Tuesday, March 1, 2005
Should Children Be "Witnesses" in Public School?
How many times have I heard the arguments? "Homeschooling is a good idea for your family, but we want our children to be 'salt and light' in their school." "Somebody has to stand up for Jesus in the public schools." "My kids want to witness to their friends about Jesus."
First, let me say that I am a convert to homeschooling -- when I still had an extremist toddler in the house, I could not see any way that I could possibly homeschool. He grew up. He spent Kindergarten in the Time Out corner with the unspoken threat of Ritalin dangling over his head like the Sword of Damocles. Teaching two children sounded easier (for some reason) than the prospect of teaching one while entertaining the other. We became a homeschooling success story.
While the quoted arguments above might make good bumper stickers, they do not convince me. I do have compassion for the souls of children and adults alike, and I do not wish to see anyone spend eternity in hell. However, I also know that American public schools today are not Billy Graham Crusades -- if someone is to find personal salvation through Jesus Christ, it will probably not take place during third period history. It could happen, but it would probably be prohibited and both the witnesser and witnessee would end up in detention before they even got a chance to bow their heads for prayer.
Jesus began His own ministry at the age of 30. The men He chose as His closest companions were also adults. Jesus had great concern for children and was eager that they not be burdened beyond what their innocence could handle, but He never suggested that the children's time would be best spent in evangelistic outreach. I am very outspoken for considering my immediate contacts to be my field of ministry, but I also feel that a child's best witness is to grow into the most Christ-like adult he can be. "Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52) -- and then He set Himself to the work of ministry. (Yes, Jesus did discuss theology with the temple elders at age 12, but that was quite different from His later ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing the multitudes.)
Early in our homeschool journey, we had close friends, a married couple, who were both public school teachers. Their children ranged in age from early elementary to middle school. The middle child was very intrigued by the concept of homeschooling and asked the mother about the possibility of getting an education at home. Mom brushed off the inquiry. As another school year began and that child moved from upper elementary into the middle school environment, the subject came up again. The tender-hearted child was deeply affected by the caustic atmosphere of the new school and proclaimed, "Being at my school is like being in an R-rated movie all day long!" Since the parents preferred PG-rated movies and only rarely allowed the viewing of select PG-13 videos, the child felt that was a legitimate argument for home education. The parents did not agree. While I can only speculate as to the parents' motivations, the child's repeated, tearful pleadings to be allowed to homeschool were finally turned down flat with "Don't ever ask that question again!" This was not a whiny, immature, or troublesome student. This young person volunteered to sit quietly at home, responsibly doing the assigned lessons while the parents worked. Ample opportunities already existed for intermittent parental supervision throughout the day, interaction with other homeschoolers, and church/social engagements. This child was not looking to bail out on an education, just the undesirable situation of the public school. A parent's insistence that children should be witnesses for Jesus becomes a choked whisper in the R-rated melee of current public schools.
Another homeschool mom took her son to the local high school to enroll him in a foreign language class. They had chosen a specific teacher for his Christian values and felt confident that this would be a controlled exposure to the public school. As she told me the details of their first visit to the school, her face revealed the shock she had felt while walking through the hallways of the building. It seems she had not seen so many pregnant females in one place since her own last session of Lamaze class. She had never considered the fact that modern high schools must include a day care center -- not for the employees' children, but for the students' children. She had expected to see students carrying backpacks and books, not babies and diaper bags.
I have no doubt that God could or would work through Christian students in a school setting to reach other students. I have the same conviction regarding Christian adults as faculty members. However, the ones that I have personally known do not spend their time and energies sharing their faith in Christ with those around them. If they were removed from their schools, I am not sure anyone would even notice.
When my daughter was in high school and the subject of second-generation homeschooling came up, we were surprised at how many of her homeschooled friends were not intending to homeschool their own children. In praying about it herself, she came across Matthew 22:21, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Feeling that her future children were to belong to God rather than to the government, she felt this to be Biblical support for her as a future homeschooling parent.
When I first became a Christian, a popular poster read, "Bloom where you're planted." My confusion ensued as I heard other new believers discussing where they wanted to be planted. When Jesus spoke His final words to His disciples (Acts 1), He commanded them to remain in Jerusalem until they had received power from the Father. He did not send them out immediately or without training. He had diligently taught them day by day for the past three years. I do not believe we should be sending our children out without sufficient training or without the Father's blessing. If you feel you are being led by God to engage in ministry as a family to those around you, that is wonderful -- but allow your offspring the same consideration Jesus gave to His disciples: they were adults and had extensive training at His side before they assumed individual roles in evangelism.
Expecting young children to stand up as martyrs for Christ in the heathen surroundings of public school is unbiblical. In my experience, the parents who use this rationale are looking for every excuse they can find to avoid the responsibilities of homeschooling. Homeschooling does not have to be difficult, expensive, or isolating. Homeschooling is tremendously rewarding, and the opportunities for focusing on Biblical principles can give your children a foundation in faith that will pay amazing dividends in the years to come.
Posted by Carolyn M @ 11:12 AM |