Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Backside of Public Schooling

My husband and I are starting to walk out the other side of a door called, "Parenting," and into a new room of life. Our last two children are in high school. Our oldest graduated from college. And as we look back, I'm very thankful we, as Christian parents, sent our children to public school.

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Before listing some of the benefits and blessings, let me say that there is no perfect school decision for every child or every family: home school, private school, public school--they all have their place. Let me also mention that we had the privilege of choosing our community. My husband commuted so we could live in a community that was small enough to be a part of, to influence as individuals and a family, and to fall in love with. Before they were even school-age, we chose our community based on the desire to put our children in public school with a purpose.

The Scriptural basis for our decision was Hebrews 5:12-14: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

My husband, David, may have additional thoughts, but for my part, I wanted our children to learn the Word of God at home and have a place to practice, or apply it, in real life. I wanted them to face 5-year-old problems at a 5-year-old level: bullying, worldly influences, making friends, submitting to authority, learning life skills. In some situations/schools, that's not a wise choice. In our situation, it was a hard, but fabulous, experience. We cried with our children, problem-solved, and sent them back to school. We met with teachers, volunteered in the classroom, and got involved in the parent-teacher organization (see the page, "To Tango with a Teacher" on this site). As older parents, we help in specific pockets of interest, show up at activities to cheer on students, and serve on the school board.

Here are a few blessings--some we intentionally worked and hoped for, others just happened:

- We shared Christ with teachers, staff and children for seventeen years (and counting). Our job isn't to convert anyone, it's simply to be a light and share the Light.

-  We love the people of our community. Ours is a diverse group of people where the majority is minorities. All of us are part of the whole. We have learned new cultures, new languages, and ways of looking at the world. We speak and think of our neighbors and community members with respect, admiration, love and fondness.We belong together. We live together. We raise children and serve our community together.

- Being in the schools gave us the privilege of being a "mom" and "dad" to kids and an open door of friendship with countless parents, teachers, administrators, and staff. As our children grow, our time of school life is quickly passing. We will still be spectators at events and volunteers in our community, but we will lose passport into the daily lives of students and their families.

- Our children have experienced life. The world doesn't revolve around them and they don't expect it to. They have seen, on a daily basis, students with special needs, language and learning disabilities, different values, more skill and abilities, and teachers/friends fighting cancer, losing loved ones, living through divorce, neglect, legal intervention and heartache. They have seen the danger of unhealthy relationships, the brevity of life, the stupidity of drugs, the drunkenness of fame.

- Our children have learned skills and experienced the passion of amazing teachers with different gifts and ways of looking at life.They studied under the literature Nazi, the calculus queen, and the drama guru. They found out they need 14 hugs a day to be strong, thriving children, marched in step and presented at state conventions. They earned respect, learned respect and grew to appreciate its power. They have been privileged to work with and be taught by talented, committed adults outside our family and church who challenged their character, future, and stretched them beyond what they thought was possible.

- Our children are more dependent on God than us. They were offered hash brownies in a back room, head-butted in the cafeteria, cat-called in the parking lot--and we, their parents, weren't there. But we talked about those things, we went to God in prayer for the things we knew and the things we didn't. In word and by example, we turned to God and leaned on Him. We taught them to look for ways to solve problems--asking God for wisdom. That does not mean we were always successful or they never made bad choices, but it was part of the learning process. Now that some of them are off and running, we are thankful for the training ground of life in the real world.

As our daughter left for college this morning, I called through her open window, "Trust the Lord!" David added, "And keep both hands on the wheel!" That's what they've learned: dependent responsibility.

The basis for parenting in a God-centered way is given in Deuteronomy--and it can be part of the public school choice for any Christian parent. Our culture continues to change, and we need make wise decisions, but always with God at the center. Regardless of your choice, it starts with you--the parent.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, emphasis added)

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