From the day my husband, David, and I found out we were expecting our first child, we had choices to make. Find out the baby's sex, or be surprised? (Find out. I just had to know what color to paint that nursery!) Trendy name, or family name? (We went with one of each.) Epidural, or natural childbirth? (Could someone meet me in the parking lot with the needle?) Breast, or bottle? (Breast.) Back to work, or stay-at-home mom? (I was blessed to be able to stay home.)
As overwhelming as all this seemed, it merely set the stage for the next few years. Time outs, or spanking? Pull Ups, or big-girl underpants? How soon do we try for the next one? And looming on the horizon was the Big Kahuna: public, Christian, or homeschool?
There are two wonderful Christian schools in our area, and our public schools are rated the best in the state. I attended Christian schools. David attended public. Several of our friends were happily homeschooling. There was no obvious answer. The decision (as all decisions should) would have to come straight from God.
By the time Haley O'Hara (How's that for a trendy family name?) was ready for kindergarten, she had a sister and brother on her heels. We talked to our friends about the ins and outs and ups and downs of homeschooling. We toured the Christian schools we were considering and did the math (tuition for three kids is how much?). Then we put the decision in God's hands. We never heard a voice booming from heaven. There were no burning bushes, and God didn't write the answer in the clouds. (Although I'd like that, just once.) But we both felt strongly that, for our family at that particular point in time, public was the way to go.
That was nine years ago. Four years later, I returned to a teaching position in the public-school system. I can't count the number of families the Lord has allowed us to touch through our public schools in the past nine years. Every so often, we re-evaluated our decision to make sure we're still where God wants us. Each time, we feel God saying, If all my children leave the public schools, who'll be there to tell them about my Son? So we stay.
It can be hard being a Christian teacher in public schools, looking out at a sea of upturned faces and thinking, These babies need Jesus. I hear stories from the other teachers and moms about what some of them go through at home and know I have the answer they need. It's an answer I can't blurt out. But there's more than one way to skin a cat.
Every morning on our way to school, the kids and I pray for God to love those babies through us. Every day we try to remind ourselves that we're building bridges to lost people, and we never know when God will allow us to cross one.
I've made sure my kids know their rights while at school (see sidebar). They also know that they may have friends sleep over on Saturday night as long as those friends will come with us to church on Sunday. Anytime there's a social event at church, we scoot across those bridges we've been building and invite, invite, invite. When VBS rolls around and one of the kids' classmates or one of my students bolts from the sea of children to throw his arms around my waist, I thank God we've been able to cross another bridge.
Then there are the parents. An old saying goes, "Who takes a child by the hand takes a parent by the heart." It's amazing how a parent responds to someone who's given her child a little extra attention. The door to witnessing opens wide when someone has watched his or her child's face light up when she sees you.
On our drive to school, we remind ourselves that we're God's ambassadors, that we may be the only Jesus somebody sees that day. We invite God to make us an answer to someone's prayer, even if we never know that we were. Haley's more comfortable inviting someone from her high school to a youth function at church, knowing they'll meet the Truth there. Her little sister, Molly, is the Billy Graham of her junior high school. She's constantly coming back to me for "more of those little New Testaments, Mom."
Just last night our third-grader, Hewson, came to me with a solemn look and said, "Mom, I want to tell Brett about Jesus. What do I say?" I thought about Brett's parents: His dad is our football coach, and his mom is a room parent for Hewson's class. Such nice people! I pictured the three of them sitting in a pew beside us some Sunday. "Let's see, Buddy. You remember the ABCs of salvation from VBS, right?"
The question of public or Christian or homeschool is one that can only be answered through prayer, quiet time, and listening for God's reply. Remember that he already has a plan to use your family. You just need to listen to find out where. Then be ready for him to do amazing things through you—wherever he chooses to send you.
Mimi Greenwood Knight, a freelance writer and mother of four, lives in Louisiana.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine. Click here for reprint information on Christian Parenting Today.