The Biblical Basis for Home Schooling

Written By
William O. Einwechter

In the early period of American history, home schooling was the primary means of education. As Christopher Klicka notes, “From the founding of this country by the Pilgrims in 1620 and the Puritans in 1630 to the late 1800s, most education took place in homes, with either the parents or a tutor (usually a pastor) providing the instruction.”[1] But with the rise of modern public schooling in the 1800s, the accompanying propaganda to justify it,[2] and the ultimate triumph of statist public education, home schooling died out almost completely in America. Today, the majority of the American populace (Christians included) generally believes what they have been told for the last one hundred years: state-controlled, taxpayer-financed public schools are the best possible means of education for children. That this is a lie is becoming clearer and clearer as each day passes. Public education in America has become a colossal failure. With this failure, there has been an increasing return (especially among Christian parents) to the pattern of home schooling as practiced by our forefathers.

The return to home schooling among Christians is due in part to the decay of public education, and the desire of parents to protect their children from the dangers and humanistic influences of the public schools. But the reason why Christian parents home school goes much deeper than the fiasco of the public schools and the promise of a superior education at home. They have chosen to home school their children because they believe that this means of education is the best means to carry out God’s will for them as parents. They are convinced that they are doing what God has called them to do in His law-word.

The purpose of this article is to encourage Christian parents to educate their children at home by giving a summary statement of the biblical basis for home schooling.

God’s Covenants and Christian Education 

God’s covenants govern all of life for the believer. God saves men on the basis of His covenant promise, and governs His people on the basis of His covenant law. God is the originator of the covenant, and as sovereign Lord He establishes the terms of the covenant. Entrance into a covenant relationship with God is based on repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For those who meet these terms (due solely to God’s electing love and grace), the terms of life in the covenant are loyalty to God and obedience to His law. The Bible contains the revelation of God’s law—the stipulations (commandments) that men are to follow in their love and service to God, and their love and service to their neighbor. The stipulations of God’s law set forth in clear terms the path of obedience that God’s  people must walk if they are to be faithful to their Lord. Believers are bound by a solemn oath (sealed in baptism) to submit to the Lordship of Christ and to obey the precepts of God’s law.

Thus, the first duty of Christian parents in regard to the education of their children is to discern what God’s law requires of them. The stipulations of God’s law must govern all the decisions that Christian parents make relating to the education of their children. Therefore, they must ask: What has God commanded concerning the teaching and training of the children that He has placed in our care? Having answered that question from the Bible, the next duty of Christian parents is to faithfully obey the commands of God without compromise or wavering.

Accordingly, the starting point for Christian parents as they consider the education of their children is not the realm of pragmatic concerns, but the realm of God’s law. After all, they have taken an oath of allegiance to God (in baptism), and they are required to obey all that He has commanded (Deut. 10:12-13). Being in covenant with God, Christian parents do not have the freedom to educate their children as they may please, but are bound to educate them in the way that God has specifically commanded.

The law of the covenant is very explicit concerning the responsibility of Christian parents in regard to the education of their children:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children...  (Deut. 6:6-7; cf. 11:19-21).

. . . the Lord said unto me, Gather the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children (Deut. 4:10).

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deut. 29:29).

For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments  (Ps. 78:5-7).

He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24; cf. Prov. 19:18; 23:13; 29:15, 17).

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

These verses place the authority and responsibility for education in the hands of the parents. They also define the nature of Christian education: children are to be taught the law of God and directed in how they may glorify Him in all that they do in life. The commands of God’s law require parents to lead their children to love God with all their heart and mind, and to give to them a comprehensive biblical worldview that will guide them in all spheres of life. The stipulations of the covenant law thus provide a solid basis for the practice of Christian home schooling. Let us consider more closely how this is so.

The Biblical Basis of Home Schooling

1. God’s law places the authority and responsibility for the education of children in the hands of the family rather than in the hands of the church or state.

God has appointed three primary institutions for the governing and ordering of human life. In His Word He delineated the sphere of authority granted to each, and the duties assigned to each. Without question, God has given the responsibility for the education of children to the family. The state has no mandate from God to direct the education of the children within its borders. If the state claims that the education of children is in its jurisdiction, it unlawfully transgresses into an area reserved by God for the family. The state has no business in education; the state-controlled, public schools of today are contrary to God’s established order: education of children is the jurisdiction of the family.

But what about the church? Doesn’t the church have an educational mission? It most certainly does. The church is the bulwark of truth in the world, and it is the guardian of God’s Word. The church is to disciple the nations by teaching all that God has commanded. But God has not delegated the responsibility for the education of children to the church. This does not mean, however, that the church has no relation to the training of the children of church members. There is a direct relationship. God has commanded the church to teach the Scriptures so as to equip believers to carry out the works and ministries committed to them by God. In regard to the education of the children of its members, the church equips the parents through the faithful exposition of the Bible so that the parents will be knowledgeable in the truth and prepared to teach their own children (cf. Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The church helps to equip the parents to carry out their calling to be the educators of their children. But it is not the church’s role to usurp the parent’s position and take over the duty of teaching the children of Christian families.

2. God’s law indicates that parents are themselves responsible to educate and train their own children.

A careful reading of the biblical texts given above reveals that the parents are to be the primary teachers of their children. Parents do not fulfill God’s law by merely providing for someone else to teach their children God’s truth and how it applies to all of life. No, God appoints the parents to be the teachers of their own children. God’s law-word is to be transmitted to children primarily in the context of the family and by the parents. This truth, however, does not imply that parents can never employ the skills and knowledge of others for the education of their children. But it does mean that the parents are the chief instructors of their children, and all others serve as their assistants at their discretion.[3]

3. God’s law commands parents to train and discipline their children through the consistent use of the rod and reproof.

A very important part of a child’s education is the development of self-control, and respect for and obedience to authority. These goals are achieved, in large measure, through discipline. God has put the rod into the hands of the parents to drive the “foolishness” that is in the child’s heart far from him (Prov. 22:15). For the rod and reproof to have effect it must be administered uniformly and faithfully by the one charged with its administration—the parents! This can only happen if the child is under the constant supervision of his parents.

4. God’s law establishes the home as the center for instruction and education.

This is particularly evident in the texts of Deuteronomy 6:7-9 and 11:18-20. In these passages, the physical location of teaching is identified with the home. In other words, the “school building” is seen as the family home, not another building in another locale. This does not mean that all education must take place within the confines of the four walls of the house for the text speaks of learning in other settings. However, it does stand against the idea of sending children out of the home to a designated building other than their own home.

5. God’s law denotes that the training of children should take place in real-life situations and settings.

Parents are commanded to teach their children “when thou sittest in thine house, when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7). Thus, there is a time for formal instruction and a time for informal instruction, but all is to take place in the real-life setting of the family and the activities of daily life (worship, work, play, travel, buying, selling, decision making, etc.). The goal of education is to prepare a child to glorify God in real life, so the setting for education ought to be real life. Most modern education departs from the biblical model in that it seeks to teach children in the artificial environment of a school surrounded by their peers.

6. God’s law requires that the education of children be thoroughly biblical.

By this we mean that the starting point for knowledge is the recognition that all truth is God’s truth, and that every subject must be taught from the perspective of biblical revelation. Since all facts are created by God (e.g., the facts of language, science, math, and history), these facts can only be rightly understood if we follow God’s authoritative interpretation of them as given in the Bible. Education must be explicitly Christian if it is to be loyal to God’s covenant. Hence, it is impossible for us to be faithful to God if we allow our children to be educated by covenant-breakers in an anti-Christian environment (such are the public schools of this nation!). Each Christian parent is responsible to make sure that his or her child receives a Christian education.

It is on the basis of these principles derived from God’s law regarding the education of children that the case for home schooling is made. Since the family is the institution charged with the duty of education; since parents are commanded to be the primary teachers of their children; since parents have been given the rod to discipline their children; since the center for the training of children is the home; since education is to take place in the real-life setting of the family; and since parents are responsible to give their children a God-centered, Bible-based education; it can be concluded that home schooling is not only an acceptable means of education, it is the best, because it conforms more closely than any other model to the commands of God to Christian parents.

1. ^ Christopher Klicka, The Right Choice: The Incredible Failure of Public Education and the Rising Hope of Home Schooling (Gresham, OR, 1992), p. 112.

2. ^ For an excellent and informative history of the rise of public education see, Samuel L. Blumenfeld, Is Public Education Necessary? (Old Greenwich, 1981).

3. ^ Parents may need others (books and tutors, for example) to supplement their instruction in the more specialized areas of knowledge and skills. As children grow older this need becomes more pronounced. At the time when a young man embarks on his life’s vocation, in many instances it is proper that he be apprenticed under the guidance of a Christian man skilled in that vocation. The contention that parents are the primary teachers of their children does not mean that they can be the only teachers of their children.

This article was originally published in the Chalcedon Report, March 1998.