Monday, September 14, 2009

Choosing Public School - Part 2

If you were here on Friday, you read about how we came to the decision to put our kids in public school. Today I want to talk about some of the benefits we have experienced because of that decision.

Like I said on Friday, this is our experience, but if these posts help someone formulate a new perspective or understand our choice a little better, that’s great too. I’d love to know if that’s you, so please leave a comment.

I also said on Friday that we know we’re blessed to live where we live and have the schools we have at our disposal. But I guess that’s why we chose to live here. We knew early on—probably even before we had kids—that God would call us to be involved with public schooling, and so we knew we wanted to live where the schools were excellent.

After all, the point of school is the education, right? And, boy, have our kids had the educational opportunities. Not only have they had outstanding teachers, they have had opportunities for gifted learning that they might not have had in a smaller, private school. Since third grade, all three of our daughters have been in gifted programs for reading. Once they entered junior high school, they have all been in advanced math programs.

And high school. Don’t even get me started on high school—it’s so much harder than when I was in school! This year my sophomore is already taking one AP class, and my senior has five AP classes. My high school didn’t offer even one AP class, so they already have a huge advantage in that respect. They would probably say that they’re already smarter than their mom—and they’d be right!

But what if your kid needs help of a different sort? What if your child needs special help with reading, math, or speech? What if your first language isn’t English? Public schools have specialists who are ready to help with those kinds of issues too. And what I have found is that these specialists really care about students. It is a beautiful thing to watch dedicated teachers work to help all children excel.

Of course, private schools offer many of these same programs, so what’s the big deal? What’s the big difference? Well, this takes me back to the salt-and-light principle I talked about on Friday.

I asked each one of my girls this weekend if they were glad they had gone to public school. All three said yes (acknowledging, however, that they didn’t know what it would be like to be in a Christian school). But as they thought more about it, they all said something to the effect of “I get to see how other people live.” I think this is the key, and a great benefit of public school.

Of course, this is where a lot of parents get scared about public school. I talked about the fear factor on Friday, but here’s where I’ll borrow a line from “Julie and Julia”: “No fear, Julia (or, in this case, parents). No fear.” B and I determined early on that we wouldn’t live in fear of the unknown. We’d just move ahead with what we thought God wanted us to do.

You know, life is messy, and sometimes people live messy lives. Sometimes kids see that people who live lives that are different from theirs, maybe even messy lives, are not lives that they would want to live. My kids have seen first-hand that living a life without Jesus is one that lacks peace, joy, and fulfillment.

But also, they get exposed to different ideas—ideas that challenge them to take a stand for what they believe in. Ideas that make them explore more deeply what they do believe. I would say that nearly every day my girls are challenged in this way, either by a teacher or a classmate, and I see that as a positive thing, not as something to be feared. I want my girls to be able to take a stand for their faith or to be able to say why their life is different from a classmate who doesn’t have the same faith. We have had amazing conversations around the dinner table based on what they’ve experienced at school.

When I asked Kate what she saw as a benefit of public school she said, “I’ve met so many people at my school, and I get to see how they view things—I see how the world sees things. I feel like God might be calling me to minister in some way, so it’s important to have experiences with the people God wants me to reach.”

Another one of my girls pointed out that there are still lots of Christians at the public school which provides great support for them.

On Friday I mentioned that at first we put our kids in public schools so that we—B and I—could meet our neighbors and “do life” with them. What a blessing this has been for us personally. I think that having our kids in public school has opened up so many doors with our neighbors that we might never have walked through if our kids didn’t go to the same school.

Probably the biggest blessing came a few years ago when we met a wonderful couple through one of our daughter’s classes. We hit it off and became good friends right away. They knew where we stood in our faith, and we invited them to church. They came and were interested, but not consistent in coming. Finally, one day they asked us if we would do a Bible study with them—just two couples learning more about God together. We felt so humbled and privileged to do this with our friends, and we were happy to spend those weeks studying with them.

On the last night of our study together we had the best conversation about Jesus, faith, and heaven. It was a true blessing to be able to share openly with them how we came to have faith and to have them respond positively to God.

Would we have had this opportunity if we had not intentionally placed our kids—and ourselves—in a place where we could meet and really get to know our neighbors? I’ll never know. All I can know is that we have followed God’s call to be in public school and that He has used it to be an amazing blessing to our family.


  1. Shelly, I have really enjoyed reading these posts! I often look out my window to the great public elementary school right across the street and think "now why are my kids not going there?!" :-) I see so many friends from church and the neighborhood getting their kids in the afternoon, and it looks like a wonderful place! For us, it has been more of a matter of "calling." We have done public, home, and private schooling. But the call was so clear that it was unavoidable when we started with our little classical school. To have done otherwise would have been almost disobedience for us, which probably sounds a little crazy! But God met us every step of the way with confirmation. I used to feel like I needed to apologize for it (which may sound silly, too) since there are such good public schools and so many wonderful reasons to go there. I really believe (as you expressed I think in the last post) that God has a plan for each family, for each child, for each year, and it may even change year to year! But He is faithful to lead. We've been blessed to see both our children thrive in this environment and with this classical education. It's been a beautiful thing.
    Thanks for sharing. It is clear God called and led you, too, and you have known His blessing in these public schools and been used of God there! Your family is an outstanding witness for Him! Blessings!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful comment, Carolyn! It's not crazy at all to talk about disobedience--that's what I totally believe too. To do anything other than what God calls us to do is disobedience.

    You have great kids, too. It's so fun to watch what God is doing in them, isn't it? :)