5 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Public School

November 13, 2015

As novice parents in our mid-twenties, my husband, Scott, and I initially spent a significant amount of time thinking, researching and praying over the educational options available to us as our firstborn, Ethan, approached his elementary years in the late 1990’s. I recall with stunning clarity the sense of gravity I felt over this decision, as if one instructional choice prior to kindergarten would forever alter the person he would become.

While wrestling with the school possibilities—private, home, public—we were simultaneously being drawn toward adoption as a means of enlarging our family. The pursuit of two international adoptions within four years of Ethan starting elementary school required much financial wisdom and creativity on our part. It was through this commingling of substantial family decisions that we felt assured in our choice to place Ethan, and subsequently our daughters, in the public education system—embracing this direction as an intentional family affair, not simply a default option.

In 2013, Ethan graduated from our local public high school, and his sisters are now attending the affiliated middle school. In the years since our children became a part of this school system, we have undoubtedly been blessed by a quality school district which is comprised of committed, caring educators who value parental involvement and input.  We have likewise learned several noteworthy lessons about navigating our way as a Christian family through the environment of today’s public education.  

1. Do Your Homework

Research your child’s school district. Effectively navigating public education requires an awareness and understanding of the realities and traits unique to your particular school system and its governing leadership. Start by reading about the school online. Talk with other parents in your community to learn about their experiences within your particular district. Most schools will also offer some variation of school tours or open houses for new or transfer students. It is important to remember that what is true for a school in one community may not be so in a neighboring town. Similarly, use caution when making generalizations about public education based upon a media report focused on an isolated incident or a school not your own.

Some helpful questions to consider as you explore your local public school include the following:  

2. Build Bridges, Not Walls

Communicate well and respectfully with the adults who will be a regular part of your child’s day. Learn the names of office staff, teachers’ assistants, bus drivers, librarians and cafeteria workers, and express appreciation as often and creatively as possible: send notes, bake cookies, leave small packages of candy in their in-boxes, or organize a staff appreciation luncheon with other parents. Be proactive in connecting with your child’s teacher(s) early in the year to learn how you can support him or her in the classroom and to share any specifics about your child you feel the teacher should know. When you observe a teacher or staff member going the extra mile, you go the extra mile as well; send an email of commendation to the individual with a carbon copy to the appropriate supervisor. Encouraging, friendly interactions will build a foundation of trust so that if you do have a legitimate concern to share, it will likely be heard with more receptivity.

3. Get Involved

When the school asks for help, JUMP IN if you’re able! Whether you coordinate a class party, chaperone a field trip, volunteer at a fall festival, work a shift for the band concert, attend a PTO meeting, plan games for track and field day, or bake goodies for the golf team, you will be making a purposeful effort to connect, building meaningful relationships. Meaningful relationships can lead to gospel opportunities.

4. Train Your Children Well At Home

Regardless of educational choice, all Christian parents are called to homeschool (Deut. 6:7).  Scripture is clear that parents are to be the primary disciple-makers in the lives of their children. This means instructing children from their earliest days about our sin nature, as well as the nature and character of God and what He has done in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We must deliberately cultivate a Christian worldview and equip our children to identify, filter and respond to lessons that are contrary to our biblical convictions as we guide them toward maturity.

5. Advocate Directly and Respectfully

When a difficult situation arises, begin with your child’s teacher. Sometimes a quick email to ask a clarifying question is helpful, but be prepared to make an appointment. While email is fast and easy, face-to-face communication allows more personal interaction with less opportunity for misunderstanding. Be polite and tactful. Document everything: what has occurred to cause concern and any further actions, meetings, or contact about the matter. If a suitable solution cannot be reached with your child’s teacher, request to meet with the guidance counselor or the principal.

Throughout the years, God has continually reminded us of both His sovereignty and His purposes for our family to remain in public school. Countless stories have been shared around the dinner table about the blessings, friendships, Divine appointments, and how the Lord is working through challenges in the hallways of a public school. The same God who “gave Daniel favor and compassion” (Dan. 1:9) in Babylon, a culture set against the precepts of God, is just as able to guard today our children whom we entrust to Him amidst a rapidly shifting culture.

Kimber Graves

Kimber Graves is the supervisor for the Louisville office of Bethany Christian Services, where she has worked for 9 years, serving children and families throughout Indiana and Kentucky.  She was also the post-adoption coordinator at her church, Highview Baptist, in Louisville, KY, for several years.  She is committed to assisting parents … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24