I feel like I need to take a deep breath before I write this post. I mean, this is a topic that could really be tricky to write about. But, a couple of weeks ago this came up and a few of you asked me to do this, so I will oblige.
First, let me just say that this is our experience. Nobody else’s. Deciding where and how your own children are educated will be your experience entirely. And I’m O.K. with that. I have enough on my plate with my own little brood that I don’t need to worry about yours.
Second, I’d also like to add that much of our decision has to do with where we live, and we know that. If we lived somewhere else that didn’t have excellent public schools with excellent teachers, we would have to explore other options. But for now, we have an abundance of riches, as they say, at our disposal, and we know we are blessed to have that.
So, how did it happen that our kids ended up in public school? Way back in 1997, as Kate was heading to kindergarten, B and I did a lot of praying about what to do. We knew our options. But it seemed like the doors to those options weren’t opening very far.
There was homeschooling. Um . . . no. My temperament just was not at a place back in ’97 (or even in ’09 for that matter) that would ensure success at homeschooling. Plus, God had opened a door for me to teach a college class, which I loved, and we felt like that was not something I should give up at that time. So, for those couple of reasons, plus the fact that we didn’t feel strongly about the homeschooling option, we closed that door. (I locked it securely while B wasn’t looking, and then I threw away the key.)
There was private Christian school. Again, neither one of us felt strongly enough for this option that it seemed that door wasn’t opening very widely either. We have lots of friends who have made this choice, and they seem happy with it. It just didn’t seem like the right decision for us.
But our public school choice wasn’t made by process of elimination. It was made with lots and lots of prayer, and public school was our first choice all along.
So what things did factor into the equation? Well, obviously, the education. I mean, really, why do we put our kids in school anyway? To get educated. Sometimes they get educated in things we’d rather they not know about, if you know what I mean, but that just comes with the kid territory no matter where they go to school. Really, though, the education in our school district is one of the best in the state, so we figured we should at least give it a try.
And, honestly? I’d prefer to leave the education of my children in the hands of the professionals—people who have gone to college for many years (lots of my kids’ teachers have master’s degrees) to learn how to do this well. Me? I would be a disaster with a bulletin board. There would be nothing on the walls. My classroom would be a sad place to be. I guess that’s why I taught college—no bulletin boards.
The other factor was what I’ll call the salt-and-light factor. This gets a little complicated in some people’s minds, so let me explain first that we never expected our children, especially in elementary school, to be “missionaries” at their schools. I really believe that a child’s job in school is to learn.
But it’s another thing for us adults. B and I thought long and hard about our community, our neighbors, and the teachers we might get to know in public school. We wondered how we would meet our neighbors—I mean to really get to know them—if we didn’t rub elbows with them on a regular basis. It’s one thing to see our neighbors at a Christmas party once a year, but when you’re serving on a school committee with them or sitting next to them at an all-school picnic, you start to get to know them. So we decided that we needed to put ourselves, not just our kids, in a place where we could “do life” with our neighbors. School seemed to be the obvious place to do that.
Both B and I had a very strong sense that we could not make this decision based on fear. Fear of the unknown, of the world, of other people—none of that could come into play. This decision needed to be based on more than that.
It seems to me, as I talk to parents, that there is a lot of fear out there—some justifiable, some not. I have seen it become a huge factor in some people’s schooling decision. But God clearly commands us throughout scripture “Do not fear.” Because along with that He also says, “I am with you.”
As we prayed, B and I both felt like the "fear factor" was one of the main reasons God was telling us to choose public school. We knew that for us, trusting God in our children’s education, as we have trusted in Him all along, would be a huge step of faith. As we placed our girls in public school, we were literally placing them in the care of our heavenly Father, telling Him that we knew He could protect them there.
About 10 years ago some dear friends left our church to plant a church in Chicago. I’ll never forget the time someone asked them, “What about your kids? Will they be safe?” Their response has stuck with me all these years. He said, “Our kids are less safe in the suburbs, if we are out of God’s will, than they will ever be in the city within God’s will.”
I believe that with all my heart. My kids are less safe in any other place than right where God wants them to be. And, for us . . . for now . . . that is public school.
The benefits have been amazing. God has blessed our entire family, not just our kids, through our decision to put them in public school, and I’ll tell you more about that on Monday.
So now, how about you? How do (or did) you educate your kids? How did you make that decision? I’d really love to know, so leave a comment.