Public School: Navigating the Decisions and Disciplines
How to educate your children can be a daunting and weighty decision.
As with all decisions in the life of a believer, the decision about what type of education to choose for your children should be one made out of faith, not fear. The decision my husband and I have made for our family is public school. As a public-school mom, this article is written primarily to other public-school parents, as an exhortation and encouragement in the many difficult areas to navigate in this endeavor.
Remember That You Are Still Their Primary Teacher
Every parent is responsible for their child’s education, whether you choose to homeschool, private school, or public school. It is our job to study and know our children in order to best shepherd them; spiritually, emotionally, socially, intellectually, and physically. This does not stop when they start school. In fact, I think it only increases.
We have sought to cultivate a love for learning in our home. I have attended a homeschool convention the last couple years and gleaned much from some of the speakers. Since then I started reading great classical books aloud to my children. We have also been learning the Socratic method to help improve dialogue and their reading comprehension. In this we are also teaching our children to listen well to the author and ask good questions, waiting to come to conclusions until the data is gathered.
With our children being in the public-school system, it has provided many opportunities for discussions about evolution and how it undermines the Word of God. Our children are exposed to this issue, and we tackle it head on. Every child will be exposed to this lie from the world eventually, so I take it as an opportunity to inform my children and teach them the arguments involved. I personally love Biblical Science Institute and the resources they have available for this topic. As a believer, we don’t have to fear our children being exposed to lies. We equip them to understand and to know and defend the truth.
These are just some of the things we do in our home to pour into our children, but there are endless resources out there to help you get started. Ask me or Jill if you need help.
Engage Your Children
With children gone for most of the day, it’s important to dialogue with them daily. My husband and I have gotten better over the years with asking good questions. Here are a few we use to draw them out:
“Did anything happen today that made you sad, scared, or angry?”
“What was your favorite part about today?”
“What was your least favorite part about today?”
“How did you go out of your way to show someone kindness?”
“Tell me about one instance where God’s kindness was on display to you.”
“What did you learn today?”
I’m very thankful that my children have been very open and honest with me so far, and it hasn’t been difficult to engage them and find out about their day. If you start this while they are young, they will grow to expect these discussions and it may make it easier. And when you do seek to talk to them about their day, it’s important to listen well and not be distracted. A child will usually open up more when they know you care and are listening.
Engaging your children is just one of the ways you let them know you care. It’s helpful to know where they struggle and need help or where God may be giving them strengths for you to encourage.
As a public-school mom, I don’t just hand my children off to the school. I am involved in their lives, their teachers lives, other families in the school, and staff. And if your child gets behind in school, this is your responsibility to help them and communicate with the right people. How that looks can vary from family to family.
My mentor encouraged me to get involved in the school right away. In fact, she offered to watch my younger ones once a week while I went in to volunteer. In doing this, I have had great opportunities to get to know my child’s teacher each year and the other kids in the classrooms.
Each year I tell the teachers my interest in helping out in the classroom. One year I helped read to the children each time I came in, another year the teacher assigned different children to work with each time, and another year the teacher asked I work with the same child and help him with reading and comprehension. And often times the teachers want moms or dads to chaperone a field trip as well. This can be a great opportunity to meet other parents and see how your child interacts with other students outside the classroom.
Being involved in your children’s school can let the teachers know you care and want to support them. I haven’t had a teacher who hesitated to contact me regarding any issues (whether big or small) because I had built a relationship with them. But I must make it clear that volunteering in the classroom may not be an option for many, and being involved may look different for others. This is in no way a biblical mandate.
Minister the Gospel
As believers, the Lord has given each of us a mission field. For the mom (and dad) whose child goes to school, this is part of your mission field. Pray and look for opportunities to minister to the needs of others. Whether it be playdates, parent teacher conferences, school plays, going in to volunteer, field trips, etc. There are plenty of ways to build relationships and be faithful to minister truth.
If you are a public-school parent, I want to encourage you to view your role as their primary educator, engage your children daily about their day at school, get involved in their school, and to be faithful to pray and seek out opportunities to preach the gospel to whoever the Lord puts in your path.