Choices. Americans face an overly abundant array of choices on a daily basis. And making decisions, regardless of how small, can elevate stress. From selecting that perfect cup of coffee to the most suitable laptop, we ponder a mammoth variety of options at every turn.
Selecting the right school, from kindergarten to college, however ranks at the top of “choice stress” for parents. Education is an integral part of our culture. Education is an emotionally charged topic and one that consumes much time, finances and energy. When you consider that kids sleep over one third of the time, a significant portion of their conscious hours from age five to adulthood are spent in some form of structure intended to encourage learning.
Even with school choice, the options are rapidly increasing. Magnet and charter schools are cropping up within the public system. New private schools are opening doors in record setting numbers. Home school families manage hundreds of choices from curriculum options to a variety of co-ops and partnerships. Confusion and anxiety over school choice grows as parents consider the growing number of alternatives available to them.
By contrast, my kid’s K-12 education took place in Bend, Oregon in the 80’s and 90’s, when school options were limited. We could not afford the tuition for the couple of private schools that did exist and homeschooling was barely off the ground with very limited resources, so we jumped in and got very involved with our kids in the public schools. (We often wondered how all three kids would financially get through college, but by God’s grace and provision, they made it. Here’s Alisa our youngest on the day she graduated from the University of Texas in 2005 – a happy day!)
Since then, my husband and I have served in private, public, and charter schools and most recently now at Veritas Academy, a University- Model school. Educational reform was a hot topic in the 70’s, when we launched our careers as teachers, and it remains a hot topic today.
Today’s availability of choice has to some degree caused parents to lose focus on what is truly important. We get so caught up in choices and decisions that we fail to comprehend the essential questions governing our decisions. And this “choice stress” does not stop once the educational model is selected. Parents and students merely walk through a door into a room full of decisions waiting to be made especially in the high school years: from tracking and diploma plans to course and teacher selection, from determining the best activities and electives, the list goes on and on.
We do all this to accomplish what…. a transcript that is college worthy? This is the nature of modern day American education. But are we missing something? While these considerations are important, far more is at stake than school choice or even what college your kids will get into or NOT get into.
The underlying message in this week’s blog is NOT however about the school choice you have or will make for your children, rather that you understand the big picture in whatever venue you choose. Your son’s fulfillment in life is not to be found in the world around him. Your daughter’s joy is not to be found in herself. Rather both will find it true joy and fulfillment in loving communion with the God who created them. As students learn to glorify God and live for Christ, they will have true enjoyment in life. They must learn this in whatever school model they are in.
We really have two questions to ask ourselves in pondering school choice:
The first has to do with the ultimate purpose of parenting. Parents have a moral responsibility before God to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Our ultimate purpose is to instruct and love and discipline our children; to train them up to become disciples of Christ. We are their primary educators and their primary disciplers as mandated by God. No school can take our place, nor can any church.
The second question has to do with the ultimate purpose in education. Webster’s dictionary in 1828 stated this: “To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable, and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties”.
As Christians, we must strive for more through education than merely developing our child’s potential or meeting their future needs. We must seek something greater and more magnificent to take place in their hearts. Whether your child is in public school, or private school, at Veritas Academy or home schooled, we must labor to see that our children learn to fear God and trust Christ so that they will serve Him in every area of life and calling.
Essentially your children must learn to think and act biblically while they are still in the nest.
I like doing puzzles. But I like to see the whole picture in front of me or the task becomes too challenging. All the tiny individual pieces of a puzzle begin to make sense in context of the whole picture. But what if I combined three different 500 piece puzzles into one box, mix them up, and then randomly collect 500 pieces to construct a picture? It would not take me long to throw in the towel. Navigating educational decisions can feel the same way at times for parents. Deeply wanting good things for our children, we grab at anything and everything hoping to get the right “pieces”, when what is needed first and foremost is the frame in which to form the picture.
Today’s blog hopefully paints the big picture. We will ponder key pieces of the picture next week.
Thought to contemplate:
- School choice should not be decided out of fear or out of Christian “duty”. Seek the Lord individually and intimately on behalf of each of your children and make the decisions He leads you to make, armed with courage only He can give you.
- School choice cannot merely be decided by what is convenient and easy. Hard may not mean it’s wrong.
- Know what your kids are learning AND equally important, know what they are NOT learning.
- Be involved and be informed. (Even parents who home school must beware the trap of disengagement with the ever increasing availability of virtual school programs via internet.)
Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
and his strength and His wondrous works that He has done.