The countdown to a new school year has begun. Summer has flown by, as it usually does, and families everywhere are preparing to get back to the routine that the start of classes brings. But not everyone will go to the same kind of school. Many of us in our country are blessed with choices regarding how we will educate our children. And many school choices have turned upside down after COVID-19. According to the Census Bureau, during the pandemic, nearly 93% of families with school-aged children reported some level of “distance-learning” from home. This, in conjunction with a more progressive push in public education, has led Christian parents, in particular, to weigh the best options for their family. But what measure will help us determine the best school option for our children?
A rubric for families
In education, teachers use rubrics as scoring tools to measure student performance based on established criteria. Students are expected to meet certain goals in order to achieve mastery of a particular skill or standard. A score is given based on how the student met or failed to meet the expectations of the assignment. What if there was a rubric for families to use to gauge school options for their children? What standards would they use to measure those options? To design such a rubric, there are some essential questions parents should ask in order to guide their thinking.
What is the cultural climate of our school district? No two school districts are the same. Some schools are in districts that lean more progressive, while other schools are in districts that lean more conservative. This is important to understand, because many of the decisions that are made about school policy, curriculum, and instructional practice arise from the political and cultural climate of school districts. Administrators in each individual school also have choices regarding what is emphasized each year. Families must ask, “What is the climate of our school district, and can we navigate its waters as we send our children to its schools?”
What are our current family dynamics? Family dynamics place a large role in education choice. Some parents may have the time and resources to educate their children at home. Other families see benefits from sending their kids to the local public school. Or, a family may prefer the environment and curriculum that a private education offers. The family’s schedule, taken as a whole from its various members, should also be considered. Whether it’s marital status, budget, health, or some other factor, what is feasible and preferred varies from one family to another.
Families require flexibility as children grow and needs change. And along with that, every family is unique with various strengths and challenges. Parents will have to decide what educational option fits them best for right now considering their current family structure, demands, and resources.
How involved are we in our local church? There is no substitute for the local church. School, travel ball, scouts, homeschool co-ops, and other subgroups should not replace the fellowship families have with other believers in their home church. Before families seek out the best schooling option for their children, they must first seek out a local church that is gospel-centered, proclaims the Word soundly and emphasizes obedience to its commands and ideally has a strong discipleship focus that applies to various ages. Find a church. Get involved by committing to weekly attendance, service, and fellowship. There is no school option that can or should replace the local church.
A simple rubric like this can assist parents as they are trying to decide what school option is best for their kids. Essentially, families should ask, “What are non-negotiables for us? What are the non-essentials? What are our goals for our children? Will this help us disciple them in that direction?”
3 action steps
As parents evaluate the above questions, it can still be intimidating to make a choice. Here are a few action steps to help you along the way:
Pray for wisdom. Seek the Lord’s will as parents who desire to please him with the kids he has entrusted to you. Our children belong to Jesus first and foremost. Trust him, and let him guide you as you prayerfully consider how he is guiding you. Pray for your kids before they enter school age, while they are in school, and after graduation. We are all in formation throughout our lives and need the Lord’s grace to shape and sustain us.
Get equipped. Whatever choice you make for your children’s education, continue to be involved in their learning. If you choose to homeschool, you will have a front row seat in your children’s school as both a teacher and as a parent. Look for other homeschool families to come alongside you on the journey, and find resources to support your role as a homeschool parent. If you choose to send your child to public school, ask about opportunities to volunteer, join the school’s parent organization, or attend your school district’s committee meetings. Invite their school friends to your home and get to know their families, as well.
Get equipped in knowing your kids in whatever school context they face. Check their homework, ask about their lessons, and look for natural opportunities to extend their learning with a biblical worldview. Lastly, read or watch the news in small measures. Get informed and seek to understand the culture in which we live and in which our kids live on campus every day. Strive to eat most of your meals together around the dinner table weekly and engage your kids in thoughtful discussions asking about their day, their interests, their friends, etc. Look for ways to have conversations about current events and issues and how God’s Word addresses them.
Keep an open-hands mentality. I used to homeschool my oldest two kids, but now all of my kids go to the school where I teach. Even though my methods have changed as a parent, my convictions have not. My husband and I still have the same goals and aspirations now as we did when our children were younger. For now, the Lord has led our family in a different direction, and he may lead us elsewhere in the months and years to come. Be open to how the Lord may lead your family in educating your children year by year.
The fact of the matter is there is no perfect school option. Every system is broken, and until Jesus returns, no matter what educational choice we make, we will be disappointed along the way. We can have confidence that God, in his grace, will use various people and methods to accomplish his purpose for us (Acts 17:26, CSB). In wisdom, choose the option that fits you and your family best, as the Lord leads. Turn off social media and all the voices clamoring for our attention and allegiance. There is one choice to be made, really. Choose to follow and serve Christ in whatever place you find yourself. Let Deuteronomy 6:4-7 be your family decree:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Keep the conversation going and the relationship with your children strong as you continually point them to Jesus. If you are homeschoolers, private schoolers, public schoolers, or somewhere in between, the most important education we can give our children is teaching them who our God is and living a life following him as our King. In the kitchen, at the ball field, during homework, in the car, or in the yard, we will teach our children to love the LORD with all that they are. There is no better choice than this.