I am not a homeschooling mom. I am a Christian woman who sends her three children to public school. Seven hours per day. Five days per week. Eight months per year. And I am confident in my choice.
But I haven't always been.
I am one of a small number of moms in my circle of close friends who has chosen public school for my kids. And being in the minority can breed insecurity. When we get together and they talk curriculum, scheduling, and co-op groups, I have nothing to add to the conversation. That can be a lonely place.
What if I'm doing this wrong? The thought nags me as I listen to them discuss the best way to teach world history. Maybe I should pull them out of school, I think as they talk of the freedom to adjust education around family life. What if I'm dooming my kids to a skewed worldview? What if one of them decides the world has more to offer than Jesus does? What if . . . ? What if . . . ? What if . . . ?
Led to public school
For a couple years, I successfully suppressed these thoughts. But after my best friend told me she was ditching my team to join the ranks of the homeschool mommies, I cried. It was a blow. Our almost parallel lives were diverging, and I started seriously wondering if she was right and I was wrong.
My friend's decision caused me to think long and hard about the choices my husband and I made and why we made them. Yet even after worrying and wondering and thinking and praying about whether we were doing the right thing for our kids, I still had no desire—nor did I feel any sort of nudge from the Holy Spirit—to teach my kids at home.
God made it very plain to me that my job is not to compare my family to my friends' families, but to follow in the direction he is leading me. That direction is public school.
When I let go of my insecurities and trusted that our kids were exactly where God wanted them to be, he began revealing some pretty cool benefits that come with having kids in public school. (Some of those benefits are items I originally had on my disadvantage list when I initially weighed the options!)
Benefits of public school
Perspective. The first is that my kids are learning from a secular perspective. I am sometimes at odds with what is taught, but that difference paves the way for great, in-depth conversations. It requires diligence from home to help our children understand life from a biblical perspective, but having knowledge of truth and knowledge of what the secular world believes is giving them a broad perspective of how the world works and how we can be in this world and not be of it.
Compassion. My kids have to deal with jerks. This one doesn't necessarily feel like a benefit, but it can be.
When the classroom bully slammed my son's locker shut in his face, he was hurt and embarrassed. The mama bear inside me wanted to rush over to the school and teach that mean boy a lesson. But after some anger and a few tears, what did my son gain from the experience? Compassion. I am 100 percent confident that if a new kid asks my son for help with his locker next year, he will happily oblige. When you know what it feels like to be bullied, you gain empathy for the underdog.
People skills. My kids are forced be productive amidst a vast array of different personalities. Through years of living with their siblings, my kids have learned how their family members tick. But at school they are tossed in with a new group of students each year and must problem-solve to successfully function daily with people who are very different from them.
Years down the road, whether they work in office jobs or build houses, a portion of what they do will require them to operate successfully with people who do not think the way they do. If they have had experience doing that regularly as they've grown up, I believe they will have the confidence to do it as adults.
Independence. They have an opportunity to see how the world at large works. This one goes hand-in-hand with number three. Their classroom is like a microcosm of the world. They have a "boss" who is not their mom. They have desk mates whom they are close to, whether they want to be or not. They have a routine that must be followed. They have assignments and responsibilities to remember without my overseeing eye. For several hours each day, they do life apart from me. They are not only gaining an education, but independence as they spend those hours away from home.
Evangelism. Probably the most exciting benefit is that they get to be a light in the darkness. I'm not saying my kids are perfect, or even that they are vocal about faith at school. They are just kids trying to figure out life. But with the knowledge of truth and trust in God that we are teaching them and modeling our best for them at home, they take out into the world something countercultural. Their life at school is full of opportunities to show Jesus to people who might not otherwise see him.
Confident in our call
If you asked my kids if they like going to school, you might get some mixed answers. But I see them flourishing in their friendships and in their education. I know public school is the right place for them to be.
There is not a universally right or wrong choice when it comes to educating our kids. Homeschooling and public-schooling can both be fulfilling. I'll forever be in the minority among my group of Christian friends, and some aspects of my relationship with my best friend have changed, but I am not called to compare. I am called to follow where Christ is leading me.
Right now that is public school. Seven hours per day. Five days per week. Eight months per year. And I'm thankful.
Kim Harms is a freelance writer living in Huxley, Iowa, with her husband and three sons. In addition to writing, she operates 500 Dresses, a clothing ministry to Haitian children, and can be found online at KimHarms.net or on Twitter at @kimharmsboymom.
Christian Kids in Public School
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