“What counsel can you give me about private and home schooling?” Ensign, Oct. 1986, 67
Stanley A. Peterson, Associate Commissioner of Education, Church Educational System. As the Church has expanded, the challenge to educate its members, especially the young, has increased significantly. Where local governments have been unable to educate their people, the Church has tried to provide some educational opportunities. For a time, the Church operated schools in Mexico, South America, and some Pacific islands. But as governments have begun to provide adequate schooling, the Church has closed its schools, including all of the schools in South America and all but two in Mexico.
The Church has chosen not to provide an alternative to the public schools where those schools, even with some deficiencies, are open and available to Latter-day Saint children. For students in high school and college, the Church does provide a seminary and institute of religion program to balance secular learning with the important and eternal truths of the gospel. Currently, over 330,000 young people worldwide participate in this Church-sponsored program.
In light of recent criticisms of the public school system, some parents have taken their children from public schools and are providing school at home. There is no official Church position on home schooling. Such decisions are left to the parents’ best judgment. Parents who want to educate their children at home, however, are encouraged by the Church to work closely with local school boards to comply with local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
Parents considering this option should know that home schooling seems to work best when—
Children are young. As children reach junior high and high school age, it becomes more difficult for a single family, or even groups of families, to provide the advantages of laboratories, performing groups, and other extra-curricular programs.
Parents are well trained as educators and prepared to invest great amounts of time and energy.
Of course, parents teaching their children at home would want to consider enrolling their ninth-through twelfth-grade children in seminary.
Other parents have elected to place their children in private schools. This, also, is a matter of choice. When parents decide to enroll their children in private schools, the Church encourages them to choose schools that are reputable and that provide high-quality education.
The following statement by the First Presidency, made 1 September 1976, suggests that Church members could, and should, do much to improve public education in their communities:
“The growing world-wide responsibilities of the Church make it inadvisable for the Church to seek to respond to all of the various and complex issues involved in the mounting problems of the many cities and communities in which members live. But this complexity does not absolve members as individuals from filling their responsibilities as citizens in their own communities.
“We urge our members to do their civic duty and to assume their responsibilities as individual citizens in seeking solutions to the problems which beset our cities and communities.
“With our wide ranging mission, so far as mankind is concerned, Church members cannot ignore the many practical problems that require solution if our families are to live in an environment conducive to spirituality.
“Where solutions to these practical problems require cooperative action with those not of our faith, members should not be reticent in doing their part in joining and leading in those efforts where they can make an individual contribution to those causes which are consistent with the standards of the Church.
“Individual Church members cannot, of course, represent or commit the Church, but should, nevertheless, be ‘anxiously engaged’ in good causes, using the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as their constant guide.”
Public schools have played, and are playing, an important role in the education of Latter-day Saint youth. They are not perfect, and the past decade has been a particularly trying time for many of them. But many of the problems they face are not without solution, and the Church has not withdrawn its traditional support for a strong public school system.
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.