(Caveat: I know that there aren’t any absolutes in any type of school environment. I know that there are drugs at private Christian schools, Christian groups in public school, great co-ops for homeschoolers, etc. This post is about us and our experience, and the generalities are just that- generalities.)
This post is about our decision to take–and keep–our kids in public school. And yeah, the title is an exaggeration. We’ve never had any issues with anyone questioning our decision on this. We have friends across the spectrum- public school, private Christian school, and homeschool. We have friends who have chosen one path and stayed the course, and we have friends who have changed lanes along the way. In short, where and how you educate your kids is a really personal decision. Or more accurately, a series of decisions.
We are able to do our jobs as Christian parents, discipling them through life from home, and give them all the benefits of public school.
I’ll be totally honest. We didn’t get serious about our faith until after our oldest was born. So we had already assumed we would be going the public school route without considering anything else. We bought our house largely based on the excellent schools in our area. We had another kiddo, and the oldest got old enough to start school, and we didn’t question what we were doing. And she was having a great experience.
The older our kids got, and the older our friends’ kids got, the more we saw that really great families made different choices for their kids. We talked about it, which was the right thing to do. We certainly didn’t want to assume that we were stuck with the decision we made before we got serious about the Lord. And, hey, if you realize you need to do something different, sooner is always better than later, right?
The Reasons Public School is Right for This Christian Family
We came away in complete agreement to keep our kids in public school, unless something drastic happens along the way. Neither of us had any uneasy feelings about this, even though there are some challenges for Christian families in public schools. Here are our reasons:
We can disciple our kids through real life while they’re still at home.
Whatever they are exposed to or have to deal with at school, we want to teach them to be able to handle it on their own so they are equipped to be independent. We don’t want them to encounter atheism, skepticism, other religions, evolution, secular humanism, etc. for the first time when they are off at college. Far better that they already have experience because they’ve walked through it with us already.
There have been very few things we have stepped in and handled for them, even in elementary school, but there sure have been a lot of things we’ve coached and encouraged them through. You know what they learn? They learn they can handle themselves in uncomfortable or even confrontational situations.
They have a lot of extracurricular choices.
This is relevant for two reasons. First, it matters because our kids have a lot of great choices, including athletics, fine arts, robotics, bass fishing, you name it. Those things are so good for kids, especially in middle school and high school. We knew they’d be able to find their niche and have fun while making friends, developing skills, and growing in character.
Boy, has that ever paid off. Both kids are involved in unbelievable band programs, and they love it. I can say with certainty, they are different people for being in band. And for my introvert daughter, it has been a godsend. In middle school, she walked in on the first day and already belonged to a group. She was a band kid, and she was in the flute section. She belonged. Her high school is ginormous, but she never had a chance to get lost in the shuffle because she had a place right off the bat. Marvy.
The second reason extracurriculars are relevant is that it keeps them “off the streets and out of trouble.” We’re lucky that neither of our kids are looking for trouble or have a rebellious streak. But being immersed in band keeps them busy and productive, and it requires accountability as far as grades and behavior go. Because their band programs are so competitive, the band kids are (for the most part) really excellent human beings. They are the kind of kids you want your kids to have as friends. And that’s to say nothing of the influence of the band directors, which I could write about for a good seven pages. (Relax–I’m not going to!)
They get a variety of teachers.
I think it’s good for our kids to be taught by a lot of different teachers. They learn how to learn from different teaching styles and different personalities. In fifth grade, my daughter had a bit of a rough year, but she learned how to learn from someone she didn’t really like. That’s important for life, for anyone. It will serve them well in college for sure, but also in their careers. If you want to go deeper, it’s also a great skill for life. If you realize you can learn something from someone you don’t like, you will learn more.
Having more teachers also means they have more opportunities to interact with those special teachers we all remember. That history teacher that really brings the material to life, the algebra teacher that actually makes algebra your favorite class that semester, or that music teacher that makes music accessible to you in elementary school. There are also opportunities to take on classes at different levels- regular, pre-AP, AP, dual enrollment, and so on.
Our public schools are pretty safe and secure.
We live in a very nice community, and while it’s not Mayberry perfect, the schools aren’t plagued by some of the issues other schools are. I also try to keep in the loop on what’s going on at the high school, so I am fully aware there are drugs, bullying, and even suicide. But the schools are quite safe. I never worry that either of the kids are going to be lured into anything seedy, jumped in the hallway, or targeted by kids with weapons. The schools in our community are high-achieving, well-funded, and led by mostly fantastic teachers and administrators.
Remember, this was a driver in our decision to live where we do, so the fact that our kids are in great schools is by design. Not everyone is able to do that, and we recognize how blessed we are.
They may have a mission field.
So, this is one that you can’t plan for or count on. But a strong Christian kid may very well be called to take on part of their school as a mission field. It’s a chance to be a light where there are more kids who need it. So far, this hasn’t tugged on either of our kids’ hearts, but I have friends whose kids have. They are able to make a difference in the lives of their friends by being the only church their friends have been to, if that makes sense.
There, I said it. Although there are a lot more fees and expenses associated with extracurriculars as the kids get older, there’s no tuition and no book fees. The education is free. If we were having to pay for private school or homeschooling, we would have a hard time saving for college. This way, they are getting a great education for free while we prepare for the next stage.
Those are the main reasons we are 100% comfortable with our decision to keep the kids in public school. So far, nothing has happened to make us revisit that decision. We are able to do our jobs as Christian parents, discipling them through life from home, and give them all the benefits of public school. Are there benefits to private school, homeschooling, or even boarding school? Of course. And I know families who have clearly made a different decision for their kids that was definitely right for them. But I wanted to lay out our reasoning because sometimes in Christian circles, it seems like people think public school is the least desirable way to go if you really love your kids and love the Lord. You can feel like you have to defend your decision to “settle” for public schools. Well, we don’t have to defend it, but if we did…I’ve done just that here.
If you’re wrestling with this decision, I hope our experience sheds some light in some areas that are helpful to you. And if you catch yourself thinking judgmental thoughts about Christians who actually put their kids in public schools, I hope I’ve left you with a better perspective.