January 16, 2014

You say public school, I say homeschool...let's NOT call the whole thing off!

Lately, I have read several articles and blogs written by parents who have chosen to send their kids to the poorest public schools on purpose. The articles highlight the impact these families are having in their public schools, and how they are shaping their community by their involvement.

Let me be the first to give those parents a standing ovation and applaud their efforts. They are changing the world in their own little corner and I say to them: “Way to go!”

But it concerns me that in many of these articles, especially in those written from a Christian perspective, there is often a subtle message woven among the narrative aimed at those of us who have not made the same choice: “You are wrong not to follow our lead.” And if the message is not stated, or even intended in the article, you will definitely find it among the comments that ensue as a response.

I have also read several blogs and articles written by Christians who believe public education is dangerous for our children and that parents should homeschool or invest in private Christian schools for the sake of their future. Those people feel just as strongly in their arguments and beliefs.

Can I tell you that, personally, I think that to take either stance has too narrow a focus and possibly shows a lack of understanding about the way God works to further his Kingdom in this world?  

I get that the choice of schooling is a hot topic among Christians today, and the debate can get pretty intense on both sides. 

I understand that. 

But see, while there are certain absolutes spelled out in Scripture for us, the choice of how to school our children is not one of them. God places different calls and passions in our hearts and I’m thankful that He does, or nothing would get accomplished here on earth.

I realize that proponents of each side will say that there are Biblical nuances within each choice:

Proponents of public education discuss putting the greater good of society above personal agendas, and the effect that strong Christian families have in the public realm. 

Opponents of public school, on the other hand, talk about the importance of weaving the Word of God into our daily teaching in every area of our lives, which, of course, can’t happen in public education. 

I’ve heard just about all arguments from both sides.

The problem is that working for the greater good of our community and raising children submerged in the Word of God are not meant to be mutually exclusive. When God calls a Christian family to homeschool or to attend a private Christian school He is not calling them to forget about the needs of the rest of the community. And when He calls a Christian family to send their kids to public school, He is not calling them to disregard raising their kids in his Word and disciple-ing them daily. 

Where did we get those ideas?

Maybe your family was called to send your kids to the poorest school. Mine was not. But we are definitely both called to love our neighbors, raise godly children, care about the poor, and work for the good of the world both THROUGH our choice of schooling and IN SPITE of our choice of schooling. That is definitely an absolute with which I hope we can agree.

Can we also agree that we all have the same goal: to raise godly leaders for tomorrow who are compassionate and fiery world changers? How God has called us to do it is a personal family decision that should be made prayerfully. 

But neither public education nor private/homeschooling education are "the only way" to accomplish this goal.

Ultimately, no matter your choice of schooling, we, the parents, are primarily responsible to teach our children about the world and about the Lord. It is our job to teach them to fight racism, poverty, and injustice. It is our job to teach them to love their neighbors, no matter who that is, to take care of the world we’ve been given, and to love their God above all else. 

Our choice of schooling may mean we face different challenges in accomplishing these goals but I believe we should encourage each other on rather than judge or measure each other up.

I believe in a God who is bigger than my choice of school. If He has called me to homeschool and He has called you to send your kids to public school, it means He will empower us equally, yet differently, to raise our children according to his plan for their lives.

I don’t believe public school is evil. I used to be a public school teacher and I loved my job. We chose to homeschool for many reasons. None of those included separating our kids from “those kids,” or keeping them in a bubble. It had to do with multi-lingual learning, tailored instruction for learning issues, and many other things. But above all it had to do with obedience to our family’s calling.

If you are in the public school trenches every day and especially if you have chosen the poorest schools on purpose, I respect your schooling choice. I celebrate it even. But please don’t tell me that my choice is less worthy. Homeschooling moms work very hard and have strong convictions as well. 

Let’s cheer each other on, let’s challenge each other out of complacency, but let’s not discount each other. After all, we really are on the same side, we belong to the same family, and we play for the same team.


Unknown said...

Very well said and from my viewpoint it is the only way that can be the truth. Expressing why we make our decisions is fine but judging others for making a different decision is hurtful and accomplishes nothing but discord.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Gaby, for a balanced look. In another arena, I read something recently that said, "Would God call someone to ______ if it advanced the gospel? We are taking far too long to answer such a simple question." This is yet another reminder that the way God individually loves us is so great, and that our calling is what unifies us, yet the method of our calling is what makes us all unique!

Debbie said...

Oh Gaby, this is a stand up and applaud post! I love the way you reason through the argument rather than argue through your reasons. We just have way too much of that in the body of believers today.

Your best part ever was here:

"I believe in a God who is bigger than my choice of school. If He has called me to homeschool and He has called you to send your kids to public school, it means He will empower us equally, yet differently, to raise our children according to his plan for their lives."

I will say that to me, the most important "argument" isn't what my fellow believer ought to do or not do. It is the firm belief that the right of true choice really ought to be offered far better than it is.

That's my two cents.

Dolly@Soulstops said...

Dear Gaby,
You are spot on...in Christ, we have the freedom to choose as God leads and we are not to judge re: schooling as this is not one of those essential theology points...and Yes, "God is bigger than our choice of school." Well said and graciously said, my friend :)

Christy said...

I love this, it can be taken to so many different areas of our Christian life. Thank you for your well-reasoned post, Gaby!

Kathleen T. Jaeger said...

Gaby, you have stated what I believe so well. I have often considered why we feel so strong about this. When the Lord has convicted one to a particular calling strongly, I think it feels so strong that we begin to assume that He must be calling everyone to the same thing. I believe parents are called to ensure their children are educated and discipled -- HOW we go about doing that, He has given us latitude in. It is also easier to make the other side or choice 'totally wrong' in order to keep going in this calling that the Lord has given you in regards to education. I sometimes envy my friends who send their kids to a school either public or private and still disciple them and have godly children. It looks easier from this side of the fence. But truly....this parenting thing is not easy on either side of the educational fence. Thanks for writing what I have thought! Good to hear from you, Gaby. I've missed your voice on the blogosphere.