Building Bridges: Fostering Cooperation between Christian Day Schools and Homeschool Families
Christian homes, Christian congregations, and Christian schools are all places in which the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, gives and strengthens the faith of His children. Yet, it’s easy to see ourselves in vastly contrasting “boxes” which emphasize our differences and weaknesses, rather than our similarities and strengths. All too often, suspicion and misunderstanding exists between school leadership and homeschool families. Instead, what we all need is proactive, constructive curiosity and mutual respect. How can we build bridges between churches, schools, and homeschools, working together for the Christian education of all of the congregation's children?
Below is an outline I recently prepared and shared with two different congregations, both of whom have Christian Day Schools. If you are interested in developing cooperation between your congregation and homeschool families, I encourage you to print one of the links below, prepare a cover letter specific to yourself and your family, and pass it on to the leadership in your church for reflection and discussion. Of course, not all suggestions are feasible for implementation at a particular congregation. As a comprehensive list of ideas, however, this handout can get the conversation started toward mutual understanding.
Suggestions for Use
Below are two similar versions. The first is a shorter, simpler list. The second is a longer, more comprehensive list, which is meant to include “talking points” if you are able to set up a meeting and speak in person with your church leadership. In that case, print off one copy the first version for each church leader, and print off one copy of the second version for yourself to add detail to the outline as you present. Alternatively, if you will not have the opportunity for a meeting, I suggest printing and handing out the second version with all of the details, as well as writing a personal cover letter unique to yourself and your situation.
Also, consider what entities in your community, beyond the church or Christian Day School, might be willing to consider these ideas. Your local library? A Christian high school? A para-church organization? A local nursing home or preschool? There are many possibilities for supporting homeschool populations, and also for homeschoolers to share their gifts in the community.
Building Bridges: Ideas for Cooperation between Christian Day Schools and Homeschool Families in Christian Congregations
Note: This handout has been prepared in a general way; not all points may apply to your church or school. However, even in the case of churches without schools, or churches with schools but no homeschool families, many of the suggestions can still be implemented for the sake of the local homeschooling community or for public school families within the church. Be creative!
How Might a Church/Church School Help Support Homeschooling Families in the Church?
1. Shared Goals/Recognition
- God calls all Christian parents to be “home educators”; some parents also choose to make use of outside help, like employing a tutor, or using a school.
- The choice to homeschool should be perceived as a success of the church, not competition with the school. We all share the goal of Christian education but go about pursuing it in different ways.
- Consider the mission of the church’s school. Might the mission be expanded or developed to include all of the children of the congregation, or the children of the community? What does the school’s mission have in common with the mission of homeschool families?
- Recognize the unique gifts that homeschool parents and children can offer to your congregation/school. (See list below, “Homeschooling Parents Could….”)
2. Open Communication/Invitation
- If an activity in the school is perceived as important to the well-rounded education of the students, why not include all children of the congregation?
- When challenges present themselves regarding the practical implementation of including homeschooling students in CDS-related activities, brainstorm with homeschool families for solutions.
- Create a generous policy for inclusion of homeschoolers in activities. When a clear policy exists, it can be changed through proper channels, if desired. This is to be preferred above assumption or miscommunication. Be proactive, rather than reactive in communicating these policies.
- Rosters of homeschool students could be posted in the classroom with contact information for the family. Teachers might contact homeschool families if they may be interested in a certain unit or a special activity the teacher is planning.
- An annually updated email contact list can make it easy to communicate with homeschool parents.
- Consider the possibility of meeting(s) to clarify the reasons church members may choose to homeschool. Recognize the positive reasons of these families, or brainstorm to solve negative reasons.
- Work to build personal relationships between school leadership and homeschooling families, viewing each other as individuals with gifts and vulnerabilities. Build one another up and share joys and resources.
- The School Board could keep yearly statistics on the enrollment of the congregation members in the school, public school, and homeschool to aid in planning for the future.
3. Shared Resources
- Consider providing religious instruction materials to all families of the congregation.
- Might a homeschool family like to make use of extra textbooks not being used in the classroom?
- A willingness to share equipment will go a long way. Microscopes? Gym time? Library? Handbells? Ipads? In most churches, the finances are set up that all members, including homeschooling families, are contributing to the fiscal support of the school, thus lowering the total tuition amount for CDS families.
- Offer the possibility of occasional or permanent classroom space if homeschool families of the congregation would like to meet.
- Welcome homeschool parents to teach a topic or subject on a short-term or long-term basis.
- Consider the feasibility of a la carte classes or block classes being open to homeschool families through a congregational or community survey. Homeschooling children could enroll and pay an appropriate percentage of total tuition.
How Might a Church/Church School Use “Community Homeschooling Support” as Outreach?
1. Mission and Vision
The educational horizon is changing. The formerly clear lines between public schools, CDSs, and homeschools are blurring. Is your congregation uniquely situated to serve families that don’t clearly fit into a “box”?
- Consider this vision for your church: We support Christian Education for all families! Here’s how:
- We support and encourage homeschool families. (See Regional Homeschool Resource Center at 2 below.)
- We offer optional classes and extra-curricular activities for homeschool families.
- We have a CDS with full assortment of extra-curricular activities.
- We provide religious curricula and after-school activities for public school families.
- Bible studies for families, adults, children, men, or women at these times… .
2. Regional Homeschool Resource Center (HRC)
- A pastor, principal, or trained layperson could be available to walk any family through the initial choice to homeschool.
- Not all homeschool families are Christian or have a church-home. An HRC could provide an authentic opportunity to spread the Gospel while serving community families in a very powerful way.
- A curriculum library could be developed and made available to all area homeschooling families. Families who might not otherwise set foot in the church may come to use the library, thereby meeting church members and building relationships.
- Extra-curriculars could be opened up to all area homeschooling families. Policies would need to be developed for non-members if church-specific activities might present doctrinal conflict.
- Monthly meetings could be provided for homeschoolers to discuss topics, including a devotion with the pastor.
- A space could be provided for homeschooling co-ops.
3. Educational Opportunities Beyond the CDS
- Congregation members could teach classes for any age (including seniors) after school. Examples include art, Greek, or speech and debate.
- The congregation could host night classes for the community, aimed at topics appealing to the whole family, such as mission work, cuisine, Christian biographies, or homesteading. Special speakers could be invited on a one-time basis.
Possibilities for Church Schools to Integrate Homeschooling Families
Homeschooling Parents Could:
- direct choir
- direct handbells
- plan field trips
- teach art or music
- plan science experiments/science fair
- teach speech and debate
- manage other clubs
- teach languages
- serve on the PTF
- serve on the school board
- organize the Christmas program
- organize a talent show
- attend teacher’s conferences for continuing education
- collect boxtops or participate in other fund-raisers
Homeschooling Students Could Participate in:
- Pep Rallies
- Field Trips
- Christmas Program
- Holiday Celebrations
- Spirit Week
- Lutheran Schools Week
- Service Projects
- Standardized Tests
- Art Gallery
- Library Time
- Spelling Bee
- Playing pre- and post-service music
- Ala Carte Classes or Block Classes
- “Building Bridges" Abbreviated Talking Points
- “Building Bridges” Full Talking Points
- “Building Bridges” Suggestions for Cover Letter
- Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future, by Thomas Korcok
- Telling the Next Generation, by Ryan MacPherson, Paul Madson, and Peter Anthony
- Eternal Treasures: Teaching Your Child At Home, by Cheryl Swope and Rachel Whiting (Book Review here.)
- Wittenberg Academy
- Curriculum Resource Guide for Classical Lutheran Education
- Practical Implementation Ideas
Mrs. Marie K. MacPherson, vice president of Into Your Hands LLC, lives in Mankato, Minnesota, with her husband Ryan and their children, whom she homeschools. She is editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More (2016).
TAGS: Education, Homeschooling