As Filipe and I take some time off for sabbatical, I’m re-visiting the archives (and including some present day commentary along the way…and maybe fixing a few grammatical errors too. Grin.) This week we at staying at a Christian camp center where meals and activities are provided and scheduled (Mom gets a break from acting camp counselor at home) and we hear some teaching from local pastors.
I originally wrote this post in 2011. When I wrote it, we were registering our firstborn for kindergarten. Six years later we now have five kids going back to school this fall. Looking back, we’ve had some unique challenges. While we did homeschool for a season (shh, don’t tell the girl below, she might have a nervous breakdown), I’m still confident this has been the best path for our family.
For a little background, I grew up in a private, Christian school and Filipe grew up in both public and private schools- some in the U.S., some in Brazil. I went to one school my entire life, he went to several (including a German school in Brazil).
When we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008, the issue of schooling weighed heavily on me. We had just moved from the Bible-belt (Charleston, SC) to one of the most liberal places in the country, and I knew school would come sooner or later. Lily, our firstborn, was two years old, so it wasn’t urgent, but it kept coming up no matter how hard I tried to push it away.
I had countless encounters at playgrounds where another mom would ask me what our “plan” was for school, or I would stumble across a blog where a mom was homeschooling five kids- and enjoying it! Each time I felt more frustrated and confused- not necessarily because of these encounters, but mainly because I was unsure about what I was going to do.
During the summer of 2009 it felt unbearable. I was pregnant with our third and in a tough season with our girls. I couldn’t see past the next month much less the next ten years. The pressure to homeschool weighed heavy on me. I don’t know why, but it did. Big time. And frankly, the thought of it made me sick. One night, I was talking with Filipe about it and I was sharing all my feelings. Our conversation went something like this:
Filipe- “Do you want to homeschool?”
Me- “No, Not at all!”
Filipe- “Then don’t homeschool.”
Me- “Really! I don’t have to?”
And that was that. End of discussion. For some reason I allowed myself to believe that the best moms would/could homeschool, but seeing that it made no difference to my husband and that he wasn’t disappointed in me, I realized how much pressure I was placing on myself. No one else, but me.
From that day on, I never felt the pressure to homeschool again. Thank God for my husband’s ability to turn my frantic, crazy emotions into simple solutions.
So with homeschool ruled out, we were down to two options, private or public school. But really, with private school being WAY over our budget, public school was the only real choice for us. I could finally relax knowing what our decision was, but I still a little nervous about it. Public school was a whole new world for me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect or how to prepare (me or my kids).
Just around the time I began doing research on the schools in our area, a friend gave me a book that completely changed the way I viewed the school system. It opened up my eyes to how Christians can respond to the school system and not feel like you’re compromising your values or beliefs. It gave me incredible peace and confidence that this was the right decision for us.
The book is called, Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David & Kelli Pritchard.
Looking back, the reason this book spoke to me so powerfully is that it completely aligned with the parenting philosophies and models we had already been studying. I’ve given this book to moms simply for the parenting advice- it alone is gold. Even if private school or homeschool is a better fit for you, I recommend this book for all parents who want to have a positive influence in your community, and the examples of teaching your kids discipline and responsibility (some are hilarious).
My problem was that I was seeing public school as an “us vs. them” issue. Us being Christians, them being the public school system. And in my mind they were always at odds with one another. But, as I read Going Public, I realized it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.
Parents have an opportunity to partner with those educating our kids to give everyone the best experience possible. Instead of criticizing, what if we offered to serve instead?
Serving the local schools has given our church (and family) an incredible opportunity to reach out to our community. We give gifts to teachers throughout the year, helped beautify/renovate schools, and offer support wherever we can. Having a reputation of being for the city rather than against gives us more favor and opportunity than just pointing out what we don’t agree with.
Those were the thoughts that continued to roll around in my head as I considered our situation and where God has uniquely placed us. We came to the Bay area to do exactly those things- to serve our communities with the love of Jesus. By missing out on this opportunity there could be someone whose lives wouldn’t be impacted. When I think about that possibility, there’s no way I’d want to back out.
I’m so excited to start heading down this road. I don’t expect it to be an easy one, but I’m pretty sure that we, as Christians, aren’t guaranteed the easy road- just help along the way. I’m confident God will go with us and give us wisdom for the road ahead.
Parenting isn’t easy, and schooling is a parenting issue. We’ve had some pretty interesting conversations with our kids that stemmed out of the environment and influences they have at school. To be honest, I’d rather not deal with it most days, I’d rather turn a blind eye or remove them from the situations, but I’ve chosen to face the hard issues now with my seven and nine year olds now so that when they are sixteen and eighteen it’s not as awkward. Many days throughout the school year, I’m helping them navigate what it feels like to be the minority race (and being called derogatory names for being white), how to respond when (seven year old) classmates use inappropriate language, and how to choose friends wisely. It’s not an easy thing.
Public school was the right decision for us, but it may not be for you. That’s okay. God has us all in different places around the globe and the country for a reason. In my view, educating our kids falls underneath God’s calling not above. We don’t live where we do because of great schools, but because we are trying to build up the local church. So the way we do our day-to-day life has to fit within that calling. But I do want to say, don’t let fear make the decision. Make sure your schooling decision is the right decision because it’s truly what is best for you, not what’s most comfortable. What’s best is not always what’s easiest.