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How to Choose Schooling for Your Child: Public, Christian, Classical, Home, Co-Op?

  • Brenda Rodgers
How to Choose Schooling for Your Child: Public, Christian, Classical, Home, Co-Op?

From the time my oldest child was born I started thinking about where she would go to school five years later. This year marked that milestone. She started kindergarten in August. But it was about a year ago that I realized I wasn't the only parent obsessed with choosing the right school for my child. As kindergarten got closer, everywhere I went friends asked, "Where is your daughter going to school?"

My family lives in a community where every school choice is a good one. There are strong public schools. There is a vibrant homeschool community with options for hybrid, co-op, and classical schools. And there are a few good private schools, too. This is the case for many communities around our country. No doubt, it is a blessing to live in a country and in communities that give us choices. We have autonomy in educating our children that most people around the world do not have. However, whenever there are many choices, there is also much responsibility.

Choices are good until they lead to fear, covetousness, legalism, ungratefulness, idolatry, idealism, and parental determinism. Then they stop being a blessing and start becoming a curse. We become enslaved to them, letting them wedge between family, friends, and even spouses.

Five years ago I drew a hard-line in the sand when it came to choosing a school for my daughter, and it would have taken a tsunami for me to have crossed it. However, over the years I've grown in this area, and God has opened my eyes to see school choice in a way that aligns to His Word and His character.

Here are five things to keep in mind while you're making difficult decisions about your child's schooling.

1. Do not make a choice out of fear.

1. Do not make a choice out of fear.

If I'm honest with myself, when I think about choosing a school for my child and start feeling anxious, that anxiety is coming from fear. I'm afraid of making the wrong choice. Public school might corrupt her. Homeschool might make her socially awkward. And private school could make her an elitist. In the end, I'm afraid that my child will be ruined by whatever choice I make.

When fear rules me it's hard for me to believe the truth that God is in each of my schooling choices, but He is. Colossians 1:16-17 tells us, "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  We can trust God because He is sovereign.

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"Regardless of our school choice, God is sovereign."

"Regardless of our school choice, God is sovereign."

Two Bible stories that illustrated this so well for me as I wrestled with trusting God with choosing a school for my child are the stories of Samuel and Daniel. As young people, both of these boys went to live in environments that had negative influences. Samuel lived in the tabernacle under Eli's care, but also with Eli's corrupt sons whom he did not discipline. And Daniel was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and went to live in Babylon where he was educated according to Nebuchadnezzar's idol worshippers. However, in both instances, God was sovereign and used these men for mighty purposes.

The same is true for our children. Regardless of our school choice, God is sovereign. Our children are in God's hands, and He is in control. Fear can never make decisions for us. When we make decisions out of fear we're choosing to believe that we control the outcome instead of believing God's sovereignty.

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2. Do not fall trap to parental determinism.

2. Do not fall trap to parental determinism.

I first heard the term "parental determinism" in a small book called Parenting is More Than a Formula by Jim Newheiser (a book I highly recommend), and I immediately knew I was guilty of it. Parental determinism is the belief that a parent has control over who and what a child will become. In this case, if I make the right schooling choice, then my child will grow up to be who I want him to be. Fear leads to parental determinism.

We parents give ourselves too much credit and God, not enough. Even though we are called to make wise choices for our children based on God's leading, we cannot control how they will turn out. We are responsible for our part in raising them according to God's instruction in the Bible, but they are responsible for their actions, and God is sovereign over it all. Choosing a certain school for your child doesn't change that.

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"Parental determinism steals a parent's peace..."

"Parental determinism steals a parent's peace..."

If we need proof that parental determinism doesn't work, all we have to do is look at examples from the Bible. In the Bible, there are godly parents whose children grew up to live sinful lives, and there are children who grew up in godless environments who grew up to follow God.

Parental determinism steals a parent's peace as we try to figure out the right formula that will produce the right kids. I know this from experience. We can't fall trap to it.

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3. Do not use extrabiblical ideas to make your choice.

3. Do not use extrabiblical ideas to make your choice.

After fear, I believe the second biggest reason choosing a school is difficult for parents is the teaching from so-called experts, pastors, spiritual leaders, and even bloggers and podcasters. In Acts 17:11, Paul praised the Bereans because they read the scriptures themselves, and examined them, to make sure that what Paul and Silas were teaching was the truth from God's Word. We need to be like the Bereans.

The Bible gives us specific commands which we are to follow. However, outside of those commands explicitly stated, we are given freedom with how to fulfill other responsibilities we have to God. School choice is one of those. Nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly tell us which school our child should attend. Through prayer and our circumstances, we have to discern which choice to make.

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"This creates division among believers and non-believers."

"This creates division among believers and non-believers."

However, some people fail to do this, and they create extrabiblical law – laws that they say are in the Bible, but they are not. They become staunch advocates of one school over another, share their ideas with anyone who will listen, and in the process judge the people who choose differently while becoming self-righteous about their own choice. This creates division among believers and non-believers. It also further perpetuates the idol of school choice.

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4. Be truthful about your circumstances.

4. Be truthful about your circumstances.

The most liberating verses for me have been Psalm 16:5-6, "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." What these verses tell us is that God has us right where he wants us. Our circumstances are in His control, and again, He is sovereign over them. 

When applying these verses to making a choice about schooling for our kids, our "lot" is our resources (our time, money, and location). Even though we live in a country where we have school choice, our choices narrow based on our "lot." Homeschooling requires time, and if you work outside the home or long hours, that isn't always possible. Private school requires money, and your finances might not be such that allows for that choice. And in some instances, public schools may not even be an option if you live in a rural area or one that is truly unsafe.

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"God cannot be put in a box."

"God cannot be put in a box."

We have to pay attention to these "lines" as stated in Psalm 16:6. These are our parameters, and the Psalmist tells us that they have fallen for us "in pleasant places." Of course, God is a creative God, and He very well may lead a family to a schooling option outside of their lines. Maybe a parent gets a job working from home in order to homeschool or a grandparent takes over the homeschooling responsibilities. A family could be called to apply for financial aid at a private school or a parent gets a second job in order to pay for a private school education. Or maybe the decision is to move to an area where the parents feel comfortable sending their child to public school.

God cannot be put in a box. However, we have to be aware of our circumstances and remember that God will never call us outside of His Word. He will not call us into debt for private school when we can't really afford it. And he will not call us into another schooling option when both parents are not in agreement.

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5. Understand that there is no perfect school.

5. Understand that there is no perfect school.

As I began examining my schooling choices, I saw that there are pros and cons for each. There is no perfect school. This realization freed me from the fear of making the wrong choice. Instead of focusing on the negatives of each choice, I started focusing on the positives - how each could help my daughter become the person God wants her to be. I began looking at the contribution it will make to her life and how even its negative qualities will grow her in strength and character. This led me to have a heart of gratefulness because God is using all our circumstances for good to develop my child for His glory.

Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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