Roughly two-thirds are self-described religious schools
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — August means “Back to School” for most North Carolina youngsters. But for more than 77,000, education takes place at home where a growing number of Tar Heel parents are taking seriously God’s command to “train up a child in the way he should go.”
According to the State’s Division of Non-Public Education, there were 41,042 home schools operating in North Carolina in the 2008-2009 school year, the highest on record and about 30 times the number of such schools registered just a decade ago.
“When you compare that growth rate with the public schools, where enrollment has gone up less than 15 percent since 2000, it puts this into perspective,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “What’s really encouraging is the fact that roughly two-thirds of these are self-described religious schools.”
The Rev. Creech is one of several evangelical leaders across the nation who has urged believers to forgo government run schooling in favor of Christ-centered education.
“This trend gives hope for the restoration of education in America,” he said. “If the 12 million to 15 million evangelical Christian children now in public schools were to leave them, it would cripple the one system that is doing more harm to our nation than any single thing except perhaps the popular media.”
While acknowledging that there are many dedicated Christians working in public schools, the Rev. Creech pointed out that parents must consider what will happen when their child is exposed seven hours a day, 180 days a year to a philosophy of education that essentially says that God is irrelevant.
“When this is what children are taught, we shouldn’t be surprised when they adopt an anti-Christian worldview,” he said.
The fact that public schools are failing academically is one of several reasons Christians should leave them, according to the Rev. Creech.
“The great distinctive of a Christian education lies in its overall approach to learning. God is not ignored but is made the center of every subject studied,” he said.
As for those who argue that Christians must stay in government schools to be “salt” and “light” in a pagan culture, he suggests that may be true for teachers who take a stand for Christ even when the environment is hostile, but not for youngsters.
“It is unwise, even dangerous to send young impressionable minds to the very den of the humanist’s agenda and expect these children to be effective in casting out the demons,” Creech said. “The approach of trying to evangelize our public schools through Christian children is working in reverse far too often as evidenced by the droves of Christian-family youth exiting the church.”
Although the Southern Baptist Convention five years ago rejected resolutions calling for a mass exodus of Christians from the public schools, earlier this summer Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, proposed a major expansion of Christian schools.
“In far too many public schools throughout the country our children are being bombarded with secular reasoning, situational ethics and moral erosion,” Chapman said as he challenged every Baptist association to offer a school that “merges dynamic biblical principles with academic excellence.”
Many in the convention see Chapman’s challenge as a first step in developing an “exit strategy” called for by Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Theological Seminary, in 2005. Dr. Bruce Shortt, a Houston attorney, and retired general T.C. Pinckney, a former SBC officer, have called for Southern Baptists to leave the public schools for the past five years.
“The spiritual, moral and intellectual pathologies of the government school system are now obvious even to casual observers,” Dr. Shortt said in a recent media release. “Christian parents and pastors need to ask themselves just how much longer they intend to render our children to Caesar’s spiritually dark, morally decaying, and physically dangerous government schools.”
If churches follow Chapman’s call, it could help reverse the trend of closures and enrollment drops reported last month by the Association of Christian Schools International. As of mid-year, 186 schools had closed and 16 had merged, up from the average 150 closures of previous years. Enrollment had decreased roughly 4.5 percent, which the organization blames primarily on the nation’s economic crisis.
Spencer Mason, president of North Carolinians for Home Education, which represents 4,000 to 5,000 families, expects that the number of home school students in North Carolina may soon surpass the state’s private school enrollment (98,545 as of last school term).
He said many people of faith home school because they “don’t want to have to ‘unteach’ what is being taught at school or have the school to contradict what they are teaching at home.”
Beyond religious reasons, Mason said some families choose home schooling to be able to tailor education to their child’s needs and others have safety concerns or are dissatisfied with conventional schools.
“There are always some who get upset about something and make a quick decision to take their children out of school, but there are many others who feel called to educate their children at home and do some preparation before they make the leap,” he said. “These are the ones that are giving homeschooling the stability and growth that we need.”
According to the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education, there are home schools in all 100 counties, with the highest numbers in Wake (3,771), Mecklenburg (2,956) and Buncombe (1,637).
Mason said NCHE keeps an eye on legislation that may affect homeschooling and keeps members informed of legal requirements and trends. The organization has urged homeschoolers not to participate in North Carolina’s Virtual Public School because doing so means giving up the freedoms that accompany their home school status.
“This is a program that is public school even though it is online. It is run under DPI (Department of Public Instruction),” Mason said. “So if you sign up for it, you give up your status as a home school.”
He said a pressing threat to homeschooling and parents’ rights in general is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that, once ratified would take precedence over both state and federal laws.
“This treaty gives a child the right to sue his parents, the right not to be influenced by his parents’ beliefs and really great latitude in the type of education he is going to receive,” Mason said. “So we are urging parents to support the Parental Rights Amendment.”
To find out more about homeschooling in North Carolina, log on to the North Carolinians for Home Education Web Site at www.nche.com or the Division of Non-Public Education site at www.ncdnpe.org.
For more on the Parental Rights Amendment, see www.parentalrights.org.