Blogger Tony Jones says "Death to Homeschooling!"

At Theoblogy:

I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contract. Instead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

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Susan R's picture


Tony Jones follows up with this post- "Why Homeschoolers Don't Understand Missional".

Missional does not mean evangelism. Missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation....

Missional means being the salt seasoning in the world, and you cannot be that seasoning (no matter your age) if you withdraw from society.

Jim's picture

In my own view homeschooling beats the Christian Day school model for a stay-at-home Mom who has the ability and the desire to teach her children.

Three viable models:

  • Homeschooling:

    • Pro:

      • Maximum control over content
      • Lower cost that Christian Day school
    • Con:

      • Does Mom have the time, the skills, the desire?
      • Some kids need a break from Mom
      • Tough on Mom - particularly if the family is large
  • Christian Day school:

    • Pro:

      • More structure than the home school
      • A controlled Christian environment
      • Generally smaller than a public school - easier to be involved (every kid can play on the basketball team)
    • Con:

      • Few schools execute well
      • Many have lower academic standards than the public school
      • The financial model does not work for some churches and "corners are cut"
      • Cost: Can be hard on families
  • Public school:

    • Pro:

      • Lowest cost (paid for in property taxes)
      • Convenience (eg bus service)
      • May have the highest academic standards
      • Plethora of programs: sports, theater, advanced placement, et cetera
    • Con:

      • Exposure to culture and worldview contrary to Christian World View
      • The least controlled environment


Susan R's picture


Tony Jones makes the comment-

Friends, here’s my point: Every time a Christian disengages from a civic institution — drops out of the public school, decides not to vote or run for office — that institution suffers. It becomes weaker.

We are called to missional engagement in our civic institutions, and we cannot do that by withdrawing from them.

So I'm wondering- what public offices is he running for? How many years did he serve in the military? Why isn't he employed in the public school system, or in a public university?

His bio says that he "is theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis and an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and at Andover Newton Theological School."

Doesn't sound very missional, at least not based on his definition of missional. His definition of him being missional is sending his kids to public school. Somehow this makes him involved in a civic institution? 

Bob Nutzhorn's picture


I have to call you on that one - in my experience, being closely involved with 5 different Christian schools as student, parent of student, spouse of teacher, and board member, what you are saying is far from the truth. Even in the Christian school from which I graduated  with only 13 in the entire high school we were educated well. Four of the five of my class scored in the top 95% in the state. Even now, my wife is the principal of a Christian school in our area, and when they have students come in from the public school, they are way behind. Interestingly enough, I have had a very hard time with sending my girls to the Christian school because of my thinking in the same way as the article. One of the things that has kept me from pulling them from the Christian school is that I know they are getting a much better education. I know my experience is limited, so I would be interested to know why you say that the public school would have the highest academic standards. Maybe it is that your experience has been just the opposite of mine.

Michelle Shuman's picture

I'll confess that it has been years since I taught school and that God has chosen to not give my husband and me any children (comes from getting married to late in life), but I have watched the education in our area and would have to agree with Bob.  If I ever have to make a choice about a child's education, I definitely would not go to the put children in the local school system unless there was a handicap I absolutely could not deal with.  South Carolina's school system ranks as one of the worst in the country.  That said, school systems vary by state and even by locality with each state so consideration must be made on an individual basis and not as an across the board statement about academics.  I think the question of morals, ethics, and scriptural teaching (ie. evolution) are the strongest reasons of why not to put a child in the public school system. 

One con of home schooling, can be the lack of social interaction and also the learning of obedience to all authorities.  A parent who is in a very small ministry must work even harder to over come this problem, but it can be done. 

No matter which means of educating children a family chooses the parent must be involved, but not too involved and controlling.  I've experienced both the uninvolved and the over-involved/controlling parents.  Neither parent type helps anyone.

Michelle Shuman

Rob Fall's picture

in a California public school. ya gatta be outa yr mind.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jim's picture

I said "May have the highest academic standards"

There are some very good Christian Day schools. And then there are some which are not.


Susan R's picture


I'm going to ignore the "homeschoolers lack social interaction" myth, because while that has something to do with Mr. Jones' attitude about homeschooling, he takes it much MUCH farther.

Exactly what is he saying about the mission of the Christian- are we truly called to put engagement with civil institutions near the top of our priority list? How is being involved with civil institutions 'showing compassion' more than being involved in other ways, such as volunteering at local missions, food pantries, women's shelters, nursing homes, children's hospitals... All of these options are available to every family, and I know dozens of homeschoolers who are very involved in one or more of the avenues of service (all of which require social interaction and obeying authorities other than parents).

Jim's picture

The church to which I am a member has very fine Christian school. A friend at work who is an alumnus compiled these stats on our school (and another in our area):


FBCS lies within Minnesota School District #284:


District #284 public school students would go to Wayzata High School:

86% of WHS seniors took the ACT test, averaging a composite score of 26.  This is @ the 84th percentile nationally:

Additionally, 15% of WHS seniors took the SAT 1 test, averaging an even higher percentile ranking on that test…..

(86% + 15% = 101%, so there’s some minor overlap or rounding error involved.)


FBCS self-reports that last year’s seniors had an average ACT composite score of 25. This is @ the 79th percentile nationally.


Both schools still scored well above the Minnesota ACT composite average, which was 22.8; and also well above the U.S. ACT composite average, which was about 21.1.

And Fourth’s ACT results are much better than most local Christian schools.  (For example, the figure I’ve seen for [redacted ..... another large Baptist CDS in our area] school reports 22.5 for an average, which is actually below the state average for Minnesota….)


For further comparison, Edina High School’s ACT average is about 26.1:

Of course, WHS and EHS are representative of affluent suburban districts in which the great majority of students go on to college.

Dave Doran's picture


Two thoughts about your test scores comment: (1) my guess is that it is not 86 + 15, but 86 and 15, i.e., 86% took the ACT and 15% took the SAT, meaning 14% did not take the ACT and 85% did not take the SAT; and (2)  that means the scores from Fourth's school are actually better than they appear since all of the seniors took the test (my assumption here is that the 14% that did not take the test represent those who would likely have scored lower and pulled the average down some--usually those who do not take the tests are those with no plans for education following high school). 



Jim's picture

Not intending to engage in the specifics here. Just some summary points:

  • My first point was that Toby has to decide for his family
  • My 2nd point was that there are pros and cons to the various choices. The pros and cons in my early post are my opinion. I didn't actually diligently study it out ... I just posted my views quickly
  • I personally find homeschooling a viable alternative and I support those who make that choice (homeschooling is the main point of the OP)
  • I did not compile the stats cited earlier (actually Plymouth is served by 4 school districts: Wayzata (West of 494), Armstrong (East of 494), Osseo (in the far N) and Hopkins (in the SE corner of Plymouth.). The alumnus of 4th provided the stats to demonstrate  the academic strength of FBCS. I would agree with him.


handerson's picture

homeschooling itself becomes a societal convention because more and more people--other than simply conservative Christians--aren't confident that their local public schools will teach their children to "learn in order to learn?"

Silly man.


(FWIW, I grew up in Christian day school movement (parents were teachers), I've homeschooled my children in the past, and they are currently attending the local public school--which in our current ministry context seems to be the best choice for a variety of reasons (at least for now). We did investigate the local Christian schools but they were extremely cost prohibitive.) 



Barry L.'s picture

Mr. Jones needs to look at what even the world thinks of their public schools. We are going through an education revolution where even left leaning politicians and constituents are arguing for alternatives to the current public school system. Voucher programs are getting more headway in many states. Charter schools are exploding and can't meet the demand. When you have a Chicago Democratic school board member praising charter schools for not being susceptible to strikes, you have to take notice to the trend.

Times are changing and the traditional classroom model for education is also changing. The typical Christian school with traditional classrooms with the typical program is becoming too cost prohibitive for many of the church families. Those who argue that Christian education is a deal and people need to have the right priorities just don't understand the economic situation most church people are in and will be for some time. Christian universities also need to take heed.

In five years I've seen our church go from having about 2-3 homeschool families to now having half the kids in our church being homeschooled. It makes it challenging for our Christian school, but it causes us to think outside the box on how we can help all families in our church with their child's education instead of shoving a boiler plated method down their throats.

Susan R's picture


What exactly is our 'societal contract' as Christians? Where is the Scriptural support for a mandate to be as involved as possible in civil institutions? And why isn't Mr. Jones putting his money where his blog is?

I've got all the answers I need about the viability of homeschooling, but I would LOVE to know where guys like him get these bizarre ideas.

pvawter's picture

I'm curious to know what you all think is the "mission" of the family. If he's right, then a large responsibility is being placed on juveniles to positively and evangelistically impact their peers in a school setting. Is that a legitimate expectation according to a biblical philosophy of education and family?

pvawter's picture

I really think he's confusing his role as a mature believer/Christian-father/primary-educator-of-his-own-children with their role as an immature-believer-possibly-even-unbeliever/child/learner-in-need-of-an-education. How does placing his children in a public school demonstrate how missional he is?

Lee's picture

But the whole, brief blog article smacks of an argument from a preclusion, not a conclusive statement born out of a thorough search of the Scripture. 


rogercarlson's picture

I think all three are viable options depending on a variety of things.  In fact, our family as home-schooled, Christian Schooled, and begrudgingly public schooled.  All have worked very well for us and we praise the Lord for that.  I think Jim's earliest analysis was pretty good.


Let me add about the quality of education issue.  Five years ago we would have never put our children in public School.  The Christian School that we use only goes to 8th grade and our daughter graduated.  So she is now a senior in the public school and our youngest with autism started in the system at the same time as she.


One thing I learned early on is that most public school teachers are dedicated (not all).  They deal with issues that no Christian school teacher has to deal with ( my wife has taught in three Christian Schools, and I have been on staff at two).  So when Christian educators exclaim at how well they do compared to the public school, they need to remember that they don't have to take everyone, and the kids that typically come to the Christian School are pretty bright to begin with.  The same would hold true to those transferring from a public school.  Generally these are not the best public school students transferring.  I know I am speaking in generalities, but I think it is important to note.

There are some excellent Christian schools out there and there are excellent public schools.  The two of my four that are in public school are not in an excellent school.  But even in a bad public school, the bright kids get a good education, because they take advantage of the programs available.  My daughter has a high GPA and an ACT score that will let her in just about any college in the country.  She also is in involved in extra cirricular things she could never be involved with.  But by far the greatest thing has been our Gospel contacts.  They have been through the roof.  As a family, we have all had Gospel contacts as a direct result of our kids being in public School. 

But I am not saying every parent should put there kids there - we did so begrudgingly.  All three alternitives are valid, but it just depends on the situation.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Susan R's picture


Alan Jacobs at The American Conservative responds to Tony Jones' post, and characterizes it as "a writer digs up and re-posts a piece from 2005, calls it “Death to Homeschooling”, and then follows it up with two further equally inflammatory posts on the same subject —  it’s hard not to think that that someone is doing a Dance of the Seven Veils before a roomful of potential pageviews."