We are blessed to live in a time and place that has options on how we want our children educated. This has not always been the case, nor is it available for everyone.
School choice can obviously be a source of controversy among parents. Should you homeschool, public school, private school, online school, etc.? Just as we have the right and duty to choose what is best for our families, we do not have the right to presume what is best for others.
Thoughtful parents can often wrestle with the choices that may even need to be reversed as seasons and circumstances change. Many families have even recently encountered changes with the Covid pandemic impacting how they want their children educated.
Below are two moms who chose differently based on how God was leading their families. We hope these posts encourage you in the processing of your journey. Whatever option works best, we encourage you to pursue your choice prayerfully and hope these posts offer insight and perspective that helps in your decision making.
A Homeschooling Perspective by Mindy Welhouse
I had landed in the “never” camp.
After all, we live in a great school district, and in case there was any doubt, a few hours in preschool with Ms. Debbie had helped my son master the ambiguous task of using scissors. I was convinced that my weeks of frustrating art projects had led to his new-found success, but he assured me that it was the grandeur abilities of his new teacher. I made the decision early on, homeschool was not going to be an option for us.
Fast forward to 2020- the year in which the world turned upside down. The scissors-master had graduated, but I still had three in school and was navigating new online Zoom school. Our teachers were so amazing! They always went above and beyond what was expected, but to be honest, it was hard. It was hard managing the live classrooms and meets. It was hard keeping my second grader on task, and it was hard keeping my fifth grader engaged. It was the year that challenged every single one of us, but it also opened my eyes to so much as a parent. When we finished school in the spring, we were unsure of what next year was going to look like in our district, but we were certain that we had to do something different.
Hindsight is always so obvious. I can see the way God carefully prepared our hearts for all that He had planned. I am a notoriously slow learner (or maybe just extremely stubborn). It took the desperation of 2020 to get me to move from the “never” camp, and to be honest, I am so glad for God’s gentle push.
When we began our homeschooling journey, I saw immediate and positive changes within our children. The first thing that I noticed was that in spite of our togetherness, we were having less meltdowns. My son who cried and begged us every morning not to go to school actually woke up and began his math without me asking after just a few weeks. I also realized that we didn’t lose the 1-2 hours of down time that my kids needed to relax and process their day when they came home from school. My children were less anxious and more even-tempered.
We realized what a gift it was that we were in charge of our own schedules. My kids figured out that if they can accomplish their to-do list early, there is more room for fun projects and exploring. We take sun days instead of snow days and have flexibility with our vacations because our school can travel. What a gift it is to be training life-long learners with the world as their classroom!
As time went on, I began to understand my kids as students. My eyes were opened to what would captivate their minds for great lengths of time and what would zap their energy completely. Because it was just us, I could focus on their individual strengths while supporting them in their weaknesses.
To my surprise, I found out that I absolutely love learning with my kids! I love chasing their inquisitive questions as far down a rabbit hole as they would like to go. I love learning about people like Corrie Ten Boom and George Mueller and watching their faith grow as they realize that the same God who came through for these heroes of the faith loves them beyond measure. I like researching those next to impossible apologetic questions that come up and showing my children the beauty of God’s heart and how it is carefully woven into all of creation.
All these marvelous things aside, I homeschool because I believe that God has called us here. Without God, I am certain the story I shared about homeschool would look much different. We jumped into this journey as a trial run, figuring that if there was a year to do homeschool, 2020 was it. It was an act of obedience, but what resulted is far more wonderful than I could have ever expected. I realize now that even my years in the “never” camp prepared me for this journey. They serve as a constant reminder that my weaknesses are great and that I cannot accomplish this marvelous task of training my kids in life or school on my own.
I realize that homeschool is not for everyone. I could write another entry just as long on all of the challenges. Listening to God’s call is for each and everyone of us. If God has begun to whisper to your heart and if there are subtle arrows pointing you toward “never” camp, be sure to pause and listen. The journey He has planned for you might be far better than you can imagine.
A Public School Perspective by Nicki Behnke
I’ve been a Pastor’s wife for over a decade and am currently on the mission field short term. More often than not, people assume that we homeschool our kids. While I have never been especially excited about that idea in the past, the year of 2020 (otherwise referred to in our house as the year my kids didn’t go to school) only confirmed that lack of enthusiasm. We couldn’t get back to school soon enough.
I have nothing against homeschooling or private school, but for our family, public school has been and continues to fit us well. We have chosen it not by default, but with great intention.
In initially making the decision on what type of school environment was right for our family, we began with establishing our families values. Once we had our top values in place, we were able to run through each school option to see how well each aligned with our values. We also prayed about it and asked God to put aside any wrong motives we might have and to show us what was the best fit not only for our kids but also for His Kingdom. For us, the push was towards public school.
Of course, no schooling option is perfect. We have had some negative things happen along the way but also many positive things have come out of it as well. We love that our kids get to be around a large group of their peers and daily have the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus in dark places. We are so thankful for the many neighbor connections we have been able to make as a family through our kids meeting one another at school. Having our kids in our neighborhood school has made living missionally a little more realistic for us.
We have also noticed and love that our kids come home full of questions and are exposed to a wide array of culturally relevant topics. Each year seems to bring something new to the table. This year our kids are entering early adolescence and we have been able to talk to our kids about issues surrounding gender identity. Many of their peers at school are identifying as the opposite sex or as gender neurtral, which has opened up the door for mature conversations with our kids. These types of conversations have been a gift and have not only helped our kids lay some foundational building blocks for faith and beliefs, but have challenged us to grow in our own belief as well. What we might naturally feel as topics to shield our kids from have actually been a door for our kids to develop deeper convictions and strengthen our communication with them. We love that this is happening now while they are still under our roof and we are able to process it with them!
Of course, in choosing a school option we have had to be aware and intentional about certain things. Since we have chosen public school and our kids are “out in the world” for a good chunk of their week, we are purposeful in our family time and encourage church relationships as a high priority for our kids. Attending Sunday School and Youth Group are non-negotiables for our family and we love that our kids have other key adults in their lives, like Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders. Fostering growth in those relationships is life-giving and central for us as a family.
I would encourage all parents to be open to where the Spirit is leading your family in the schooling decision. He will use your family wherever you end up. He has a purpose for each of our families and our role is to stay sensitive to that and obedient in whatever decisions we must make.