When our family moved to China almost eight years ago, I assumed we’d homeschool our children once they reached school age. Most of the overseas workers we knew homeschooled, and local and international schools were not great options for us at the time. During the first year or so that we homeschooled, I was encouraged and mentored by another foreign homeschooling family. Their wisdom and guidance were invaluable to our family. While it is more common to find homeschooling families among the dwindling expat community in China, more and more local Chinese, Christian parents are also choosing to homeschool their kids.
This decision is a step of faith, and one that families do not take lightly. Homeschooling is illegal for locals, yet the number of believers choosing to educate their children at home is growing. Many want to because they desire to teach the Bible alongside other subjects—something that is not available in local public schools. These parents long to influence their children and teach them gospel hope, in addition to writing, math, English, Chinese, and more.
Homeschooling is challenging because once parents decide not to enroll their children in the local system, they cannot opt back in later. Some families hope their children will be able to attend an international school later on in their education, while others hope to find the resources to send their children abroad once they are older. Christian families who make this decision face scrutiny, pressure, and anger from other family members who believe parents are ruining their children’s education.
I often pray with these families as they seek God in making these decisions, and I’m encouraged by their humility as they trust God with their children. We are reminded in these moments that our children, as much as we love them, are not ours, but ultimately belong to God. He loves and cares for them far better than we can. For some local believers, this means sending their kids to local schools where they trust Father will use them to bring him glory, despite their concerns with the public school system. For others, it means choosing to educate their kids at home. A couple years ago, I met with a friend to pray about how to handle her mother-in-law who was threatening to kill herself if my friend and her husband did not send her children to a local school. These family conflicts, sadly, are not uncommon as believing families wrestle with their convictions and try to honor God with their children’s education. Parents who are first-generation believers face tough obstacles when communicating why they choose to educate their children at home.
As homeschooling becomes more popular among believing local families in China, there are needs we can pray for together. In addition to understanding how to homeschool, families need wisdom as they handle the questions that come when people inquire about where their children are educated. In China, children are required to enter school at age six. Some families with older children experience heightened scrutiny and visits from officials when they choose to homeschool. Resources from Western, Christian companies often include patriotic elements and are banned. Getting materials to use at home can be challenging, although it is not impossible.
My husband and I always encourage spouses to pray and consider carefully where God is leading their family. After prayer and careful consideration, some parents decide to send their children to local schools. Others decide to homeschool. Our family tries to emphasize that both options are great, and the decision is ultimately up to the parents and where they believe God is leading them.
Despite all of these needs, this growing movement of homeschooling among the local body is something to follow in the coming years. In a country where so many people value education, homeschooling seems like a bizarre choice. Many do not understand how home education works, and a lot of people do not understand how a child can have a successful education at home. Many famous people throughout history were homeschooled, including Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Teddy Roosevelt. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooled students on average score fifteen to twenty percent higher than public school students on achievement tests. Many colleges and universities, including Harvard University, accept homeschooled students. While these facts might help persuade those who are considering homeschooling, it’s important to note that the main reason local families choose to homeschool is because they desire to teach truth at home to their children. My husband and I always encourage spouses to pray and consider carefully where God is leading their family. After prayer and careful consideration, some parents decide to send their children to local schools. Others decide to homeschool. Our family tries to emphasize that both options are great, and the decision is ultimately up to the parents and where they believe God is leading them.
As I reflect on the Christmas that has just passed, I find myself thinking a lot about how God sent his son so that the “world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). God sacrificed his son in order to save a lost and dying world. As I think of the younger generations of believers in China who are homeschooled, I pray that God will equip them, train them, and use them to share the truth of the gospel with those who desperately need to hear it. I pray for their education and for their parents who are sacrificing so much to make it happen. I praise God that families here are seeking him in all things, including education. Join me in prayer for this growing movement.
Image credit: ChinaSource Team.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.