Salt & Light, Our Children & Public Schools

SaltAndLightChristians1Ephesians chapter 5 tells the believer to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. It goes on to say wake up; redeem the time, because the days are evil.  I believe a lot of Christian parents are beginning to wake up to the truths of public education. In the past decade the number of homeschooled children has increased by 62%. With the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the force of Common Core, humanistic and atheistic teaching, and safety concerns across the nation, homeschool organizations are anticipating even further growth.

A few weeks ago I ran into a pastor who has been taking a stand on the LBGT within our local school board. He mentioned that he didn’t know what he and his wife were going to do about their children being in public school. He’s concerned, and rightly so. In light of society, I’m concerned for Christian parents who are not concerned.

There is a humanistic agenda within the system – from the top down.  For years US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been speaking out about this agenda. Then last week after the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage the Department of Education flaunted its support by changing their Facebook profile page to the gay rainbow. And it is only going to get worse.

Because our government schools have become such a dark place I am so very thankful for our Christian teachers and leaders who are there being salt and light day in and day out. God bless each of them. They are fighting a battle right on the front lines. They need our support and prayers. But what about the Christian youth? Our innocent children? Shouldn’t they be salt and light in our public schools as well? My friend, Jonathan Lewis, one of the founders of Home School Enrichment Magazine has agreed to share his thoughts on this very issue.

Salt & Light

Taking a look at the #1 Christian argument against homeschooling

By Jonathan Lewis

Throughout the years of the modern homeschooling movement, a number of arguments have been raised against home education. Doubtless you’ve heard many of them. “How can an untrained mother teach her children? What about socialization? How are you going to teach higher math? How will your kids get into college?”

In Christian circles, there’s another argument that’s frequently brought up by parents who have opted to send their kids to public school. Perhaps you’ve heard it from parents in your church: “I’m sending my kids to public school to be salt and light,” they say. “If all the Christian kids leave the schools, who will reach the students left behind?”

This argument, because of its spiritual overtones and scriptural reference, often seems more difficult to answer than other arguments against homeschooling. After all, how can we argue against being salt and light? Wouldn’t that mean we don’t care about kids and teachers who don’t know Christ?

This argument has left many current or would-be homeschooling parents feeling torn and conflicted, unsure of how to weigh their responsibility toward their own children against their sense of responsibility to further the Great Commission—to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. Somehow it seems unchristian to leave the schools without a godly influence, and yet . . . should I risk my child’s spiritual well-being by sending him away to school? No wonder parents are feeling torn!

Is there an answer to this argument? Can Scripture be used to justify sending our children to public school? Should we send our children out as missionaries, or should we keep them at home? What is the scriptural answer to this conflicting sense of responsibility parents are feeling?

 The Source of the Argument

The salt and light argument finds its source in Matthew 5:13–16, where Jesus tells His disciples that they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” and that they should let their light “so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Thus, the argument says that Christian kids should attend public school to be a witness for Christ. They further argue that if all Christian kids are removed from the public schools, the students and teachers left behind will be stranded without a voice of truth or the opportunity to see a positive Christian witness.

 First Things First

Before looking at possible responses, it’s important for us to realize something fundamental right from the beginning. The salt and light argument itself inherently acknowledges that our schools are largely godless. No one uses this argument to justify sending kids to a Christian school, because presumably the students there either already know Christ or at least have opportunity to hear about Him in ways other than through Christian students.

In other words, we only send missionaries where they’re needed—where there is a sufficient lack of truth and godly influence to give them room and opportunity to work. Thus, the argument itself acknowledges the largely godless condition of our public education system, and the parents who use this argument are as much as admitting that the overall environment at school is more or less hostile to the Christian faith. Some would attempt to maintain that the schools are not hostile to our faith, but are instead religiously neutral; this, however, is a difficult case to support, especially in view of Christ’s declaration in Matthew 12:30 that “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Christ doesn’t leave neutrality as an option.

In this context then, the salt and light argument assumes two things:

First, that the potential good a Christian student can do in the public school system outweighs the personal spiritual risk of sitting under humanistic teaching and spending hours every day in an admittedly ungodly environment.

Second, it assumes that being salt and light is a child’s top priority, as opposed to, for example, receiving a distinctively Christian education. In other words, it’s more important for children to be missionaries—while simultaneously receiving a humanistic education—than to be taught from a Christian worldview, protected from overtly negative peer influences, and so on.

With these basic presuppositions in mind, let’s progress now to looking at possible responses to this classic Christian argument against homeschooling.

 The Context of “Salt and Light”

First, we should look at the context of the salt and light passage. Whom is Jesus speaking to? At the beginning of Matthew 5, we see clearly that Christ is speaking to His disciples. Verses 1–2 read, “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying . . . ”

As we can see, Jesus was speaking to a specific group of individuals: His disciples—adult men. Thus, in the original context, the salt and light passage was addressed to adults, not children.

That doesn’t mean children shouldn’t be a positive witness if and when they encounter those in the world around them. But it’s quite a leap from there to say that they should be deliberately placed in a spiritually hostile environment at young ages where they will be actively taught in ways contrary to the Word of God. Being salt and light is one thing. Sending our children to the training camp of the enemy is quite another—and we only need look around us to see the failure of this tactic.

We should also note that Christ’s disciples spent approximately three years with Jesus before He gave them the Great Commission and sent them out into all the world. In other words, they experienced three years of intense, hands-on training and preparation with the perfect, faultless, infallible Son of God before He deemed them ready to go out on their own. How much more preparation will our children need before they can stand on their own? After all, they have fallen, fallible, sinful parents responsible for their training—not the perfect Son of God in the flesh.

Looking further at the context, we see that Jesus was instructing His disciples to be salt and light while they were still in His presence, under His direct teaching and influence. Thus, we can see that it’s possible to fulfill this command even without being sent out alone, away from the protection and influence of one’s God-given teacher or mentor. If parents, biblically speaking, are the appropriate teachers and mentors of their children (more on this later), it’s possible for children to fulfill the salt and light mandate within that framework, rather than having to be sent away.

In view of these contextual considerations, it’s difficult to make the case that this passage directly applies to children in the way in which our critics suggest. Since it doesn’t specifically mention or command sending children to a spiritually hostile environment to be salt and light, it certainly doesn’t constitute the final word on the matter, and therefore we should look to other biblical passages and principles for more clarification.

 Training Ground, Not Mission Field

One consideration which the proponents of the salt and light argument often seem to overlook is the reality that they are not simply sending their children to a mission field, but a training ground. In other words, these Christian kids are not being sent out to reach other students and teachers while being isolated from the humanistic teaching that occurs in the schools. The teaching is an unavoidable part of the package. Thus, in order to justify sending his or her child to public school as a missionary, a parent needs to simultaneously justify sending his or her child away to receive an education based on humanistic philosophy instead of one that is built on Scripture and a Christian worldview.

Those proponents of “salt and light” who do recognize the educational aspect of the situation apparently maintain the assumption that their children can withstand whatever humanistic teaching they will encounter and escape unscathed. In other words, they assume that their children can sit under hours of teaching from a perspective other than the Bible, surrounded by peer influences that tempt them in the wrong direction, and not be negatively influenced by any of it.

In addition to being dangerously naive, this view contradicts such Scriptures as Luke 6:40 (“The disciple is not above his master [teacher]: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master”), Proverbs 13:20 (“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”), and 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners”).

I would challenge anyone to search the Scriptures and find one verse advising parents to hand the teaching of their children over to those who don’t know God or uphold His truth. As Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” And in verse 17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

We are to be distinct from the world. There should be a separation between the world’s philosophies and methods and our own. We are not to mingle ourselves in their practices or partake in their way of life.

The command to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers is also worth noting. When Christian children are placed under the authority of unbelieving teachers, principals, and other school administrators, we would do well to ask if they are in fact unequally yoked. Certainly they often do not have the freedom to fully express their identity as followers of Christ; in that sense, they are “yoked” to those who do not share their faith, and their activity, at least in some measure, is dictated by unbelievers who are in authority over them.

Proverbs 1:7 says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and Colossians 2:3 tells us that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In Proverbs 9:10 we again see that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

It’s no small matter to give the education of our children to those who remove the foundation of wisdom and knowledge. Unless the proponents of “salt and light” can make a convincing scriptural case that it doesn’t matter if we allow our children to be taught from a worldview contrary to the Bible, we are already beginning to see major cracks in the foundation of their argument.

 Peer Influences

Children—indeed, all of us—have a natural propensity to do wrong. That comes naturally to us. Doing right, on the other hand, is contrary to our natural inclinations and tendencies.

When children are sent to public school as “missionaries,” they are surrounded by other young people who, by and large, are following their natural desires, thus creating the negative peer pressure we so often discuss. And since our children have a natural propensity toward wrongdoing—even if they already have their own walk with the Lord—placing them amidst this negative peer pressure for hours every day is questionable at best.

We can examine Scripture to see what the Bible says about this.

We have already noted Proverbs 13:20 (“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”) and 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners”). Both of these passages give strong warning to those who would willingly and knowingly allow their children to be surrounded by negative peer influences.

The influences surrounding our kids make a difference. They’re going to be impacted. We all know that in a typical scenario, kids generally tend to pull each other down, not lift each other up. Let’s go back to Proverbs 13:20 for a moment: when we pair its warning to the companion of fools with Proverbs 22:15, which tells us that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child,” it’s easy to see why extensive peer-based socialization can be so destructive. Foolishness is bound in the hearts of children, and the companion of fools will be destroyed. Is it any wonder that we so often see children and young people making destructive life choices as a result of peer pressure?

Children are impressionable. When they are sent out alone to confront the world and interact all day with those who have a different system of values, they are placed at high risk of adopting those different values. Scripture warns us of this, and it shouldn’t be surprising when we see it occurring around us.

 Seasons of Purpose

Different seasons of life bring different opportunities, activities, and purposes. One helpful question to ask, as we examine the salt and light argument, is this: what is the purpose of childhood?

Is it to fulfill some kind of mission for the cause of Christ, or is it instead a season of preparation for later work and ministry?

Throughout the Bible, we find numerous commands and references to parents training and teaching their children (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Deuteronomy 32:46, Proverbs 1:8, Isaiah 38:19, Joel 1:3, Ephesians 6:4). Put together, these passages form a consistent pattern throughout the whole of Scripture, emphasizing again and again the importance of parents raising their children in the ways of the Lord. The biblical model of education is always God-centered, faith-driven, and parent-directed.

At the same time, we see a profound lack of passages suggesting that children have a specific mission or calling to go outside the discipleship of their parents to reach the outside world.

Most of those who use the salt and light argument seem to assume either that their children don’t need any preparation to be missionaries in the schools, or that a few hours in church each week and perhaps a little time with Dad and Mom in the evening will be adequate to not only counteract the secular teaching in the schools, but also prepare them to be bold witnesses for Christ. And of course, children need preparation for the rest of life as well—not just their childhood years. In other words, it’s no small undertaking to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The reality is that the preparation must be adequate to the task at hand. The greater the task, the greater the need for adequate preparation. And is there any greater task than sending out the next generation ready and equipped to do God’s work?

God lays out for us a model in Deuteronomy 6:6–7 when He instructs parents to teach their children His commands. “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.”

In his article “The Christian Education Manifesto,” Israel Wayne observes of this passage, “This describes a 24/7/365 discipleship paradigm, centered on the commandments of God.”

Precisely. God apparently didn’t think an hour of Sunday School and a few minutes in the evening with Dad and Mom was adequate to prepare children to live righteous, holy lives. He commands parents here to teach their children with a diligence and constancy that most parents never come close to reaching.

We can gain more insight into this issue by considering the words of Christ Himself in relation to adults and children. Consider this contrast between two messages: Christ commanded His adult disciples to be salt and light, and sent them out to do His work. But what did He say of children? “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). For adults, His word was “Go.” For children, His words were “Let them come.”

These words of Christ create a compelling picture and clearly illustrate the concept of different seasons of life. During the early, formative years, children are to be brought to Christ—taught about Him, nurtured in His ways, and discipled to live for Him. As adults, they are then able to go out and make a difference for Christ after that first season of preparation. Childhood is the time for coming, adulthood the time for going.

 Right Priorities

As a parent, you must ask yourself, “What is my top priority? Is it to reach someone else’s children for Christ by placing my own children’s spiritual well-being at risk, or is it to raise my children in the ways of God, discipling them to the point that they are solid, well-grounded young adults who can stand on their own?”

God didn’t give you someone else’s children. He gave you your own. That doesn’t mean we should never seek to reach out to others, but it does suggest a hierarchy of priorities. Generally speaking, our top priorities are those that are closest to us. We find this principle illustrated for us in 1 Timothy 5:8 where Paul says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” When it comes to physical provision, a man’s immediate household is his top priority. Those closest to him should command his first attention.

Similarly, Paul stipulated that a man must be able to “rule his own house” (1 Timothy 3:4–5) in order to be considered for the position of bishop or deacon in the church. Thus, before a man’s ministry could expand to include one of these positions of leadership, he first had to show the capacity to lead in his own family. Here again we see the hierarchy of priorities: attention to your own family first, expanded ministry second.

We see the same principle in the Old Testament in Genesis 18:17–19 where God is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and decides to share His plans with Abraham. In that passage we read, “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”

Here we see that Abraham’s ability to raise and train his children was a key factor that brought greater confidence from God, and was apparently even a factor in God’s promises and blessings to him. Thus, we again see that proper attention to the closest priorities came before increased responsibility and opportunity outside.

None of this means that we shouldn’t reach out beyond our own families. I’m not saying your family should be your sole focus, but your first focus. Parents who use the salt and light argument, however, are essentially saying that the needs of students in the public schools come ahead of their own children’s need for a Christian education, the intensive discipleship of their parents, and appropriate protection from negative peer influences. Biblically speaking, however, parents should place the greater emphasis on their own children’s needs and only thereafter look beyond their family to the needs around them. That is the biblical order.

 Wishful Thinking

We’ve already seen multiple reasons why the salt and light argument is contrary to biblical principles. We can also look outside Scripture to find an additional compelling reason why this argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny: generally speaking, the idea that children can be effective as salt and light in a hostile, secular environment is simply wishful thinking.

Lee Duncan, Dean of Administration for The Master’s College, wrote in his article “A Case for Christian High Education”:

Why would we expect Christian young people who are in their most impressionable time of growth to challenge mature teachers who will attack their faith? In reality, most Christian students in public schools challenge no one; they simply stay quiet and try to avoid any confrontation.

And in her article “Culture of Answers,” Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, wrote the following:

A recent study on the faith and belief of today’s youth laments the growing inarticulacy of students when it comes to talking about what they believe . . . The researchers were troubled as they realized how seldom teens found opportunity to practice talking about their faith. They were astonished by the number of kids who reported that this was the first time they had been asked by an adult what they believed. One replied as if he was caught off guard, “I don’t know. No one has ever asked me that before.” (emphasis in the original)

In other words, by and large, students aren’t talking about their faith at school. It’s not happening. And as Lee Duncan points out, why would we expect them to? Why would we expect them—at such an impressionable age—to draw attention to themselves and challenge those around them when in school the supreme virtue is to do as you’re told and not cause disruption?

Consider it in another way: if the salt and light argument were solid and Christian kids were really making a difference in their schools, why have we not seen a great spiritual awakening in our public education system? Why do we instead see our church pews increasingly empty as young people continue their mass exodus from the faith? It’s not our Christian youth who are winning the world, but the world who is winning our Christian youth.

Research indicates that up to 85 percent of young people from Christian homes who attend public school end up walking away from the church by the time they graduate high school. Many parents will insist that their kids are the exception—that they can handle the unbiblical worldview and negative peer pressure and remain true to their God and strong in their faith. But is that a chance we should take? Do we want to risk that our kids will be among the 15 percent instead of the 85 percent? Sure, we’d all like to think that our kids can stand strong—that they’ll defy the norms, beat the odds, and emerge victorious on the other side. But is that really rational?

Imagine yourself the unexpected owner of a ten-million-dollar inheritance. Your financial adviser gives you the opportunity to invest the money and earn enormous dividends, but the opportunity comes with a risk. “I have to tell you,” he says, “there’s an 85 percent chance you’ll lose every penny in this investment.” Then he smiles and says, “But there’s a 15 percent chance you’ll double your money and walk away with twenty million!”

What would you decide? My guess is that you’d turn it down with a flat no and tell your broker that someone would have to be crazy to take a risk like that. And you’d be right. Why would you risk such an incredible treasure when the odds are stacked so heavily against you?

Why should it be any different with our children? God has entrusted every parent with a treasure worth far more than ten million dollars—and we’re going to invest that treasure in a risky venture, hoping we’ll be in the 15 percent instead of the 85 percent? Not with my kids. The risk must be weighed, and with the stakes so high, shouldn’t a godly caution guide our steps?

The numbers for homeschooled students are radically different. According to Dr. Brian Ray’s 2003 report “Homeschooling Grows Up,” more than 90 percent of homeschool graduates report that their religious beliefs are essentially the same as their parents’, and more than 90 percent continue to attend church on a regular basis.

Why the difference? Because Christian home education and public school are as different as night and day. When we follow a radically different process, it’s predictable that we’ll end up with a radically different result. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

If “salt and light” were really working as well as its proponents wish, we wouldn’t have these unfortunate statistics. We’d have churches overflowing with crowds of young people brought in by our Christian kids who are in the schools. It’s not happening.

In discussing all of this, we should also heed Jesus’s strong denunciation of those who offend children who believe in Him: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Considering the rate at which children from Christian homes are leaving the church after attending public schools, we are forced to wonder if our school system is guilty of offending untold numbers of these “little ones” who believed in Him. And what of the parents who voluntarily send their children there when valid alternatives are available? My intention is not to be judgmental, but to help us to think about what we’re doing. The risk must be weighed, and again I ask: with the stakes so high, shouldn’t a godly caution guide our steps?

We would also do well to note that the very same verse that instructs us to be salt and light also warns us that if the salt loses its saltiness, it’s good for nothing but to be thrown in the streets and trampled underfoot. Thus, we have a command and a warning given together. The warning portion, however, seems largely overlooked by the salt and light proponents. The significance of the warning is intensified when we realize again that the large majority of children from Christian homes are in fact losing their saltiness in the public schools. If parents would pay as much heed to the warning as they do the command, their perspective might change.

 Wrong Becomes Right?

One reason so many parents have difficulty answering the salt and light argument is because it appeals to Scripture. On the surface, it can look like a scriptural justification for sending Christian kids to public school. But there’s more to it than that.

We all know that we must use Scripture appropriately—that we shouldn’t take verses out of context, twist their meaning, or seek to use Scripture to justify something unscriptural. Wrong actions are still wrong actions, even if we can pull an isolated verse out of the Bible that seems to justify what we’re doing.

Let’s take an obvious example. God instructed Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful, and multiply.” He gave Noah and his sons the same command in Genesis 9:1 and repeated it six verses later in Genesis 9:7. Additionally, Psalm 127:3–5 tells us that “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

Thus, from these verses we see that it’s good and appropriate for us to desire children and to consider each child a blessing from God. Now, imagine you meet a man who is pursuing numerous immoral relationships outside of marriage and who uses these Scriptures as justification. Imagine he tells you, “The Bible says to be fruitful and multiply, and that children are a reward from God. I realized that I can have more children if I don’t limit myself to only one woman. I know some people would frown on what I’m doing, but I’m just trying follow the Bible’s command to multiply and get all of God’s blessings that I can.”

Would we say that what this man is doing is fine and good because he was able to give us a few Bible verses that appear, at a quick glance, to support his case? I hardly think so. Why? Is being fruitful and multiplying suddenly wrong? Are children not a blessing? Quite the contrary. Yet we would recognize this man’s profligate lifestyle as wrong and displeasing to God, even though he gave us some Bible verses. His motives (theoretically, at least) could be perfect: he desires the blessing of more children, consistent with the Bible’s teachings. Yet his actions are still wrong because they are contrary to the message of Scripture taken as a whole, which commands moral purity.

Trying to justify sending our children to a godless environment to be educated on the basis of “salt and light” is akin to the man justifying his immoral lifestyle on the basis of being fruitful and multiplying. In either case, a biblical reason is used to justify something that contradicts the overall thrust of scriptural teaching. I repeat: the biblical model for education is always God-centered, faith-driven, and parent-directed. Remove one of those elements, and you’ve fundamentally altered the model God has given us in Scripture.

Being salt and light isn’t wrong. Exactly the opposite. But that doesn’t mean that every possible idea we could think of to allow us to be salt and light is acceptable and good in the sight of God. The message of Scripture is clear: children are to be taught and nurtured in the ways of the Lord, not the ways of the world. If a particular approach to being salt and light violates this truth, then we must reject that approach as unscriptural. Our motives may be pure, but that doesn’t make our actions right.

In short, we can’t justify doing something wrong for a “good” reason. Sending our children to a godless environment for their training and education is wrong. Plain and simple. There is absolutely no biblical basis on which to say it’s fine. To justify it with the claim that our children can be salt and light is to say that wrong has become right because something good might come from the wrong action.

 We’re in a Battle

Perhaps one of our problems is that we fail to see life as it really is—as a battleground between light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness, good and evil. If our goal is to simply raise children who can get a well-paying job and enjoy “the good life,” then we are likely to be far less concerned about how and what they are taught. But if we realize that our goal is to raise soldiers for Christ who can go out and make a difference in the world, the issue of our children’s training and preparation becomes far more important.

What army would send their troops to be trained in the camp of their greatest enemy? No, the people in the public schools aren’t our enemies. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We do have a spiritual foe, and he is alive and well in our secular educational system of today.

In the realm of nations and governments, we would consider it reckless beyond belief to send our troops to be trained by the enemy. In World War II, Winston Churchill would never have considered sending the troops of England to be trained by Hitler. In the days of the Cold War, America wouldn’t have sent her soldiers to be trained by the Communists. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing when we send our children to be taught in schools where God is excluded and a biblical worldview is ignored. The next generation of Christian soldiers is being trained, but not in the right camp.

 Whatever Remains

Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four, neatly summed up a simple reality: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Some say we have no scriptural command to home educate—in other words, there’s no chapter and verse we can point to that says public or private school is wrong and that we must teach our children at home. However, I would contend that if all the biblical principles and passages that discuss the training of children consistently uphold one model, then all other approaches are excluded—if not explicitly, then by clear implication.

In other words, if God has instructed us that children should be taught in the fear of the Lord, then we don’t need a specific command telling us that they shouldn’t be taught without the fear of the Lord—we already know how they should be taught.

If God has commanded parents to be the diligent, day-in, day-out teachers of their children, then we don’t need an explicit command not to send kids away for hours every day to be taught by someone else—we already know who their teachers are supposed to be.

If God tells us that negative peer influences are destructive, we don’t need a command telling us to give appropriate protection to our children—we already know they should be protected.

Let’s illustrate it this way. If you were to tell your children, “Be nice to the kids next door,” you wouldn’t have to explicitly and specifically forbid all of the potentially unkind things your children could do. You don’t have to tell your son not to punch the neighbor boy in the nose. You don’t have to tell your kids not to steal the neighbors’ toys, make fun of them, throw rocks at them, or any number of things they could conceivably do. All of that is excluded with the single command, “Be nice to the kids next door.”

Similarly, when God told parents to teach their children diligently in His ways, He didn’t need to specifically outline all of the ways they shouldn’t be taught. All of that was taken care of by telling us how they should be taught.

 What About the Success Stories?

There are those who will listen to all these arguments against the salt and light proposition and still maintain that children ought to be sent away to school as missionaries. In some cases, they may have seen (or even been) a Christian young person who successfully navigated the turbulent waters of the secular schools and emerged on the other side relatively unscathed. They maintained their Christian testimony, were outspoken for their faith, and perhaps even succeeded in winning classmates for Christ. These students may even argue that their experiences in a secular school strengthened them in their faith. Some then use this as justification that “salt and light” really does work after all.

Arguments from experience, however, should not be elevated to the level of Scripture. We have clear teaching from the Bible about how children should be taught. The general rule we’re seeing is that the faith of kids from Christian homes is being decimated in public school. If we encounter an occasional exception to this rule, that can hardly be considered justification for others following in their path.

If we look hard enough, we can find people willing to justify virtually anything based on their experience. There are those who argue, for example, that God led them to divorce their spouse—and that their life was better because of it—despite God’s clear declaration in Malachi 2 that He hates divorce and Jesus’s warning in Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9 that “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” We cannot argue against Scripture based on our experience. Just because we see someone else ignore the warning signs, jump in the alligator-infested river, and swim successfully to the other side doesn’t mean we should follow suit. Did someone else survive? Yes. Does that make it right for us—or, for that matter, even for them? No. We must heed the instruction of Scripture more than the voices of those who would tell us of their experiences.

 Conclusion

The purpose of this article has not been to criticize or judge the motives of those who advance the salt and light argument, some of whom are sincere, godly Christian parents. Rather, my intent has been to provide a much-needed alternative perspective—one that looks at the issue not just in light of one or two Scripture verses, but that examines the overall message and thrust of the Bible as it relates to education and children.

The bottom line is this: the concept of voluntarily sending God’s children away—for any reason—to be educated in institutions where He is rejected, is utterly foreign to Scripture. If the God-centered, faith-driven, parent-directed model of education found in Scripture means anything at all, then the concept of subjecting children to secular, God-absent education is beyond any rational biblical justification. Search for a lifetime, and you will still fail to find the smallest piece of evidence that God approves of sending the children of His kingdom to the halls of humanistic learning.

It was Christ who declared that anyone who offends one of these little ones would be better off drowned in the depths of the sea. Would He now be in favor of education that leaves Him out? It was the apostle Paul who boldly asked, “What communion hath light with darkness?” and “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Would he now stand up and say it doesn’t matter if the children of God are taught in darkness and educated by unbelievers?

Let’s make sure we’re taking care of our first priorities first. Let’s give our children a God-centered, parent-directed education as outlined in Scripture, and then, as God leads, we can reach out to others. Just because we’re homeschoolers doesn’t mean we can’t be salt and light. And our children will be more effective in God’s service for a lifetime if they don’t lose their saltiness in their youth.

 Jonathan Lewis is a homeschool graduate, husband to Linnea, and daddy to Patrick, Timothy, and another on the way. He is one of the founders of Home School Enrichment Magazine and enjoys writing and speaking from his perspective as a homeschool graduate. If you would like to invite Jonathan to speak to your group—or to get in touch with him for any other reason—drop him a note at jonathan@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.

Copyright 2015, Jonathan Lewis; reprinted with permission.

Homeschool Highways

together
Last fall our family traveled to Tupelo, MS to film two episodes on Homeschool Highways with Paul Bass. We had a great time talking about our favorite things: God’s Word, homeschooling, family and marriage.

The first episode aired Saturday night on CTN45-WVUP. This interview focused on homeschooling, God’s calling in our lives, facing opposition, the family altar, and my newest book, Home Discipleship: Much More Than ABC’s and 123’s.

Enjoy!

BOOK TRAILER: Home Discipleship

Over the past two months Home Discipleship has gotten into the hands of parents across the country. The response from those reading it has been great.

Take a look at the newly released book trailer:

Would You Please Help Spread the Word!
Here is what you can do:
• Share the link to this page or to the Youtube Page of the book trailer via email, twitter and facebook.
• Go to Facebook and “LIKE” the Home Discipleship page.
• Subscribe to my Blog.
• Go to Amazon and leave a review of Home Discipleship.
• Buy a copy to give away.

For more information about Home Discipleship and to read endorsements, click here.

Thanks friends!

Exciting News!

front coverHomeschooling friends,

I am so excited to share with you about my newest book!

Home Discipleship is about the discipleship process we find all throughout Scripture applied to the home. It covers the biblical mandate we have as parents, the structure of the Christian home, how to keep the proper perspective, fundamentals and practicalities of home discipleship, and addresses how a homeschooling lifestyle can help parents accomplish this very objective.

If you are a homeschooler, have ever considered homeschooling, or know of someone who does you can use this coupon code 7G3P48KT to receive 25% off, making the total cost per book under $9. Offer available through August!

Click here to order.

Click here see what people are saying.

Click here to read a chapter overview.

The Comparison Game

comparisonA couple of years ago I was at the place where the year was quickly dwindling down and it had been rather hectic. As I realized that there were only a few months left of school, deep down there was a part of me that began to panic. I felt like I had failed at giving my children the best education possible. In fact, if report cards were to come out on me – the children’s teacher – I was to the point where I would have been satisfied with a C-. I was discouraged, and yet no one knew it.

A homeschool monthly mom’s meeting was scheduled on the topic of “Homeschooling through the High School Years” and I knew this was just the encouragement I needed. So I put on a smile and headed out the door. But what was intended to lift my spirits, turned into guilt and great discouragement. As I listened to various moms share their experiences, I began to compare my life to them and a few hours later ended up driving home in tears.

My discouragement lasted through the next day, until I finally picked up the precious Word of God.

 “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:6.

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established,” Proverbs 4:25-26.

 It was clear. My eyes were not fixed upon God. I was looking around to the left and right, comparing myself and my family to everyone else. And it is just that – the comparison game – that will leave us discouraged every time.

This is not the only thing that can contribute to this type of discouragement for moms. Books, magazines, and social media can all add weight to the problem. Ideas of having the “perfect” marriage or a busy mom’s guide to “getting it all done” can raise our levels of expectations to an unhealthy level. Pictures on Pinterest of beautifully-decorated, insanely-organized, and superbly-spotless homes can also add to the comparison game.

Here’s the truth: Every family will look different. No marriage is perfect. We cannot and should not even try to do everything. And, having a lived-in home when love and laughter flows, is much better than the “picture-perfect” home where all are stressed over spills and messes.

Don’t get me wrong. We are built for relationships and God will often use people to encourage and exhort us to be better wives and mothers. We should examine and learn from others, and we should follow after those who are living godly lives. The Apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” I Corinthians 11:1. But there is a difference between following others by letting their example be an encouragement to us, and comparing our lives to theirs. The Bible warns us to not compare ourselves with others in spiritual matters. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise,” 2 Corinthians 10:12. The principle applies here as well. It is easy to want to compare ourselves to others, but it is not others that should set our standards. God’s plan for our life is the standard all must seek. God created each of us in a unique way. He created our family unique. Unless we embrace our differences and seek out God’s will for our family, we will constantly struggle in this area.

There is a fine balance between striving for excellence as wives and mothers, and killing ourselves by trying to live up to some unattainable form of perfection that we “think” we see in others. Let’s not forget that often we are only seeing highlights of people’s lives, moments of triumphs, and glimpses of won victories. Often the failures, struggles, and disappointments are not on display. This comparison game trap was a good reminder for me as well. When talking to a new believer, a first time homeschooler, or a newlywed I need to remember that each child of God is on a journey in life to walk in the ways of the Lord. We are all striving to live our life and raise our family in a way that is pleasing to Him. Some are simply further down the road than others.  Some have been traveling longer. Some travel at a faster pace. And some take a different path altogether. My life will not look like yours. Your life will not look like mine. But let each of us look like Christ. If we are going to compare our lives with anyone, let it be His!  “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” 1 John 2:6.

Be content to travel down the path that God has laid before you.  Acknowledge Him, take your eyes off self, focus upon the One who establishes all your ways, and let the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind focused upon Him.

The Key to Successful Writing

key

Someone asked me the other day how I had managed to just finish writing my 5th book in a little over 5 years.

My answer was simple. The key is sleeping-in.

No, not me.

The children….

 

Since we homeschool we have the luxury of doing that.

Since we have made the sacrifice to educate our children at home, I am very blessed with a relaxed schedule!  Over the past 5 years most of my writing has taken place from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.  I say most, not all.  There are plenty of times that I write when I should be doing other things.  On rare occasions entire Saturdays have been spent researching, writing, editing, re-writing, editing, and re-writing. On even rarer occasions I will write in the still of the night. But for the most part, I work in the mornings while the children are asleep.  All is quiet, except for an occasional jingle on the collar of our Maltese. My mind is intensified by the aroma from the Kona coffee. Words flow. Life is good.

But “sleeping-in” is not really the key.

The true key to successfully accomplishing anything worthwhile is consistency. Be consistent. Keep at it.  Don’t give up. Make time for writing. A little here and a little there….A few hours a day doesn’t amount to much, but a few hours a day equal 10 hours a week. And 10 hours a week add up.

Some say they can only write when they are inspired. Forget that. Set time aside every day to be inspired and then write.

I am not sure who to credit, but they exuded wisdom by saying,

If you want something bad enough, you will find a way.

If you don’t, you will find an excuse.

(Now, if I can just take that same concept and apply it to exercise…..)

Let me hear from all you writers out there. What has been “key” to your success in writing?

Aaron’s First Audio Drama

ontheairWhat is your favorite evening family past time? One of our favorite things to do is to bring everyone into living room and read great books to the children. Although, I can’t really take credit as Dana does all the reading and I often fall asleep. While it is one of our favorite things to do, I admit that when the children were younger and life was slower that we did this much more often. But even now we still love to gather around a good book as a family, and if we can find a good one, we will on occasion listen to audio dramas during this time.

So, the other day Aaron (my 16 year old) said he was interested in learning about making audio dramas. One of the joys of homeschooling is that we can break from the normal routine to let our children pursue activities of interest. He picked a short chapter called Buried for his first attempt. This is the second book in The Peleg Chronicles by Matthew Christian Harding. We were introduced to this series a few years ago and they quickly became one of our family’s favorites. (You can read my review on the first book here.) Below is the 3 minute result of Aaron’s first attempt (with some help from a good friend).

After you listen to it I’d love to hear what you think.

Hey Girl, You Better Guard Your Heart!

brokenheart There is a disturbing phenomenon circulating on Facebook and Pinterest. It is the “Hey Girl” photos with Ryan Gosling. Have you seen them? The pictures feature Mr. Gosling in a provocative pose, many times shirtless, addressing the very heart of women. The ones I have seen are disturbing in that they are geared toward wives, stay-at-home moms, and homeschoolers.

The photos have captions like:

• Hey girl, I loved your blog post today.
• Hey girl, Go rest those tired eyes and I’ll take care of the explosive diaper.
• Hey girl, You know I’m getting jealous of that body pillow.
• Hey girl, I don’t need fancy dinners, I love the way you cook Kraft dinners.
• Hey girl, sure I’ll take another day off from work to go on a field trip with you and the kids.
• Hey girl, I love how you manage to tie in our morning devotional with algebra.

In a society where marriages are under attack and fewer and fewer actually survive, the whole issue is troublesome. If it were a just a trend of the world I would not worry. But since many of my online associations are professing Christians, I have to conclude that many Christian wives are looking at and promoting these photos.

Faithfulness is key for a Christian marriage to not only thrive, but glorify God. No doubt marital infidelity can destroy a marriage, but what about infidelity of the heart?

Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” Matthew 5:27-28.

Is it really prudent to look at a picture of a good-looking man saying things that you wish your husband would say?

Let’s ask like this: Would you want your husband looking at a picture of a good-looking woman saying things that he wished you would say to him?

The lies of the world are clever. They whisper, “It’s no big deal.” But, the enemy is subtle; he desires to destroy your marriage. Guard your heart; God is very concerned with the condition of it. Love your husband for who he is and glorify God through your marriage. The world is watching!

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life,” Proverbs 4:23.

Top 10 Homeschooling Websites

A generation ago, the homeschooling movement was considered to be at best cutting-edge, eccentric, and alternative.  At its worst it was considered strange, rare, and in some states illegal.  But today the movement has become more main-stream.  Currently with over 2 million home educated children, homeschooling may be the fastest growing form of education in the United States.  I consider being able to teach my children at home a wonderful privilege, a huge responsibility, and an awesome calling from God.  With the loving support and encouragement from my husband and the amazing grace of God, we have been homeschooling for over 10 years.  Each year brings new experiences, creates wonderful memories, and brings our family closer together.

With us starting back to school on Monday, my husband and I have spent the last few weeks pouring through our curriculum, praying for wisdom, and writing out schedules and lesson plans.  I have also spent a lot of time online so I thought I would share my Top 10 Favorite Homeschool Websites with each of you.  Hope you enjoy.

http://www.hslda.org/

Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.  If you are a homeschooler and not a member, I highly encourage you to join today.  HSLDA is a Christian organization, inexpensive and well worth the peace of mind.

http://www.donnayoung.org

I love this website.  It has free printables and resources for home, homeschool, and classrooms.  It has everything from lesson planners, calendars, chore makers, and much more.  Check it out!

http://www.homeschoolclassifieds.com

If you are looking to buy or sell used homeschool curriculum this is the website for you.  It’s easy to use and saves tons of money.  Not only have I’ve purchased curriculum this week, but I’ve made $120 selling used curriculum.

http://homeschoolenrichment.com/

By far this is the best Christian homeschooling magazine out there.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself and sign up today for their FREE digital magazine.

http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/

I love the concept behind Books Should Be Free.  This website has tons of free public domain audiobooks and eBooks.  You can download books for iPhone, Android, Kindle, and mp3 layers.

http://www.lamplighterpublishing.com/

Okay, I agree that books should be free.  However, if you are going to buy them, this is the place to do so.  Lamplighter Publishing is my all-time favorite place to get books and their dramatized audios are excellent.  They are costly, but well worth the investment.  Our collection is something I will hold on to.  One day I can see myself reading them to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

http://www.khanacademy.org/

“The Khan Academy provides a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.” (from their website)

I really like this website.  It has over 3,000 videos from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and practice problems to go with them.  Best of all – IT’S FREE!

http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/flash/cursive/index.htm

Anyone who has children learning to write is cursive will want to visit this site.  You simply type in what you want and it generates the worksheets for you.  Just print them out.

http://www.oldfashionededucation.com/index.html

You’ll find here a directory of free homeschool curricula, literature and text books organized for the use of homeschooling families.  There are lots of good resources here.

http://www.homeschoolconvention.com/

Home Educating Family has put together this website.  It is a great place to look up curriculum reviews, visit their online convention, check out their magazine, and much more.

 

So here it is, my top 1o.  Of course, there are so many great products and resources out there that it was hard to pick just 10. Did I miss your favorite website?  Leave a comment and share with the rest of your homeschooling friends.   Blessings!

Homeschooling, Teens, & Formals

Our family started the homeschooling journey when my son was just 4 years old.  Our first goal was to teach him how to read.  From there we decided that we would travel the path one step at a time and each year at a time.  Back then, my husband and I weighed all the advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling.  What would my son miss out on?  What benefits would he loose? Would he still get to participate in various programs and sports?  What about friends?  What about Prom?

Looking back I can definitely say that we made the right decision.  Our goals for our family encompassed so much more than a few opportunities.  We had discipleship in mind.  And by the grace of God, we feel as though we have been on the right path all these years.  Sure, we stumble by the wayside some days; sure we struggle to climb those high hills, but God has been with us each step of the way, guiding our family.  With that said, the advantages have far outweighed the disadvantages.  It has become clear that homeschooled children have just as many opportunities for education, programs, and sports.  As far as friends are concerned, this has never been an issue.  My children have always had friends of all ages in abundance.  From neighbors, to friends at church, to homeschooled peers, God has always provided friendships.  And when it came to things such as prom and formals, I had decided many years ago that it would not be that big of deal if my children missed them.  After all, as Christians, why do we feel like we need to do the same things the world does?

Now fast forward to today.  Who knew that I would blink my eyes and be standing here with a 15 year old young man asking if he can go to a dance?  A local homeschool group hosts a Spring Formal every year and Abigail (my 13 year old) asked if she could go.  My first thought was “absolutely not.”  But, I had someone send me the information anyway and as it turned out, she was too young.  There, problem solved….until Aaron asked to go.  This surprised me.  So, I pulled back out the information and looked at it again.  Here is what it said,

Home schooled high school students (gr. 9-12), alumni, parents and friends, join us for a Christ-honoring formal event! Don your favorite formal wear and enjoy an evening of fellowship and fun~

Did you catch that?  This would be a “Christ honoring” event.  I kept reading.

MODESTY is of ABSOLUTE importance. We are a CHRISTIAN community of worshipers of the ONE TRUE GOD OF THE BIBLE. We may not agree on everything but we can  agree on the importance of honoring God in the way we present our bodies as a  living sacrifice and the importance of not causing our “brothers to stumble”

LADIES…please do not wear plunging necklines or backless dresses.  Straps on your dress need to be thick enough to be recognizable as straps. “Spaghetti” straps are not okay.  If you have a dress that you really want to wear and are unsure if it passes the “modesty” test…wear a shawl, shrug or jacket that will remain on during the entire evening.

GENTLEMEN… .please wear belts…we DO NOT want to see ANY of your underwear. 

Okay, so I liked what I read.  Then after speaking to a mom who has attended every year, Dana and I decided that we would go with Aaron.  And he was happy to have us tag along. (I know this because I asked if it bothered him that we were going.  He said, “Oh course not, why would it?”)  We decided that if we liked what we saw we would let Abigail go with us next year.  I’ve had several other mom’s ask me to share my thoughts about the evening.  So here goes.

My Thoughts

I will admit that I went into the evening somewhat skeptical.  My first impression was that it looked like my own high school prom, from the decorations to the flash photography. But upon closer examination, I did notice a couple of significant differences.  The first was the amount of adults.  While I am not sure of the numbers, there seemed to be 100-150 people there.  And it looked to me that there were as many adults as there were youth.  I was thrilled to see all the alumni and parents.

The second thing I noticed was how the young ladies dressed.  Most of the young ladies (90%) followed the dress code.  A few did not.  But for the most part I was very pleased with how modest all these young girls looked in their beautiful formals.

 One of my favorite dresses was of this young lady who sat at our table.  She was accompanied to the dance by her father who wore a matching camouflage shirt.  It was precious.

The evening began with pictures and then a sit down meal.  I had Chicken & Shrimp sautéed in a pesto cream with plum tomatoes and fettuccine.  Aaron and Dana had sautéed chicken breast finished with a Marsala mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and green beans.  It was good.  There were several games afterwards and the music started at around 9 p.m.  Before the music began there was another reminder to the group that we were a Christian organization and that everything we did needed to be Christ honoring.

Let me first say that our family listens to very little secular music.  If you don’t count Veggie Tales or Tim Hawkins songs, you could say we listen to NO secular music.  Music stirs the soul.  I believe that it will either stir your soul towards God or away.  (You can read my full opinion on music here.)  So, I really wasn’t sure what my thoughts would be on the music.  The music ranged from a techno version of the Cotton Eyed Joe to Elvis Songs to the Macarena with lots in between.  My husband has an app on his phone that picks up the lyrics to any song played and we noticed that one of the songs toward the beginning of the evening had a bleeped out “F-word”.  While I was glad it was bleeped out, I really didn’t see a point in the song being played.  It might have, however, just been an oversight with those who put the playlist together.

Most all of the dancing was group dancing, like the Cha Cha Slide.  There was some Waltz (with instruction) and the Swing dance.  I would have personally liked to see a lot more ballroom dancing throughout the evening.  But, it appeared that the dancing was as innocent as dancing could be.  I didn’t see a lot of “coupling”.  There just wasn’t a big romance theme going on.  The youth were simply having fun, enjoying the fellowship.  I did see a lot of dads/daughters and moms/sons dancing together.  That was nice.  One thing about homeschooled children is that they are rarely cliquish and always friendly.  I was reminded again of this during the evening.  Everyone seemed welcome and no one really looked excluded.

(Aaron & a couple of friends)

Overall, I would equate the dance to “empty calories” – you know, potato chips, ice cream, cookies.  These things taste good, but provide no real nourishment.  I did not walk away saying, “Wow, I’m so thankful my child had this opportunity!  This has really added to his life in a very meaningful way!”  Nor did I walk away from the evening saying, “Wow, I wish we had never attended.  This was a huge mistake!”  I walked away thinking that it was okay.  Aaron enjoyed the evening.  I enjoyed seeing him dressed up.  The fellowship was nice.  He enjoyed his friends, made new ones, and was able to experience the whole formal evening in a safe environment.  I really appreciated all the work that was put into the evening to make it a nice event for the whole family.

(Father & Son)

So the bottom line is that each family needs to make their own decision based on their convictions.  Will we go next year?  Probably so, chances are Dana and I will take both Aaron and Abigail.  While this is not something we would just drop our children off at, going as a family will be an enjoyable event we will look forward to each year.