Patricia from San Jose, California, writes:
The church teaches us to be “in the world, but not of the world.” How can anyone homeschool their children with this in mind? If all the good LDS people leave the public schools, the influence we have in the system will be lost!
The church has no official position on homeschooling. They have told us neither to homeschool nor to send our kids to public school. That decision is best left to the parent's judgment. (See I Have a Question, scroll down.) Cearly if our leaders felt that homeschooling was against the teaching of “in the world, but not of the world,” the church would take an official stance against homeschooling.
In the same article, the author quotes from a First Presidency statement given in September 1976 suggesting that “church members could, and should, do much to improve public education in their communities.” The statement urges member to do their civic duty to try to find solutions to problems in their communities. It asks members to be “anxiously engaged” in a good cause.
Then it goes on to say, “Parents may, if they choose, opt to educate their children in the home if they are really sure they can do it or in private schools. But each member can still do much to help make the public schools the best they can be.”
Your children don't have to be enrolled in school for you, as a parent, to influence the values of the public schools. Many homeschoolers are very politically active. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law homeschool their children, and regularly attend school board meetings. Ironically, they are often the only parents in attendance. My dad is always trying to fix things in the local school system, and his youngest is 27.
And other than influencing the public school system merely for a sense of community, homeschoolers still have a vested interest in keeping the public school system the best it can be. Many, if not most, homeschoolers send their children to public schools at some point in their education.
I do find it a concern that often we expect our children to go to public school so they can be shining examples to the other kids. The church does teach us that we have the responsibility to raise our children and teach them correct principles. It does not teach us that we need to send our children out in the world before they are ready. And even though we homeschool, our kids are not isolated; they are still very much in the world. Between church, scouts, achievement days, sports, chess club, theater, dance class, and just playing with the neighbors, they have numerous opportunities interact with other children and to be examples as well as friends.
Although there are certainly many very good kids who set good examples, I think that more often than not it doesn't happen. Parents often don't know what is going on in school day in and day out. I remember when my parents asked me how my day was, I said, “Fine.” I didn't say, “Well, at lunchtime the kids were all teasing Bobby and I laughed, too. Then later my friends and I put each other down and I know Susie felt bad but I didn't say anything.” Children are naturally very self-centered, and they follow the crowd. I know we'd all like to think the best of our children, but often they may not be the great example you would hope for.
That said, I do believe there are certainly good kids in schools, setting good examples. Whether you homeschool or send the kids to public school, I do think it is the responsibility of the parents to really stay involved in their children's lives. Parents need to know what is going on and to teach their children the principles of the gospel so they can be good examples, but I don't believe it is the responsibility of the child to be in public school solely to set a good example.
Keep up the good work you are doing as a parent!