Christian Freedom & Parenting, Part 5: Schooling


Schooling controversies for Christians were born just as Christianity was getting started .

As a young family in Jefferson County, we were overwhelmed with the school choices available to us! We have great public schools in our cluster. We have great private schools to choose from, and, of course, educating in the home is an option for a family.  With our first child we were accepted at two schools - a public magnet, and private school. I remember agonizing over the decision.  We prayed and fasted.  At that time, we believed that one of our choices was morally right and the other morally wrong, and we believed there would be severe consequences for choosing the wrong school. We made our choice, and we were happy there for several years.  After her being in the home for five years, it was agonizing to send our precious little baby-girl into someone else’s care for 7 hours every day!!!  We have since decided to do things differently, but we donʼt see our first choice as morally wrong.  Rather, a different choice is better for our family in this season.

When Christianity was born, schools were not merely secular. They were pagan.  As a teacher, you were expected to reverence all sorts of false gods in your classroom.  Faced with this system, Tatian, an early Christian writer, argued that all Christians should pull their children out of these schools, declaring, “We renounce your wisdom and we no longer concern ourselves with your tenets.  We follow God’s Word instead.”[1] Many heeded his call and followed the ancient Jewish practice of home education.  The early pastor, Tertullian, disagreed, encouraging Christians to leave their children in these schools even though most Christian teachers could not work there with a clear conscience.  A converted schoolteacher, Pantaenus, had another idea: Why not start a Christian academy to teach children a Christian perspective on all of life?  And so schooling controversies for Christians were born just as Christianity was getting started.

As Christian families, we usually take one of two routes when it comes to school choice.  We’re either lazy and uninvolved in thinking about how our children should be educated, or we are self-righteous and judge other families that have made different choices.

As a family that has done public, private, and homeschooling, we’ve come to see that school choice is a matter of Christian freedom.  There is no morally right or morally wrong answer so long as your conscience is clear.  There are preferences or styles we may esteem, but there is no one right answer.

What about you?  As a parent, do you find self-justification in where you send your children to school?  Whether you desire to send [or already send] your children to private or public school... whether you home school or “Unschool,” do not look down at your brother and sister for their choices.  There is no righteousness apart from Christ.

On the other hand, have you thought through your options?  Are you taking responsibility for your child’s education or are you being lazy?  Parents are charged in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train up a child in the way he should go.”  Psalm 78 has helped us to change and understand that we teach our children all of the time in the way we pay attention when speaking with them and through showing them what we truly value in how we spend our time.  I’ve learned that I’m educating my kids when we’re playing video games.  But considering their formal education is another important part of my leadership as a dad, and yours too.  Where or however your child receives his education, you as the parent are ultimately responsible for the educational process.  So, inform your conscience. Take your responsibility seriously and think this through.

[1] Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos, quoted in Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: 4 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones, (Broadman & Holman, 2009), 3.  This entire paragraph is adapted from pages 3-5 of this book.