How our kids ended up in Public School

When people find out we work in the church, they assume we have our kids in Christian School or that we Home School. I always find it funny when they discover our kids are in the Public system.

Education has become a hot topic in a lot of circles. First let me say that I believe the decision between the options is unique for everyone. I believe each family needs to prayerfully seek wisdom for what God’s plan is for them. There is not one option that is ultimately right. There does not need to be pressure to rationalize our choices to one another. I believe each form of education has its place and each should be evaluated fairly. Our approach needs to be flexible, we may even start in one system and end up in another. That being said, I am concerned that Public School is not given the consideration it deserves.

We worked as Youth Pastors for eight years. That was six and a half years longer than other Youth Pastors lasted on average.  We worked closely with kids who were Home Schooled, Privately Educated in a Christian system, and kids who were in the Public system.  By the time we were ready to evaluate which educational option to consider for our own children, we had good reason to run from all three.

Craig and I prayed for years about what we would do.  We desired to do what God wanted for our kids. We wanted to be obedient. We didn’t want fear to be the deciding factor in picking a school.  As we prayed and considered our options, we could not escape a number of Bible verses.

Matthew 9:36-38 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

When I was young, every other summer we would travel as a family out to Saskatchewan to visit our Grandparents and extended family.  One of my favorite memories was playing hide and seek in a corn field. The stalks were higher than we were tall and we had a great time running through the rows calling to each other.  I spent three years of  post secondary education out there so I could be closer to my Grandparents and get to know them better.  On the way, my Dad would quiz me on what was growing in the fields. I got fairly adept at identifying flax, barley, wheat, and canola.  Not as quick as him, but pretty good I thought! Every fall I get this strong urge to get in the car and drive. I have a deep longing to see those beautiful fields sprawling across the prairies.  It is magnificent. I think that is why references to fields, soil, and harvest resonate with me.

I love that Jesus looked at the crowd and had compassion on them.  I find the description of the crowd insightful and heartbreaking.  Sometimes I wonder if we, those who have a personal relationship with God forget that it is the greatest treasure, meant to be shared.  I wonder if fear of the world has replaced compassion for those who are fighting to make their way, harassed and helpless. Craig and I could not escape this passage as we were considering where our children should go to school. The workers are few. 

We also could not escape Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 
John 17 also was on our minds, specifically verse 18. Jesus is praying and says “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” 

After a time, it became clear that God was clearly directing our kids into the Public system. I was afraid. Sending our kids to school was the first time I would be letting go a little. I sensed God telling me that he was big enough for anything that would come along and that we weren’t alone. Our kids certainly were not alone. God assured me that he cared about them and their futures deeply. Ironic really, I should have been wondering how he could be at peace trusting us to raise these three precious souls.

We lived across the street from the kids school, and across the school field was the church where Craig worked. When our daughter started kindergarten, we walked her to school and sent her on her way with a hug and a prayer; then I would go home with the boys and Craig would run to work. All the parents who dropped their kids off saw Craig head off to the church. This was the first time people knew where Craig worked before they knew us. Classmates would ask “Does your Dad work there?” “Do you go to church?” “Do you go every week?” 
At some point in Kindergarten each of our kids knew that most kids didn’t go to church every week. Many had never even been inside of a church. Each had a moment in that first year of school when they would say “Not a lot of people know Jesus.  It might be hard to follow Him”. We became more and more convinced each year that God was right. Our kids needed to be in the Public School system.

We have been astonished as journals have come home at the end of the year. Honest expressions of faith. The story of why Jesus came to earth, in their own hand writing, in their own words for their teachers to read.  One teacher asked us at parent interviews if we knew what our child was reading during personal reading time. “The Bible! How cool is that?!” she exclaimed!

As our kids have grown up, the questions from their peers have gotten more difficult. Each child has lived their faith in ways that are consistent with who they are and how they were created. 

Sitting in Social Studies our daughter was asked by a peer who has chosen an alternative lifestyle “You’re a Christian aren’t you? Do you hate me?”  Our daughter didn’t yet know this classmate but was able to say, “Yes, I am a Christian, no I don’t hate you!”.  They talked for a while and we pray that her classmate was able to walk away with a different perspective on believers.

Our son was asked by a group of friends “Why is the Cross such an important symbol to Christianity?” He was given the opportunity to explain why Jesus chose the Cross to save humanity. On another occasion a classmate said “If God is loving, why is there a hell?” To which our child responded, “Is it loving to force someone to be with you if the other person has chosen that they don’t want to be with you?” These are a small handful of ways they have been able to interact with kids who really do not have much exposure to God.

We have driven our kids home from sporting events and prayed like crazy for them as they have sat in the back seat answering hard questions from team mates about God and faith for hours at a time. Later on they have said, “I didn’t even know I knew the answers to all those questions!” The thrill of having the Holy Spirit equip and work through them evident by the glow in their eyes and the surprise in their voice. 

We don’t take credit for this and neither do our kids. This was strictly God showing them, preparing them and working in them.  This is not because of human wisdom or effort. They were where God put them and he gave them what they needed for what they would face. That is one reason why the faith of a child is precious.

We have had to be flexible in working with the choices available to us in order to get the best education for each of our children. For the most part we have had incredibly skilled and caring teachers. There was a year when we knew that the teacher our youngest child had was not a good fit. The atmosphere in the classroom was causing him to shut down. It created so much anxiety for him that he had no physical resources left to put towards learning. We had tried everything. One morning Craig said “I’m not letting him go back to that class.” I fully agreed. When we approached our school administrator with this decision, he fast tracked our district home schooling and had us set up to go in record time. By the next year, God had shifted the intermediate teaching staff into a line-up that suited our child and his classmates well.

Our daughter has been fortunate to have a best friend who goes to church and school with her.  Our boys have had really great friends, but neither has had a friend who also goes to church. Sometimes this has been discouraging from them; it is hard to be the only one who believes. We prayed fervently for each of them to have a friend who shared their faith. Every once in a while they would say “Where do all the Christian kids go to school?”  For what ever reason, God had other plans. Standing on their own has made our boys strong. They do not go along with what others are doing or with what is cool. They have developed the courage to make the choices that are best for them and that line up with their values. They are not perfect, but when it counts, when it is big, they choose well.
Public school and the bias of some teachers has challenged them to critically evaluate information. One of our kids is very academic and very inquisitive.  The kind of child who not only needs to know how a mathematical equation works, but why it works. This child is also highly self reliant by nature. The bias presented in curriculum began to undermine this child’s foundation of faith. At one point they admitted to us, “I am not sure what I believe any more.” We tried to create a safe environment to explore their questions and evaluate the information. We tried to find resources they could respect intellectually and challenged them to not just evaluate the information they received at school, but also evaluate the other side, fairly and equally.  I am sure we could have done better at this, so much better. Our child concluded that, intellectually, God makes sense.
As our kids live day to day, year after year with their friends, they have been through a lot together. Our kids see many of their friends struggling with how to handle life. They have seen what the world has to offer, and it has become less attractive to them.  They have decided that life apart from God is not enough for them. 
Today, youth have a lot of questions about God, faith, and the Christian lifestyle. Most are less exposed to church culture than any previous generations. I feel what God feels when I see them, compassion. Many know little to nothing of God. Some have been to camp and still have so many questions, yet have no where to ask them.   
Our kids are trying to live for God the best they know how. They have had struggles. They have made mistakes. They have fallen at times.  They know when they can do better and hopefully they know we love them no matter what.  They know God always forgives and gives them a second chance. God has used them to share His love and his truth and they have. 
God has protected them and also strengthened them through the challenges they have faced at school.  I remember when our daughter was in Grade 7, a boy in her class who was clearly a hurting child had chosen to say mean things to her.  We were going through a lot at that time and I felt like one more thing would break me.  After she left for school, we prayed for that hurting kid and then I asked God to “Shut his mouth and not let him say another mean thing to her !”  Each day we checked in with her on how things were going, he never spoke to her or said another mean thing the rest of the year. 
There have been times he hasn’t answered our prayers the way we have hoped and He has led our kids through tougher times. Even then he has not let us down. He has always given a solution eventually and managed to protect the spirits of our children through the challenges they have faced. 
I am glad our kids have had these experiences, it has shown them that Kingdom work is exciting and they can be a part of it. They have developed compassion and grace for those who do not yet know what life in Jesus has to offer them. They know the adventure of life with God and that you are never too young to be used by him. They know God has their backs, they are never alone,  he always has a way through the hard times.

God equipped our kids for what he called them to. He has been faithful in every way. He has given 
us wisdom to guide and walk with them. He was with us in it.

 If He is directing you to home school, he will equip you. If he is leading you to Private Education, he has you covered. What ever your concerns or fears are, God is bigger. If you are at a place where you are deciding where your kids should go to school, don’t dismiss the Public system too quickly. You may be the family God is calling to bring light.  If he is leading you, don’t be afraid to follow. He has good things for you. Don’t deny your family of the adventure God has for you!

Matthew 9:36-38 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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