Public, Private, or Home Education...What Are My Options?
- Deborah Wuehler Senior Editor of The Old Schoolhouse
- 2013 15 Mar
If you (or a friend) are considering your educational options for the next school year, I think I might be able to offer some insight, perspective, and just possibly a bit of guidance. One thing that helps me make decisions is to look at comparisons. I’d like you to join me in looking at the options offered by a public or private education and home education. I have broken these comparisons into the following categories: responsibility, academics, supplementary curriculum, values, safety, and environment.
Who is responsible for the instruction of our children? Is it the U.S. government, the state you live in, the church, or you, the parent? Your answer to this question of responsibility will be a huge deciding factor in what educational option you choose. Here are the options as they relate to responsibility:
The U.S. Department of Education website states in their Q&A section: “Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the U.S.”1 Thus, the Federal Government is passing the bulk of the responsibility for the education of your children on to your local state government, although they do like to keep an overarching hand on the meeting of standards and the implementation of related agendas, as can easily be seen on their website (www.ed.gov). When a child is enrolled in a public school, that child is placed under the jurisdiction of the state government and all legal stipulations related to the state’s administration of its public school system. The state governments take their responsibility seriously, enforcing their standards and codes as they deem appropriate.
Parents who choose to assign the responsibility of the child’s education to a private school give its various administrators and teachers governance over most aspects of the child’s education and in many cases, the child’s moral instruction. In addition, the private school must meet the State government regulations in the following areas: Accreditation/Registration/Licensing/Approval, Teacher Certification, Length of School Year/Days, Curriculum, Recordkeeping/Reports, Health and Safety Requirements, Transportation, Textbooks, Testing, Special Education, Nursing and Health, Technology, Professional Development, Reimbursement for Performing State/Local Functions, Tax Exemption, Public Aid for Private Education, Homeschooling, and Information Resources.2 These regulations should not be confused with each state’s separate laws that regulate private homeschools.
Homeschooling parents believe the Biblical mandate that the responsibility for the instruction of a child falls squarely on their parental shoulders. Homeschooling parents take full responsibility for the instruction of their children in all areas of life, including, but not limited to, academics. Their belief is that God has given parents His children to instruct in His ways, and home education is the best stewardship of that responsibility. The majority of Christian homeschool parents believe that home education is not a choice among other options but rather is a command from God as directed throughout a myriad of Old and New Testament passages and application of numerous Scriptural principles. Christian homeschool parents believe that God has given us everything we need for life and Godliness (see 2 Peter 1:3 , which would include the instruction of our children. Biblos.com provides at least 150 results for the word instruction in the Bible, many of them referring to children or “sons.” In addition to those references, following is a sampling of other Scriptures related to the instruction of children:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7). (Deuteronomy 28 talks about the blessings of those who obey God’s commands.)
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).
Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen...” (Jeremiah 10:1-2).
The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40). The Luke 6:40 of the Bible’s translation of this verse helps clarify its meaning: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20).
If you are looking for good Biblical reasons for why you should consider home education for your children, here is a free online class called “Why Homeschool?” (scroll down to the second class session offered by Deborah Wuehler).
Academics play the next big role in decision-making. Parents usually want to know which school has the best teachers, which has the best curriculum, and what school ranks the highest in academic progress. Let’s look at the options:
The overall academic report card for public schools in the United States could easily read as follows: “Needs improvement.” As of 2009, in rankings among all other countries, sixteen countries are ranked higher than the U.S. in the areas of reading, math and science. Failing grades of U.S. public school students has been the bane and blight of the country for decades. There seems to be no way to resolve this issue at the government or state level, though many remedies have been tried over the years.
The academic scores of private schools (not to be confused with private homeschools) weigh in above the public norm. Although this option appears to be more benign, the overall results comparing private to public schooling might not be. The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) pamphlet titled “Private Schools: Who Benefits?” states:
Students who attend private schools tend to perform significantly better in the PISA assessments than students who attend public schools; but students in public schools in a similar socio-economic context as private schools tend to do equally well...When parents choose a private school over a public school for their child, they are selecting the greater probability that their child will attend classes with peers of similar or higher socio-economic status, that the resources devoted to those classes, in the form of teachers and materials, will be of higher quality, and that those classes will be orderly and even inspiring. PISA shows, however, that public schools with comparable student populations offer the same advantages, even if the average public school, with a more diverse student body, generally does not.3
According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), homeschoolers excel at least 15–30 percentile points above their average public school peers on achievement tests across the academic board. (You may download Dr. Brian Ray’s article titled “Research Facts on Homeschooling” at this website.
The results show that the academic performance of homeschooled children does not depend on how much money is spent on educational resources per child, nor on how much formal schooling the parent has, nor on what kind of curriculum or teaching style is used. Regardless of which specific variables have been compared in a wide variety of studies about this subject, all results indicate that the vast majority of homeschooled children excel academically.
Parents want to know what their children are being taught. This includes supplementary ideas, philosophies, materials, and school goals or agendas. The “extracurricular” ideas, values, and supported plans may or may not relate to academic subjects but rather to personal or governmental ethics, whether good or bad. Here is some helpful information about your options as they relate to this subject:
Whereas each state government school is distinct in its philosophies, the Federal Department of Education oversees the actions of states. Although the Department of Education’s website makes this statement: “In creating the Department of Education, Congress made clear its intention that the secretary of education and other Department officials be prohibited from exercising ‘any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system,’ ” the current administration’s Secretary of Education in fact seems to provide direction in several extracurricular agendas at www.ed.gov, such as LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual) education, and the website supported views on bullying and environmentalism, among others. However, because they are promoted from the governmental or national level (www.nea.org), they eventually show up in our local public schools as part of the “academic” enrichment to create a socially well-rounded child, whether or not the parent agrees to such teaching. Here are some examples to help you decide:
- Homosexuality (LGBT) Issues The National Education Association’s website, which offers lessons plans about homosexuality, leads you to these partners in education: http://www.glsen.org/readysetrespect.html.
- Bullying Also www.stopbullying.gov consolidates all Federal resources.
- Sex Education
Although many state schools provide safe sex instruction to young children, the results are dreadful: In 2004, the estimated number of pregnancies in girls aged 10 to14 was 16,000. In ages 15 to 17, the number jumped to 252,000. The stats included the high number of sexually transmitted diseases for these young ages. And, of course, Planned Parenthood has major influence in public schools’ sex education curricula and proposes that abstinence-only education does not work.
The No Child Left Behind mandate is quickly becoming the No Child Left at Home objective. One of the goals for the future in education includes programs to intercede on behalf of all children—starting at birth. This goes well beyond the educational realm and into the personal integrity of a child’s family. Here is the stated goal from the Department of Education: “Develop an infrastructure for a birth-to-grade-three system that includes readiness data, and aligned standards/assessment, curriculum, and professional development” (accessed July 11, 2012).
Each private school is distinct in its choice of supplemental programs and curricula. Often a school specializes in a particular area, for example, military schools, schools for gifted children, boarding schools, progressive schools, international schools, art schools, special needs schools, Catholic schools, Waldorf or Montessori schools, and Christian private schools. Therefore, a school’s supplemental curriculum would naturally support its philosophy of education, whether secular or not.
Supplementary curriculum comes in a multitude of forms for the homeschool family. We teach children to make it their aim to please God through excellence in character and service to their families, their churches, and their communities. Extra research, field trips, museums, job shadowing, community classes, and volunteer opportunities all enhance the child’s education and provide wholesome supplementary resources for learning. Homeschool parents are not required to teach diversity, tolerance, safe sex, environmentalism, or evolutionary theories to their children. Homeschooling offers a Biblically based education that avoids the normalization of negative social and anti-spiritual theories fed to traditionally schooled children in which their inborn sensitivities are immunized or disregarded.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).
Values promoted in the public schools include humanism, based on atheism—the doctrine that man is supreme in all things, thereby necessitating a complete and total rejection of God. Textbooks have been revised to promote the public school’s endorsement of a non-religious history, making it palatable to the masses. Revisionist history and Godless evolution are taught as fact.
Public schools also value hedonism—a “pleasing of the self” as the highest principle in life. Self-pleasure and self-exaltation are upheld in classrooms and curricula, as exposed in these examples of statements that support those principles: “You can reach for the stars. You can do whatever you want to do. Do what makes you happy.”
Public-schooled children who were raised in the church frequently exchange their value systems as they age. Peer pressure and indoctrination of social agendas from a young age are causing children to leave their faith (88% of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church by the age of 18, never to return)4 and their families. Their values shift away from God and family to a more self-directed secular focus.
Teachers and students do not always hold to the same faith or value systems. Children can be harassed or embarrassed when they don’t agree with a teacher. Many children adopt the value system of their private school instructors because they believe them either to be right or more educated than their parents. And, many children value their teachers’ input over their own parents’. The children’s hearts can be tied strongly to their teachers and their schools rather than to their family.
Some private schools support secular values and hire teachers who will promote those values. A Quaker prep school in Pennsylvania, Friends’ Central School, boasts its employment of a gay sex education teacher who admits, “I don’t necessarily see the decision to become sexually active when you’re 17 as an unhealthy one.” It is probably teaching like this that leads to the depressing statistics about private school graduates who obtained abortions; those statistics are documented here.
Although many private schools claim to support a Judeo-Christian worldview, a good amount of them continue to remove mention of the Bible from their science textbooks and endorse the teaching of evolution as “fact,” often supplementing that teaching by talking about the Creation “story.” This de-valuing of the true history of origins might be one of the reasons we have children who are confused and disillusioned by the end of their high school years.
The values that homeschool parents are privileged to teach include these: God created and upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3); He alone is Supreme, and His Word is absolute truth. Parents can teach the truth that God created the family, starting with one man for one woman for life, with children as the outpouring of blessing upon that union. Homeschool parents can teach the values of the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the loving of God and their neighbor, and the value of prayer and Bible study. Family devotions create family unity, and family values are sustained and strengthened. Parents pass on Biblical values to their children, the vast majority of whom maintain those values into adulthood.
Is my child’s school safe? Will my child be harmed? How safe will my child be? Let’s take a look at our options:
Figures from the National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), “Student Victimization in U.S. Schools,” show that children from the ages of 12 through 18 who reported violent victimization at school also reported unfavorable conditions in the following areas: 43% reported the presence of gangs at school, 3% had observed a student with a gun, 34% had engaged in a physical fight, 54% reported observing the use or sale of drugs at school, and 35% reported observing use of alcohol at school.5 The table includes these notes: “Includes students who reported that marijuana, crack, other forms of cocaine, uppers, downers, LSD, PCP, heroin, prescription drugs, or other drugs were available at school. ‘Violent’ includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. ‘At school’ includes inside the school building, on school property, on the school bus, and on the way to or from school.”6
Another report from IES, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2011,” states the following statistics in its key findings: “Preliminary data show that there were 33 school-associated violent deaths from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010 (Indicator 1). In 2010, among students ages 12–18, there were about 828,000 nonfatal victimizations at school, which include 470,000 victims of theft and 359,000 victims of violence (simple assault and serious violence) (Indicator 2). In 2009–10, about 74 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents of crime, 16 percent recorded one or more serious violent incidents, and 44 percent recorded one or more thefts (Indicator 6).7
The sexual abuse of children by their teachers runs at a high level in public schools and is a blight on the public education system. Certainly, few children are really safe in public schools if “74 percent” reported one or more violent incidents of crime in one year.
If we think crime, abuse, and other problems exist solely in the public school realm, think again. Here are some sites that report on the somewhat surprising news about safety in private schools:
Crime in private schools
—19% of private school students reported being bullied at school during the school year (nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012002.pdf, page 44).
—21% of private school teachers reported that student misbehavior, student tardiness, and class cutting interfered with their teaching (nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012002.pdf, page 52).
—In various years between 1993 and 2008, approximately 35,000 incidents of private school teachers being physically attacked by a student were reported (nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012002.pdf, page 107].
- Sexual abuse in private schools
Homeschooling overwhelmingly provides a stable, loving, and safe environment in which children feel free to learn and explore without any burden of fear for their own safety. Homeschool parents keep their children safe by keeping them under close supervision and monitoring all friends and outside influences, whether real or electronic.
The environment in which a child is taught plays an important role in how he learns and grows. Again, here are the options as they relate to a child’s environment:
The environment of the public school is decidedly unsafe and extremely worldly. Prayer is banned in the classrooms, the Ten Commandments are banned from the halls and walls, and God is banned from the curriculum. It’s no wonder the same system needs a ban on guns and drugs.
The environment of the public school is stifling. John Taylor Gatto, in his books about education, reasons that we now live in an environment that dumbs down its society by the way we teach our children. Students are made to be obedient followers rather than independent thinkers and innovative leaders. Quoting from www.johntaylorgatto.com: “...The new purpose of schooling—to serve business and government—could only be achieved efficiently by isolating children from the real world, with adults who themselves were isolated from the real world, and everyone in the confinement isolated from one another. Only then could the necessary training in boredom and bewilderment begin. Such training is necessary to produce dependable consumers and dependent citizens who would always look for a teacher to tell them what to do in later life, even if that teacher was an ad man or television anchor.”8
The environment of private schools looks better than the public counterpart. This might be based on the inclusion of dress codes, rigid rules, lower student-teacher ratio, and challenging curriculum. Often today’s families have a difficult time keeping up with all that is required in the areas of special clothing, homework, tuition, fundraisers, and other meetings and events. There are social cliques or groups . . . with accompanying peer pressure and attitudes of condescension. Having attended several private schools myself, I can attest to the fact that I was subjected to nearly as much peer pressure and secular influence in those private schools as I experienced in the public schools I attended.
Some private schools may offer Christian values, but the environment in which they are taught is usually isolated to same-age peer groups with strong social peer pressure, teachers who are esteemed more highly than parents, and as we have seen, sometimes an environment in which a child feels unsafe. Placing a child in this kind of environment means not only taking a risk but also taking a child away from the security of home, the love of parents and the friendship of siblings, and the real-time history of relationships with extended family.
The homeschool environment can be free from worldly pressures and vain philosophies. This environment can grow children who are nurtured and who bloom academically, socially, and civically. God’s presence is alive and well in our homes, and we can talk about Him and His ways when we rise, when we walk, when we sit, and when we lie down. The homeschool environment offers children time to think, create, try new things, and discover who God has made them to be.
Although the academic (and social) outcome of the care of children by public institutions has repeatedly fallen below standard, Christian and non-Christian parents alike overwhelmingly continue to place children in this setting. It’s time not only to consider our options but also to consider our convictions.
If these are God’s children, we should be raising them with His instructions, as outlined in the Bible. This 24/7 discipleship program of children, carried out by their own parents, is exactly what the Master Teacher ordered, and we would do well to obey. Our children will be rewarded for our obedience to God’s commands. We should be considering all things with prayer and supplication as we ask God for His guidance. Our children are really His children; let’s choose what He would choose—the best option, and keep them Home Where They Belong.
Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, participating author in The Homeschool Minute, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate! You may contact her at SeniorEditor@TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.
1. answers.ed.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/77/session/L3RpbWUvMTMzOTM5MjA0OC9zaWQvaFA4ZDFuLWs%3D, accessed July 10, 2012.
2. www2.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/regprivschl/index.html, accessed July 18, 2012.
3. www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/43/48482894.pdf (page 4), PISA in Focus 2011/7 (August), © OECD 2011.
4. www.exodusmandate.org/art_christian-education-resolution-sbc.htm, accessed July 18, 2012.
5. Figure 1. Percentage of students aged 12 through 18 who reported unfavorable school conditions, by reports of criminal victimization at school: School year 2008–09, nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012314.pdf, accessed July 18, 2012.
6. “Results From the 2009 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey,” page 9. Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 2009. nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012314.pdf, accessed July 18, 2012.
7. nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2011/key.asp, accessed July 18, 2012.
8. www.johntaylorgatto.com/historytour/history9.htm, accessed July 18, 2012.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: March 15, 2013