We Must Open Our Eyes: What Has Happened to Education in America
By Jenny Phillips
William Wilberforce, a politician in 19th century England, courageously spoke out against the evils of the slave trade, trying to open people’s eyes to the truth. However, the people did not want to see the problems. Abolishing the slave trade would be a huge inconvenience to the people. The slave trade was considered “the norm” and deemed acceptable at the time. How could it be wrong if everyone was doing it? But Wilberforce never gave up. He spent decades trying to get people to open their eyes.
The closing words to one of his most remarkable and rousing speeches have left a deep and lasting impression in my mind. After explaining in terrific detail the horrors of the slave trade, Wilberforce finished with these words: “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”
Once I started to really understand the state of education in America and how it is impacting the character and minds of our children, I could no longer say that “I did not know.” I could no longer turn the other way or stay silent.
I want to share with you the things that I have learned and the ways that my eyes have been opened.
This is not a message saying that everyone needs to homeschool. But this is a message saying that parents need to truly see what is going on and become much more involved in their children’s educations.
It is startling to see how education has changed in America in the past two hundred years. To get an idea of how academic standards have changed, one only needs to look at tests given in elementary school or read speeches, essays, and poetry that children were reading, memorizing, and reciting in the 1800s. But I am not going to dive into the significant lowering of academic standards for this message. Instead, I will focus on changes that I believe are even more important.
First, let’s compare some differences between public schools in America in the 1800s and our schools of today.
Public School in America in the 1800s
- Praying to God for guidance and to express gratitude is a daily practice.
- The Bible is a foundational textbook. Bible passages are memorized and recited. The teachings of the Bible, as well as Bible verses, are found in the textbooks of all subjects: spelling, grammar, science, history, and so on.
- The Ten Commandments are displayed, taught, and referenced often.
- Religious content in student papers and speeches is common and encouraged.
- On average, 16 out of 25 pages of textbooks emphasize a moral lesson.1 Textbooks contain no negative moral lessons.
- Children sing hymns and Christmas songs.
- Children are taught all subjects through the lens of Christian principles and belief in God.
- All books of fiction available and required at school have extremely high literary merit, high moral merit, and teach moral principles.
Public School in America Now
- Praying to God is illegal and forbidden.
- The Ten Commandments, by law, must not be displayed or referenced.
- On average, 0.06 or less out of 25 pages in textbooks emphasize a moral lesson,1 and many textbooks contain negative moral lessons and anti-Christian beliefs.
- The singing of hymns, Christmas songs, or any songs that refer to Christ are forbidden and banned by law in many schools.
- Children are taught all subjects through the lens of atheism and humanism.
- Books that contain profanity and inappropriate behavior made to look acceptable are often read out loud to children and are required reading for both elementary, middle, and high schools.
- School libraries are flooded with books that have extremely low literary merit; are stripped of moral messages; are all about self-centered thrill and adventure; contain profanity and crude language; make disrespect towards family members and teachers appear funny and acceptable; and belittle and make fun of learning, high moral behavior, and strong families.
It is alarming that many devout Christians today accept the belief that religion and moral instruction do not have a place in education—that it is unnecessary, undesirable, or politically incorrect to combine these two important foundations. The extraordinary, inspired men who framed our Constitution and founded the greatest nation in history did not feel this way. Author and historian David Barton wrote, “The framers of our government did not believe that encouraging religion in schools was unconstitutional; rather, they believed just the opposite.”2
Early educational laws in America had a religious-centered emphasis. Early schools and universities had Christian beliefs as their foundation. In 1860, 262 out of 288 American college presidents were Christian ministers.4 Harvard, the oldest university in the United States, and from which ten of the first twelve U.S. presidents were graduates, had these two mottos: “For Christ and the Church” and “For the Glory of Christ.” Harvard also admonished the following:
Let every student . . . consider well [that] the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus, which is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all knowledge and learning.5
You cannot teach any subject without some form of religion at its foundation. It is simply not possible. The definition of religion is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” So, in our public schools today, religion is indeed at the foundation and is being taught—namely atheism and secular humanism, which sets of belief teach that God either doesn’t exist or that He is not important.
Why today do so many Christians seem indifferent that our children’s educations have a foundation of secular humanism rather than Christianity? Why do we so easily send our precious children out the door for 6-7 hours a day to a place where prayer is forbidden, where God and Christ are banned and ignored, where literature is often unwholesome and profane, and where atheism and humanism provide the religious foundation of education? These are good parents who are trying to do their best for their children. Why does it seem as if they don’t they care?
I believe there are four reasons:
- Most parents today, even faithful Christians, have been educated with secular humanistic philosophies themselves and do not realize what is going on. Secular humanism is the system of thought that laid the foundation of public schools from the 1960s and on. Because so many parents of school-aged children today have been educated through a humanistic approach, they hold humanistic views without even realizing it! It is a humanistic view to feel it is acceptable for children to be educated in a system where God and religion are banned and emphasis is placed on only secular knowledge. Parents who were educated with humanism tend to feel that God does not need a place in their children’s education—that God only belongs to family and church.
- Parents are complacent because it is easier to follow the system and because it is simply the norm. (Everyone else is doing it). The majority of parents in America are sending their kids to humanistic schools, so parents think it must surely be OK. It is now the norm for education to exclude God and to focus on secular knowledge, and people have become comfortable with the norm. It is easier to go with the flow, rationalize, and ignore the issues.
- Parents are satisfied as long as their children have good teachers or go to a school that is academically strong. Parents feel a good teacher or a school that has strong academics is the most important factor in their child’s education and that a good academic education and a good spiritual education can be achieved separately; this is usually because, again, they have been raised themselves with humanistic views on education. The truth is, even a good public school teacher or a strong academic public school is forced to take a secular approach to education and use a godless curriculum. George F. Richards wrote, “The result [of our educational system] is an exclusively secular education, an education godless in its character; and such an education is most imperfect . . .” (Conference Report, April 1910, p. 80-81)
- Parents see a problem but are willing to take the risk and just hope for the best. Some parents do have concerns that their children’s education does not line up with their values, but they hold out hope that their influence will be stronger and will out-rival the incorrect messages they are exposed to. Parents might feel powerless or that they don’t have the knowledge or understanding needed to take any action, so they may make the best of their situation by trying to stay positive about their concerns and “looking on the bright side” while still following suit.
David Barton wrote, “Many today are unaware of the massive and dramatic changes that have occurred in American education in recent decades and too many others are simply complacent about the changes . . . Imparting mere academic knowledge should never be a sufficient final objective for learning, nor should the secularization of education ever become acceptable.”6
The secularization of education (separation of learning from religious connection or influence) was not supported by the many wise and knowing men from the past who helped structure this country. These men, who stood up for truth and put their lives on the line for the values that have made this country a success, did not consider secular education acceptable.
Thomas Paine: “How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short and do not think of God? It is from the error of schools . . . that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation of the Creator Himself, they stop short and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of his existence.” (The Study of God)
Benjamin Rush: “The Bible . . . should be read in our schools in preference to all other books.” (A Defense of the Bible as a School Book)
Gouverneur Morris (“Penman of the Constitution”): “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore, education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.” (Notes on the Form of a Constitution for France, September 14, 1791)
Four Precious Principles Lost
Once my eyes were opened to the true state of education in America, I began a deep study of the changes it has undergone over time in this country. I have identified four precious principles that are vital to education but are now missing in public schools. I believe the following principles should not be ignored, forgotten, or lost.
Principle #1: Parents
One of the greatest problems in American public education, after the removal of God, is the removal of parents. This has happened through government overreach and federally dictated control of standards, testing, and funding, but also by parents becoming complacent, passive, and less involved. For example, most parents have no idea who created Common Core, what changes it has imposed, or the framework it lays for the future. In fact, a Gallup poll in 2014 showed that 37% of parents did not even know what Common Core was—even though it had completely changed education in America and had already been implemented for a full year. William J. Bennett, who served as Secretary of Education and wrote the book The Book of Virtues, explained it well: “Too many mothers and fathers have the attitude that school is like a car wash where you drop your child off at one end and pick him up at the other.” (The Educated Child, pp. 15-16)
It used to be, in the generations that produced some of the most noble men in our country’s history, that parents of several families got together and built a one-room schoolhouse with all grades in one classroom, often with 20 students or less. Parents oversaw the selection of teachers, school values, subjects, and textbooks. Parents got together and hired a teacher who held their same values, and the teacher was accountable to the parents.
Today, the average elementary school in Utah has 523 children and the average middle school has 780 children (compared to the average of 20 in the 1800s). The federal government dictates what children will learn and when—parents have little to no voice. Like a factory, all children of the same age are being taught the same way, even though each child is vastly different with varying needs, abilities, and interests. Parents have little leverage to select teachers, and usually, students rotate through many different teachers for “specialized” instruction, making it difficult to know the values and character of all the teachers. Parents have no input on the textbooks used, the subjects taught, or the values promoted.
William J. Bennett wrote, “Parents often get a subtle, alluring, but deeply damaging message from today’s culture: your role is not quite so important after all. You can delegate. You can outsource. Children will suffer no harm—in fact, they may reap some benefits [today’s culture says]—when they get more of their care and guidance from others. . . . It is a seductive siren song. It gives the green light for surrendering part of a sacred duty. You must resist these temptations. For good or ill, you are always your child’s most influential teacher.” (The Educated Child, p. 7)
Principle #2: The Good and the Beautiful
Statistics from 2013 show that 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate. (readfaster.com, “Reading Stats,” 4.28.2013) If this is the result of our educational system, I feel it is hugely failing at fostering a love of learning in our youth.
Public schools are being forced to focus massive amounts of time and energy on standardized tests and scores and a one-size-fits-all mandated education. An article from National Education Association Today explains, “Over the past decade, the high stakes testing regime has squeezed out much of the curriculum that can make schools an engaging and enriching experience for students.” (neatoday.org, November 2, 2014)
Teacher Diane Ravitch wrote: “Our children are now experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety, confusion, lowered self-esteem and a lack of interest in school . . . We are raising a generation of students for whom education has become punishment.” (dianeravitch.net)
I believe that large classroom sizes, federally dictated one-size methods and standards, and the massive focus on testing kills academic creativity. Forced uniformity has sucked the life out of learning, and it is hard for teachers to create their own engaging lessons, personalized to meet individual needs.
But I believe another deep and even more significant problem is that the good and the beautiful has been stripped from learning. Good and beautiful literature is replaced with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The Bible and powerful, masterfully created classic poetry is replaced with superficial, smart-mouthed characters such as Junie B. Jones. The power, goodness, and beauty of God and religion are banned while the shallowness and self-centeredness of humanism and secularism become the emphasis. How can we expect to foster a love of the good and the beautiful in that kind of environment?
Robert S. Wood said, “ . . . the excitement of true learning is not simply gathering diverse bits of information but learning to understand how they fit into a pattern and how that pattern reveals the hand of God.” (Complete Christian)
In early America, the McGuffey Readers were the most widely used textbooks. These readers featured the Ten Commandments, Bible verses, powerful poetry that referenced God and religion, and stories that encouraged faith, high moral character, hard work, and love of nature. These textbooks are in stark contrast to textbooks today.
The drastic drop of moral teachings in textbooks is reflected in a special study of public school fourth grade readers between 1810 and 1950. Out of 25 pages, each of the following emphasized a moral lesson:
1810 — 16.01 pages
1830 — 16.75 pages
1850 — 12.42 pages
1870 — 6.00 pages
1890 — 4.19 pages
1910 — 4.50 pages
1930 — 1.00 pages
1950 — 0.06 pages
(George C.S. Benson and Thomas S. Engeman, Amoral America, p. 23)
I did my own study of 4th grade public school readers in 2014. Not only were the vast majority of the textbooks I studied almost always stripped of high moral lessons, but they also contained a multitude of negative portrayals of character made to look funny or acceptable. Many of the textbooks also included anti-Christian beliefs. Many of the textbooks, instead of pointing out the courage, deep faith, integrity, and goodness of great men in history, made them out as lazy, greedy, and atheistic.
Our schools used to be based around literature of high moral and literary merit. However, today literature with high moral and literary merit is non-existent in many classrooms. To illustrate, one of the most widely read teacher read-alouds for young, impressionable students is Junie B. Jones, in which the main character is a smart-mouthed, obnoxious, and disrespectful child. Also, the book contains incredibly simple writing and purposefully poor grammar. It has no literary value and contains no goodness or beauty.
Public school libraries are full of books that are packed with disrespectful behavior and examples of weak character. Why our schools are buying books that are demeaning and making fun of teachers, moral principles, and learning is baffling! But they are.
Parents should be aware that one of Satan’s tactics in his war against the family is demoralizing literature for youth. There is a growing trend in literature to present parents as absent and uninvolved, to display families as dysfunctional and unhappy, and to create child characters who act disrespectfully to parents.
According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks roughly 80% of print sales, the highest selling book in 2013 in the United States was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, selling an astonishing 1.8 million copies. The very first paragraph of the book begins by making fun of family: “I love my family and all, but I’m just not sure we were meant to live together. Maybe it’ll be better later on when we’re all in different houses and only see each other on holidays.”
Dork Diaries, a popular book series for middle school children that has sold over 10 million copies, starts with these sentences: “Sometimes I wonder if my mom is brain dead. Then there are days when I know she is.”
Our public schools, unfortunately, are chock-full of disrespectful books. Many of these books are checked out by students and read at school; parents are probably not aware of everything a child is reading at school and don’t have the chance to monitor it. And unfortunately, many teachers are reading these books aloud to the children.
When one of my daughters was in first grade, the teacher was a woman who shared my faith and whom I perceived (from my brief interactions with her) to have high moral standards. She read Junie B. Jones to her class every day, and I had no idea. Near the end of the year, another one my children said something about that book series, to which my first grader piped up: “Yes, my teacher reads that to us every day. It made me feel uncomfortable, so I finally told my teacher that it made me feel bad inside. So she made me go sit in the corner every day for the rest of the year when she read to the class. I could still hear the book, and all the kids made fun of me.”
I was saddened to know that, during one my child’s most formative years, she was being read stories every day of a bratty, rude girl whose behavior was made to look funny and acceptable. It made me sad to realize that instead of that, I could have filled her mind with powerful, beautiful, inspiring literature.
Who was ultimately responsible for my daughter being read inappropriate literature all year and not being exposed to the good and the beautiful? Me!
Not only has morality in literature changed, but literature has largely changed in its complexity and style. Most books written today are stripped of the beautiful, complex language of the classics and are written in easy, simple sentences with constant thrill and self-centered themes driving the book. Thus, most of the intellectual value gained in reading books is lost.
I believe it is the spiritual and moral—the good and the beautiful—that fosters a true love of learning. As parents, we are responsible to make sure our children’s educations include the moral, the good, and the beautiful.
Principle #3: Character
We should never be indifferent or unknowledgeable about the kind of character training our child is receiving at school through examples in their reading materials, through the influence of teachers, through the absence of God and faith, or through the behavior of other students. Is it positive or negative? Is it a safe, pure environment for our “tender sprouts”? Is my child gaining a more Christ-like, noble character through his or her education? These should be our top questions. Too many good Christian parents are more concerned about their children testing well, being in school sports, going to football games, and participating in school activities over their child receiving an education that will mold high character.
Principle #4: God
Whether we recognize it or not, our children are being taught an underlying religious belief and philosophy in public school: secular humanism, which is defined as “belief that humanity is capable of self-fulfillment without belief in God.” Secular Humanism is an attempt to function as a civilized society with the exclusion of God and His moral principles.
It is men like John Dewey (who is called “The Father of Modern Education”) and other humanists and atheists who fought hard to establish the idea that religion did not help but hindered schools. John Dewey’s goal was to take God and religion out of academics. Unfortunately, he and other humanists have done an effective job. Many people now earnestly believe that religion doesn’t have a place in academics. But the problem is, education HAS TO be based on some religious foundation. In place of Christianity, which our forefathers believed should be the backbone of our schools, our students in public schools are being taught the religions of atheism, humanism, secularism, and moral relativism.
Rousas Rushdoony explains how it is not possible to teach children without SOME religious foundation: “They [humanists] teach and propagate a philosophy of life which does more than omit Christianity: it is radically at war with biblical religion. Until we recognize that schools are establishments of religion, and that all education is inescapably a religious activity, we cannot come to grips with our cultural crisis.” (The Philosophy of The Christian Curriculum, p. 176)
Humanist Charles F. Potter freely expresses how education is a great way to spread the religion of humanism: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?” (Charles F. Potter, Humanism: A New Religion, 1930)
The religious foundation of any school our children attend should matter to us. How would you feel about sending your kids to a school where the religion being taught, whether directly or subtly, was denial of absolute truths, materialism, reliance on man, rejection of traditional moral codes, and an emphasis on only intellectual and worldly attainments? That is exactly what human secularism is. And that is the religion being promoted in public school.
Personally, the secular humanistic approach to education, with God, character, parental decision-making abilities, and the good and beautiful being stripped away, is not how I want to raise my children.) Not only do I believe that a secular humanistic approach to education is dangerous, but this educational approach is empty and lacks depth. In this kind of environment, children do not feel the worth or the joy of learning because we have stripped the spiritual and moral aspects of knowledge away from learning. Godless curriculum is shallow, indifferent, and catered to growing the natural man and not the spiritual. As the spiritual and moral aspects of learning are neglected, our children become more drawn to the shallow, the frivolous, the easy, the thrilling, and the egocentric.
Part II: Prayerfully Ponder
How each parent decides to educate their child is a decision that is up to them and the Lord. No one should ever be judged for the way they choose to have their child educated. However, there is a great need for parents to open their eyes. We need to do our homework and understand what is happening in our schools. C.S. Lewis wisely stated, “If the parents in each generation always or often knew what really goes on at their son’s schools, the history of education would be very different.” (Surprised by Joy)
We need to be much more concerned about and proactive with the education of our children. If you are not sending your children to private Christian schools or homeschooling, do you read and review all your children’s textbooks and lesson plans so you can correct and re-teach all incorrect principles and information? Do you bring the good and beautiful, the moral, and God into your child’s education by supplementing what is missing? Do you take time to pre-read all teacher read-alouds so you can approve or disapprove of the literature with which your child’s impressionable mind will be filled? Do you monitor and approve of what your child is reading during their personal reading time at school? Are you finding a way to help your child gain a true love of learning and a taste for what is wholesome and right?
When William Wilberforce commenced his efforts to abolish the slave trade, people were angry with him. They made fun of him, belittled him, and even threatened him. Wilberforce’s ideas were not popular, even though they were correct. Abolishing the slave trade would have a negative impact on the economy and the individual lives of the British. It would require great sacrifice. When Wilberforce’s efforts practically forced people to see the misery and horrors of the slave trade, the people were enraged. They did not want to have their eyes opened. It was so much easier to ignore it, and go on with life as normal.
When it comes to education, it is much easier to keep your eyes closed and hope your child comes out “OK.” It is so much easier to just send your kids out the door and go with the flow. But I urge all parents to ask themselves these questions and then to prayerfully ponder what the best answer is for their child.
- Are my children receiving a godless, secular humanistic education? Would their spirits and characters be impacted positively, or would their learning be deepened and more meaningful and impactful if their education did not ban God?
- Is my child’s school a place where he or she can learn by the Spirit in a positive atmosphere?
- Are my children being taught truth, or do I have the ability to know and thoroughly correct what is learned?
- Are my children doing “just fine” in school? If so, what changes could be made so their minds and characters are being molded to the highest potential?
- Are my children gaining noble characters through their education?
- Do I feel deeply involved and connected to my child’s education?
- Do I feel I have a voice in how and what my child is learning?
- Are my children developing a love of learning?
- Are my children connected to me and their family? Is their education helping to deepen strong family relationships?
- Are my children being exposed to literature that is disrespectful or inappropriate? Are they developing a love for literature with high moral merit?
- Is the social atmosphere at my child’s school helping them grow into a person with a respectful attitude, high integrity, and high feelings of self-worth?
When I asked myself those questions, I could not turn the other way. Even though it required much effort and sacrifice, and despite some family and friends who would not and still do not agree or understand, I had to choose a different approach to education for the sake of my children and family.
- George C.S. Benson and Thomas S. Engeman, Amoral America, p. 23
- David Barton, Four Centuries of American Education, p. 20
- “Northwest Ordinance, Article III”
- David Barton, Four Centuries of American Education, p. 23
- Benjamin Pierce, A History of Harvard University, p. 5
- David Barton, Four Centuries of American Education, 51
Part III: What to Do About It
I would like to give insights and ideas into three options of how to incorporate the “Four Precious Principles” into your children’s education.
Option #1: Faith-Based Private School
While not all faith-based private schools are the right fit for each child, this option may be an appropriate alternative to public school for some families. Though attending a faith-based private school is not always possible because of distance and finances, for some families, affording private school is achievable with a certain measure of sacrifice. Some parents believe they cannot afford the monthly tuition of a private school yet opt for large, luxurious homes, own newer-model vehicles, participate in expensive hobbies, plan pricey vacations, or spend regularly for the newest fashions and beauty treatments. With some adjustment in our priorities—sometimes as great as living a more modest lifestyle or sacrificing some material things—we may be able to make the financial changes necessary to afford a faith-based private school education for our children. I have seen valiant mothers and fathers sacrifice much to send their kids to a faith-based private school; it may take serious self-evaluation and dedication, but for some it can be an option if it is a top priority. That be said, paying for private school is still simply not an option for many people who are already living modestly, especially when they have multiple children.
Option #2: Monitor & Supplement Public School
If your child must stay in public school or you feel that it is the best option, there are some things you can do to improve their education. Keep in mind that these things apply also to charter schools, which also have a foundation of humanistic secularism and usually deal with many, if not most of the same concerns found in public schools. Do not worry if the school or teachers think you are a “difficult” parent. Most teachers and schools should welcome more parental concern and involvement. You are doing the right thing, but you are likely going to have to go out of your comfort zone. Remember that the wrong forces are fighting relentlessly for your child’s heart and mind. You need to be fighting just as hard.
- Do your homework. Spend time understanding the curriculums and any false principles being taught so that you can teach your child the truth BEFORE they are taught untruths in matters involving evolution, the defamation of noble historic figures (such as Christopher Columbus and the Founding Fathers), subtle or blatant socialistic principles, sex education, same sex marriage, moral relativity, abortion, the absence of God in learning, revisionist history, a sense of entitlement, an over emphasis on social life, and so on.
- Work to have your child placed with a teacher who possesses the best possible moral character. Moral character is more important than the academic skills of the teacher. Although requests for specific teachers are not usually accepted, you can seek the teacher you want by requesting the teacher qualities and learning environment you desire for your child. It is possible the administrators will honor your request. All of this will take time, research, and effort, but any teacher of our young, impressionable children, any molder of our child’s mind and character, should hold the same values we hold. We should know what their values are and feel comfortable with them, or we should not give them free reign over our children to mold their characters and minds.
- Review your child’s textbooks and curriculum. Parents have a sacred obligation to know what is being put into their children’s minds.
- Volunteer or sit in on your child’s classes often and observe. Discuss with your child any behaviors you notice that are incorrect. Teach them correct behaviors, and read and discuss with them books that portray noble moral character.
- Find out and preview all read-aloud books, movies, etc. that will be used in the classroom, and suggest better options or opt your child out of those assignments.
- Monitor and approve of all the literature your child will read during their personal reading time. Public school libraries are chock-full of books that teach inappropriate behavior, many of them with cute, innocent covers. Consider giving your child a list of books they can check out or supplying them with the books they will read. Ask your child’s teacher which books her or she will be reading aloud and preview the books.
- Find a way to bring the good and the beautiful into your child’s education and to connect their learning with God. Some parents take their children out of school early in order to have time to supplement. Much of my The Good & the Beautiful curriculum is free and can help expose your child to powerful, moral literature and learning. If the principles of liberty and the divine hand of God in the formation of America are missing, there are many wonderful curriculums you can use to teach these things to your children. Some parents pay their children to read books on my Good & Beautiful Book List instead of giving them allowance. Some parents create Good & Beautiful reading programs with rewards for their kids, such as a date with Mom.
- Make learning at home fun and meaningful. Pull out powerful books and curriculums and projects that foster true love of learning and exploration.
With dedication, consistent effort, and serious commitment, you can do much to monitor and supplement your child’s public education. Many believe that no matter what you do, public education is not a good option, but I believe each parent is equipped to make the decisions that are best for their family as they council with one another and the Lord.
Option #3: Home School
Homeschool is how I personally have chosen to approach education after my eyes were opened, and its fruits are incredibly joyful and beautiful! Educationnews.org states, “Since 1999, the number of children who are being homeschooled has increased by 75%–the number of primary school kids whose parents choose to forgo traditional education is growing seven times faster than the number of kids enrolling in K-12 every year.”
I’m Worried My Child Will Turn Out Socially Awkward
Almost without fail, people’s first question or worry about homeschool is social skills. When people ask me, “Aren’t you worried about your children’s social skills?” I reply, “Yes! That is one of the biggest reasons I am homeschooling.” The POSITIVE socialization developed through homeschooling is one of the best reasons to homeschool.
We should not judge how homeschooling affects children socially by the few socially unadjusted homeschooled kids who have socially unadjusted parents. I believe those same kids would still be socially unadjusted if they went to public school. In fact, there are many more socially awkward, socially confused, and socially inappropriate kids at public school. Socially adjusted parents who homeschool and involve their children in activities outside the home such as church activities, orchestras and choirs, sports, and co-ops or classes of their choosing will have no problem raising kids that are socially adjusted. We must remember that some of the most renowned, truly noble, and socially adjusted individuals in history, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, had very little formal schooling as children; the majority of their time as youth was spent working together with their family and being educated at home.
Children do not need to be packed in a room with 30 other children, many of them disruptive and disrespectful, for 6-7 hours a day to develop “social skills.” In fact, that kind of situation is not ideal for developing socially. Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development, wrote, “The idea that children need to be around many other youngsters in order to be socialized is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” (Better Late Than Early)
American educator John Holt explains, “I think the socializing aspects of school are ten times as likely to be harmful as helpful. The human virtues – kindness, patience, generosity, etc. are learned by children in intimate relationships, maybe groups of two or three. By and large, human beings tend to behave worse in large groups, like you find in school. There they learn something quite different – popularity, conformity, bullying, teasing—things like that. They can make friends after school hours, during vacations, at the library, in church.” (“A Conversation with John Holt”)
I Don’t Feel Qualified to Home School
Home school students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income. (nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html) Parents do not need special training or degrees to teach their children (unless required by the state)—they just need consistency and good curriculums. While I do not love fill-in-the-blank one-size-fits-all learning, I strongly discourage an approach where learning is just put into the hands of the child, letting them choose what and how they learn. While children do need space for creativity and self-guidance, children have parents and teachers for a reason. They need guidance, structure, and consistency. They need well-thought-out curriculum and intentional study and teaching. They also need to learn how to work hard, do things that are challenging, and do things they don’t want to do. You can accomplish these things while still creating a love of learning.
My Child Is Not Well-Behaved/I Couldn’t Have My Children Home All Day
Some mothers shy away from homeschool because they don’t feel they could be with their children all day—especially children who are not well-behaved or whom they struggle to get along with. Or parents worry their children will not respect them, listen to them, or obey them. These are great reasons to homeschool!
Homeschooling will allow you and your child to face your challenges and discover how to work through them. Most likely in the process, you will develop deep traits of charity such as patience and long-suffering, your child’s behavior will improve, and your relationship with your child will strengthen. If you are sending your kids out the door to public school each day with a sigh of relief because “they drive you crazy” or you just need time for yourself, homeschooling is likely to make you feel much happier and fulfilled. It is an interesting paradox. I have found joys that I never experienced with my kids in school—I thoroughly enjoy being with my children, I learn with them, I explore with them, we have grown closer, and they are closer to their siblings. I thrill to see them now love learning. I thrill to know that they are learning by the Spirit and are developing noble characters. Many other parents share these same experiences and feelings.
You can do it! It will require sacrifice; it will try your patience; it will drive you to prayer; it will cause you to deepen your character. It will be worth it. If you find it difficult to be with your children all day, you can also join or organize a co-op, homeschool together with a friend, or hire a teacher/tutor for part of the day.
For parents who struggle with addictions, behaviors, or mental health issues that would prevent them from homeschooling with a loving and safe environment, options #1 or #2 would be better.
I’m a Single Parent/I Have to Work
There are cases where homeschooling is not possible. But even in difficult circumstances, do not automatically give up; it is sometimes still possible to make it work. Some single parents may be able to adjust their work shift in order to homeschool. For example, if a parent works from 4am to noon, the children can work on their assigned tasks in the morning, and then the parent can homeschool with them in the afternoon. Another option may be to join a co-op that meets once a week. Others single parents have moved closer to family or friends who homeschool in order to receive help or to homeschool with them. Be aware that it is common for your child to need less and less of your help and time as they enter into middle and high school grades.
Don’t Children Need to Face the Real World?/Don’t We Need Our Children to Be Examples and a Light to Others?
I once heard a mother say, “But don’t our kids need to learn how to stand up against evil? If you grow a plant in a greenhouse, it will just blow over with the first wind when you take it out.” Another mother told me that taking our kids out of a bad school environment was wrong because our children need to be a light to others.
The answer to these questions is actually very simple. We have an obligation to provide as wholesome an environment as possible to mold the minds and spirits of our children. They are children, and their minds are extremely impressionable. Our children deserve the right to grow up in a clean and wholesome environment with the best education possible. It is our obligation as parents to try to provide our child with the education that will best mold his or her mind and character.
If you are going to grow a plant in a greenhouse, you would try to create the best possible soil and environment for that seedling—you would not plant it in toxic soil or expose it to cold. As it is growing, you would not just take that plant out one day in an unprotected environment and transplant it. You must help it prepare by setting it out for short times and gradually allowing it to adapt.
Children need to be molded and shaped in purity and goodness as much as possible, especially during their early years. Starting children with a strong and correct foundation is much easier than trying to change that foundation. Also, it is important to help children gain a solid foundation in academics during their younger years. The younger years are when they need the most individual attention with learning and where they thrive on attention and training from parents, surrounded by examples of goodness, faith, purity, and respect.
I don’t believe any parent can judge another parent for when and how they choose to give their child more exposure to the world. However, I do believe every parent should follow the same PRINCIPLES which are:
- We have an obligation to provide the best possible environments for our children to grow and progress.
- Younger children are more impressionable than older children and should be protected from negative influences as much as possible.
- We should not allow children too much freedom and exposure before they are ready.
- Children of every age, level, and spiritual maturity are influenced by their environment, so parents should carefully judge the influence of any environment for each child.
- Children are great imitators and learn best by example. Thus, it is more effective to instill moral character in a child by surrounding them with examples of goodness rather than surrounding them with negative examples. A child is not strengthened morally by being around consistent examples of poor behavior.
Yes, our children need opportunities to stand up for truth and righteousness and to be examples to the world, but not at the risk of weakening their own characters. There is so much evil in this world; I do not believe we need to purposefully put our children in toxic environments. They will still get many, many opportunities to stand up against evil if you are homeschooling. The difference between isolating your child from the world and protecting them from the influences of the world is something you will be able to correctly discern as you seek the aid of the Holy Spirit for each individual child.
No matter what course of action we take, we must go forth with faith and courage for the sake of our children and families. As you seek spiritual guidance and move forward, you may at times feel as though you are stumbling in the dark. We must seek the Lord’s help and trust in our endeavor to improve the education our children receive. We must be patient as He lights our way, sometimes only step-by-step. We need to remember the importance of our efforts. The world is so rife with disrespect, religious indifference, dishonesty, selfishness, ingratitude, negativity, pride, and low character that it takes some pretty serious work—and sometimes different measures—to raise respectful, selfless, grateful, honest, humble, positive, and moral children today. But it is eternally worth our every effort.