Public School, Home School, & Sex Education

Charlton Rhinehart

As my wife and I approach the day we will have to make the choice for our children between home school or public school, I simply wanted to write some of the thoughts we have discussed as we near that day. As it turns out, sex education is a major part of that decision.

As I think about public school and the threats it may hold for a Christian child, there are a few subjects that arise. One of those subjects of course, is the teaching of evolution and the age of the earth, another would be how other school kids might treat a Christian child standing for what is right. The third item that comes to my mind is sex education. Just what are they going to teach my child that is right and wrong when it comes to sex, or as I have always known it, “Family Life Class?”

My wife and I were both raised in public schools. We hold no favoritism toward home schooling, nevertheless we have made some friends over the years that have chosen the home school route, and we can see the value in it. As we think about the above listed threats, we have discussed that we do not want to hide our children from the world. Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world. We cannot hide ourselves like the Amish from society, but we must let our lights shine before men (Matt 5:16). At the same time however, we know a Christian must avoid temptation. You don’t send a recovering alcoholic for a repair in a wine cellar, you don’t leave piles of money around someone repenting of past theft, and we cannot drop our children off in a school that constantly will teach and tempt them with many things we know are wrong! As you can see, there are several considerations.

Of all the threats that public schools hold, one stands out to my wife and I above the rest, sex education. The way science is taught often depends on the science teacher, who often might even be a believer himself. The way other children treat a Christian child often depends on your location and circumstances, but the way sex education is taught is hard to imagine holding any of God’s principals in public school; in fact, I know it doesn’t.

I remember when I was younger one very bored night going through my dad’s books, I happened across a 1986 Freed Hardeman Lectureship book. As I flipped through the book I landed on the introduction which spoke about the city of Memphis threatening to teach these “Family Life Classes.” I read on in amusement as it spoke about just how horrible these sex education courses would be for our children. The editor said, “They intend to expose students in Memphis to their liberal, humanistic view of human sexuality.”¹ Having just completed some Family Life classes at the time, I marveled at their ignorance of how harmless and helpful the classes really were. Now years later, I marvel at my own ignorance, the subtle teachings that contained so many lies that altered my thinking for years.

First and foremost, the Family Life course in public school teaches “Safe Sex.” My first sex education course was when I was in the fifth grade, 1995. I do remember marriage being taught as the ideal place for safe sex, but even in that day, the priority of the class was to teach “safe sex” to those of us who would need to know it long before marriage. This is one of the biggest problems of the course, it is instituted with the wrong motives. The class teachings may acknowledge that marriage is the ultimate solution, but the course has given up on the idea that we will be waiting until then. You might be saying, “is that not a good thing to teach, being that the majority of teens do not wait until marriage?” While I can see that argument, especially from the world’s view, I also have to think how different things would be if we didn’t teach our youth how to do what we are telling them not to do! When we teach our youth the way to have “safe sex” without marriage, how can we be surprised when they have sex before marriage? By the way, is there any “safe sex” outside of a marriage recognized by God? No practice can be taught to keep us from God’s judgment, regardless of other consequences we may dodge (Rom 1:27). There is no safe sex outside of God’s instruction, but Family Life teaches your child that there is.

Another hidden mistake of the class is the way that STD’s are portrayed. Again the truth is not totally ignored, there is the teaching and truly the education of what diseases can be spread through sex. I must say the course does educate well about the reality of those diseases, how they are treated, that there are other ways they can be caught, all things we need to understand. Here again however is some deception, and that is in the emphasis of the way STD’s are spread. The class admits sex is a way for STD’s to spread, but it obscures the fact that sex outside of marriage is the main reason for STD’s. There is a huge emphasis on the innocent who have caught a disease by some other means. Again in my youth I remember my uncle who was a bit random with his comments, telling my cousins and myself that the reason God sent aids was a consequence for homosexuals. We all busted out laughing at him, myself included, his ignorance to think that only gays could catch aids! Again, I now have to look back at my own ignorance instead. Yes, I know anyone can catch aids by any blood to blood contact, but we had been trained that most individuals who have aids got if from some means other than sex, a huge lie. They had taken a truth, and twisted it into a lie, a lie that made sex outside of God’s word look innocent. STD’s were no one’s fault, not the result of any sin, and we truly believed it.

A factor that is often unthought-of about sex education is the circumstance it creates in the family. The dreaded question of parents, “where do babies come from?” is now answered by the school. Not only is that question answered, but all those other questions that come along with it are answered there also. While this may seem like a huge relief to parents and a break from a difficult responsibility, there is a serious consequence to the family. When these difficult questions that every child has are answered by a third party, there is a part of parenting that is left undone creating a missing part of that relationship. One day your son or daughter knows nearly nothing about sex and the changes that lay ahead for their body, a few days later they know nearly as much as you do. There was never a discussion, never a point that you can both relate to made, never even an awkward word spoken, just one day they don’t know, and another day they do. This adds a huge awkward barrier to the parent child relationship, one you may have never even thought of. The best comparison I can think of is a marriage relationship silent about sex, can you imagine how strange that close relationship would be? While it may be different in many ways, there is a similar aspect in parenting, and that is that parents should be looked up to as guides to teach on these questions. When that is left un-discussed, there is something missing in that relationship and guidance, we are leaving out one of the “secret” bonds that cause our children to look to us. All we do is put up a wall of unspoken understanding that we both have that we dare not discuss, a wall that spreads to other aspects of our relation with them.

Finally as I consider the subject of sex education, especially as I think of my own children as they approach school age, there is the new aspect of homosexuality and transgender issues that have become common. My experience with Family Life or Sex Education began over 20 years ago, I can only imagine what is taught now. I honestly suspect homosexual methods of sex are explained and illustrated just like heterosexual sex was when I was in the course. I honestly suspect male and female bodies will be explained as choices rather than what we have been given. I can’t imagine the questions that would be asked in class, or the serious respectful way the teacher would be teaching on such issues that they seek to normalize, but I know they will be there. The government’s relationship with Planned Parenthood comes to my mind, and I have to wonder how related the belief system and teaching is between the two. There is a definite agenda in Family Life classes, and I should have never been part of it, I am certain I do not want my children to have any part of it either.

We are still up in the air on whether or not public school or home school is the best way for our children. We have a couple years left still to decide. One thing is for sure for us however, we will be opting our children out of “Family Life Class.” It may create some ridicule by other children, we may have to study some facts on STD’s and other things, it may cause us to have to teach on some difficult subjects and embarrass our kids and ourselves some, but there is no other choice for us. If you choose the public school route, I encourage you to look into making certain that opting out is going to be an option for you to choose for your children. Be alert when those classes are coming and stay one step ahead. Also, study your children’s classes to know what is taught in other classes. While most give the option to opt out of Family Life, some districts have began teaching these things in other classes that cannot be opted out of. When there is no option to opt my children out of select classes that teach these things, I know homeschooling will be my only consideration. Whatever route you choose, be aware of the deception that Family Life Classes teach, and keep your children from it.

¹ Claiborne, Winford. “Introduction,” Pages viii-x in Ethics for Daily Living Freed-Hardeman College 1986 Lectures. Edited by Winford Claiborne. Nashville:  Williams, 1986.