Just to be clear, I am a pastor and we homeschool.
This is our first year homeschooling both of our grade school children, and we have a preschooler that we plan to homeschool in kindergarten next year. My wife and I have had a great experience and are excited about the future. It’s hard work, especially for my wife who is the primary teacher, but we have felt peace as we follow God’s leading in this area of our lives.
As many church leaders will have noticed in their communities, the popularity of homeschooling is increasing.
One recent statistic showed that over 2 million students are now learning at home. That’s a 75 percent increase from 1999. And the trend is rising. A recent Barna study found, “The political climate is increasingly amenable to homeschooling as a legitimate educational alternative. Add to that the growing desire of millions of Americans to have a more significant family life and to maximize their children’s educational opportunities, and suddenly homeschooling becomes a serious option for many.” I attended pastor’s conference recently where I learned that the percentage of pastors’ families that are choosing to homeschool is on the rise as well.
The purpose of this article is not to debate whether this is a positive trend or not. The reality is that homeschooling families represent a growing demographic in our communities. Many of them are already connected in our churches, but a significant number have no connection to a church at all. A growing number of parents who homeschool are doing so because of dissatisfaction with the public school system, and not because of personal religious reasons.
The old stereotype of super-conservative families with 10 kids who all dress the same and fall asleep listening to Answers in Genesis every night doesn’t fit reality anymore. The Barna Group reports that, “Half of all homeschool parents said they are ‘somewhere in between’ being politically conservative and liberal.”
There are two major lessons to be drawn from this:
1. Our churches, and pastors specifically, should be sensitive to the perspectives and needs of homeschooling families.
2. Pastors who choose to homeschool should be careful how and why they publicly articulate their own reason to do so.
There are plenty of reasons that school at home is a great educational option, perhaps especially for pastors’ families. Increased family time, different options in curriculum, safety and security, specialized emphasis on your child’s strengths and interest areas are some of the leading pros.
But there are also reasons that pastors should NOT homeschool. By that I mean that there are motivations for home education that should not be a part of a pastor’s public case for his family’s private choice to homeschool. If your motivation is poor, or poorly communicated, it will harm your ministry.
Here are four big mistakes pastors should avoid in making their case for home education:
Mistake #1. We had an awful experience in public school, and we want to spare our kids from that pain.
Perhaps you did have an awful experience in public school growing up. Jesus enters our lives and heals all sorts of scars and wounds from our past. There is a difference between gaining wisdom and insight from past experiences, and a life of choices driven by fear.
Public school is not the enemy.
The world is a broken place and we cannot escape it. We are not meant to. We are meant to participate with Christ in His work to redeem it.
That may sound like a rationale to stay in public school. If fear is your reason to leave public school, then perhaps repentance would mean re-enrollment for you.