors. Also, you should know that Michigan schools must allow up to two hours per week of released time for religious education. Please consider dual enrollment in a theology class—something I can describe in more detail, if you are interested. Again, as one of the pastors, I share the responsibility to equip you to do the work of the ministry in your own home (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Second, if you choose to home school, please consider how homeschooling changes as your child matures.
Many families start well and then struggle. The oldest child is thoroughly taught, when the younger siblings are napping and the curriculum is simple. In time, however, the number and diversity of the children often burden the homeschooling mom with multiple tasks; consequently, children do more and more independent study. Then comes high school, when the child yearns to be with peers and to be more independent. The curriculum also gets harder, so online or video courses meet the need for a good presentation of material, but supply little interaction.
In my opinion, homeschooling is optimal in the grade school years, coupled with extracurricular activities in the community and at church. In high school, parents should seriously consider incremental steps towards independence, such as outside employment and formal schooling. Jesus Himself interacted with the temple teachers at age twelve, while He continued in submission to His parents (Luke 2:41-52). Young men, in particular, need these steps; without them, young men can give their homeschooling moms increased grief in high school.
As a pastor, it gives me great pleasure to offer to you a fifth option. You may not be aware that our church sponsors an educational option for high school, called Spring Branch Academy. This blend of private school and home school meets two or three times per week for classroom interaction; the rest of the week remains free for homework, employment, socializing, and ministry. Each year, five core classes are offered—math, science, language, theology, and humanities (history and literature). These five classes cover the basic requirements for graduation; families add their own electives. The academy is now in its fourth year, with over twenty students and thirteen families involved.
The curriculum is centered on the work of God through history. Students begin with pagan Greece and trace the spread of Christianity in the West down through modern America. Books and ideas are evaluated for their worldview in the light of biblical revelation. Theology examines some of our culture’s foundational assumptions, including evolution and postmodern multiculturalism. Theology also covers Scripture, God, the covenants and salvation, and trains students how to view their future vocation, finances, marriage, and parenting. Even the math and science classes aim to give a vocabulary for understanding and expressing the glory of God in this world. In each class, students have the opportunity to express their opinions and to ask their questions.
Will you consider your son or daughter for future enrollment? The academy’s mixture of form and freedom has really helped students to manage their own lives—at first, a painful adjustment, but after a while, a settled habit of independence. Interestingly, I have seen this process occur for students from both home-school and public-school backgrounds. As a pastor, I have been so pleased to see students grow in the Lord and in maturity. The Bible says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27). God be praised!
If you are interested in Spring Branch Academy, please visit our website at sbacademy.us. It is our desire to serve you, so please contact us, if you think we can be of any help.
Thank you for reading. May the Lord Jesus direct us all in this very important responsibility!
Pastor Bob Snyder