The school year is wrapping up. I’m finishing my tenth year of homeschooling. This is also the second year that my oldest has been in public school and the first year that my middle child has been in public school. This is the time of year that I tend to take stock.
Since I have kids in both schooling situations, I sometimes feel like a woman without a country. I get frustrated when homeschool proponents act as if nothing good can come out of public schools, but I get angry when public school proponents act so surprised that my previously homeschooled kids can function so well, both academically and socially, in the public school setting (I’m looking at you, homeroom teacher). In other words, I’ve heard both sides trash talk the other, and I think both sides are wrong. Having a foot in each world has given me a few opinions.
My situation is homeschool and public school. Private or Christian school is another middle ground that has its own advantages and disadvantages. Since I have no experience with Christian school, I’m leaving it out of this discussion. I’m also looking at this from the view of the Christian parent, because that’s what I am. And like everything else, your experience my vary from mine. I’m not putting these thoughts out there as the final word on anything, just discussing some things that I’ve noticed. If these things don’t apply to you, feel free to discard them and move on. But you may want to at least think about them.
1. Good kids emerge from all schooling situations (or, bad kids emerge from all schooling situations)
Homeschooling is no guarantee of righteousness. Nor does sending your kids to public school guarantee that your kid will be a light to the world. In other words, raising kids is devoid of guarantees. Yes, there are principles we should follow and choices that are clearly more wise than others, but there is no formula for raising the perfect child.
I know of kids who accepted Christ early and never strayed from the path. I also know kids who rejected everything their parents held dear (and broke their parents hearts). I know people faithfully serving Christ who became believers at all different life stages. Two of the most faithful kids in our youth group are only there because a friend invited them to a youth activity. Some of our youth leaders (and some of our pastors) didn’t become Christians until they were adults.
I don’t say this to encourage parents to become lax in their parenting, but to remind them (and myself) that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. I encounter so many ideas that imply, either deliberately or indeliberately, that raising “good” children is merely a matter of following a certain formula. God can work in those situations too, but we set ourselves up for failure if we think our children’s righteousness is anything we did or didn’t do.
2. The public school can do some things better than you (or, you can do some things better than the public school)
In the past week I’ve attended a public school track meet, band concert, and a choir concert. All of those are things I could not have duplicated in my homeschool community. Now, before you write me about your awesome homeschool sports team or band (or community sports team or band), please remember that those activities, while certainly possible, require a commitment of time and money from parents and/or volunteers, not to mention a pretty large community to draw from. For a lot of us, that’s not our reality.
It is the same thing with education. Some of the classes in the public school are doing a far better job than I could do at home. Some of them are doing a far poorer job than I can do at home. I am quite glad that I am not the one setting up the science experiments or explaining how to factor polynomials. I’m also sad that my kids would be reading a whole lot more books if they were still home with me.
It may be that the advantages of homeschool so drastically outweigh the benefits of public school that it’s an easy decision for you, but please own that. It may be that homeschooling your kid would be so difficult, stressful, or such an impediment for a good relationship with your child that it’s not worth it. Please own that, too. In other words, if you’ve settled your family’s schooling decision in your own mind, slamming somebody else’s choice will not make your choice more right. It may hurt someone who really needs your support. It also may make you look like a jerk.
3. All mothers have regrets
Every mother of an adult child has regrets. Every one. I’m very grateful that God uses our mistakes for his glory, because otherwise I’d be sunk. So would you. In fact, if I ever did encounter a mother who thinks she did everything correctly, or that her kids turned out well solely because of what she did, I’d assume she was in denial. I know mothers who are glad they homeschooled but can see a few things that they could have done better. I know mothers who sent their kids to public school who wish they could go back and pull them out. In my two oldest, I can see a few areas where having them at home in the early years benefited them. I also see some areas where my weaknesses magnified weak areas of their own.
4. All mothers (and people in general) have to guard against pride
One of my kids should have been sent to school at least a year sooner. There are a lot of reasons why it worked out this way, but one of them is that I wasn’t ready to admit it was time. That’s pride. When homeschooling moms pump me for information about the bad, scandalous things going on in the public schools, that’s pride. When public school parents scoff at “weird, backwards homeschoolers,” that’s pride.
As Christian parents, we should all be on the same team. We should want everyone’s kids, regardless of their home and school situation, to walk with the Lord. If you catch yourself delighting in seeing another kid stumble because it makes you feel better about what you’re doing, you’ve slipped into a very dark place, and you need to repent. Even if you don’t delight in another child’s struggle, but merely think that it could never happen to you because of something you’re doing, you may be standing on the edge of a precipice. Our first thought should always be “there but for the grace of God go I,” not “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” (Luke 18:11)
Remember who is really in control
God has been good to me. I love my kids, and it’s fun watching them blossom into young adults. They’re also all sinners. (They also read this blog. Hello, sinful children.) I pray for them a lot. The verdict is still out on whether they’ll grow up to be happy, productive adults who walk with the Lord, but I have great reason to hope. I hope you do as well, regardless of how your kids are being educated.