Building on a Southern Baptist Convention resolution urging parents to remove their children from public schools that promote homosexuality, the denomination’s publishing house is seeking to make inroads into a growing homeschool market.
“I can say emphatically there is a market,” Zan Tyler, homeschool resource and media consultant for Broadman & Holman Publishing, told Christian retailers attending a trade show in Nashville, Tenn. “This is a huge market.”
Broadman & Holman, the trade-book division of LifeWay Christian Resources, sponsored an exhibitor event titled “Homeschooling 101 for the Christian Retailer” at Advance 2006. This year’s national trade show of the Christian Booksellers Association was held Jan. 23-28 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Home-schooling barely existed 25 years ago but is growing at a rate of 7 percent to 12 percent a year. Today an estimated 2.1 million children are schooled at home, and the number is expected to grow to 3 million by 2010. Three quarters of homeschoolers are Christian families.
Homeschool parents spend an average of $450-$750 per child per year. That translates into a market potential ranging from $1.3 billion to $2.25 billion, Tyler told retailers.
Pat Marcum, a sales and marketing consultant representing Alpha Omega Publications, a publisher of Christian curricula based in Chandler, Ariz., said the No. 1 factor driving a growing homeschool movement is none other than “the government school” itself. He cited reports about underachieving public schools from a 1983 government report titled “A Nation at Risk” to an ABC News “20/20” report two weeks ago titled “Stupid in America.”
“Christians some time ago asked the public schools not to remove God as creator in the public-school system,” Marcum said. “Did they listen? No.”
Marcum said public school also ignored conservative evangelicals by removing prayer and Bible reading, the Ten Commandments and the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Finally they asked them not to teach the homosexual agenda, but they did.”
Last June the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution urging pastors and parents to remove their children from public schools if they find their school promotes the “homosexual agenda.”
“This is now taking place,” Marcum said. “The impact that is going to have is on the number of parents that are going to be bringing their children home.”
The resolution warns against “homosexual activists” using educational institutions as a gateway to promote acceptance of homosexuality as “a morally legitimate lifestyle.” It calls on churches and parents to research and monitor whether their local school districts are helping to advance that agenda through programs, curricula or homosexual clubs and to act accordingly.
Bruce Shortt, a homeschool father from Houston, fought an uphill battle for two years to get the nation’s largest Protestant faith group to go on record as criticizing public schools, but he says the committee-written resolution passed by the convention is actually stronger than the version he and co-author Voddie Baucham had recommended.
It urges Christian parents “to fully embrace their responsibility to make prayerful and informed decisions regarding where and how they educate their children,” whether they choose public, private or home schooling.
“Certainly, any school district that has a homosexual club or any program, curriculum or policy that would influence children to regard homosexual behavior as normal or acceptable is a clear and present physical, moral, emotional and spiritual danger to all children,” said Shortt, an attorney associated with Exodus Mandate, an organization that supports homeschooling as an alternative to the government’s school system.
A number of SBC leaders, even those who privately support alternatives to public education, feared backlash from teachers who attend Southern Baptist churches should the convention adopt a resolution critical of public schools.
But Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a column last summer he believes the time has come for responsible Christian parents to begin developing an “exit strategy” from public schools.
The SBC went on record as supporting homeschooling in 1997 and in 1999 affirmed private Christian schools. LifeWay has been involved in Christian school ministry, which includes homeschooling, for eight years. A number of people in upper management are homeschoolers.
Shortt said Lifeway is poised to play “a very important role in the growth of all forms of Christian education, including homeschooling.”
After nearly being arrested for truancy when she and her husband started home-schooling in 1984, Tyler led an eight-year legal battle to win recognition of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools as a legal, alternative accrediting agency for home-schooling parents. She was president of the SCAIHS 10 years and still serves on its board of directors.
Before the Legislature passed a new law in 1992, parents in South Carolina could not homeschool their children without approval by their local school district. Today homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.
“I believe that homeschooling is a revival movement,” Tyler told booksellers, with potential to build a new generation of “Joshuas” to stand for God against a secular world.
Shortt said Lifeway “has been a tremendous source of encouragement and help to Christian parents in the past, and it will play a much, much larger role in the future.”
In fact, he said, “I believe Lifeway may well play the key role in the implementation and development of the exit strategy from the government schools that Dr. Mohler has urged.”
Marcum and his wife, Linda, homeschooled three children, who are now grown, for more than 19 years. He said most homeschool parents discover benefits beyond education.
“It’s not so much home-schooling that God has blessed,” Marcum said. “It is obedience to his Word.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.