Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Corner of I'm Right and You're Wrong

Choosing school for your kids is complicated business. So many factors go into the decision and so many people have something to say about your decision. When Caroline started school she was our only kid and our trucking business was going pretty well. The cost of Christian school wasn't an issue and we glibly considered it the "best" school choice. As we navigate a new reality which includes the possibility of public schools, I am learning how truly judgmental parents can be. There are plenty of right/wrong issues in parenting but school choice is not one of them. God calls each family to a different path. Some families are called to homeschool. This is a huge committment, even more of a lifestyle choice than a way of educating your kids. Many parents are called to send their kids to Christian schools. I also believe that God calls certain families to be in the public school system. Several years ago, I wouldn't have said that. I didn't really think God would call you to send your kids "there" (said with the proper amount of disdain in my voice) My BFF has been fighting sending her kids to the public schools for years. They have homeschooled and sent them to a small Christian school. She made a brilliant comment the other day.

"We have been praying for God to provide (financially) for _______ Christian School for years and the money hasn't been there. Maybe we need to open our eyes to the idea that God has a plan and a purpose for our kids in the public school."

Brilliant. Often in the Christian school enviroment I grew up and am presently involved in as parent, has a superiority complex. Then again, I know some homeschoolers with the same idea. And some public schoolers. So no one has a corner on the "I'm better than you" market. Christian school parents tend to throw around Christian school-ese phrase "Trust God to provide" This is generally uttered by people who never have had a financial struggle. I'm not talking about the "I can't afford to go to WDW this year" struggle but true "I lost my job and am worried about foreclosure" financial struggle. This statement loosely translates to "If you never go out to eat, only shop at Goodwill, do not have cable TV or internet access, and only drive one car, you can go to Christian schools." Which translates to "If you lived how I say you should, you could afford it."

I'll say it again. God has a different plan for each family. One plan is not superior than the other. God is not absent from the public schools. He does not only go where invited. He is sovereign and that includes the public schools. Do I love my local Christian school? Absolutely. My girls have learned so much and have had some amazing teachers influence them. Am I a little freaked at the option of public schools? Um, yeah.

Jeremiah 29:11 says "'For I know the plans I have for you' declares the Lord 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" Notice that verse does not include the condition "If you go to Christian schools."


Aimee said...

LOVE THIS POST!! I have been struggling with the idea of a post like this for my blog, and just couldn't get it into the right words. You however, said it wonderfully!

Our family is also faced with the option of public schools next year. Like you, when we put Chloe into school, we could afford it. Now, with the downturn of the economy, our business has struggled. Lord willing, things will turn around by the start of next school year, and that won't be an option, but the option is definitely there for us also.

I always have the thought in my head of what people are going to think about us if we do put them into public schools. I'm to the point where I don't even care anymore, but it's pretty pathetic that I have to think that way.

Public Schools themselves don't scare me. What scares me is the change. Having to take the kids out of something that they are comfortable in and have set friends, and place them into a complete unknown territory. That's what scares me.

Who knows? The Lord has a plan and a reason for everything, and this is all part of his plan.

Alright - this comment is all over the place, and way too long, so I'll quit now. :)

Christine said...

Keep up the great dialog! It's impossibly hard to be a parent. God is bigger than public vs. Christian schools...we need to remember that. It's good Jen...the post is good!

Christine said...

I completely agree with this post, Jen. I have long held the notion that Christian schools can almost become a sort of "god"..."if you don't send your kids to a Christian school, then you're not really a Christian." First and foremost, raising our children to follow Jesus is OUR responsibility. Not the school's. Not the church's. OURS.

I truly value Christian education & we are blessed to be able to send our child to a Christian school, but I also don't think it's the only option out there.

God has a plan for Christian kids in public schools. He can use even little children for His glory.

I hope that you will feel peace about whatever decision you make. And know that not everyone out there is going to judge you for it.

Laura said...

Jen! I could have written this post word for word in 2007. The decision to move our kids was heartwrenching to me and I was panic stricken...but He has made it good. He gave them wonderful, loving teachers (some even Christians!). The only scars I have from it all are the cruel comments from fellow Chr School moms who gave me a hard time for pulling my kids.

Anyway - now that its been 3 years, I can truly say God has been there for my kids and it hasnt been so bad afterall. We are fortunate to have a great public school option at Hanover/JaneBall. I have no complaints - God is good. Hope that helps ease your mind a little.

Heaven Sent said...

GREAT topic. This has been a HUGE issue for us as Emma enters kindergarten next year. We knew going into it that we didn't have the money, but the whole "God will provide" -- and some pressure from friends -- made us still look into it. We also looked into some other options, including public. And we prayed about it. A LOT.

In the end, we are going with public. We are on the waiting list for a more affordable Christian kindergarten, but we feel God will open that door if He wants to. If not, it is public.

Honestly, money was a huge part of our decision, which really stinks. It makes it all very confusing. However, Jeff and I know where we stand financially, and we have to be good stewards of our money. Like you said, it's not a matter of no vacation; it's a matter of paying our mortgage.

I admit that the guilt is still there. I went to a public school, but after I became a Christian later in life, I swore my kids would go to a Christian grammar school. But Jeff and I always planned on considering a public high school (depending on where our kids were at with their faith). Our hope was that a Christian grammar school foundation would strengthen their faith enough to be a "light" in the public high school. That idea, of course, was before we had to pay for Christian education and before we knew God would bless us with 3 children.

What really made public sit well with me was believing in God's plan for my children. I know we already provide Christian education at home, and when I dug down deep, I realized that where my kid goes to school will make or break her faith. God is bigger than that.

Would I feel this way if we were swimming in money? I don't know. But trusting God has given me so much peace lately. And if we made the wrong choice, I believe with all my heart He will make our paths straight!

Amy said...

We are planning on putting our children in the Christian school. We were comparing the cost of the school we hope to send our daughter to with the costs of CSI schools in the Midwest (we live in Oregon and there are no CSI schools here...just a few private Christian schools). We were suprised to see the costs of CSI schools are almost triple the cost! I don't know how families with more than one child can afford it unless both parents are working full time...and even so the cost is overwhelming. Makes us not want to move back to Michigan. We're a CRC pastor's family the possibility of relocating back to the Midwest is a possibility at some point in our ministry.

I would love to see the churches step up and provide more financial assistance. Our church is currently assisting quite a few families (and we are a SMALL CRC church) that would not otherwise be able to afford it. Fund-raisers, saving money, working part time will only get you so far. I kind of get irritated when I don't see the church stepping up because "Christian education" has always been one of the CRC's values and foundations.

Kim said...

I guess I come from a different perspective - in our family 2 went to private and 3 went to public. My brother has dyslexia and the Christian school didn't have the programs available to help him - the public school was amazing - he graduated from college! Living in the city (Chicago) I was excited about sending my son to a multi-racial public preschool - turns out the funding isn't there for the program (we are waitlisted 2 years) so we are now sending him to private.

I want my son to know the diversity in the world and embrace it - I felt like my christian education kept me in quite a bubble for all those years. While I feel being sheltered has it's pluses, I don't feel it prepared me for the real world.

Jen said...

Kim, you made two great points that have also factored into our decision making process.

Diversity is also a big issue for me. I don't want my kids growing up with the idea that only blond Dutch people go to heaven. Only living in the boonies as I do, private school is much more diverse than our local public school.

Help for kids who need it or challenges for kids who need more are both areas that the Christian schools (some of them anyway) lack. I have two girls on either end of the spectrum and the while so far, the Christian school has been helpful, there are definite gaps!

mommy to an angel said...

ohhhhh, great post!
Brian and I are both from an area where Christian education hardly existed unless it was in a small church with maybe 100 students total. We never, not in a million years, ever considered raising our children in a Christian school until we moved to NWI, started going to Crossroads, and made friends with parents who sent their kids to Christian school. We immediately started to jump on the bandwagon - not that we were persuaded in any way, but we almost started to feel like if we didn't then we weren't as great of parents. NO ONE did anything to make us feel that way, but like you said in your post, there's just something about it.
We finally realized over the last year that we are sending our child to a school for academics - that's it! It's our responsibility to raise our child in a Christian home and involve them in a church, not the school's responsibility. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing either - it's just not our choice for our family.
It was hard to come to the conclusion that this is what we are doing - going public. I started to feel like I had to explain myself - like I had to have a reason why we weren't sending her to a Christian school or defend our choice. I'm starting to feel a lot more at peace with our decision.
You have to do what you feel is right for you and your family and not make your decision based on what others think. It's tough though - VERY tough!