“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” These wise and famous words from Proverbs 22:6 sound so simple, don’t they? But training up a child is anything but easy—and what way, exactly, should they go? Parents get to wrestle with whether they are steering their kids down the correct paths.
How much technology? When should they get a phone? Who should they hang out with? Should they be allowed to go on sleepovers? When should they go to bed? The list is endless.
It seems, though, that one of the biggest debates that parents have centers around schooling. In the 20-plus years I’ve been involved in children’s ministry, I’ve met at least a bazillion great families, and it seems like each one has a different opinion on where a child should go to school.
Many are beyond passionate in their opinion and have shared so many pros and cons.
For those of you who are parents of young children, perhaps this will encourage and challenge you as you wrestle with the same decisions for your family.
There are three primary options that each parent in this community considers when selecting how to educate their children: public school, private Christian school or homeschool. While there are other alternatives and hybrid models, we’ll focus on just these three for now.
Also, for the purposes of this column, I’ve chosen to ignore the financial considerations of the different education choices. I believe that’s an important factor, but the impact varies greatly from family to family. I’m also ignoring the quality of the education in each option. While in general students may test higher in some settings than in others, the truth is that there are excellent teachers and curricula available in each of these options.
Here are a few factors for parents to consider when selecting a schooling option for their children.
> Diversity—Children’s pastor and blogger Sam Luce (samluce.com) said, “Unless you start your own business, you will work for and with people who are different than you. Learning how to interact, deal and lead people different than you is an invaluable life skill.” The public schools in our community provide great ethnic, financial and religious diversity that will help kids learn to interact with the world around them.
> Programs and opportunities—Because of public funding and the sheer volume of students, public schools provide a wide range of programs including opportunities in sports and various arts. In addition, counseling and specialists of learning differences are readily available.
> Light in the darkness—When Jesus prayed for his followers in John 17, he said, “‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.’” He also commanded us to be a light in the world. Public school is an opportunity for kids to shine their light in a place that desperately needs it.
Private Christian school
> Prayer and the Bible—In many of the private schools in our town, the day begins with prayer and the Bible is a regular part of each child’s studies. In a world that seems to be growing further and further from God, this foundation of prayer and Scripture will help kids stay centered on what’s true.
> Quality peer group—A person’s entire life is often defined by their experiences before the age of 12. In Matthew 7, Jesus warned us, “‘Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’” Being surrounded by peers with the same value system will help kids to stay on the narrow road and avoid life’s pitfalls.
> Exemplary leaders—Most educators and administrators have devoted their life to service and have, in many cases, taken pay cuts to serve in a Christian school setting. These men and women are, in essence, helping to raise your children. This group is largely comprised of dedicated Christians, and they are the type of people you can feel comfortable influencing your kids.
> Quality family time—The strength of the parent-child relationship is often defined by the amount of time spent together. Families that homeschool can know that bonds will be formed within the family that will carry on for a lifetime.
> Individualized learning—Every child learns differently. With the extremely small classroom size, you can tailor the lessons to your child’s strengths and pace. Ephesians 6:4 exhorts us to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Homeschooling gives us the assurance that each child can be trained individually at exactly his or her own level.
> Keeps life and education flexible—Are your children studying biology? You can pack up for a day of hands-on learning at the zoo. Studying government? A family trip to Washington, D.C., is a legitimate educational experience. This ability to flex your family’s schedule and your child’s learning is quite unique to home education.
These lists are by no means exhaustive. There are many other (and perhaps better) reasons to select one of these school choices.
Despite the option that you choose, there are a few things I know for certain. Being involved as a parent is the key to whichever decision you make.
Nobody has the potential to influence your child’s educational and spiritual well-being like you do.
Also, each family must make their own decision. There is not a right choice that is good for everyone. Be confident in the direction that God leads your family, and be full of grace toward families who have chosen a different path.
Finally, it’s wise to constantly re-evaluate your child’s educational experience. What was right for your kindergarten child might not be the right choice for him in high school. Staying flexible and open to change will ensure that you’re always giving your children what’s best for them.
Most importantly, let’s be a people of prayer. We know we must train up a child in the way he should go—and there is no better place to go than to God in prayer. Let’s commit our decisions to God and trust Him to direct our paths.
Steve Young is a Children’s Ministry Associate at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.