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School choice and the role of parents (radio interview)

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When deciding what to talk about for the month of August, I knew I wanted to address school choice. I have found this to be a potentially divisive issue in the Christian community and that bothers me. I have written previously about our decision to send our kids to public school, (you can read my thoughts on it here, here, here, and here) but this was a topic I also wanted to address with the radio listeners. If you live in a community where this isn’t an issue, be thankful. But for some of us, the guilt feelings that come with making this decision can be intense. If you have spent time in the homeschooling world either because you were home schooled yourself or because you previously home schooled your children, it is possible to feel like sending your child to a public school is an act of abandonment.  In some ways I can totally understand the level of passion homeschooling parents feel for their choice. Who would choose to do this if they didn’t feel like it was absolutely the best option? It’s costly, it’s time consuming, it eliminates a parent’s ability to have much free time (at least in the early years), so if you’re going to go through all that you better be sure this is worth it. But I think in that desire to justify such a big decision it can be unintentionally (or intentionally) communicated to families who don’t make the homeschooling choice that they don’t really love their children or value their education. It is for the mother who is struggling with that message that I wanted to address our decision to send our kids to public school and how it has worked for us. (*I have friends and family members who have home schooled their children for long periods of time or just for a season who have been totally supportive of our choice to send our kids to public school. I don’t want to paint the homeschooling community with too broad a brush as far as attitudes towards public school go. And there are public schooling parents who can be hostile towards home schooling families, so I know it goes both ways.)

After we taped this interview I read a post by a mom who hit on an important point that had been in the back of my mind, but not often verbalized. She addressed how homeschooling had made her see her baby as a burden to be scheduled around. I know there are lots of moms that would never feel this way even in that same situation, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. When we first brought Josh home we were still working in the group home and homeschooling those kids. I remember scheduling Josh’s naps around the reading groups I needed to teach and making him spend big chunks of time in a highchair with toys because I was grading papers or doing a discussion group. I would get really frustrated if he was “bothering” me by having a need during those times I was trying to get something done with the older kids. While I don’t think Josh was damaged by those experiences, I’m also not sure it was best for him. Those memories stuck with me when it came time to make the schooling decision for my own kids. I knew in order to homeschool Josh, I would end up missing valuable time with my most vulnerable kids. I have often heard it said that we need to make schooling decisions based on what’s best for each individual child each year, but I think there’s also a family component that needs to be acknowledged. I think the choice to send my kids to school has been best not only for them, but for the little people who very much still need my attention at home. Those dynamics are going to be different for each family, which is why I think it’s important that we don’t put ourselves in the position of trying to judge another family’s choices.

You can listen to the interview via the link below and/or read my thoughts beneath the link.

-The Bible doesn’t prescribe one “right” way of schooling our kids. End of story.

-We shouldn’t make our schooling decisions from a motivation of fear. There are amazing teachers and administrators who love Jesus in the public school system.

-When deciding what option is best for our kids we need to look at what their strengths and abilities are AND what OUR strengths and abilities are. This decision may change each year or for each of our kids as we see what they need and what we are able to provide.

-Parents always have an educational role with their children, even if they choose to have them schooled outside the home. We need to take that role seriously.

-If your child is going to school outside the home, it’s important to find ways to be involved. The biggest piece of that is pursuing open communication in whatever way works for you and your child’s teacher.

-Make sure you talk to your kids about their bodies and boundaries before you send them off to school. They need to know that the values they see at school may be different than what you are teaching them at home and that you aren’t surprised by that.

-We need to teach our kids that we can love someone even if we don’t agree with their personal choices. This is important in how our kids interact with their peers and teachers who may have different values.

-Character trumps intellect. We need to communicate that to our kids instead of putting so much pressure on our children to have academic success if that isn’t their strength.

-Remind your children that God is always with them and watching over them, even when they leave your house.

-We can’t live in guilt about our school choice decision and we can’t fall into the trap of thinking the choice we made is the one right choice for all families.

-The parental role is the most important role. We don’t delegate that to the school even when we send them to school.

2 Comments

  1. I LOVED that link from the blog. I wonder if you grew up in a church where this was a divisive issue? I ask because I grew up Catholic, and I knew no kids who were homeschooled until I was 18, and met a friend I worked with who was homeschooled. I think the majority of Catholic families send their kids to private Catholic schools (which also filters into the one Catholic high school there), so it just wasn’t on my radar. I know this can be a divisive issue with churches (fundamental ones? can I say that without it being offensive?). I mean, I have a stereotype in my head, but I never encountered it at GC. Maybe I was naive, but then again, there are so few hs’ers there anyway. They are definitely the minority, and it gets fewer every year.
    I have never thought that hs-ing is more holy, or whatever…I think the bible is clear that it is the parent’s responsibilities to teach their children about the Lord (it should just go without saying that it’s regardless of school choice!). Has this ever been talked about at your church in-depth? Just out of curiosity. It would probably be a good foundation for a sunday school session or something (from all sides represented). Or maybe that would just be stirring the pot! I really liked it when Mom2Mom did a panel about that.
    Sarah M

    • Love these thoughts, Sarah (and I love “watching” you homeschool with such a spirit of adventure and grace). I didn’t grow up in the homeschool community but jumped into the deep end without our previous group home work where we home schooled the kids. There are a lot of different homeschooling cultures and we found that some of them are not just pro homeschooling as a choice that should be available to those who want to use it, but are actively anti public school for Christian children. That isn’t the attitude of our current church and we have a great mix of public, private, and homeschooling families. I think it’s hard when you’ve spent any time in a culture that says “this is the way, walk ye in it” and you choose to do something different. You struggle with guilt even when you’re very far removed from that culture.

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