If you are anything like the typical Christian parent who loves their child, you probably have an opinion about whether a child should (or may) be schooled at home, at a private Christian school, or in the public school system. The way some proponents of the various views air their opinions, one would think they’re helping you to choose whether to send your child to Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell.
I don’t view Dante’s Inferno as an allegory for school selection, but I do empathize with the heavy responsibility that presses on a parent’s shoulders like Atlas. And I know I will annoy you who passionately hold to any of the above options. We have three little kids (and counting), and I can already tell that they are each going to thrive in different environments, and by God’s grace could probably survive in any educational atmosphere.
School is not an institution that God recognizes as responsible for the spiritual formation of your child. The role of teaching children about God is up to the parents.
Parents may recognize their inadequacy in imparting calculus and trigonometry to their wunderkind. They may decide to staff that out to a local school; no harm, no foul, if you ask me. But that is an entirely different matter from whether or not parents are involved in teaching the children about the Lord, and how to apply the Bible’s wisdom to their lives.
Your offspring may prove as prodigious as Good Will Hunting, but if he cusses, brawls, lies, and otherwise behaves like a hellion, as Matt Damon did in that movie, then what’s the point of his education? God is not impressed by evil genius.
It makes sense to me why a parent would get upset with a school that does a poor job at teaching a child Ohm’s law or English grammar. What are we paying them for, if not to teach the students the math that is over our heads? But we’ve missed the point of school if we become disgruntled because of the absence of Bible instruction offered in the classroom, or a presence of unwholesome morals, or spawning misinformation about world views. It certainly is nice when a school helps with that stuff, but biblically it is not their role, it’s ours.
Homeschooling is an effective approach that avoids using the school as a support of the family at all. But there are legitimate reasons why a family may choose to avail themselves of the help a school offers. There is nothing sinful about parents who dropped out of high school admitting that they cannot keep up with their gifted eleventh-grader’s chemistry syllabus. A parent doesn’t have to be smart to be wise, and he or she doesn’t need a diploma to be godly. But parents do need to do the best they can to equip their children for the spiritual traps that will await them while they are in school.
So, how can we use the school as a helper, without letting it become a substitute?