In short, no, it is not a sin for Christians to choose options other than homeschool for their children. The Bible says, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Rom 4:15), and there is no biblical law commanding parents to homeschool their children. This question is really connected to the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). What does it mean to be an honorable father and mother in relation to education? I submit that there is no biblical principle forbidding parents from delegating and overseeing certain responsibilities of educating their children. For example, parents may rely on coaches to help their children learn sports, and they look to music teachers to help their children learn how to play music. They may also obtain the services of teachers to instruct their children in school.
I believe faithful parents can work to fulfill their responsibilities in the education of their children, whether they send their children to state schools, to private Christian schools, or whether they choose to homeschool their children. Not every community has the same kind of schools available; so, parents may not all be in the same position to choose what they may prefer. Not every parent is equipped to homeschool their children or is in a stage of life or providential position to do so. Parents need to be very gracious with one another in this area and extend liberty to those who choose differently.
The most crucial question is “What does the Bible require of parents in the education of their children?” I offer the following for your consideration.
1. Careful Instruction in the Word of God. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
In other words, Christian parents must be highly involved in the education of their children. They need to make sure their children have a biblical worldview. Do your children know the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the meaning of the sacraments (helping them memorize a good catechism can be helpful here)? Are you making sure your children understand that God’s creative power and rule is behind science? That God is the reason for math, that history is the outworking of His sovereign decree, etc.? Your children must understand that accurate knowledge of the world is impossible without a true knowledge of God. Genuine education is rooted in the foundational truths revealed in Scripture.
2. Whole-Life Formation in Christ. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
The GK word translated “instruction” is paideia, which refers to a whole-life enculturation in the Lord Jesus Christ. Fathers particularly, and but mothers also (Prov 1:8; 6:20), must teach their children the doctrine, the behaviors, the customs, and the story of the Lord Jesus Christ. This happens by providing a Christian home saturated in Christ, His values, and His customs.
Do you faithfully bring your children to church each and every Sunday as a part of the culture of your home (one of the most fundamental customs of the Christian life)? Do you have regular family devotions, where you read the Scriptures together, pray together, and sing songs of worship together? Do you call your children to Christ? Do you teach your children to handle conflict biblically? And do you discipline your children with great love and patience, according to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ? All of this is “instruction.” It’s enculturation to the customs of Christ.
3. Seek to Provide a Quality Education. While the most important part of your child’s education is his formation in Christ, Paul, who was highly trained academically, said, “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge” (2 Cor 11:6).
The Bible values academic achievement. It says, “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). Notice that Moses received education from the godless Egyptians, and yet the Bible says that’s precisely one of the reasons he was mighty in words and deeds.
Daniel and his friends became “skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Dan 1:4). Their learning contributed to their wisdom and capacity to serve well in the king’s court.
3. Opportunity for Christian Friends. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
It’s important for parents to make sure their children have ample opportunity to make Christian friends. Are you encouraging your children to make friends with believers? This is part of how your child will become wise. Education isn’t just classroom instruction. Much of education has to do with the relational bonds your child will form with other children. It is important that your children learn to relate to Christians both inside and outside of your home.
Conversely, the Bible warns, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33), and “the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov 13:20). So, parents need to be diligent about overseeing the relationships of their children.
4. Opportunity to Love and Serve Unbelievers. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-14). And He prayed to the Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” (Jn 17:15).
Christian parents need to be preparing their children and giving their children opportunities to bear witness of Christ to the world. It does not serve our children, if we so protect them from the world that we do not help them learn how to relate to unbelievers and bear witness of Christ to them. It does not serve unbelievers, if we do not train our children to love them in the truth.
5. Opportunity to Battle Against Satan’s Devices. Paul said, “We would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor 2:11).
Our children need to have the opportunity to be exposed to the errors of the world. It is wrong (and impossible) to try to shelter our children from all the evils of this world. Certainly, parents should wisely consider how early and by what means they expose their children to the world, but parents also need to be thinking in terms of how they will correctly explain and interpret the world to their children, not how they will keep their children from knowing what is in the world.
A Word of Caution About State Schools
I recognize not all public schools are the same, and some people live in areas where not all of these warnings apply, but parents need to be aware of these concerns, and if they choose to send their children to public schools, they need to do what they can to counteract them.
First, the government is not necessarily good at education. Romans 13:1-7 teaches that the government is given the power of the sword to punish the wicked. Attempting to educate our children is outside its God-given calling, which means it is not as competent to the task.
Second, public schools in the United States are not allowed to encourage any form of religion. This means that the default position is secular humanism. State schools must teach as though there is no God, which automatically implies that it is possible to understand our world without God.
Third, beware of false teachings at public schools. In some cases, children are taught that homosexuality is a valid form of sexual expression, that gender is not tied to biological sex, etc. They are also taught a “new math,” which denies absolutes. Schools increasingly substitute the promotion of “self-esteem” in the place of rigorous academic standards. Also, children in public schools are taught macro-evolution as a fact in the place of divine creation. They are taught that abortion is a woman’s right, and that they should engage in “safe sex.” Furthermore, they are taught to be politically correct, and thus to accept the tenets of radical feminism and critical race theory.
Parents are responsible to educate their children in the knowledge of Christ, His Word, and in academics, but they are free to enlist the help of others, if they so desire.