Sending Your Kids to Public Schools?

I won’t be judging that, ok?

(If you got to this blog via a search such as “Should I send my kids to public schools?” read this. The answer is, most likely, no. But I’m still not judging you. I’m simply warning you of some very real problems with public schools.

Remember the post in my “Things I Can’t Get Homeschoolers to Admit” series, about how I don’t think everybody should homeschool? Chances are you don’t. Even if you were with me back then, I don’t flatter myself that every post I write is so paradigm-changing that my readers can’t possibly forget it, so go back and read that, if you have time.

You should read the comments, too. They’re pretty entertaining, as one of the commenters took offense at my saying an awful lot of things in that post that I didn’t actually say, and then stomped off in one of the finest virtual snits I’ve ever witnessed. She accused me of not understanding the issues, and not being sufficiently Christian, then sniffed “I shan’t return.” For all I know, she had a change of heart and is still reading, but I doubt it. That kind rarely exits the echo chamber. It’s just too stressful. I knew when I wrote it that my post would draw the ire of some Christian homeschoolers, who have confused homeschooling with the gospel. This post will probably anger someone else just as much, but at least this time it won’t be my fellow homeschoolers who want to burn me at the stake.

I’ve read dozens of articles about how public school parents are sending their children straight to Hell, and how we’re to “come out from among them” and guard the hearts of our children from the erosion of secular culture. In fact, I think those articles make some very good points. My primary purpose in homeschooling is to counteract the decay of our once-Christian culture—a decay I believe the public schools to be directly responsible for. I have many, many reasons to choose private education, and some of them are reasons that I think should strike fear into the hearts of Christian parents with children in public schools.

I am not condoning the use of public schools! Christians do need to realize that the worldview they’re trying to impart to their children is diametrically opposed to the worldview that the schools teach. I wish every Christian parent did see the problem with even “good” public schools.

However, I can’t blame them if they haven’t understood  it in such stark terms as I have yet.  If God Himself doesn’t tug at the heartstrings of a family with the idea of homeschooling, I’d hesitate to try to convince anyone to jump into this lifestyle. It’s wonderful to be with my children every day, and I’m grateful that He has put us where He has! I am also keenly aware that my contrary nature makes homeschooling a much more natural choice for me than it does for most moms.

I certainly do believe Christian homeschooling (or some other form of religiously faithful education) is a superior way to raise children. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.

But I’ve also found that it is incredibly difficult in both financial and practical terms, and requires unusual sacrifice from both parents. The key word here is not sacrifice, but unusual. Parents make sacrifices for their kids all the time. Public school parents love their children just as much as homeschooling parents do. They forgo vacations so little Susie can have braces. They give up Friday nights out with friends so they can sit at home and play The Most Boring Game in the Universe with Johnny. They teach their little ones to ride bicycles and swim when they could be doing something for themselves. They do all kinds of self-denying stuff like that.

Those sacrifices are real and noble, as any dad can tell you who has been passed over for promotion because he leaves work at five to be with his kids instead of burning the midnight oil to please his boss.

Those sacrifices are also common, though, and don’t involve any of the kind of outside-the-box thinking that homeschooling requires. This lifestyle is as foreign to most people as boarding school would be to me! Homeschooling is a weird kind of sacrifice, and most people just don’t do weird things, no matter how good they sound.

People are social creatures. We default to the mainstream,  because that’s where it seems safest. After all, if this isn’t the best way, there wouldn’t be so many people doing it, right? Very few people wake up every day thinking “How can I conform today?”  Most of us just wake up and do the next thing: what we need to do, what’s expected of us, what seems possible. This is what everyone does, so we continue to do it. Typically, people won’t stop living the way they see everyone else living until something jars them out of complacency.  Most Christians have (amazingly) not reached a point where the problems with public education are obvious enough to warrant the drastic and often painful lifestyle changes necessary to seek an alternative.

Because my personality is what it is–I’m really very hard to get along with–I require a lot less societal approval than most people do, so homeschooling never seemed as bizarre to me as it does to many people. It’s not that I’m so much smarter than them (ha!). It’s just that I’m more likely to question the value of what others are doing. In fact,  my default position on everything is “Find out what the herd is doing, then do something else.”  For people who lack that particular quirk, homeschooling often seems literally impossible.

Being at home instead of in school or the “work” force is something most people have no experience with, so the thought of keeping school-age children at home brings up in the imagination of most Americans a big blank. Where I’m seeing salt dough maps and cuddle-time on the couch during a reading lesson, non-homeschoolers are imagining worksheet after boring worksheet with no friend across the aisle to commiserate about the misery of sitting on hard chairs and keeping quiet all day. For most of us, school is as much a part of childhood as gravity is part of living on Earth.

I find it very hard to judge others for not jumping off cliffs. For the same reason, I can’t judge them for not exiting public schools when, for the most part, public education seems to be as much a part of life as the law of gravity. You don’t question gravity, do you?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dwija {House Unseen}
    Twitter: HouseUnseen
    November 1, 2011, 4:23 pm

    I definitely agree with you. This is actually the first year we’ve homeschooled because we just didn’t hear the call loudly enough. Our lives were different and hectic and not conducive to homeschooling AT ALL. By the grace of God we were able to drastically change our lives and make homeschooling possible, but I refuse to believe that my children are further from the Lord because of it. Remember the parable of the vineyard owner paying the workers who worked all day the same as the workers who worked for just a short time? He is a generous God who knows what we are and are not capable of and when.

    • Cindy November 1, 2011, 4:32 pm

      That is perfect. You’re so right!

  • KellyH November 1, 2011, 4:56 pm

    I’m bookmarking this post, as it is very good in explaining why we don’t send our kids to public schools. It also states better than I can why Christians should be looking at the education of their kids, and why it’s ok for us who homeschool not to judge them .. Does this make any sense? Anyway, thanks, I’ll be reading this again I’m sure, as the church we attend now does not have many homeschoolers.


  • Sheila Wray Gregoire
    Twitter: sheilagregoire
    November 1, 2011, 5:47 pm

    So true, Cindy! I find myself wishing more people would homeschool, but the fact is that some people would do a very bad job, and God just hasn’t convicted them of it yet.

    I started to homeschool because I had lots of people around me who did, and I just started talking to them. They didn’t talk down to me. They didn’t tell me the public school would wreck my kids’ commitment to Christ. They didn’t tell me it was of the devil.

    They just told me I’d be great at homeschooling, and how fun it is. They emphasized the good parts slowly, and it got me thinking about it.

    I believe that when we come across as judgmental, we turn people away. If we believe it’s great, let’s tell people what’s great about it–not what’s rotten about their choices. That’s how God often works to get people thinking about it, and then He does the rest!

    Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

  • Renee
    Twitter: GrowingStam
    November 1, 2011, 6:04 pm

    Great post! I really enjoyed it!

  • Amber November 1, 2011, 6:04 pm

    I like Candyland 🙁

    • Cindy November 1, 2011, 7:43 pm

      LOL! Maybe I’m doing it wrong, then.

  • Amanda (the sister)
    Twitter: RamandaHarvey
    November 2, 2011, 8:17 am

    The anti-herd mentality–where did we get that from?

    • Cindy November 2, 2011, 3:24 pm

      Dood, I have no idea.

  • Susan
    Twitter: HSHeartandMind
    November 2, 2011, 2:53 pm

    Good post, Cindy. And I agree.

    While I honestly could not send my kiddos to ps, I absolutely get the reluctance to buck the trend. It’s more than hard. Thanks for being real.l

  • republicanmother November 2, 2011, 5:49 pm

    Drawing a blank is the key thing. People have been brainwashed deliberately to think that it is normal to be distanced from one’s own children. The trick is that they can’t see the abnormality of it until they’ve broken loose. It took having a psycho for a teacher to get me to break loose of the system, even though I intended to homeschool middle and high school because I knew they were bad. After five years of following God’s plan (Deut 6) and learning as much as I have about the origin and structure of modern school, I’m horrified of it. But the key is that I had to discover those things for myself through a process. Coming up wild-eyed on someone and telling them that public school is demonic won’t convince anyone, because it sounds nuts. But I think the tide is starting to seriously turn against the schools because the crap sandwich has grown to comic proportions.

    • Gidget
      Twitter: HSingUnscripted
      November 5, 2011, 3:08 pm

      What a great way to put it – you’re right – going around with crazy eyes screaming the sky is falling is certainly not going to win friends and influence people…

    • SleeplessinSummerville November 7, 2011, 9:59 am

      I love how you put this!
      I think that when you go to school, they teach you about the old “one-room schoolhouse” model of public schooling, and they present that as the only alternative to what we have today. Naturally people think dividing children by grade level (if not also by ability) is superior to having them all together, writing lessons on their slate and being switched for disobedience.
      And then sometimes, you just get the complacency of “This is how things are” that discourages people from taking really creative steps (like educating their own children) to address something that we all know is broken.

  • Tina November 3, 2011, 8:27 am

    I love this post, especially the parts about enjoying spending every day with our children and your quirky personality 🙂 I am very much the same. I question everything! In fact I recently compared a lifestyle choice to game of musical chairs. We have been conditioned to want a chair, to need a chair, to lose if we don’t find a chair! Well guess what? I don’t want a chair. I can sit on the floor, the bed, the kitchen counter- anywhere at all! Does that make sense to you?


    • Cindy November 3, 2011, 10:58 am

      Tina, that makes perfect sense to me. Just about sums up my whole existence. ;0)

  • Amy Morgan November 3, 2011, 3:38 pm

    Amen. Great post.

  • Gidget
    Twitter: HSingUnscripted
    November 5, 2011, 3:04 pm

    You are so so right – homeschooling is not for everyone. I find I have to tell people that alot because they assume when I say that I homeschool that I am judging them for not doing it….weird, huh? Although I also tell them that if they have even the slightest desire then they should give it a try 🙂 We also tend to go against what everyone else is doing so homeschool was a natural fit for us – Dad works at home, kids are at home – it’s all good 🙂 Thanks for yet another insightful post!

  • Arby November 7, 2011, 9:39 pm

    “People are social creatures. We default to the mainstream, because that’s where it seems safest. After all, if this isn’t the best way, there wouldn’t be so many people doing it, right? Very few people wake up every day thinking “How can I conform today?” Most of us just wake up and do the next thing: what we need to do, what’s expected of us, what seems possible. This is what everyone does, so we continue to do it. Typically, people won’t stop living the way they see everyone else living until something jars them out of complacency. ”

    That was an excellent paragraph!

  • Rebecca November 9, 2011, 8:23 pm

    “Frankly, My Dear…..” YOU SO NAILED this post on the biggest bilboard of any city and stuck a fork in it, too. Other than congratulating you…really, there’s nothing this southern girl can add….oh, wait, don’t confuse me with a REAL teacher….(sorry, that’s an inside joke and truly not meant to offend anyone!) I admire everyone who teaches children inside and outside of the home…with or without a teaching degree…someone had to get them started though…right… I mean potty training…by far impacted me more than Algebra! sorry…had to throw it in…it’s your blog…it gets me started…I’ll leave now…but, I will be back….love ya!

  • Gail @ The Imperfect Housewife February 13, 2012, 11:36 am

    Love it! “Find out what the herd is doing, then do something else.” I can’t even lie… that’s why I do a lot of what I do. I don’t want to be like everybody else. Not that I need to stick out like a sore thumb, but when you see that what everyone else is doing ISN’T working, I’m going to do something different. 🙂