Thursday, January 14, 2010

Getting Schooled...

Warning: This post does not contain any pictures or funny stories. This is one of those "this is what's on my heart" type of posts. :)

Since I became a mother 4 years, 10 months, and 1 day ago (who's counting, right?), I have uttered the same prayer over and over and over again. It is a deeply theological prayer that is so profound that many pastors would marvel at it, I'm sure. It goes a little something like this:

"Lord, please don't let me mess them up."

I know, I know - I'm deep like the ocean.

Seriously, though, that is the prayer that I have said every single day. My biggest fear is "messing up" when it comes to my children. I don't want to look back in 20 years and wish that I had done things differently. I don't want to think, "Oh man, if only I had made a different decision way back when Clayton was 4 years old, things would have been so much better..." I can stomach failure in other areas of my life (career moves, financial choices, etc.), but I just can't bear the thought of failing when it comes to my kids.

Which brings me to the biggest struggle that I am dealing with right now. I have worried about it constantly, cried many a tear about it, talked my poor friends' ears off about it, and prayed about it multiple times a day for the last few months. Clayton will be going to kindergarten next year, and I don't know what method of schooling is best for him.

We have been debating homeschool vs. private school vs. public school ad nauseum at our house. I think that what has me the most baffled is that I don't feel passionately about any of them. Whenever I ask my friends about what they think, 99% of them have very strong opinions. And, that is what has me so confused - I don't feel strongly one way or the other. I see so many benefits with each method of schooling, that I don't want to choose. I'd love to do them all. One day I will feel certain that the Lord is leading us to public school. Then the next day, I wake up and think that private is the way to go. Then the following day I fervently searching for homeschooling curriculum. I'm so confused...

So, here are the pros for each, that I have come up with:

Homeschooling:

  • Wade & I would get to pick the curriculum and would be in control of what he was learning. We could focus on the material that we feel is most important.
  • The schedule would be more flexible. I would, of course, follow the school district's calendar and set a daily schedule that works for our family. The benefit would be that we could start school a little later in the day (like at 9am instead of 8am), if we chose to.
  • I would get to spend all day with Clayton and wouldn't feel like I was missing anything while he was at school.
  • On a totally selfish note, I think that homeschooling would be fun. The geeky part of me would love to re-learn all of the basic stuff from school that is hidden under cobwebs in my brain. I know that making out lesson plans and searching for learning opportunities would be A LOT of work, but that's the kind of thing that I enjoy. :)
Private School:
  • Clayton would be taught by teachers that profess to be Christians and have signed a statement of faith upon being hired.
  • The curriculum would be faith based. This was my favorite part of going to a Christian high school. I loved learning history especially from a biblical perspective. Our senior Bible teacher was also our history teacher. I loved how she would connect the historical events that I had been taught in history throughout my life with what Biblical events were taking place at that time. I never cared much for history, but I found Mrs. F.'s class fascinating for that reason alone.
  • Uniforms - Okay, so I know that this may seem like a silly pro for private school, but it is was a big deal to me. I loved wearing uniforms! I felt like it put us all on the same playing field as far as clothing was concerned. There weren't brand names or fashion trends to worry with. We all looked the same. And, when you are a teenage girl who never feels like you have the "right" clothes, uniforms are a blessing. Uniforms also required girls to dress modestly. Your skirt and shorts had to be a certain length and the tops were not fitted at all. If you were, in any way, breaking the dress code, you were sent home. Period. End of story.
  • Clayton would be going to Bible and Chapel. While Wade & I feel strongly that we are the ones who are responsible for nurturing our children's spiritual growth, it would be nice to know that our values are being reinforced in a school setting.
Public School:
  • We live in a really great school district. One of the main reasons that we chose this area was because of the schools. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our kids would get an academically strong education from our public schools.
  • These formative years are a great chance for our kids to "learn to discern" (thanks for that key phrase, T!). I feel like public school will give us lots of opportunities to discuss moral topics with our kids. I want to be able to tell them why our family believes what we do and why certain things are biblically wrong.
  • I feel like there are TONS of opportunities for "extra" activities in public schools. Choir, band, orchestra, LOTS of sports, debate team, art, drama, student government, etc. are all activities that are offered in public schools. These enrichment activities help kids find their niche and make them well rounded.
  • The biggest pro that I have come up with for public school is that our kids would be around kids that don't come from Christian homes. While I know that most Christians view this as a negative, I think it is a huge benefit. Public schools are our nearest mission field. What if God uses Clayton or Drew to witness to another child? How awesome would that be! I feel strongly that we, as Christians, are called to be the salt & the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). If all of the Christian parents in the world pull their kids out of public schools, then who will be the salt & the light to the precious children right here in our own neighborhoods.
After rereading what this post, I am more confused than ever! I have gotten so much wisdom from my smart hubby and sweet pals on this topic. But, I'd love to hear from others. What do you think? What do you see as strengths for each method? I'd love your input!

9 comments:

Hannah said...

My dear Sarah, I have gone through the pro's and cons too, although we have a bit more time than you to decide. No matter what, I have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that our God and Saviour will lead you to the right decision. Sometimes we have to pull ourselves out and let God do His thing. : )

emily anna said...

Hi Sarah! I too struggle with this decision. However, my struggle is minus one category. I know in my heart that I DO NOT have the patience to home school. Jeff and I are choosing to send Claire and Luke to public school. You put it so eloquently... Public school is a mission field. Jesus told us to make disciples of all men. What an amazing opportunity! I know that they will come into contact with things that I don't approve of, but that is why they will come home to us, and we will talk it through!
I know you will make the best decision for your family. It is hard though. I will be praying for you!
Love,
Emily

Mrs. H said...

I still remember so clearly your coming home during your Freshman year of high school announcung that you wanted to go to private Christian school. You even analyzed the local schools and visited the ones on your list in order to decide where to go. I had always believed that there was no better place than public school. You had seen the vision of being in private Christian school. It was the right choice for you. I am reminded of these facts to know in my heart of hearts that you, my centered, rational daughter, have the wisdom to know the perfect setting for Clayton and Drew. You have a equaly wise partner in Wade. Together, you will know the correct choice. Kindergarten and elementary school may not be as vital as upper level education. You have life long friends from your public school days. I claim Jer. 29:11 for you.

Matt & Cindy Fleharty said...

I wish I had some advice to offer, but you are a few years ahead of my on this parenthood thing. We have already started thinking the same thing and our Drew's not even born yet! I would love to send him to public school, but I think it all depends on the local school system. Whatever you choose, I am extremely confident you will "not mess them up"! By the way, I like that prayer and think I'm going to adopt it myself!! Love ya!

Brent and Abbey said...

Clayton is so lucky to have a Momma like you! I think this might be one of those permissive will decisions. So if all are permissible, which one is most benificial for Clayton? You as his Momma can answer that one. Does he thrive better one on one or does a class setting (pre-school) promote competition? When does he seem happpier?

The other thought I had last night at 1 am is that these early years develop structure and maybe work ethic, but the actual ciriculum is probably pretty similar??? To me when they are young, public/private school is more for the socialization part than the actual lesson plans.

If you are leaning one way, try it out for a year... you can always choose a different option the next year. You just have to guage what is best for Clayton... and YOU WILL. No doubt in my mind!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Sarah,

Thank you for sharing your heart so openly. I can only imagine the responsibility and weight you feel. The Lord loves Clayton even more than you and Wade do and He will guide you, even if it's not on your time table. I often get caught up thinking I have ONE CHANCE to make the right decision. You might choose one thing and see it's not working out and then you and Wade can adjust - and that's OK. (And it doesn't mean the first decision was a bad one.) Hang in there, Friend, and I will pray along with you and Wade.

Love,
Holly

Leslie said...

Girl, you already know how I feel about this one. However, the whole "let go and let God lead" thing has been pretty heavy upon my heart and life lately. That is my prayer for you. Just be patient and know that you'll get that Godwink to let you know which way He wants you to go.

I love you!
Leslie

Chris & Amanda said...

Sarah,

Amanda and I have had this discussion even though we are a long ways away from having to see it through. Amanda went to Public School and obviously I was with you at CCA. On the other hand I have a friend who is a big proponent of home schooling so we have pros and cons for all three options.
As we think through all this the point we keep coming back to is whichever option you choose there will always be pros and cons so it boils down to how much do you trust God? I know that probably sounds flip but in reality God hasn't said in Scripture where you should send your kid so all you can do is be the best parent you can and trust God will take care of your boys in the good and bad times.
You and Wade are great parents but more importantly you have a GREAT God that in the good, bad, and ugly is there so whatever you pick know that God loves those boys more then you do and wants for your boys to experience all that He can offer them.

Katie said...

Sarah,
Coming from a public school background (public graduate and numerous family members as public school educators), public school has a lot of opportunities as you said. Something else to consider: the state has worked very hard to put most of the public schools on an even playing field. Of course lower income area schools still suffer due to a number of factors but the school district we live in is able to offer a wide range of opportunities to the children.

However, I love being a private school teacher, but because of the limited funding that each private school receives basically solely from fundraising and tuition, the schools are not on an even playing field like public schools. Private A may be able to offer everything that or more than public schools can offer, but Private B may only be able to offer 2 sports, limited Fine Arts, and 1 foreign language. True, private school teachers do profess to be Christians, but Clayton may indeed encounter the same type of students at private school as he would in public school. Not all of the families who choose to send their children to private school are Christians. Instead, they have the idea that it's the teacher's responsibility to train their child and bring the child to Christ not their responsibility as the parent.

I'm sure that just made the decision even more difficult. I'm sorry. The point is, regardless of where you choose to have your children educated, as a Christian family you will have a mission field every place you go. I will be praying for wisdom and guidance for you and Wade.