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In today’s culture, sometimes I have to stifle the urge to walk around and announce “My name is Betsy St. Amant, and I send my child to a public school.” It feels like a confessional of sorts to a very personal decision that didn’t come easily or without effort.
The pressure on moms, however unintentional, to send their kids to private school or to even homeschool is very real—and I hate to say it, but especially in the Christian community. We struggle enough already with the peer pressure to be the “Pinterest mom,” the “crafty mom,” the “scrapbook mom,” and the “volunteer mom.” Sometimes, we’re doing really great just to get our kids out the door on time with lunch money in their frayed pockets and their hair halfway brushed. A lot of this pressure is magnified by the rise of social media, which always leaves us comparing our private worst to someone else’s public best.
Moms, we have to kill the stigma that suggests any particular choice of schooling is superior or inferior to another. We have to rise up and support each other in these hard parental decisions, and not make other parents feel that their choice is “less than.”
For many parents, the option to do anything other than public school simply isn’t there, and to those moms, I say—breathe. It’s okay. You are not settling because you don’t have the thousands of extra dollars to pay private school tuition. You are not settling because you don’t feel equipped, qualified, or called to homeschool your child. You are not settling because you and your spouse both must work to make ends meet, or because you are a single parent who is solely responsible for supporting your kids.
I’ve been in both of those pairs of shoes—a working wife/mother and a working single mom, and I’ll be honest—sometimes, those shoes can pinch at times. You might have the heart to do something differently, but lack the resources and finances to pull it off. And you know what? That’s okay. Your child is not going to suffer for it.
I went back and forth in my school days between public school and homeschooling. I attended public school for early elementary, was homeschooled 4th-8th, went back to public school for the beginning of high school, and then returned to homeschooling to graduate early. I have zero regrets from either of the experiences, because they both helped shape who I am today—my beliefs, my faith, and my knowledge.
Of course, there were pros and cons to both sides.
Here are 8 pros in particular that I’ve appreciated about public school:
1. In many cases, the teachers have more qualifications. According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, public school teachers tended to be more qualified than independent school counterparts, mainly meaning in regards to having master’s degrees and more hours logged in pursuing in-service study, such as the use of computers in a classroom. Another study showed elementary public school teachers spent more time than private school teachers on core subjects.
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2. Public schools typically are able to sponsor more activities, such as after-school sports and clubs.
3. The student population is more diverse, providing your child the opportunity to interact with different races and cultural backgrounds.
4. Free tuition. Public schools depend primarily on local, state and federal government funds, while private schools are supported by tuition payments, donations or endowments and can be expensive.
5. Public schools typically offer a wider array of health-related services.
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6. Public libraries/media centers tend to be more technologically advanced.
7. There is a wider array of social activities/sports/clubs available compared to homeschooling communities.
8. Public schools offer free transportation.
Currently, my daughter attends a magnet public school that I adore. (“Magnet” meaning a public school offering special programs not available elsewhere, and designed to attract a more diverse student body) Because she’s in this particular public school, she gets to attend a drama class, perform in a yearly musical production, is learning French, and gets the chance to attend a summer art camp on top of the basics of reading, math and social studies.
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Despite all of those wonderful things, here’s another confession—some days, I actually do consider homeschooling. The looming junior high years in my daughter’s future terrify me. I want to swaddle her in bubble wrap, stuff antibacterial wipes in her hands and a Bible in her back pocket, and pretend like I have any control at all over the things that God alone is in charge of. What mom doesn’t have those moments?
But guess what? I don’t feel smart enough to homeschool this one! My math skills are sorely lacking (I make up for them in English/reading) and she is naturally gifted in arithmetic. I would never choose to hold my child back academically or limit her because of fear or “what if’s” on my part regarding her public school future. I admire homeschooling moms so much—all while realizing that I don’t have the patience or personality to do it. My daughter excels in her current school, and I’m not about to attempt to fix something that’s not broken.
Ultimately, it comes down to a trust issue. I tend to react with fear over what I can’t control. I think about the what-if’s down the road of junior high and high school, even the later elementary years, and I can panic easily. What if she is exposed to crudity and sexual knowledge that I’d prefer her not to aware of yet? What if she’s caught up in the middle of a violent situation? What if she’s peer pressured to do drugs or send dirty texts or date too soon?
Unfortunately, in today’s society, those exact same risks exist regardless of where she goes to school. And it comes down not to necessarily homeschooling, but rather, teaching in the home. Teaching morals and godly character. Teaching Scripture. Teaching that God is always with her, even when I am not. Teaching that God protects her in ways I can’t. Teaching priorities. Teaching healthy self-esteem. Teaching kindness.
It’s scary out there—but when I remember that God oversees her days, I can relax. God knows the hormones that are coming, the peer pressure that lurks, the temptations and fears that will cloud her young mind in just a few short years during those scary junior-high days. I trust Him with her future. With her education. With her development.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that those who do homeschool or send their children to private schools aren’t trusting God with their children. Each family’s journey is different, both as a parent, and as a child. It comes down to following the path God has placed your family on—and not demeaning or devaluing the path of your neighbor.
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her ninth Love Inspired novel will release January 2014, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and www.writergetsreal.blogspot.com.