The following is from a homeschool dad who watched IndoctriNation during Colin Gunn’s tour of Washington State. We pray his testimony will bless you and your loved ones.
I am a homeschooling father of seven who recently viewed IndoctriNation with my family; it truly confirmed our experience. We have not always homeschooled our kids, even though we originally set out to do so. My wife and I homeschooled our children until 2006, the year we placed them in public schools. My oldest daughter’s first grade in public school was 10th; my youngest entered kindergarten the following year. We thought we had legitimate reasons for our decision, and thought we could counter any problematic information they received along the way. We were naïve.
We decided to public school our kids after we bought a new house, having rented for years. The new home fell within a very well-respected school district, one whose schools ranked among the top 200 nationwide, so we felt very good about the local schools’ academics. However, I think the greatest factor driving our decision to place our kids in public school was pressure to evangelize. I worked a full time secular job, but also served a local church as a credentialed part-time Associate Pastor. As a church, we strongly promoted relationship-based evangelism, and encouraged people to intentionally build relationships with non-believers to whom they could share their faith. We called it getting out of the ‘church bubble.’ My kids had grown up with faith in Christ, and I was confident in their spiritual preparation and resilience, and I expected them to weather the changes without any problem.
For their part, my kids were excited to try public school. It never occurred to me how iconic those yellow school buses are until watching IndoctriNation, but until buying our house, we lived right on our neighborhood’s school bus stop. Public school must have seemed marvelously fun to my kids, seeing all those other neighborhood children getting off their buses and skipping home every afternoon, artwork and projects flapping in the wind.
And to tell the truth, there was a certain amount of selfish relief my wife and I felt after having made our decision. Our budget was very tight, and we were looking forward to not having the expenses of homeschooling our six-going-on-seven kids. We expected the time requirements devoted toward our kid’s education to decrease as we moved from driving to supporting roles. And one child in particular was less interested in learning than the others (translate: lazy!), and we expected to bear less opposition from him in the process, too.
All in all, we were wrong… wrong… wrong… and… wrong.
First off, public school is not ‘free,’ at least not where we live. Our school district had tons of hidden costs for field trips, special materials, PTA functions, social events, and buying extra classroom pens, pencils, snacks, and facial tissue. There was even an increase in my kids’ overall lunch costs. We easily spent twice as much on school-related expenses after public-schooling than we ever did homeschooling.
Second, I would say we saw absolutely no decrease in our time commitments. Changing to public school simply back-loaded our day, meaning we spent evenings helping the kids with their learning instead of our previous homeschooling routine of mornings and afternoons.
Third, my child who leaned toward laziness actually was harder to ‘encourage’ toward academic success in public school. Once he became one of thirty students, in one of several classes for each given teacher, he had much less accountability. Plus, there is an unavoidable disconnect of information flowing between a teacher and the parent in that circumstance. His teachers and I emailed frequently; however, there are limitations regarding what I could reasonably expect from his teachers’ attention given that he became one of so many students.
Finally, what about my kids being salt and light? The basic idea that children should be lights in the world is a legitimate, Biblical concept. I support my kids being salt and light. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I misapplied Biblical instruction meant for adult believers to children who shouldn’t be expected to function at the same level of spiritual hardiness that God expects from adults. I think a better application for my kids being salt and light is for them to do so under the protection of our family.
Here is a few of the experiences we had through four years of public schooling, a choice that left its mark on each one of my kids.
My oldest daughter gravitated toward “scene” and “thug” culture, and struggled with making healthy social choices. As with all my kids, she and I would talk at length about her school experiences, and she seemed to voice agreement with my guidance, but her actions away from home were inconsistent with our discussions. At one point, she became “best friends” with another teen girl who attended church but who clearly had one foot placed firmly in both faith and secular worlds; this other girl’s friendly but non-Christian mother seemed to make it a “trio” of girls hanging out. There came a time when this other mother had a greater voice with my daughter than my wife and I, simply because she was pleasant and sociable, and her worldly counsel was more to my daughter’s liking.
My second daughter entered public school in ninth grade. She was an academic whiz, one of our state’s top five percent. Public school helped her become very pro-gay and a Marxist pro-feminist. No exaggeration. She stopped going to church and in the resultant conflict, she actually had teachers helping her find an apartment of her own.
My third child was the less motivated one. As I mentioned, he was much less accountable, and much more able to fly under the radar. He experimented with cheating and theft, the opportunity for which he never would have had if we continued homeschooling him. I understand the root of these behaviors was rebellion, which would have manifested itself at home, too. However, I think he would have arrived at repentance more quickly if he had a greater level of accountability.
My middle son became incredibly popular in public school, and started thoroughly integrating into pop culture, gravitating to the skateboarder persona. His popularity gave him pressure to understate his Christianity, which came to something of a crisis when one of the kids he knew at school died in an accident, and my son dealt with guilt over never telling the boy about Christ. However, his environment was hostile to Christianity. At one point, my son was sent to detention because he referred to a class of H2O in science class as “Jesus Juice.” Before getting remanded to detention, he had to sit in a class of his peers as the teacher ranted at him regarding how the classroom was no place for faith, and that our country was founded on principles of separation of church and state. The dialogue as related to me later by my son suggested the teacher had complete ignorance of the true philosophical origins of our country.
My next daughter is an average student, and even struggles some, especially with Math. She was pretty well overlooked in public school. In every school, there is at least one teacher that everyone recognizes as the bad one that no one wants for their children, and that person was my daughter’s math teacher. This woman would shout at the kids, become angry when they did not grasp a concept, or would ignore requests for assistance because she didn’t have time; consequently, my daughter was stagnant in learning Math. Socially, my daughter’s personality is soft-hearted and non-confrontational. Her public school experience included frequently suffering from the meanness and drama so often stereotyped among school girls, and she herself picked up some of her peers’ tendencies toward manipulation and drama.
My second youngest was classified as “gifted;” however, schools teach to the average and so he spent a lot of time with nothing to do. He also had a bladder issue that made him have serious urgency to use the restroom without really much notice. We explained the issue with his teacher, who was sympathetic, and who told my son that he could dash out whenever he needed to. She was quite compassionate. However, my son didn’t like the attention created by his bathroom needs, and so he often waited when he really should have run to the restroom. This waiting in fact made the issue worse, because it led to bladder spasms. The result was wet pants, more social attention, and greater hesitance on his part to just run to the bathroom when the urge struck. It was a vicious cycle of humiliation.
My youngest was also classified as gifted. As a result she, like her brother, spent substantial time with nothing to do. Like her older sister, we found her suffering because of social game-playing and little-girl drama. Her classroom discussions of fire danger and stranger danger led to years of general fearfulness, including frequent nightmares. She was unable to play in a room alone, or have her parents out of the house. Most of her teachers were kind and caring, but there was the occasional substitute teacher with horrid classroom management skills. My wife, who volunteered at the elementary school to be near our kids, happened by this daughter’s classroom once when a sub was teaching, and overheard the sub yelling and threatening to duct-tape the kids’ mouths shut if they weren’t quiet. The sub was completely unable to control the kids, and right then my wife entered the classroom, removed my daughter, and excused her from school for the rest of the day, following a pointed discussion with the school’s Principle. What if my wife had not been there?
In not one instance can I say that my kids were able to make a significant salt-and-light impact in their public schools, regardless of how popular they were. The truth is, in every case, their own faith and walk with Christ universally suffered from the experience. The Old Testament is filled with case studies of what happens when God’s people surround themselves with a pagan culture; how was it that I expected something different for my kids whose faith was only developing?
The primary mandate I have for my children comes from Deuteronomy 6:7-9, which tells me to teach my children about their Lord, all day, every day, constantly, without ceasing. It’s impossible for me to do that if my kids are receiving their education outside the home. This passage made me realize that my primary error lay in thinking of schooling simply as education. How I choose to school my kids, though, is really not at all about education, but about discipleship. Simply stated, when I put my kids in public school, I relinquished the greatest influence I have to disciple them, and I delegated that role to the teachers and students of the public school: I chose to have my kids discipled by Humanists.
We’ve had our kids back home now for two years, and have moved beyond most of the adverse effects caused by public schooling, but it’s been hard work. Watching home videos recently was painful; we could all see the changes in our family during that time. My kids will tell you they dislike who they became and it unified my kids as pro-homeschool.
By the grace of God, we have been restored.