When I began to homeschool, I had no idea of the magnitude or scope of the undertaking of which I was becoming involved. In fact, when I discovered that there were a substantial number of Christians who were pursuing this choice, I was equally amazed. I remember telling my husband, “Guess what? We’re accidentally doing the right thing!” Over my almost-quarter-century of experience, I have become a seasoned veteran who often finds herself in the role of homeschool apologist or mentor, depending on the circumstances. I’ve also been called upon to read unpublished manuscripts asking for my input or criticism from friends and professionals alike. So, when the editorial staff of Chalcedon asked me to read a manuscript copy of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, I figured it would be like many other pieces I’d been asked to evaluate. What I didn’t expect was how impressed I’d be with a work that was basically stating what I already knew. Now, instead of dreading all the lessons and practices I had to sit through waiting for daughter(s) to be done, I relished the opportunity to make my way through this amazing book. My response to the staff at Chalcedon was, “You MUST publish this book! It says all the things I’ve been observing and commenting on for years. The church needs this book.”
When the book finally made its way into print, Bruce Shortt (the author) had already made a name for himself with his resolution within his denomination to have Christian parents remove their children from state schools. Being the idealist that I am, I thought all that would be necessary for Christian parents and pastors (who had yet to embrace the idea of Christian education) to do was read the book. I immediately ordered 30 copies of the book, handing it to pastors, home and Christian school educators to pass along to their pastors, and Christian parents whose children were attending public schools. I even mailed a number to certain radio-show personalities I frequently listened to.
I reserved the most copies for those who are in leadership positions in the church my family and I currently attend. With each one, I included this note:
Please take the time to look through and read (in part or in whole) this book.
I had something to do with getting this book published, although very indirectly. Four years ago I was given a manuscript version of this book in order for me to give my opinion as to whether or not it was publication worthy. I was selected because I have been involved with Christian education (specifically homeschooling) since 1982.
After reading it, if you feel that you are interested in hearing how I think our church can play a part in helping its members catch the vision for Christian education for our youth, I would be very eager to meet with you.
Thanks for taking the time to consider this.
I’d love to report that I was contacted immediately or even soon after. Instead, after a good amount of time had transpired, I approached various people asking if they had read it, only to be told, “No, not yet.” After that, when certain individuals would see me heading down the hallway, they would seemingly avoid me, being in a hurry to do some important task. I even set up a meeting with the Pastor for Ministry Involvement, hoping to be able to be plugged in to their referral pool for families seeking more information about homeschooling, or to be able to give a lecture or informal talk about how to get started. Even though this was a polite encounter, nothing substantive has come of it. More depressingly, I was told that the church was working on a policy to deal with issues like this one, comparing my request to candidates seeking public office wanting to address the congregation, or merchants who wanted to solicit business from the church membership.
Why was I so misunderstood in my request? Or was I very well understood, and that really was the issue? Theological underpinnings, skewed priorities, a less than full-orbed reading and application of Scripture are possible answers to these questions. Moreover, in looking at my church and others like it in their approach to evangelizing children, how much sense does it make to bolster the children for one to two hours at Sunday school, only to turn them over to the God-haters for the rest of the week, who will work to undo and uproot the seeds sown? Would we expect people to be healthy and productive if they swam, bathed, and drank polluted water every day except two to three hours on Sunday? Why are our churches so willing to maintain the status quo?
And, not to lay blame only on the institutional church, there are a number of Christian parents I have given the book to who read it (or portions of it) and told me how convicted it made them, but who have decided it still is the preferable choice to have their kids in public schools — even after enumerating for me the accuracy of Mr. Shortt’s description of the social, physical, academic, and spiritual assaults on children found in the local school in their nice suburban neighborhood. Again, why are families so willing to maintain the status quo?
I don’t presume to have the definitive answer, but I do have words of encouragement to those who are contemplating or have already embarked on this homeschooling experience. Your audience is and will always be the triune God and the great cloud of witnesses who are cheering you on to run your race. The fruit of your efforts, while not always looking as choice as you would hope, will be pleasing to your Creator as you work to train up your child in the way he should go (in all areas of life and thought and in all academic subjects) to the end that when he is old, he will not depart from your hands-on teaching of the Word of God from which you have spoken into his life. You will also take comfort in knowing that you will avoid the harsh truth that
… whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me [and cause him to stumble], it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6)