Heaven or Harvard? Anti-Intellectualism in Christian Homeschooling

Heaven or HarvardA few weeks ago, someone on Facebook posted a quote that went along the lines of “Raise your children for heaven, not Harvard.”  I pondered the statement for a little while trying to grasp the logic in it.  No, it still didn’t make sense.  It was like one of those pretty little sayings that sounded good, but didn’t actually make sense.

This saying assumes that there is a choice between the two.  One must decide whether they want to focus their efforts on getting their child to heaven or into Harvard.  Really?   Is it not possible for a Harvard-bound child to have a personal relationship with Jesus?  This doesn’t even consider the idea that parents can’t really do either thing for their child anyway.

There seems to be a growing fear of education in the Christian homeschooling movement which is concerning to me since our job is to educate.  It is like many are afraid that their children will lose their faith if exposed to certain ideas.  Statistics are touted as reasons why children need to be grounded in certain ideas if they are to stay true to the faith.  As a result, science is often taught from a perspective that mixes science facts with apologetics.  Exposure to other beliefs and religions may be limited.  This could spell trouble for a child headed to college because the child may encounter Hindus, Muslims, or atheists who are superbly wonderful people to be around.  The child will encounter science topics that may present information that had not been covered and countered by the apologetic curriculum.  With all this going on, the child may question his faith.  Many in the Christian homeschooling movement devalue higher education for this very reason.

What is the reason for this loss of faith?  Is it education?  Is it knowledge?  Is it fear?  Fear is the opposite of faith.  When we fear education, we teach that to our children.  We teach them to be on guard for attacks on their faith whether this is from an atheist professor or information learned in class.  As Christians, should we be motivated by fear?

Instead, we should let our children encounter ideas and facts that may be troublesome to their faith while they are young.  Let them grow up thinking about things.  Let them grow up wondering about issues that may cause questions to arise.  Do that while you are there to provide guidance and help them through those difficult questions.

Apostle Paul was a very learned man.  As a result, he was well-equipped to travel around and share the Gospel with different groups of people.  He would have studied Greek, philosophy, as well as the Law and the Prophets.   I am reminded of the time that Paul was in Athens and was confronted by philosophers there as recorded in Acts 17.

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul knew about Greek gods.  He knew the culture.  His education allowed him to connect with the people there and share the Gospel.

Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.   As a Christian homeschooler, I place high value on helping my children develop a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.  In their life they will encounter many trials.  They will have questions.  They will have doubts.  It is during that time that a strong relationship with Jesus Christ will make all the difference.  It is a relationship that is important.  It shouldn’t be about shielding the child from different perspectives and making sure the child is grounded in a certain belief system.

We needn’t fear knowledge.  We needn’t fear education.  Children can grow up strong in the faith and strong in their education.  They can go hand in hand and a child who grows up wondering and questioning can be very highly prepared for the future.

So, how do we do it in our homeschool?  I try to keep these things important:

  • Fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Teaching my children to question things and wonder.  Also, logic and philosophy are formally taught.
  • Teaching my children about people who believe differently as well as those who don’t believe in any higher power.
  • Teaching pure science without any Christian interpretation mixed in.

I place a high value on education because we are Christian.  I want my children to be knowledgeable about the world.  They are learning different languages and appreciating other cultures so they will be able to connect and communicate with those who are different from them.   They are exploring ideas about origins and making up their own mind.  Discussion is very important in our homeschool.  We talk about different ideas and wonder through things.  We also realize that some things don’t have answers right now.  I teach them to have an open mind about things that aren’t essential Christian doctrine.

I can’t make my child have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I can’t get my child into Harvard.  But I can foster a love for Jesus and a love for learning.  Education is a beautiful thing.


  1. While academics remain the priority for most private schools, many also place a strong focus on a well-rounded education and encourage participation in extracurricular activities such as sports, music, arts, or clubs.

  2. Interesting blog post. I’ve encountered this in a slightly different form. My family and I are Mormon. My kids are academically gifted and then burn through curriculum really quickly. Many of the religious educational materials my church produces for children are simplistic to the point of mind numbing for my kids. My kids are 9 & 11. When I ask around about other more in depth materials or about using the high school seminary manuals with them, I get a variety of reactions. 1. Don’t dig too deep in doctrine, it will make them question things. My reaction: If our doctrine cannot stand up to rigorous intellectual scrutiny then I wouldn’t believe it, nor would I expect my children to. 2. Don’t do the seminary manuals with them now, or they’ll be bored in high school. My response: But they’re bored and ready for more now. Why is that okay? I will admit that if I had to chose between strong faith and strong education, I’d chose faith. But, we don’t have to chose. They are not mutually exclusive. I also understand and share the concerns of many Christian parents about the anti-religion stance and worldview that is being taught in many many universities currently. But, the answer is not ignorance and lack of education.

  3. Should Christians Study “The Great Books?” That really is the issue here.

    The short answer is absolutely as long as they are studied along with and their ideas judged by the Greatest Book, The Word of God. As long as the supremacy of scripture is maintained as the standard of truth itself, The “Great Books” can be used as a valuable training ground for Biblical apologetics and a window into the psyche of our modern western culture which can be traced back to the ancient Greco-Roman civilizations.

    If the goal is to prepare students who are well-equipped to engage our culture, then these pre-Christian works can be especially useful. The three primary reasons for this are the following:

    1: We should be steeped in the Greco-Roman pre-Christian classics and classical Christian works because it is a study of ourselves. We, our Founding Fathers, the Reformers, and the Church Fathers before them, and even the Apostles were deeply influenced by these men, and how they thought. The understanding of our culture as a predominantly “legal” culture (vs. the honor driving culture of the East, or power driven culture of Africa) is a Greco-Roman heritage. The way our culture thinks, our laws, and even our architecture have been handed down to us surprisingly untouched by the ancient Greeks and Romans. While our theology has been handed down to us by ancient Greek and Roman Christians. Our understanding of the faith and Gospel is influenced by our heritage. If we don’t understand who we are, we will have trouble understanding others in our culture as well as other cultures. This is especially true for Americans since the classic works deeply influenced all our Founding Fathers in an unusually strong way. John Calvin opens his Institutes of the Christian Religion with the statement that we must know ourselves to know God, and know God in order to know ourselves. I believe it is difficult to know ourselves without knowing the classics.

    2: It will enable us to better understand Church history, the 1st century context, and even the Bible itself. Related to #1, understanding the culture into which the Church was planted will help us understand the Bible, and especially the early church. The very Creeds of our church were responses to mostly Greek heresies. Learning about these early theological battles will help students put our modern battles with America’s Secular Humanist culture and heresies from the liberal church into context and prepare them with the critical thinking skills necessary to fight the war of worldviews and fulfill the Great Commission. But these are not only “ancient” heresies. They are the same heresies we still deal with today. For example, the modern application of “Carnal Christian” theology resembles life in the early Corinthian church; while the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a repackaged version of the Old Arian heresy of the 4th century that Jesus is not God. Understanding how Paul, Augustine, Tertullian, Dante, Calvin, Milton, and even CS Lewis used the Greco-Roman cultural context to express doctrine can be of tremendous benefit. To think of reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost without first understanding what his entire goal was (to create the Christian epic modeled after Vergil and Homer) is a deep mistake. Knowing the pre-Christian classics, and classical Christian works allow students to understand the majority of Christian history at a much deeper level.

    3: It is the best preparation for students to interact with a modern, pagan, and anti-Christian culture. I like to say that the “Great Books,” especially Pagan classics, are like training wheels for the minds of students. Where else can a student find eloquent arguments which are often error, yet mixed with the truth, beauty, and goodness of God’s general grace, and yet wrestle with those ideas with the benefit of 2,000 years of Christian thought, and overall consensus! We have universal Creeds that eloquently and with authority respond to, for example, Plato’s doctrine of the body. When studied along with, and their ideas judged by the Word of God, I don’t believe there is a more powerful cultural weapon in the hands of a student than these tools. The truth is that there is nothing new under the sun. As a result, a Biblical analysis of these works will prepare students to be more than conquerors as they engage in spiritual battles within our culture. When they walk into a pagan classroom, and they hear tomorrow’s latest thought from a God-hating professor, instead being shaken because they have never heard that argument before, they will rather have the confidence that can come from the Biblical analysis of these works. “I’ve heard this before, and he isn’t even as eloquent as Plato” should be the response.

    In short, a classical Christian approach like this does not require one to “bend it to a Christian worldview.” In a very real sense, this is part of a Christian worldview as we teach students to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor.10:3-5)!
    Isaac Moffett recently posted…The Great Education Struggle [Page]My Profile

  4. Wow interesting. I disagree with some of what you stated. Why should a Christian be concerned with putting their education above their faith? Our education system is modeled after the Greeks. There was a huge problem with that picture from the beginning. The Bible tells us to not be unequally yoked. I think if Christians strive for higher education, God needs to be at the center of it at all times. To seek knowledge WITHOUT God is why our education system is in the state it is in. Greek education focuses on literature and man’s reasoning. A true Bible centered education focuses on God’s Word and faith. Pursuing knowledge without God is a recipe for disaster. We are warned against these things in Colossians 2:8. If my daughter wants to be a nurse, that’s fine. However, her education need not be spent at any secular institution with secular textbooks. She needs to attend a college that is Christ centered. I will not conform or change what I am just to fit into the ways of the world. Our main concern should be increasing God’s Kingdom.
    Kelly Daniels recently posted…Powerful Words By ChristMy Profile

    • Eclectic Homeschooling

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. As a Christian who believes in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, everything we learn is with God whether we use secular resources or not.

    • Kelly, our current education system is not based upon the Greeks, but upon the Prussian Model. In fact, unless you are teaching from what has now become known as a Christian and Classical (redundant) regardless of homeschool or not, you are functionally teaching from the Prussian and Progressive model of education. I would encourage every one to listen Danial Foucachon and he and I discuss the question: Should Christians Study the Western Canon? http://www.thegreateducationstruggle.com/should-christians-study-the-western-canon/

    • Hello Mrs Kelly Daniels, I have to say this article is one of the greatest articles I have read about education. In my opinion everything you do should be with measure, you need to ensure your children are well rounded individuals who can learn about the world and live surrounded with people from different faiths. Our children have to be capable to know straight science and straight chemestry and feel confident about their knowledge and be able to succeed with it.
      I know you are deep in your faith but giving your children the tools to succed is an act of love, depriving your child of vital knowledge and opportunities is not. Your faith is a great tool and a great privilege but can you believe that having such a narrow view of the world would make your children good and kind human beings with everyone??? or are you raising single minded individuals who would be judgemental and unable to live and respect other’s ideas???
      food for thought…

  5. just my interpretation of the saying is…don’t get so caught up in making sure your kid gets into “Harvard” that you neglect their personal relationship with Jesus. There are plenty of tests that measure how smart your brain is …but none that measure how close to God your heart is…don’t forget the focus (for those of us who are home educating for spiritual convictions)

    • I know this conversation is a couple years old, but I think DoubleDz has seen something valuable in that little “Heaven vs. Harvard” saying.

      I am the parent of a teenager who has been surrounded by a mainstream school culture of “building the resume” (and if you have mainstream teens, you know the “resume” I’m talking about). My husband and I decided to homeschool our littles to avoid the “resume.” We want a rigorous, challenging, difficult, fulfilling, faith-inspiring, and faith-challenging education for them. But we want it FOR THEM, and not for the elusive admissions office of an idol-university.

      We are not anti-intellectual. I have a PhD and am a college professor; my husband has a Masters and is an entrepreneur. Our house is exploding with books. The issue is that we value our actual children more than we value our children’s college application resumes.

  6. I take umbridge with “pure” science. No such beast. Science was separate from science. It was limited to the natural world and understood that it had limits. Now we have idealogues who have made it their own religion. Disagree and you get, “science states..”.

    We don’t agree with some secular science based not just on Faith but the tools of science, like math, scientific method, scientific terminology, lessons from telology.

    For instance, yes, we don’t place sour faith in Darwinian macro evolution or global warming/ climate change. Both which get religious overtures from both sides that the secularists sound more the apologetic than the Christian!

    However scientific theories are taught as facts, which technically can not happen. All theories can only attain 99.9% and repeating decimals correctness. A theory can not become a fact. Our interpretation of the same facts divide us. And we bring our own bias to those interpretations. We acknowledge that to the kids. God exists no matter what is taught. We expose the kids to both sides, use some Christian and some secular science texts, and know they will grow up to believe what they will.

    In my own experience it seems secularist sources are fearful of us, not the other way around. They seem to present these are the facts and ignore other views, like it is already settled. As I said above, you can’t be truthful about presenting a theory as a fact though. Always a less than one percent chance it is wrong by definition.

    I feel strongly about these sorts of things. I’m highly opinionated and long winded. I hope I didn’t offend you. Just wanted you to know where I was coming from, whether you let this post or not, and to give you some thoughts to chew on.

  7. When it comes to anti college or anti technology. Speaking for our own family, we are college sweethearts. My husband and most of the men in our immediate family are in computer fields. One is working on a PhD and another is a college dropout who owns his own company.

    We know that you can be successful without an Ivy League college education. College debt has turned us into indentured servants. We have to swallow PCism because we literally can’t afford to lose our jobs. Some of my kids will go to college, oldest has already, but some might not.

    We don’t shelter our kids. But as my husband says if they have worldly success but don’t make it to Heaven, we have failed. If they only have enough to support their families, we have succeeded.

    Not about anti intellectual but placing priorities. We do have a huge influence on where our children place their own priorities. If they are raised to see our Faith as important as little ones, then we teach the reasonableness of our Faith, not blind faith, they are more likely to survive the world with their Faith in tact,

  8. I’m also more along the lines of Marc. I come from being a convert to Catholicism. I read somewhere a quote that Protestants schools raise up devout followers with an okay education and Catholic schools produce elite educated students who fall away. Obviously this is biased. Christian schools of all denominations fall all over the place.

    But I do think we can go to extremes in education. When we tack a course on Latin and another on logic to a curriculum that’s not in the spirit of a classical education, we can’t call it a classical education. When Christianity is restricted to Sunday morning, are we living Christian lives?

    Do we need to put a subpar Christian textbook over a better secular one? Of course not. But I can find excellent Catholic and Christian books out there.

    I sometimes put too much thought into the academics that I neglect teaching the Faith. What does it gain a man to the world and lose his soul?

  9. I totally agree with Marc!
    In addition, our world view of things determines how we see and study. A biblical worldview proclaims the truth … God is everywhere and we always live in His presence. There is science in the Bible and God is the Lord of science.

    Col 1:16-17 “for in Him were ALL things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; ALL things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before ALL things, and in Him ALL things consist.”

    The instruments with which we equip our children, whether they are in Harvard or not, should be effective enough to serve and proclaim God. The motivation to educate and form our children should always glorify God.

  10. 100% agree. As a private school Science teacher and as a parent considering homeschooling. And you’re right Christian science and even math textbooks tend to “Christianize” EVERYTHING. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I truly believe that if kids are guided by Christian adults to look at what’s really there -in history, science, philosophies, it’s so much better than Christian adults hiding what they don’t like or what they find challenging. Of course college will seem like some big revelation of truth for the kids who are only learning from one small perspective.

  11. You have raised valid points and I would only encourage others not to lump all Christians who don’t support college for everyone in one category.

    I have raised my children in Christ. I have not raised them for Harvard, but if that is part of God’s plan, then I will encourage them in that plan. What I see is a lot of educational snobbery in homeschooling groups and it is hurting children. College is often taught as the only way.

    God has led one of my children to trade school, and the other is choosing software certification and a few college classes to begin his career in graphic design. I have another student is definitely university bound, and the plan is still in formation for my eleven year old daughter.

    I am not anti-intellectualism. I am anti-“College is for everyone.” That idea is false. College has become an industry and an idol. It is helpful for some, but not all.
    Yvonne recently posted…Homeschooling: Learning the One Anothers Together – LoveMy Profile

    • Eclectic Homeschooling

      I totally agree that college is not for everyone. I was referring to the idea that people are not sending their children to college because they don’t want them to lose their faith.

  12. “◦Teaching pure science without any Christian interpretation mixed in”
    This is not possible—you can never be totally objective. Our worldview affects all our science.

    About the quote. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t take the quote to mean what you think(it might). I think the quote is meant to state that you should not make “education” an idol. Things can go either way, anti-intellectualism or education as an idol. I think the quote is meant to mean, “Seek first His kingdom and all the rest will be added to you.” In other words, seek Christ and if you are intelligent enough, then by all means, pursue Harvard–but–if you end up a janitor for Christ, you are NOT a failure. Your point of “either/or” is well stated. It is not either/or. We should guard against anti-intellectualism and guard against idolotry. Personally, I see more educational idolotry in my christian circles.

  13. I can’t remember the last time that I commented on a blog, but I love this. I often tell people that I’m a homeschooler and then add in that we’re also Christian, but that’s not why we homeschool. We learn about Jesus AND math. lol. I don’t think that God needs my kids to check their brain at the door in order to follow him. We also only use “secular science” because yikes!

  14. Thank you. Some Christian homeschoolers have fallen into this group-think that science and technology are “the enemy”. As a result some Christian homeschooled kids have to catch up when they get to college because their science curriculum was watered down. My wife and I are preparing our kids for Heaven and Harvard.
    John recently posted…Homeschooling Isn’t Always Done at Home [Infographic]My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge