A little over a week ago, I took Lily to our neighborhood elementary school to turn in her registration packet for kindergarten this coming fall.  She is so excited about going to her “five year old school”.  (That’s what she calls it.)

Many people have asked me about our schooling decision for our kids, so here goes.

For a little background, I grew up in a Christian school (same school K-12th), and Filipe grew up in public and private schools- some in the U.S., some in Brazil.

When we moved to the San Francisco bay area in 2008, this issue weighed heavy on me.  We went from the Bible-belt (South Carolina) to one of the most liberal places in the country, and I knew school would come sooner or later.  Lily, our oldest, was only two at the time so it wasn’t urgent, but it kept coming up- no matter how hard I tried to push it away.

I’ve had countless encounters at playgrounds where another mom would ask me what our “plan” was for schooling, or I would stumble across a blog where a mom was homeschooling five kids- and excited about it!  Every time I was left more frustrated and confused- not necessarily because of these encounters, but mainly because I was so unsure about what we were going to do.

During the summer of 2009, I really struggled with this.  I was pregnant with Efraim and in a tough season with the girls.  Lily had just turned 3, and Cailyn was 19-20 months old.  I couldn’t see past the next month much less the next twenty years.  The pressure to homeschool began weighing 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 him all the stuff I was feeling.  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.  From that day on, I never felt the pressure to homeschool again.  Thank you LORD for my husband’s ability to turn my frantic, crazy situations 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 choice we saw for us.  I was finally able to relax knowing what our decision was, but I was still a little nervous about it.  Public school is a whole new world for me, and I wasn’t too 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 an incredible book that completely changed the way I viewed the school system.  It gave me incredible peace about our decision, and confidence that it is most definitely the right one for us.

The book is called, Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David & Kelli Pritchard.

My problem was that I was seeing this as an “us vs. them” issue.  Us being Christians, them being the public school system.  And in my head they were always at odds with one another.

But, as I read that book, I realized it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it be that way.

Why can’t we, as Christians, partner with those who are educating our kids to give everyone the best experience possible?  Instead of criticizing everything the school does, what if we offered to serve them instead?  Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to be doing anyway?

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 not using this opportunity, there could very well be someone in that school whose lives wouldn’t be impacted with the love of Jesus.  When I think about that possibility, there’s no way I’d 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.

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  • Great post Mandy. Public schools are not the scary cesspools many Christians think they are. But even if they were, I think the “home school as a refuge from the world” approach many people take is a mistake. Public schools are the world we live in.

    That’s not to say it’s wrong to home school, but I do think many Christians have that “us vs. them” mentality and not only does it harm them and their evangelistic impact on the world, it has a detrimental impact on their kids’ ability to engage with people outside of the cloister they’re used to.

    I also think, as fair/unfair as it is, your position as a pastor’s wife puts you in a position of influence. Your making this choice may help other mothers in the same dilemma feel more freedom as they make their decisions.

    So I give you props for your decision and your post about it!

    • Thanks so much Jackson! I really appreciate the feedback, & totally agree.

  • Bethany Singleton

    Great post. I too am totally struggling with this issue. Jack still has a couple years left but I am already researching and praying about our options. In our community, SO many people are homeschooling and very passionate about it (which is fine, of course) and I guess because of this I am left wondering if that is what all Christ-centered families do? I know it’s not, but I almost feel guilty about it. At this point I just really don’t want to do it. We are just hoping that we will be able to afford Northwood (not just bc it’s not public, we really love it there), but who knows what are finances will look like at that point. So, thank you for being transparent about your feelings and decisions. Would love to talk with you more about this issue sometime.

    • It’s such a hard thing, and I know each family has to decide for themselves what is best. I would really encourage you to read the “Going Public” book. It’s a great perspective and doesn’t put down alternative options. I’d love to talk to you more about it. Email me at msantos@southbaychurch.org or fb msg me anytime! 🙂

  • Debbie

    Mandy, I always appreciate your blog posts! You are so thoughtful in the way that you interact with your husband and your children. Thanks for writing!

  • Thanks for sharing Mandy. I grew up and went to public school in Richmond, CA, which I guess is considered top 10 most dangerous cities in America. I didn’t know God back then, and while I wasn’t always exposed to moral values or the best academic education, I don’t regret growing up the way I did. I don’t have kids yet, but I do believe in the value of giving kids an “unsheltered” life. I believe God has used my experiences to develop a perspective in life I wouldn’t otherwise have. I live every single day grateful for everything that God’s blessed me with, but knowing that HE is everything I need. And that’s what I want my *future* kids to see and know. As a (christian) parent, that’s what I want most for my children…that above safety and education, I want them to know God personally and share His love with others. Of course that’s easier to say now that I don’t have kids…but I really pray that my actions and decisions model this in the future. Whether that be public, private, or home school.

    I’m excited for Lily and all the friends she’ll make and things she’ll learn. Yay for “five year old school!” Thanks again for sharing with us =D

    • That’s so encouraging to hear Adrienne, thanks!

  • So glad you’re a year ahead of me (or at least 4 months) in parenting! 🙂 Love you and support you 100%!

    • Thanks Stacie! I’m sure I’ll be coming to you a lot for questions…get ready 😉

  • Michael

    Awesome blog Mandy? Just read your blog from Facebook and wanted to share my personal thoughts btw Thanks for sharing Mandy. I grew up and went to public school in San Francisco, CA, which also was known with a high dropout rate of students in the 90’s. in my school teachers, and security were scared of students back in the day. I had my share of mischiefs and challenges. If someone ask me am I proud of my past? Who cares. I’m a person who made the decision to make the change. Personally, I didn’t know my God until my adult years. I didn’t know God back when I was a teenager living with my parents and getting in so much trouble. However, I was exposed to alot of different morals values from home and the street that creating unrandom peer pressure. Now I have kids of my own 3 to be exact, and I do believe in the value of giving kids an “independent” life to blossom in what God put them in this world become. Parents are teachers of God. I believe God has used my experiences to develop a perspective life that I can share with my kids. After marriage I live every single day grateful for everything that God’s blessed me with, but knowing that HE is everything I need to be spirtually strong and my family to appreciate me as a father, husband even when times gets rough. I want my kids to see and understand without “sugar coating” information because parents like us has only ONE CHANCE to act in the goodness of GOD. As a (christian) parent, that’s what I want most for my children childrens in the future and talk about it forever. I want them to know God personally and find there own faith with all the teaching we as parents and teachers.

    • I completely agree- it’s so important for us as parents to step into our role and teach our kids as they navigate through life. Thanks for the imput Michael.

  • Cristine

    So happy that you’re at peace Mandy. I agree that each family has to decide on it’s own. I think one of the biggest mistakes Christians make is to think that there is a right and a wrong for these kinds of things, or like you said, a “us vs them” mentality. This only creates pride or guilt. God doesn’t write the same stories for everyone, so why would He want everyone to have the same experiences and environments?
    Anyway, all of this “homeschooling” pressure is completely strange to me, since here in Brazil we don’t even have that option! And most private schools are not Christian (there are vey few). Yet I have an impression that true Christian teenagers here are a lot more mature and “ready” to face and impact peer and wordly pressure by knowing how to relate to and interact with their “worldly” friends. I felt a lot of that because in the US I studied in a Christian school and when I moved back to Brazil I was a strong Christian but I had no idea how to relate to or love people in the world. I only knew how to be different, and not how to make a difference.

    So i think each family should pray and see what God puts in their heart…God has different stories to write..

    Love you!

    ” Let everyone be fully convinced (satisfied) in his own mind.” Romans 14:5