Last week, Scot McKnight reposted some of Tony Jones’s thoughts on homeschooling and being missional on his blog. Tony believes homeschooling denies the missional life. Here’s what he had to say:
But it seems to me that if I am truly committed to living a missional life, then I must enroll my kids in the public school. That is, I am committed to living a life fully invested in what I might call the “Jesus Ethic” or the “Kingdom of God Ethic,” and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that I live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society….
Similarly, formal education was formerly for the societal elite. But in a democracy, education is for all, with the understanding that the more educated we all become, the more humane we will be toward one another (this, of course, is open to debate).
So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.
So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contract. Instead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.
Let me start off by saying, whatever you choose to do for schooling for your kids is completely your decision. I personally don’t think a family should put their kids in a Christian school, a charter school, a public school or homeschool them. I think each parent needs to make that choice, and it may even be different for different kids in your family. I knew a family that had 3 kids, one was home schooled, one was in a public school and the other was in a private school as it was the best for each child.
Here’s why I’m posting about this and why I took offense to it. We homeschool our kids. We made that choice after having our oldest in school for a quarter and saw what it did to our schedule, especially since I work on the weekend. We lost too much of our family time because of my work schedule. We’ve made the decision to evaluate each year what is best for our kids and our family and right now this is what is best for us.
Tony is right on one hand because many families homeschool their children to protect them from the world. I don’t think this is a good idea. At some point they will encounter the world around them. But to say that it denies the missional life it to say that every Christian who has their child in a public school is living on mission. If that were the case, our schools would be drastically different.
Living on mission and homeschooling simply means you have to be more intentional about how you life on mission, how you bring the culture into the life of your kids. You have to think through it.
Here are some things we do:
- Our kids go to school 3 days a week for specials: gym, art and music. This helps them to meet other kids, be in a school, it allows us to meet the teachers and build a relationship with them.
- Be outside. People walk around neighborhoods, they work in their yards, on their cars. Play out front instead of in the back. People walk around our neighborhood around 6pm, so we try to play out front then.
- Invite your neighbors over, get to know them. Football started this week and that is an easy invite to a neighbor.
- Get involved in the school. You can volunteer at the school, be a part of fairs or carnivals the school puts on that are open to the public.
- Ask the principal how you could serve at the school and then follow through.