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US homeschooling grows by a million

In 1973, there were as few as 13,000 children being homeschooled across the United States. From those small beginnings, the movement has grown over the last 50 years, until there were an estimated 2.6 million homeschoolers as of March of 2020. This stay-at-home educational option got even more popular after public schools closed due to COVID lockdowns. But that growing popularity wasn’t just due to public school closures. Otherwise, there would have been only a temporary boost in homeschooling, for only as long as the lockdowns lasted. But now, with public schools largely back in session, the number of homeschooling students has risen by a million, to 3.7 million (with some estimates putting it as high as 5 million).

Saw how their children were being catechized

This homeschooling surge may have been motivated by what parents saw when they were able to watch their children’s online Zoom classes. Parents could see for themselves how their children were being catechized about race, sexuality, environmentalism, equality, privilege, and, most recently, gender fluidity.

Public school attacks on God have, in the past, been somewhat subtle, in that they opposed God largely by ignoring Him. The public school curriculum taught by omission that the Lord of All wasn’t important at all to anything and everything students were learning.

The system’s ungodliness has been more overt in recent years, with maybe the most noticeable being how confused boys are now embraced as girls, allowed on girls’ sports teams, given access to female washrooms, and addressed with feminine pronouns. And vice versa for confused girls. While God made us male and female (Gen. 1:27), that’s not what little Timmy is being taught by his government-approved curriculum. And long-distance, in-home Zoom learning allowed parents to see this curriculum close up.

Parents taking charge

While COVID hasn’t had many silver linings, parents taking back their God-given educational role (Deut. 6:6-7, Prov. 1:8-9, 22:6, Eph 6:1-4) from the State is a big one. There are also at least 5.7 million children being educated in private schools. So, in round figures, that is almost 10 million students out of the public system, compared with approximately 50 million being educated in public schools.

There’s more progress to be made, as not all these homeschooled students are being educated to know and love the Lord – even atheists are jumping on the homeschooling bandwagon. But with minimal State support for homeschooling, it means that for these students at least, our tax dollars aren’t being used to catechize them against God’s Truth.

A ready alternative to the public system

Those of us who support Christian schooling of various sorts, haven’t always felt very invested in debates about the public system. We’re aware of the dangers, but we haven’t known what to do about them. Should we call for the shutdown of the public system? But if so, what alternative can we offer? Our own Christian schools are confessional, allowing in only families that hold to the same creeds and confessions we do. Thus they aren’t an option we can present to the general public.

So if we’re going to oppose a godless public system using our tax dollars to teach the children of our friends and neighbors that God is irrelevant, what can we offer as an alternative?

We could push for a voucher system, where the government’s educational dollars is directed by parents, rather than given to schools. Parents could then send their “voucher” to the school of their choice, and by that means, create more responsive, and, in some instances, more godly, schools. Of course, so long as the government controls the purse strings, they might also try to dictate the curriculum. Another problem is that this is a long-term goal – we aren’t going to get a voucher system overnight.

This highlights a strength of the homeschooling movement: it is an educational alternative that parents can turn to right now… as many more hundreds of thousands did just this last year.

Celebrating what we once opposed

Historically, our Reformed churches haven’t celebrated homeschooling. The perception has been that any church families that chose to homeschool were diverting their support away from the local Christian school, which was usually in need of every dime it could get. Thus homeschooling was seen as competition that undercut the financial security of our Christian schools.

But where two legitimate educational options exist – both fulfilling parents’ baptismal vows to raise our children in the doctrine of the Lord – how can we say which is undercutting the other? It would make as much sense to say that Christian schools undercut homeschool cooperatives, which might otherwise be larger and more effective but for the energy and money devoted to our Christian schools. Of course, no one is making that argument, because we all know there is no Scriptural command requiring us to homeschool. Thus no fault can be found with those who choose not to (even if their involvement in homeschooling might have been a great help to other parents doing so). The same is true the other way around: no fault should be leveled at those who choose not to use our Christian schools but instead fulfill their baptismal vows by homeschooling instead.

Instead of antipathy towards homeschooling, we should thank God for the possibility it presents to our neighbors that our own Christian schools cannot. By growing more than 40% in a single year, homeschooling has shown itself to be an at-the-ready, instantly-expandable alternative to the increasingly ungodly public system.


Up Next


Christian education, Parenting

Martin Luther on the vital, foundational, educational calling of parents

Martin Luther loved God’s Church so much he risked his freedom and life for it. He boldly took on princes, bishops, emperors, and popes, all in an effort to bring reformation to the Church he so loved. But did you know there was something he thought even more foundational to society than the Church? Luther recognized that society has three basic structures – the family, the Church, and the State – and of these three, he argued that it is the family that is the foundation for the other two. Why? Because of the great responsibility parents have to educate their children. It is in this role that the family unit will, for good or ill, greatly impact both the Church and State. In his “Letter to the Councils of German Cities” Luther expresses how educating children: “is the command of God. Its importance is seen in how He so frequently, through Moses, urges and enjoins parents to instruct their children such that it is said in Psalm 78:5-6, ‘how strictly he commanded our fathers that they should give knowledge to their children and instruct their children’s children.’” In his exposition on the fifth commandment, Luther stresses the need for children’s obedience towards their parents. Where that is absent, “…there can be neither good morals nor good government. For where obedience is lacking in the family, no city or principality or kingdom can be well governed. Family government is the basis of all other government; and where the root is bad, the trunk and fruit can not be good… where the father and mother rule badly, and let the children have their own way, there neither city, town, village, district, principality, kingdom, nor empire, can be well governed.” Luther on the basics But Luther doesn’t just tell parents that they had better do a good job because a lot is riding on their success. He also provides guidance for instruction. He prepared The Small Catechism in which he provided “the simple way a father should present to his household.” Luther believed everyone in the home needs to be instructed in the fundamentals of the faith, daily. In his short preface to his The Larger Catechism he lays out his expectation that fathers would examine their children (and servants) “at least once a week to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.” Parents have a high calling that aligns with their high position. The Lord commands all of us to love one another, but: “the parental estate God has especially honored above all estates that are beneath Him, so that He not only commands us to love our parents, but also to honor them… for to honor is far higher than to love, inasmuch as it comprehends not only love, but also modesty, humility, and deference as though to a majesty there hidden… that both in heart and with body we so act so to show that we esteem them very highly, and that, next to God, we regard them the very highest” Parents must be teachers This view of the relationship between parents and their children has many implications. First of all, when parents send their children to Christian day-schools (Luther wouldn’t imagine sending children to secular schools but would call them “nests of Satan”) or even to catechism classes in the church, they are sharing the responsibility for teaching their children with the school and Church. They are not permitted to abdicate it. Parents cannot hire out the task of teaching their children, but they can share it with others they know and trust to be godly in their teaching. Luther’s views would also have an impact on family worship and devotions as parents, especially fathers, intentionally teach their children, explaining to them the glorious deeds of the Lord. If we are convicted as Luther was, of parents’ important educational role, then perhaps recitation of the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s prayer every day would become a new norm. Opening the Heidelberg Catechism to teach our own children the fundamental doctrines of God’s Word could become a part of family devotions. Perhaps we could sit beside our children while they do their assignments from school, not only when they need help, but also to demonstrate interest in their work, and in showing a unity of purpose with the school to the children. The Lord has given children to parents and in so doing, has given parents the major responsibility and privilege of training up their children in the fear of the Lord for the benefit of family, Church, and State. May the Lord grant His blessing on all parents who seek to fulfill the high calling given to them by God. Chris deBoer is the Executive Director of the Reformed Perspective Foundation and the host of the Focal Point podcast....


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