More Schooling Options: Public School

Posted by  | Thursday, November 5, 2009  at 6:00 PM  
This post is written by Jen, a frequent contributor to Prayer of Hannah. As a reminder, she and her husband Eric are the proud parents of four little ones, ages five and under: Liam, a kindergartner, Kate, Owen & Zane. Here are her responses to the questions:
***keep in mind Liam is only in Kindergarten and we are still figuring out what would be best. I am still pretty open to homeschooling and even Christian school down the road. We'll take it on a year by year, kid by kid basis. 1. What are the top three reasons you decided to send your kids to public school?

1) My husband and I both had good public school experiences and we have good public schools in our area. In fact, we moved to the district we are now in based on the public schools (especially because of the quality of the Special Ed program which our third son will benefit from). Basically, we don't have a problem with public schooling.

2) We don't want to pay tuition. We just could not afford that right now. (Now I qualify this with IF it were something we felt we wanted to do we WOULD find the money. One is able to put their money where their priorities lie and schooling would be no exception.) Right now, our plan is saving to help with college.

3) We want and welcome our children to come in contact with people who don't believe the same things we do so that we will have ample opportunity for real life application and discussion of what we believe and why.

It has happened already. My son Liam only started kindergarten this fall. He has come home and "tried out" a few words and phrases that he has heard at school. Nothing terrible yet, but just the same, some things and attitudes that do not honor God (name calling for example). My initial reaction was to be afraid of what he will be exposed to that is beyond my control. I began to think perhaps we should have sent him to a Christian school or homeschooled him to protect him from this kind of thing (ie. my sinful need for control). But then I quickly realized this was exactly why we chose public school... so that he would encounter the things of this world little by little, and we could have on going conversations about what we believe the Bible teaches about it. It doesn't mean he will master "how beliefs should guide behavior" in Kindergarten, but hopefully by the time he's eighteen he will understand how his words affect others and have figured out many things about where he stands on faith and how it relates to the world.

Side Note: The Special Education part of the equation - I say "Side Note" because even if this were not a concern for our family I think our decision would still be the same, but it does add another layer on it.

Our son, Owen, will be attending a Special Needs preschool starting in January at our local elementary school. We moved to this district for several specific reasons.

1) We wanted to take advantage of any services the school system offers.

2) the school system we were previously in was more "inner urban" than where we are now and had an overwhelming number of children to care for with special needs. We did not want him to slip through the cracks. We wanted to afford him every opportunity we could.

3) In our current school system, Owen will have better facilities and equipment. All the buildings are new. Many of the buildings in our old district were not originally built to be accessible. Ramps are great, but we want to minimize the things that will make it more difficult to participate and relate with his peers. This would also likely be an issue at the Christian schools we would choose. Churches are not required to be accessible because they are not "public" places. Many are, but they are not required to be. Believe me, this is something I never thought I'd have to concider!

Disclaimer: The public school system is required by law to offer services to EVERYONE in their district who qualifies, whether homeschooled or attending a private school. We have found this does not come without it's inconveniences and trade-offs however. We felt going the public school route offered us the most "normal" route and routine for Owen. (I have a lot I could say on this topic.)

2. Why didn't you send your kids to Christian school? Why didn't you homeschool?

1) We felt our kids would get a fine education at a public school. I don't think I would like "putting on the teacher hat" everyday with my kids. I know I could do it and would in a heartbeat if it became clear that was the best thing for our family. Homeschooling is still not completely off the table at our house there are many many things that appeal to me about it, but right now we feel public school is working well for our family.

Many of the things I would value about homeschooling (teaching biblical perspective on ever subject for example) are things we plan on doing in conjunction with what they are learning at school anyway. Perhaps it will become a bigger issue later, but right now in kindergarten that has not been too difficult. Also, for our particular children (especially our oldest) we think he needs that exposure to a larger group setting and the experience of learning from other adults—to get out of his comfort zone.

2) We are very active in our church and almost all of our close family friends are believers. We had concerns about "sheltering" them too much. It can be a struggle against apathy in your faith when everyone around you everyday believes the same thing you believe—a Christian "bubble." It can be easy to "just go through the motions" and not have to figure out what YOU believe and WHY you believe what you believe. That is something we pray our children would get a good grip on BEFORE they leave the house. Not that that can't happen at a Christian school, but we feel public school will offer our kids lots of opportunities along the way to flesh those beliefs out. We feel they will have a very strong support system from family, friends and church that share our Christian values, so it's not like we're sending them off to battle unarmed. Our hope is the distinction between the two ways of life will be very evident and practical to them. One thing we pray is that they will have a real heart for the lost. We will play an active role in shaping their world view, but we think they also need to see the world and practice how they see it.

3. What is the best part about public school?

• it is two blocks from our house. we can walk. Love that!
• great teachers and principal and staff. Many Christians.
• opportunities to meet my neighbors and other parents. Gets me "in the world". Great witnessing opportunities (I actively see it this way.)
• I get to help in his classroom a few times a month. I love this because I get to know the teacher, see how my son is interacting with others, get to know the other children and get ideas as to how I can carry over what he is learning there at home.
• great facilities. brand new school actually. (fully accessible!)
• strong art, music and sports programs available for them to feel out their interests and explore them.
• Owen will have the best of both worlds—full accessibility and adaptability in the normal classroom and easy access to special helps.

4. What is the worst part?

• Missing him while he's at school
• giving up my "complete control" over what he sees, hears, learns, etc. (like I had that anyway). Not focusing on the "what ifs". Choosing to entrust my child to the Lord's protection on a daily basis. This is also a BEST PART I suppose.

5. What is the biggest benefit to your child by public school?

• Like I said before, getting outside our "Christian bubble" and learning step by step how to navigate life in this world with faith.
• for Owen - excellent facilities, teachers and resources.

6. What is the biggest deficit?

• Getting lost in the crowd. It is a big school system. My husband and I went to a small school. We knew everybody. Had close relationships with teachers. We were able to participate and even excel in our areas of interest because there were not 200 other people better at it than we were filling that place. (does that make sense? like in sports or music.)

7. What advice would you give to a family with preschool-age children working through this decision right now?

• don't feel pressured. I felt tremendous pressure (whether perceived or forthright) to send my children to a Christian school or to homeschool. Almost like I would not be a good Christian parents if we didn't. Or like sending them to public school was a foolish or selfish thing to do. As if the greater the personal sacrifice you make for your child's schooling indicates the level of thought you've put into it or the amount of love you have for your child. Basically, do what is right for your family.

• secondly, hold your plans with an open hand. It is wise for us to prayerfully consider what we believe would be best for our families and honoring to God, but as Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Be open to God changing your plans.


Margaret said...

Enjoyed your article, but why do you consider it sinful to control what your kindergartner sees/hears/etc.?

Jen said...

I don't consider it sinful to manage, restrict, limit, regulate or to maintain influence or authority over what my children see, hear, do. In fact I believe I am called by God to do that as a parent.

But I do think I too quickly can fall into sin when my fear of the things I cannot TOTALLY control outweighs my trust in God's sovereign protection, guidance and will.

Does that make sense? It is not the "controlling" of my children's environment that is "sinful", but my motives and attitudes that don't honor God in the process. I believe there is a balance. That is what I strive for.

Margaret said...

Thanks for clarifying Jen!

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