And the dialogue begins…
The can of worms is popped open…and the worms are squirming.
Education and school choice is a hot topic…do I dare post this post?
Over the past few years, we’ve received requests for input about education…not because we’re qualified to offer any profound insight, but because in many of our social circles, our kiddos are just one-hopscotch-square-ahead of our friends’ children.
But let’s be honest here…our oldest is only half way through 4th grade, so we’re hardly experts.
Our usual response is:
–research the best arguments for each option.
–be flexible and consider the decision as one-child-one-year-at-a-time.
–search the Bible for specific guidance.
–read the Bible consistently for current input God may give.
–talk to others you respect about their experiences (keeping in mind that their family is not a
mirror of yours).
–really consider your own unique family and each unique child God has given you.
–pray and ask God for the wisdom He promises to give (James 1:5).
My goal in this post, is not to convince you of one option as superior to another, but to offer a suggestion of 25 questions to ponder and pray through as you consider plans for next year or the years to come.
With that said, an important emphasis of “Lord willing” should be applied…we’ve learned that lesson all too well…much can change in a few months time and we “do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4: 14 & 15).
I also just want to acknowledge that the “answers” to many of the following questions will not be the same for every family. We are encouraged every time we hear of parents really taking time to examine education options for their children and especially when they are open to whatever decision God leads them to.
So…here it goes…in no order of real significance…just some suggestions:
1. What are our options?
(public school, private school, private Christian school, public magnet school, school that is part homeschool/part classroom setting, charter school, homeschool, online public homeschool or something-I’ve-never-thought-of-school…there are lots and lots of options out there)
2. What are the ultimate goals of our child’s education? Our goals? God’s goals?
(college, growth, learning more about God, mastering subjects, making friends, bringing glory to God, expanding horizons, “being-all-that-they-can-be”, sports, learning to love learning)
3. What special needs, social issues, specific gifts, health issues, or learning styles does each child have? What school options will best meet those needs?
4. Where are the schools located? How will this mesh with our family’s daily life?
5. What specific family dynamics must influence our decision?
(travel, work schedules, divorce, adoption, need for racial diversity, sickness, death, grief, family size)
6. What does the Bible say about education? Learning? Wisdom?
7. What is each child’s personality, maturity level, and where do they stand in their relationship with the Lord?
(Is the child a follower? A leader? An instigator? What is their role in a crowd of peers? How do they respond to authority? Do they ask questions? Are they naive? Are they respectful? How well do they learn in a large group vs. small group?)
8. What can we afford financially?
(This is a real-life-big-time issue…and can’t be minimized)
9. If we feel God leading us to something that seems financially impossible…what changes can we make financially? Have we asked Him to provide?
10. What arguments have we read in support of each option?
(Can our decision withstand the valid points of opposing arguments? Do we still feel good about our decision after hearing other perspectives? Ultimately, we all just answer to God in this…)
11. What choices have like-minded friends and older mentors made about education? Have we asked for their perspective and input?
(Keeping in mind that each family is SO different and God leads families to very different conclusions about education).
12. What are the dangers of each option?
(A few thoughts: isolation, hectic life style, lack of community connection, lack of ministry, increased family stress, negative influences, superficial or “cultural” Christianity, educational inadequacies, financial hardship, absence of God communicated, loss of missional mindset, too many social circles to engage, decreased family connections, lack of structure, too much structure, physical dangers, over-protection, unbiblical teaching)
13. What will the academics be like with each option?
(What curriculum is used? Teaching methods? Is there a certain bent that we appreciate academically?)
14. How will the school handle current issues in the world?
(ignore them, give facts, give opinions, try to persuade, analyze, discuss)
15. Will God be included or excluded in day-to-day curriculum?
(Will the curriculum reveal and include the intricacy and excellence of God’s creation and order? If not, how we will effectively communicate that God is a part of everything–math, science, history, literature, music, art–at home? How will we counteract the “compartmentalization” of God? As parents, we’re ultimately held responsible by God for the education our child receives no matter what option we choose for our family)
16. How involved can/will we as parents be in each option? What other family resources do we have to help us (grandparents, friends etc.)?
17. How will we provide for the social growth our child needs?
(co-ops, field trips, siblings, church settings, community organizations, sports)
18. With each option, how will we teach our children to be missionally minded? To reach out to others? To look beyond personal safe-guarding and to see the needs of others?
19. How prepared is each child spiritually? Where do they stand with the Lord? Is their foundation strong enough to withstand “a storm”? Are they truly capable of being a “light in darkness”?
(The answer for some will be “yes” and for others it will be “no”…some 7-year-olds may be more ready to engage than some high schoolers…believe me, I taught high school
20. If we are asking our children to function as “missionaries” among their peers, are we leading by example?
(Do we speak out and share in our own office? In our own neighborhood? If we are asking them to have that courage, can we point to it in our own lives?)
21. How willing are we to listen to God’s leading? Have we already formed opinions that we aren’t willing to budge on? Do we have a “Lord willing” attitude?
22. How much of our decision are we basing on our own experiences?
(each school, each town, each teacher, each generation, each child is going to be different from “back in the day”)
23. How will we become part of the educational community?
(Will we volunteer in the classes? Get to know the teachers? Develop relationships with the other parents? Will we make time for this priority so that we truly know what goes on in their lives on a daily basis?)
24. How will we deal with friendships? How will we teach our child to be a friend, make friends, keep friends and choose friends?
(Once school starts so do the play times, birthday parties, and sleep-overs. Are we willing to invest the time needed to know the children in their classes? To meet the parents? How comfortable are we with dropping them off at the home of a new friend? If we aren’t, will we make time each year, with each new class, to get to know the different families?)
25. Finally…and most importantly…what does God want for our family?
(And it may take a while to figure this out and it may change and it most certainly won’t be the same for every family…which is something I’m thankful for).