community, education, grade school, parenting, thoughts, web stuff

Christians Parenting Through Public School

A year and a half ago I was scouring the internet for resources to help us as we prepared for Silas to enter kindergarten. I was specifically looking for help from believing parents who utilized their public school while intentionally shepherding their child’s heart towards Christ and imparting a distinctly Biblical worldview to their child.
Now that Silas has finished his first school year, I thought I’d compile a list of resources that have been helpful in hopes that they will help someone else. We’re not experts by any stretch of the imagination. Stephen and I are just beginning our parenting career and we’re definitely just at the beginning of making educational choices for our kids.

However, we were both raised in homes with parents who taught at private Christian schools, my bachelor’s degree is in Social Studies Education, and both Stephen and I taught at a private Christian school for three years. So we do have some educational insights from the Christian school perspective.

Since both of us attended Christian schools from elementary through college, we weren’t familiar with the public school system. We had heard many stories about how things worked, but had no personal experience with it. Stephen and I both agreed on the decision to go the public school route, but I was much more nervous than he was, so here are some resources that helped solidify our decision for me:

1. I read the book Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David & Kelli Pritchard. They raised/are raising all eight of their kids to follow Christ, and public school is their educational choice. I thought they made a good point that “everybody should ‘homeschool.'” (p.155) Here’s what they say,

“Yes! We definitely homeschool our children…and starting at age five, we also send them to public school to get more information.” We consider ourselves to be our children’s number-one educators, and we will never give up that responsibility or privilege–even though they spend 30 hours a week in somebody else’s classroom. We instruct our kids every day. We look for teachable moments that intersect with what they are experiencing outside our home. We draw frames around their encounters and activities, showing how they fit within God’s greater perspective. (p. 21)

At the time, I felt like I needed more step-by-step guidance, but now that I’ve had a child in public school, I can see that their book was very practical and more comprehensive than I had originally thought.

2. Another good resource is the blog of Tim Challies, a pastor in Toronto Ontario, whose writings have influenced us greatly. He and his wife educate their four children through the public schools, and he’s written several helpful articles. He is quick to acknowledge that educational choices are a matter of Christian liberty, so it would be wrong to condemn or despise another believer concerning their school choice. I appreciate his straightforwardness and adherence to truth while courageously speaking up in defense of public schooling.

  • 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Public Schooling  (#3 “The Family Goes to Public School” is especially important. Both Challies and Going Public emphasize this point. The idea of sending my tiny 5 year old off to public school was incredibly scary for me, {especially because I had no idea what to expect} but it helps to remember that our whole family is going to public school with Silas. I sought to volunteer as much as I could in the classroom. Stephen chaperoned Silas’s only kindergarten field trip, we picked Silas up in the gym every day so we could have personal interactions with his teacher, and we attended as many school functions as possible. Silas wasn’t alone. )
  • Why I Do Not Homeschool (Part 1)
  • Why I Do Not Homeschool (Part 2)

3. I’d like to mention a third resource in Melissa Edgington’s Your Mom Has a Blog.  I had read Melissa’s blog for a while and loved her gospel-centered content. While I couldn’t find anywhere on her blog that her kids attended public school, I had a hunch they did. So I sent a private Facebook message to Melissa asking if her kids went to public school, and if so, would she share some of her insights into how to do it well. She wrote this blog post in response, Raising Christian Kids in a Public School. Melissa’s not the only one who’s said it, but her motto of “one day, one situation, one child at a time” is comforting. Though a hard situation might be just around the corner, I don’t have to deal with it until it gets here. We can trust God and faithfully take the next step.

4. Another blog that was encouraging to find was Jen Wilkin‘s post entitled Going Public. Jen is a gifted author and Bible teacher whom I very much admire. She explains why she and her husband chose to go the public school route, and I resonated with Jen’s statement when she said, “Public school gave us early and repeated opportunities to talk respectfully about other religions with our children. Those religions had real faces.” Having beloved friends who believe something different than us has forced us to give well-reasoned and loving arguments for our faith to our children.

5. A song that has comforted my heart as Silas started school is Jenny & Tyler‘s In Everything You Do. Because we live in a fallen world, it’s inevitable that our children will encounter brokenness around them and within themselves. Pain, fear, and doubt are already part of their lives. Our responsibility as their parents is not to create a utopia for our kids, but rather to wisely teach them how to interpret the brokenness through the true story of God’s Word. We are to equip our children to believe God’s promises and to live by His Word even when–and especially when–it hurts. I love these lyrics.

I wish that I could keep you from pain
But like a storm, pain will form
But I’ll teach you how to face it
To be weak, yet strong in grace

I wish that I could keep you from fear
But like the night, fear will rise
So I’ll hold till love suffices
To drive far the dark devices and behold…

A world so full of wonder
Full of laughter, full of life
A world torn asunder
Aching for new light
In everything you do a choice of life or death to choose
And we will try to show you love
We will try to show you love

6. I highly recommend getting involved in your public school’s Moms In Prayer group, or starting your own chapter if your school doesn’t have a group. {This organization was originally known as Moms In Touch for years, so many people I meet know it by its former name.} At the start of the school year, I was feeling discouraged and lonely as a believing parent in the public school. When I mentioned it to a couple of friends at church, they suggested I join the Moms In Prayer group for my school. The group was specifically designed for Christian moms to gather regularly to pray scripture for the students, teachers, and staff at Bethany Elementary. I loved that suggestion and then forgot about it. Just two days later, a mom at Silas’s school approached me and asked if I was the new mom at Moms In Prayer. I said, “No, but I want to join!” I couldn’t believe God had sent the group to find me.

7. Finally, and most importantly, prayer is a powerful resource for any parent as they educate their children. While considering school options in the midst of our move from Arizona to Oregon, we were looking first at charter schools. However Oregon doesn’t offer many charter schools, so I contacted some public elementary schools in Beaverton to see if Stephen could take a tour on one of his visits to Portland. God providentially had me contact Bethany, though we had no idea that it was one of the highest rated schools in the state and also in the nation. (#15 in the state in 2017 and #39 in the nation in 2015) We also saw God’s providence in giving us a rental home (that we eventually purchased) within Bethany’s tiny district boundaries–just 0.86 square miles. Not only that, but God gave Silas a believing kindergarten teacher, and there are several believers on faculty at Bethany. We rejoice that God heard and answered our prayers for wisdom and direction!

Though we may not choose the public school for the duration of our children’s education, we are thankful to see the way Silas (and we) have grown this year. It’s been a good start!

3 thoughts on “Christians Parenting Through Public School

  1. Thank you for sharing these resources! I have them bookmarked to come back to with time to read 🙂

  2. I was encouraged by your blog post as there is very little out there about how to guide your kids through public school as
    a Christian family. I found a couple new resources from your list that were helpful to read! It looks like it’s been 3 years since you wrote this and I’d love to know if you’re still going with public school and how the experience has been!

  3. Corina, thanks for the comment and follow-up question. This is our 4th year utilizing our local public elementary school, and we love it! Of course, this pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, so the kids are now figuring out online schooling with me as a facilitator.
    This insta-homeschooling has taught/is teaching me many things, and I’ve been thinking through our choice of a public education once again. First, it really matters which public school you choose. Each school varies widely from other schools. God has directed our steps to one with overwhelming parental involvement, excellent teachers, loving administrators, the ability to have input as parents and the chance to opt-out our kids from instruction not aligned with our family’s faith values. It’s not a perfect school, but we feel heard and supported. Second, we are still choosing public education because we value the input of other well-trained, loving adults speaking into our kids’ lives. We value the opportunity our kids have to develop as individuals within a diverse community, learn strategies for problem-solving, grow incrementally in discernment issues as pertains to our Christian faith, learn to deal with small injustices, difficult peers, and various teaching methods and to be inspired to love learning.
    I hope these few thoughts are helpful as you think about your children’s education. There’s no one right way to do it, but so far, this is how God has led us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *