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The Washington Times
June 29, 2004

Washington Times Op-ed — Conveying Values to a New Generation

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Southern Baptists recently made headlines when some of their members submitted the Christian Education Resolution to the annual Southern Baptist Convention, held last month in Indianapolis.

The non-binding resolution called for Southern Baptists to remove their children from public school and either homeschool or place their children in private Christian school. The Christian Education Resolution did not receive a floor vote. In its place, a weakened resolution, which simply called for Southern Baptist children to receive a thoroughly Christian education via homeschooling and private Christian education, failed by a 70-30 margin.

The resolution has reignited a debate about the role religious parents should play in their children's education by posing several questions. Among them: Should religious parents take the lead in teaching their children or allow the public schools to present an alternate view seven hours a day, five days a week? What would public schools look like if the majority of committed religious parents decided to give their children a private religious education?

Almost no one argues that government schooling teaches children from a Biblical perspective. Decisions over the past 40 years removing prayer from public schools, refusing to teach creationism alongside evolution, banning Bible readings - and generally disparaging objective truth - has left many religious parents convinced that the public school system is hostile to their way of viewing the world.

Maintaining a religious or, in the case of the Southern Baptists, a Christian worldview is a strong motivation to homeschool. It's not the only reason parents make that choice, however. The majority of parents cite drugs, crime and negative peer pressure as well as believing they can provide a better education than the public school as the main reason they chose to homeschool.

Religious parents, who would like their children to continue their beliefs and traditions, should be intrigued by the following finding: A recent study by the National Home Education Research Institute, a survey of more than 7,000 homeschool graduates, discovered that 59 percent "strongly agreed" and 35 percent "agreed" with the statement, "My religious beliefs are basically the same as my parents'." This is in contrast to a study, commissioned within the Southern Baptist church and reported two years ago in the Baptist Press, which found that 88 percent of Southern Baptist children left the church, never to return, by the age of 18. Even if the 88 percent figure is too high, it's generally accepted that many children of religious parents do not keep their faith into adulthood. In the case of Southern Baptists, where 85 percent attend public school, it follows that many children abandoned their parents' faith during their time in public school.

Many parents in the rapidly growing homeschool community have decided it is a bad idea to allow public schools to compete with them as they raise their children. Homeschooled children are able to make significant academic progress because they're able to follow an individualized education plan and the educational resources developed within the homeschool community are some of the best available in the country. Homeschool support groups enable families to pool their resources, and they provide opportunities for socialization. A religion-based education is at the heart of many homeschool programs.

The results have been impressive. The academic benefits of homeschooling are beyond dispute, and new research from NHERI shows that homeschooled children are more active and involved in their communities than public school students. Many homeschool parents also report developing stronger family bonds through homeschooling.

Despite the benefits, the decision to homeschool is a significant one. Often a family must survive on one income. Parents choosing homeschooling typically will need to learn new skills and adopt new routines. Parents will also spend more time with their children rather than pursuing their own interests. No one doubts that it takes sacrifice to homeschool, but the benefits to children and parents can be immense.

Parents may not ultimately choose homeschooling, but there's no escaping the fact that the conditions in the overwhelming majority of today's public schools suggest - some say demand - that homeschooling, or another form of faith-based education, become the default position of religious parents. This argues for the position that today's public education should be viewed only as a reluctantly accepted alternative when all other choices, in particular homeschooling, have been seriously explored. Parents have been entrusted with the children in their care and are therefore obligated to make wise decisions about how they'll raise their children to become healthy, mature and productive citizens.