Thinking Out Loud

May 8, 2011

Homeschool Parents Won’t Teach or Allow Others to Teach Sunday School

This is another post from the vault, this one from two years ago; May, 2009.  Sadly, it’s based on a true story. 

homeschool fishFor seven months, Mrs. W. and I (but mostly her) were forced to become homeschoolers during a period when Kid One wasn’t quite fitting into the public school near our home. Despite the short period in which we did this, we became immediate friends with other people in the homeschool movement, and I would say we can somewhat understand their motivation.

So if you’re a homeschooler, let me say that I get it when it comes to not wanting your children to be under the influence — for six hours each weekday — of people who do not share your core values, some of whom may be 180-degrees opposed to your core values.

What I don’t get is not wanting to put your kids in the Sunday School program — some now call it small groups for kids program — of your home church. Not wanting anyone else to teach your kids anything. If your home church is that lax when it comes to recruiting teachers, or if you are that concerned that any given teacher in your church’s children’s program could espouse some really wacky doctrine — or worse, admit that he or she watches sports on Sundays — then maybe you should find another church.

To everyone else, if these comments seem a bit extreme, they’re not. Apparently, in one particular church that was under discussion this week, the homeschool crowd — which makes up the vast majority of those in the ‘people with kids’ category at this church — has decided that absolutely nobody else is going to teach their kids anything about the Bible. (Those same parents say they’re too tired from teaching their children all week to take on a weekend Sunday School assignment.)

In other words, it’s not just people in the public school system who aren’t good enough to teach their kids, it’s also people in their home church.

I am so glad that my parents didn’t feel that way. I think of the people who taught me on Sunday mornings, the people who ran the Christian Service Brigade program for boys on Wednesday nights, the people who were my counselors and instructors at Church camp, and I say, “Thank you; thank you; thank you! Thank you for sharing your Christian life and testimony and love of God’s word with me when I was 5, 8, 11, 14 and all the ages in between. And thank you to my parents for not being so protective as to consider that perhaps these people weren’t good enough to share in the task of my Christian education.”

I also think of Donna B., the woman who taught Kid One at the Baptist Church that became our spiritual refuge for a couple of years. He really flourished spiritually under her teaching, reinforced of course, by what we were doing in the home.

What message does it send to kids when the only people who have it right when it comes to rightly dividing the Word of truth are Mommy and Daddy? And what about the maturity that comes with being introduced to people who, while they share the 7-12 core doctrines that define a Christ-follower, may have different opinions about matters which everyone considers peripheral?

Where does all this end? Are these kids allowed to visit in others’ homes? When they go to the grocery store, are they allowed to converse with the woman at the checkout? My goodness; are they even allowed to answer the phone?

I’m sorry, homeschoolers, but when you start trashing the Sunday School teachers at your own church, you’ve just crossed the line from being passionate, conservative Christian parents to being downright cultish.

Further reading: Apparently we visited some of this topic before, on November 5th, 2008. You can read that post here.


Update (May 17) — In an off-the-blog discussion today, I realized there is a critical factor missing in the original article that couldn’t be shared at the time.  Because homeschool families made up the majority of this church congregation, it kind of stopped the Sunday School in its tracks.  But more important, it ended up preventing any kind of mid-week program that would have been an outreach to neighborhood families that the pastor regarded as a vital element of the church’s ministry; and ultimately the church simply never grew.  However, when all attempts at outreach were ended, one of the core family parents said, and this is a direct quote, “Isn’t it great; all the new people have left.”   Talk about backward priorities.

15 Comments »

  1. As a passionate homeschool parent, articles (or I should say parents) like this make me wince. I have been teaching my sons at home for nine years and I have never met homeschooling parents like the ones cited in this article. I am not doubting that it is true but only wanting to point out that it must be very rare.

    Comment by Cynthia — May 8, 2011 @ 9:10 am

  2. Home schooling in Australia is much more rare than in US and I doubt if there would be more than one or two families in any Church and none in most. I support the rights of parents to home school if they wish (and are capable) but I haven’t seen much to suggest it is a better alternative.

    As a childrens and teen ministry leader for decades, I found it very easy to identify home-school children. Their social skills were non-existent. They were loners and they were unable to find work when they grew older. The children in two families became rebellious and wild in their teen years.

    I have known teens who were unable to move into their chosen career (two into nursing, one into education) unless they first undertook a year long study to gain uni entry.

    One family was an exception to this. The parents made sure they mixed in other groups and had a more “normal” lifestyle even though they were home schooled.

    Maybe if there were more home-schooled children who had interaction with others it would be better but here they really are isolated from others.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — May 11, 2011 @ 1:23 am

    • That is a terrible comment. Have you ever heard of Aspergers Syndrome or Autism where people are socially awkward? Like you said, you don’t meet many homeschooling families so you really can’t make that judgement. Homeschooling is increasingly popular in the US and I am impressed with how smart and confident these kids are. They are subjected to ridicule and the peer pressures of the day and thankfully are saved from a majority of it. I wish to God my mom homeschooled me after everything I went through in school growing up. It was horrible and the principle made me go to counseling just because my parents were Christians and didn’t own a TV. They *thought* that was abuse. They hurt my family terribly and almost succeeded in tearing us apart. No, I’m not a big fan of public school.

      Comment by Virginia — May 17, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

      • I agree, Virginia, that homeschooling was not likely the main factor in certain children being socially awkward. And, aside from Autism or Aspergers, there are a host of other reasons.

        My husband recently graduated seminary with a degree in theology after 3.5 years of study. We would laugh with friends who were also at seminary about how few people there had any social skills. Seriously, lots of socially awkward folks! But, they are brilliant to be sure!

        A think a lot of smart, creative, artistic, witty, or otherwise excellent people do not fit cultural norms. They march to the beat of their own drummer.

        Certainly homeschoolers do not have the corner on the market of social awkwardness, rebellious teens, or delayed decision making in a chosen career path! I think all these things are pretty common across the board–homeschool, public school or private school.

        Comment by Daja — May 17, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

  3. We can debate the pros and cons of homeschooling ’til the cows come home, but this item was really about parents who would not allow other Christian parents to teach their children in a Sunday School environment.

    How does everyone feel about the particular story here?

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 17, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

  4. Want an honest answer? I allow my 17-year-old to go to a local church youth group. But only because he’s 17. It isn’t so much that I think the teachers are going to pervert his young mind with odd ideas… it’s that they AREN’T going to give him any ideas at all.

    Here’s a synopsis of a recent youth group meeting: Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is like bread, and bread is like a sponge. So we’re supposed to soak up Jesus in our lives and be the light to others. Only we are not supposed to get too crusty.

    Seriously, my kid came home with this stuff. Theologicially soggy, but not permanently harmful I don’t imagine.

    I’m far more concerned about leaving him practically alone with some of the dopey peers he has in church. They’re worse than most kids in public school. The supervision is worse than public school as well, and I say this because there is no one looking around the building near the tall bushes (ahem) or looking occasionally through the parking lot to make sure kids aren’t smoking, making out and assorted whatnot.

    Often the youth group lets out before the people in the sanctuary are done, so it isn’t a matter of parents being lax. Then again, should the staff have to circle the lot during church time? I don’t think it occurs to them. But maybe it should.

    I just don’t want my kid hanging out with most of these kids.

    Comment by Happy Elf Mom — May 17, 2011 @ 11:38 pm

  5. Well, yes I do allow them to teach my kids because it’s closely monitored and the materials are sent home with the kids for me to see. Our church is very close knit and share a lot of the same beliefs (no TV, unglodly music, born again, heaven, hell). I’m very grateful that they also learn in Sunday School and Children’s church. Yes, my babies thankfully go to a nursery that I volunteer in twice a month. However, my kids are in 2 regular services a week sitting next to us. Sunday school is only before regular morning worship and children’s church is only held once out of the three services a week. I benefited big time from children’s leaders and want the same for my kids. Kids have it much, much worse with the doctrines at school.

    Comment by Virginia — May 18, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

  6. Wasn’t going to comment again, but since Happy Elf Mom did….well….I’ll be brave.

    There are many reasons someone might choose not to send their children to Sunday School, not the least of which is the value that many place on FAMILY WORSHIP. I can think of several reasons–some of which I have used to keep my own children with me during service and not send them to our church’s children’s ministry–but none of the reasons have been because “nobody else is good enough to teach my children” and I don’t feel that any of my reasons have been cultish.

    Sometimes my kids go to children’s church, sometimes they don’t. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all answer to general education there is also no one-sized-fits-all answer to religious education. And no parent should be guilted into sending their child to public school or Sunday school just because everyone else is doing it or because the pastor needs more bodies in the seats. These are our children’s souls we are talking about. A parent’s reasons better run a little deeper than that.

    Comment by Daja — May 18, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    • Daja,

      All good comments; nothing there I would disagree with.

      I think that where I’m coming from in this story has little to do with different takes on homeschooling, but more about different church paradigms.

      I guess I’ve failed to get across what it was the pastor and his wife were trying to build in terms of being salt and light in a much larger community, and I failed to grasp that in many sectors the idea of building bridges to families through child and youth ministry is really like speaking a foreign language.

      It would have been nice to hear from blog readers for whom popular children’s ministry concepts like “Upstreet” and “Promiseland” are familiar words. I feel we’re only getting half the story in the comments section here.

      …Perhaps this pastor and his wife were simply in the wrong church all those years. I am beginning to realize that there are two entirely different and very incompatible mindsets out there.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 18, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

  7. Hi, Paul. I don’t think it’s an incompatible mindset (if we are all Christians there ought be basics we agree upon!) so much as an incompatible culture. It would be like trying to convince a mostly Spanish-speaking congregation to do things the “Vietnamese way” so that we reach more Vietnamese people because Vietnamese people are the majority “out there” in this pretend land I just made up.

    NOTHING wrong with either culture. Sunday School just isn’t something we are *all* ready to go in for or make sacrifices of our time and effort for. I guess now that you’ve rephrased it, it would be a good topic to explore… this question of how much a church member ought sacrifice for a pet project of the pastor he disagrees with or sees little benefit in? How much should we really give toward the pastor/church elders’ “vision?”

    I guess I would say that a church member ought try to avoid badmouthing it, but isn’t obligated to support it in any way. That’s the ideal for me. Then again, if my someone asked me outright my opinion? They’d hear it. They usually do. :)

    Comment by Happy Elf Mom — May 19, 2011 @ 12:09 am

  8. […] Homeschool Parents Won't Teach or Allow Others to Teach Sunday … […]

    Pingback by Home-schooling on the rise for a good reason, say advocates | Home Schooling — May 21, 2011 @ 3:15 am

  9. I think sometimes we incorrectly assign motives to people’s actions. One homeschooling mother I know doesn’t put her children into Sunday School because she wants to model good worshiping practice and teach them how to learn from and listen to the pastor from a young age.

    I personally am struggling with leaving my two year old in Children’s Church because he becomes hysterical when I try to leave him. I’ve had several mothers mention to me that I just need to let him cry it out (which makes me cringe). Since I plan on homeschooling, I’m not too worried about my son’s separation issues, but I wish that I didn’t feel so much pressure to conform to the “Sunday School” system. I would hate for someone to assume that I kept him with me because I didn’t trust someone else to teach him.

    All I am saying is that there are many different reasons behind people’s choices – homeschooling moms tend to be radical thinkers (at least the few that I know) and I wouldn’t put it past them to have interesting, insightful and valid reasons for keeping their child with them during church.

    Comment by Radicalmamma — August 21, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    • And I agree fully with your concluding paragraph. It’s just that this was a church in a denomination where some kind of Sunday School or mid-week kids program is a common expectation, and a pastor who had a very strong desire to have a vehicle that would allow for outreach to the surrounding neighborhood. The large group of homeschoolers simply shut down that possibility for everyone — for their own kids; for kids in the church who weren’t homeschooled, and the much larger group of kids in the community.

      But what’s worse, as I stated in the update above, these parents didn’t care. Proof of that is the “Isn’t it great, all the new families have left” statement. Their attitude was, in this case anyway, toxic.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 21, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  10. I’m a pastor’s wife, Sunday school teacher, and homeschool mom of 25 years. Our church is a nice mix of public and homeschool families. I feel I understand both sides of the issue. For most homeschool families there are two issues. The first is the concept of family worship. We always kept our children with us during church because we had deep convictions about them seeing, experiencing, and being a part of corporate worship. They went to Sunday school. But, there are families who feel strongly about avoiding age segregated situations, believing that it is most healthy for our children to integrate and learn from all ages, looking up to those older and serving those younger. I don’t agree with the extreme application of this and see very little Biblical support for it. I also know, that regardless of my own feeling about children’s church, it serves families, especially those who are parenting alone. I love teaching children, praying for them and being another voice for the Lord in their lives.

    Comment by Lyn Storey — October 1, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    • Thanks for writing. And I do get the whole “family worship” concept, in fact I am seeing this increasingly come up for discussion on some blogs. For me, now that I look back on it — and now that this thing has been online for awhile — the big issue is missing the opportunity to do outreach. In other words, the mid-week thing, not the Sunday thing. What a great opportunity was missed here to open up the church, to say, “We’re going to invite people from the neighborhood who know nothing about Jesus, and we’re going to show them God’s love, because the mission field begins right here in our community.” I think the kids would understand that.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 1, 2011 @ 7:35 pm


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