By Leslie Banwart
Very recently, I sent my oldest child off to his first year of college. I am so excited for him. After all, as parents, part of our responsibility is to raise our children to leave the nest and spread their wings. I do, however, feel like I am reliving the words from the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic. I graduated from high school the year the song was released, and the lyrics spoke volumes to my life situation in 1998. I am now reliving those same words as a parent. The chorus claims, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” We are ending a beginning as a family and starting a new one. It is bittersweet. As I reflect on the last 18 years I’ve had with my son living under my roof, a significant amount of his time was spent in the public school. My husband and I debated on what educational solution was best for our family. Through prayer-filled contemplation, together, we decided that public school was the avenue for our children. I did quietly cry behind my sunglasses as I dropped my son off for his first day of kindergarten. Seven years later, I remember sitting in the car receiving a side hug from him as he reluctantly approached the junior high school building. I can truthfully say our family’s public-school experience has been fulfilling and robust. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been without struggles and conflict. I’ve confronted teachers about inappropriate reading material, my children have experienced a bomb threat, witnessed drug dogs and fights in the school, and encountered a multitude of other “negative experiences.”
But the public school has also provided my children with a plethora of positive experiences. My children have been exposed to classical and well written literature, they have created deep, relational bonds with their teachers, and they have developed meaningful friendships with peers who look and act differently from them. Trust me, public school isn’t nearly as scary as the media makes it out to be. As a parent on the back-end of public education, the key to our positive public-school experience is communication.
Clear and regular communication is vital in almost every life situation…including school. As your children begin their life in the public-school setting, your first communication should be between you and God. The Lord loves your children more than you, and he continually watches over them. Commit to regularly praying for your children, their friends, and everyone involved in your local school. Your second communication component should happen between you and the adults who interact with your children at school. As your child’s first and strongest advocate, it is your responsibility to know what’s happening in your child’s classroom. Get to know their teachers, volunteer in various capacities, sign-up to chaperone field trips, donate food during parent/teacher conferences, and/or send positive words of encouragement to your child’s teachers and staff. When you have concerns and frustrations, confront them early. Finally, communication with your child(ren) is vital. Ask open-ended questions (ones that require more than a yes/no answer) and willingly share your thoughts and experiences. Ask what they are reading, ask about the “new math” their learning (it’s really quite brilliant and logical), ask about lunch and recess, ask about their friends and their enemies, ask if they are being bullied or if they are bullying anyone. Ask about everything! You, as the parent, are the most important teacher in your child’s life. Know what’s going on in their school so you can be a part of the celebrations, the mundane, and the struggles. Share in your child’s daily experiences. Public school isn’t the perfect solution to education, but it’s a really amazing journey. If it’s the path for your family, embrace it, be a part of the experience and enjoy the journey.
By Lori Mortensen
There are so many decisions we face in raising our children. Let them "cry it out" or rock them to sleep? How are we going to discipline them? What age can they get a phone? And what are we going to do for schooling?
I'll never forget the summer before my oldest turned 4 (he's only 6 now, so this wasn't that long ago) and the battle that I had raging in my mind about what we should do for school. Should we send him to public preschool? Maybe a Christian preschool would be a better fit? Would it be best for him to have some structured time outside our home? Would I be giving into my "need for control" for keeping him home? Did I feel pressure to homeschool because it was what my parents chose, or my siblings were choosing, to do with their children?
HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT WAS RIGHT FOR US?!
It seems simple, but as all these thoughts were swirling in my mind I had not yet brought them all before God. In my prayers, as I poured out my fears and insecurities to God, I realized it wasn't so much about making the "right" decision, (because gospel-centered families can all have different answers to this) but I needed a transformation of my heart. I needed truth to replace the lies that I was believing about the decision of choosing public school, Christian school, or homeschooling. I could come up with lots of "right" reasons for any schooling option, but seeking Him, receiving His peace in the decision we chose to make, and replacing my fears and insecurities with truth from the Gospel is ultimately why we chose to homeschool our children.
Emily Guyer wrote in an article for Risen Motherhood:
"Many homeschool parents philosophically believe that it is best to equip and disciple their children during the early years of their life at home and then send them out into the world. On the other hand, public school parents perceive it is helpful to disciple their children with real-life experiences as they are being exposed to the world in public school. However, with either philosophy, both parents are called to disciple their children and send them into the world as a light of the gospel. We must be careful, as parents, to honor one another in light of this truth: we are laborers in the field together working towards the same goal."