We’ve asked you, our readers, to let us know about your opinions and experiences. The answers are fascinating and show that there are positives and negatives to all educational systems.
Our Readers’ Educational Experiences
We’ve Done It All
Tracie Weldie, Middle School Learning Specialist– Greenville, SC
I am a private school teacher. I used to homeschool my children. Three of my children were enrolled in an on-line academy for a few years. Now, all of my six children are in magnet public schools. So, I have probably seen it or done it all when it comes to educating my children. Our story starts almost 20 years ago when it became clear that my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten. We discovered that she was far ahead of the other children in her school.
Even though I had just given birth to my 3rd child, I immediately said, “That’s it! She’s coming home!” and immediately I entered the world of homeschooling. Our family loved the experience so much, we continued this path for the next 6 years. About the midway point of those six years at home, I decided to try a national on-line public school program simply because I was getting overwhelmed with scheduling, planning and implementing three lessons plans (which coincided with our fourth baby coming along).
Slowly, one child after another expressed their desire in going to a traditional school. They each had different reasons, and we always told our kids that if they could make a compelling argument for going to public school, we would listen and consider.
One by one, my oldest three children all enrolled in our local public school system. This move was both terrifying and exciting to me. Suddenly, I had very little control over what they were learning. But, conversely, now they were coming home excited to talk to me about what they were learning.
I can remember some great conversations at the dinner table as we added our Christian worldview on top of the curriculum of history or science. We believed it was essential as their parents to talk through every aspect of their day, educationally to socially, and I look back at those conversations as key touchstones in developing a trusting relationship with our kids as they ventured out into the world.
We wanted our children to know they had a safe place at home where they could talk about their concerns, struggles, and joys. I never wanted my kids to feel bad for coming home and shouting happily about how much they loved their new English teacher.
Adopted Children and Public School
About this time, we threw into the mix two older, adopted children from Africa. I realized quickly that the public school was set up to provide services to my children that I was not equipped to handle.
So after a bonding time, my adopted children were enrolled into public school as well, where they received services in English as a Second Language, speech therapy and reading intervention. I am forever grateful for the men and women who dedicated many hours a week to assessing and teaching these two.
At the conclusion of that first year of having all six kids enrolled in public school, we moved several states away where “school choice” reigns. Oh, how I love school choice! Here in our school district, I have the choice to apply to over 20 magnet academies or enter a lottery for four outstanding high school programs. Each magnet academy is housed in an existing school and focuses on one discipline.
For example, we have schools that offer an emphasis on math and science or languages and literature. Upon moving to our new state, we applied for magnet schools for all of our kids; three are in an International Baccalaureate School, two are in a science school and one is enrolled in a math magnet academy.
In summary, I think parents need to be flexible and keep adjusting to the changing needs of the child(ren) and family. Always be available to talk to your child, and be as involved as possible with their lives. If you do this, you’ll be a great support to them regardless of the educational option you end up selecting.
Positive Experience with Christian School
C.M., Homemaker – Milwaukee, WI
“One of the benefits we have experienced from our children attending a Christian school is the positive, caring influence of the teachers. The teachers help to reinforce Christian principles and behaviors that we are trying to teach at home. From our experience, teachers have genuinely cared, encouraged and challenged our children to put their Christian faith into action.
Another positive has been learning science and creation from a Christian perspective. In a Christian school environment, we have still encountered challenges with student behavior. However, the resolution of behavior issues has been from a Christ-centered approach, which has been beneficial.”
Benefits of Private Catholic School
Claudine Cappelle-Harig, Harpist and mother of four – Deerfield, IL
My four children attend a small Catholic school in Deerfield, Illinois. It has been the best choice for our family, having our children surrounded by their faith during the school day. A few of the benefits are uniforms, daily religion class, daily prayer, in-school retreats, weekly school Masses and service requirements. All of these things are incorporated into their school day, which creates a drastic difference from attending school to only gain facts and standard education goals.
I love that they take time out of each day to discuss human life, how to treat others, how to be a better person and how to gain a closer relationship to God. This is built into their daily schedules! As adults, we could only be so lucky to have time to reflect and pause from the chaos of our daily work responsibilities!
Values Learned at Catholic School
One of my daughters attended swim sessions through the community swim program while in first grade. She would go in her uniform and then change into her swimsuit once we arrived at the pool. After a few weeks, some fellow swim-mates went up to her and asked her why she wore the same clothes every day. They attended the public school and hadn’t seen this before.
My daughter, then seven, didn’t hear the negative tone in their voice — only their question. She looked at the three of them (who were trying to pick on her), and was happy to explain — it’s a uniform and I go to a Catholic school where we all wear the same thing.
The girls asked why they are made to all wear the same thing. She happily answered, “because it’s more important what I look like on the inside than what I look like on the outside.” This is what she had been taught at school, and she fully believed it and felt safe in knowing it and being able to explain it.
As I watched her handle this situation, I smiled. The other three girls were silenced. They had no words to say after that last explanation. I hope it left a positive impression on them, that it spoke to them and countered the messages they see all around them on through T.V. and society, that it was such a surprising and different message that it gave them pause just as it did for me.
Virtues Emphasized at Catholic School
This year the principal has instituted a learning experience where each week is dedicated to a virtue such as honesty, generosity, strength, courage, etc. Each teacher in the school spends time during the week finding a Bible passage illustrating the virtue, and then they set aside time to discuss what the virtue means, and to share when they have seen others exhibit it.
At the end of each week each class votes for a classmate that they feel most exhibits this virtue. It’s a way to teach the children how to recognize Christ in the people and everyday events around them.
I also love that for Christmas, Easter and other holy days they are in a school that allows Christian music and creates a comfortable atmosphere for expressing greetings and thoughts on these holidays. Such discussions would not be allowed in our public local school due to political correctness, but at the private school, the kids can be surrounded by all the warmth and comfort that comes from celebrating and discussing these traditions openly.
So Many Life Lessons Learned in a Christian Setting
When we think about it, we send our kids off to school for the better part of each weekday, and on top of that, they attend after-school activities. This is their learning environment. To have hours and hours of their day spent in the absence of a Christian setting, during their Pre-K through 8th grade development years, is unfathomable to us. Their ideas and attitudes are being shaped by the school and place where they spend much of their time away from home.
Being taught civic responsibility and community service is one thing. Being taught to serve and care for others with the love that comes from bringing Christ to others is another. To some, it may be a subtle difference, but through eight years of grade school, this message starts to mean more than just doing a civic duty and being in a private environment that is allowed to teach philosophy and theology shapes a person’s mind and heart in a way that pure subject matters cannot.
Just Get Involved
Charlene DeGroot, Retired Educator – Pewaukee, WI
Any school option is only as good as the people operating it and the involvement of the parents. Then it is just a matter of the finances, time and abilities of the parents and child.
Positives of Public Schools
Renee Harding, Part-Time Fragrance Specialist – Waukesha, WI
After weighing all of the educational options we choose public school for our children. Sending your children to public school in the Christian world sometimes gets a bad reputation, as people are often afraid that children will become corrupted by other students, and by what the school is teaching.
We felt pressure to homeschool from others in our church family, but I believe sending children to public schools can also be the right thing to do, as long as they are being raised in God’s Word. Parents need to be having real conversations with them about God’s way and the world’s way.
Our children are currently juniors in high school and college, respectively. Having been in public schools from the beginning, I feel they are well-rounded individuals. They know God’s way and have been a light to so many through the years. They also know how to handle worldly situations and get through them. I am proud of my children and glad I choose public schooling. It has offered them more than I could have done at home.
Benefits of Public School
Sean Luellwitz, Pastor – South Milwaukee, WI
Many say that you need to get out of the public schools in America because they teach this or that, they do not allow you to pray, etc. However, I see many benefits of our son attending public elementary school with respect to his faith and the environment he is in.
I believe strongly that there needs to be light within the darkness, and our son, God willing, can be that light to his teachers, friends, classmates, etc. Even if there is no corporate prayer, nothing is stopping him from praying silently or one-on-one with others. Even if there are no Bibles, nothing is stopping him from reciting scripture or singing a song that highlights who Jesus is.
With this being said, it is important for us as his parents and his church family to make sure we ground him in Scripture and talk through the varying teachings that may be contrary to God’s Word or the will of God.
Great Experience at Boarding School
Rochelle Karakey, Director of Operations at Park Street School – Boston, MA
We served as a missionary family for many years in South America. In the summer of 2015, our family moved to Boston, where we enrolled our oldest son, Emilio, in Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the area’s finest boarding schools.
This year’s students come from 48 states and more than 30 countries and are composed of energetic, motivated and talented kids in grades nine through twelve. They are all there together with the same goal of learning and gaining life experience. They encourage and challenge each other, pushing others to strive higher.
The Harkness Method
Emilio has tremendously benefited from The Harkness Method, in which there are twelve students per class and one teacher who facilitates discussion. All classes including math and the sciences use this method, which requires that students prepare ahead of time and come to class ready to discuss, ask questions and provide insight. There is no hiding in class, and participation is a significant portion of the grade.
He is also enjoying the trimester method, which allows him access to new classes, new students and new teachers three times per year. Students can take classes based on ability instead of grade level, which provides much greater flexibility.
The school has over 100 student-led clubs representing every facet of life from politics to faith, from sports to hobbies, and even sampling of tea! There are service organizations within the school, which encourage the students to give back by donating their time to help others.
The school believes in the value of time spent out of the country of one’s origin, thus every student is encouraged to spend a trimester or a whole year abroad. One’s spiritual life is encouraged by different clubs and church services, and the whole person is emphasized.
Emilio absolutely loves it. He’s thriving and growing and excelling in every area. It’s not for everyone, but we are so happy that he is able to learn and experience life at a boarding school, enjoying this amazing opportunity and making great memories.
Passionate for Public Education
John Bly, Guidance Counselor at Greendale High School – Greendale, WI
Public education was created in our country because of the belief that an educated population was necessary to maintain democracy. Prior to that, education was a private affair reserved primarily for those with the time and money to pursue it. History is replete with examples of groups who were oppressed and held down by their lack of education, such as women and slaves.
Education was not primarily a “Christian” issue, though the Bible was often taught in public schools. As the culture shifted and the country has become more diverse, Christian teachings have been pushed out of the curriculum. I believe that teaching our faith to our children is primarily the responsibility of parents with help from the church.
In today’s world, we are “sub-contracting” a lot of responsibilities to others, including the faith development of our children. I totally agree with a parent who chooses to private or home school for their child, often for religious reasons.
How Public Schools Help Christian Kids
However, at some point, that child needs to enter a world that is not faith-based. He will have to learn how to deal with the temptations, struggles, and varied opinions that exist.
Some would view the public school as a hostile environment for Christian kids, and to some degree that is true. But so are the neighborhood, soccer team, dance class, etc. I’m confident that the Bible calls us to engage our world and try to impact it for Christ.
Certainly, we don’t want to throw our children to the wolves, but with preparation and support, they can be salt and light in their worlds.
Find the Best Option for your Area
EAH, Substitute Teacher – Sheboygan Falls, WI
For my kids right now, while they are young, I really like the local public elementary school. I love the resources and technology that the school has to offer, and the fun and colorful physical environment are very conducive to learning. Just going into the classroom makes me feel happy and excited about learning.
The local public middle school is a different story, however. When I go there to substitute teach I do not enjoy the atmosphere. I notice that the kids aren’t very friendly, which really makes me question whether I would want to send my kids there when they get older.
Recently, I have considered sending my kids to a private Christian school where I work part-time. I like the idea that the students attending there are raised in Christian homes. Since I teach the middle-schoolers there, I know that they tend to be more friendly than at the local public school, but I don’t like how there aren’t as many opportunities for the students, and how the supplies and technology are more outdated.
I also notice that the students don’t take school quite as seriously as at the public schools, because they feel so protected and cozy in their “Christian” environment. Those are certainly trade-offs, but I think in general the trade-off will be worth it.
The Pros and Cons of Boarding Schools
Bethia Nickols, Lung Doctor – UK
I went to a boarding school at the age of nine. The positives are that they can provide stability if the child’s home life is not stable. I think they would be best for secondary school students, but not for primary age children, and certainly not younger than ten. A boarding school can be a good option if there are no good schools nearby if you live in the middle of nowhere or it’s a specialty school that caters to the talents or interests of the child.
The negatives are the impact boarding school can have on a child’s emotional development, especially boys who go at a younger age when they still need Mummy’s cuddles and input.
Keeping in touch with your child can take a long time, and it is much harder to keep the channels of communication open and hence understand what is going on in your child’s life if they do not live under the same roof as you. The best way to catch up with your non-communicative teenager is usually the middle of the night or another equally inconvenient time for the parent.
Boarding schools were designed in the United Kingdom to prepare people for the hard life of the British Empire, so they are hugely outdated now. In my generation, the overseas military sent their children back for schooling whilst the parents worked abroad. Now the very affluent use them, especially families from the middle and far east who value the education the United Kingdom offers.
Just Get Involved!
Dawn, Homemaker – Menomonee Falls, WI
Our personal backgrounds as a couple have influenced our decision on how to educate our children. I loved attending public school due to the strong college prep program and many class options. I also appreciated attending a Christian college and learning to grow into my own adult person. We never seriously considered any option besides public school for educating our boys.
Private Schools Were Too Costly
At that point in our lives, private Christian schools were available but not convenient. We would rather spend our education dollars at the college level than at the elementary and secondary level.
If we were wealthier, we may have considered private schools over public schools. However, most decent Christian schools were too far away from our home. To be clear, there are certainly public schools that I would not think about sending my kids to. Even in the suburban setting, public schools are not perfect.
All in all, our boys got a pretty good education while living in an imperfect world. The key is not in handing off your kids for someone else to train them up. It is still the parent’s responsibility. Parents must teach and model the values of Godliness, hard work, education and the fruits of the Spirit at home.
Moms in Prayer International
“Moms in Touch International” changed their name to “Moms in Prayer International” a few years ago. Groups exist all over the world now. The goal is that there is a group of moms praying for every school. It only takes you and one other person to start a group.
Prayer changes things. I strongly recommend praying regularly for your schools and teachers. It’s especially important to pray for your children as they navigate through the growing-up process. Praying with other moms is a great way to do it and lift each other up.
How to Make Your School Choice Work
Here are a few suggestions I have for making your school choice work
- I joined the PTA every year. Parents can volunteer to help with book fairs, chaperone field trips, and help in the classroom. I got to know parents and students early on and knew them through their entire school years.
READ TO YOUR KIDS!
- It’s important to read regularly to and with your kids. Be picky. Don’t just let them read any junk that is out there that wouldn’t follow the Philippians 4:8 model. Practice writing with the proper technique before they go to school. It is hard to break habits!
BRING PRAYER TO YOUR SCHOOL
- Get involved in bringing prayer to your child’s school. In elementary school, I accompanied my kids to the flag pole every year on the “See You at The Pole” Day. We coordinated with some Christian teachers & staff at the school to start praying before they needed to start their contracted teaching hours. It was really cool to have them join us and pray together for the school year. As the boys grew the benefits became evident. By the time they reached high school, my boys were among the organizers and promoters of this event!
TEACH YOUR KIDS TO BE LEADERS
- Teach your kids to be leaders and not followers. If not, their happiness may become dependent on being part of the “in crowd” at school. The temptation will be for them to compromise Godly values and to participate in ungodly things.
HAVE FUN AS A FAMILY
- You need to have fun as a family and be a part of your kids’ friendships. Help them to discern and recognize the traps of this world. Engage them in dialogue about what they are learning in their classes.
DISCUSS THE ISSUES
- When there are “red flags”, discuss the issues. You are their main teacher, whether homeschooling, virtual schooling, private schooling or public schooling. Talk to your child, and listen to what they have to say.
- When Jordan was in 7th grade, his English teacher sent home a permission slip. They wanted him to watch a movie whose book they were reading in class. Not familiar with the movie, I checked it out of the library and watched it that day. Within two minutes I decided it wasn’t a movie I was comfortable with any student watching, mostly due to violence. I recorded notes along with scenes and the counter time of each scene to present to the teacher and principal. Long story short: I did not sign his permission slip. In addition, I went through some long channels of bureaucracy and ended up having a meeting with the Superintendent, principal, the school board president, English teacher, English Department chairperson, and others. They didn’t admit being wrong. However, they did look for a more appropriate movie to accompany a book in the future. By the time my second son got to that class, they were not showing the movie anymore.
PRAY WITH THEM
- Pray with them and teach them to pray.
KNOW THE BOOKS THEY ARE READING
- Go to the open houses and/or meet and greet nights. Check out the books they will be reading in literature classes for the year. If there are objectionable books, ask for an alternative for your students. In 11th grade English, the teacher actually mentioned that there would be a certain part of the book that was questionable and gave the option for us to have an alternative if desired. That usually isn’t the case. If you care, be proactive.