When I first became a parent I was taken aback by how quickly I wanted to find the right method of parenting and trumpet it as the authoritative way that every parent should do it! It wasn’t just me though, everyone reads and discusses being an attachment parent, if you’re going to Ferber-ize your child and everyone has their own advice they’d like to give you.
It can be a stressful situation that new parents find themselves in because it feels like there should be ONE right way that you HAVE to figure out or you’re going to screw up your kid for life. This is true for any parents, but I especially saw the debate inside of a church setting as even more heated. This is the result of people baptizing their family preferences in the gospel of Christ and seeking to make it an absolute truth that everyone should follow.
This is made worse by the fact that disagreeing on parenting methods is seen as an inappropriate conversation in many circles. People feel judged and offended, but we were blessing to be living inside of a Christian community that didn’t allow it to be an off-limits conversation.
It helped us to distinguish between gospel-centered parenting and preference-exalting parenting. Gospel-centered parenting sees the truths of Jesus Christ’ life, death, and resurrection and the scriptures as the primary focus and principles that shapes all of parenting. This outlines the purpose of a family, how the mission of God is accomplished as a family, and how the family is to interact with one another, the church, and the world. It informs the principles, attitudes, discipline and education for children in parenting.
Preference-exalting parenting agrees with gospel-centered parenting but typically goes beyond that to define the exact methods that must be followed to accomplish all that parenting entails. This happens when homeschooling parents are ostracized as culture-fearing super-protective parents and this also happens when people interpret the scriptures admonition to educate in the Lord to only mean classical Christian education condemning those who choose public school.
As my kids have grown and the schooling conversation has entered our lives, it’s felt like we had our first baby all over again. Questions, our convictions and desires, along with other people’s convictions and preferences were coming at us. Can you be a Christian parent and send your child to public school? Does being a Christian parent mean homeschooling or private Christian schooling?
It has been a challenging process of asking and exploring these questions theologically, practically, and discussing these ideas with a number of other people and families. It has become clear that many people want to exalt their way of schooling as the perfect way to follow Christ and be a Christian parent, but God does not spell out a perfect method of schooling.
Christian parents are tasked with the responsibility to educate their children in the scriptures, the gospel of Jesus Christ and develop them to be able to maturely encounter a world that increasingly doesn’t believe the same truths.
The education of a child plays into this task tremendously, so parents must explore and examine the best route for their child, their family, and themselves for schooling. There is not just one option for Christian families and the church must be more open and ready to equip families to enjoy the benefits and tackle the challenges of each.
As each Christian family decides how to educate their child, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives them the freedom to have confidence in their choice without condemnation of those who do not choose the same as them. When a church is filled with families who have confidence in their families approach to education, they can be a collection of families who collaborate for the holistic flourishing of the children in the church and in their city.
Not One, but Many Schooling Options for Christian Families
There are predominantly 5 major options for a Christian family when approaching education. Each of them has their challenges in seeking to follow Christ, but the church should encourage, and needs, gospel-centered families in every single option. The mission of the church is to display and declare Jesus to every sphere of life and schooling is one of those spheres.
Currently, here are the 5 options I see:
- Private School
- Private Christian School
- Public School
- Charter School
We spent a year exploring these different options before enrolling Eli in public school here in New York City and it’s been amazing, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.
I’m hoping to discuss the benefits and challenges for gospel-centered parenting that each of these options present another time.
Here’s the major challenge and the most necessary thing for a church community to encourage for families. Families need to be encouraged to have confidence in their schooling choice without condemning others and families need to collaborate for holistic flourishing.
Confidence without Condemnation
There have been times when I have felt condemned and even seen as foolish for sending my child to public school, as if I’m failing them in their spiritual journey by sending them to public school. I also know that others families have felt condemned by me because of our confidence in sending our children to public school.
I’ve seen too many Christian parents that seem almost embarrassed about their schooling choice, whatever it may be, and that needs to change. Families should be confident in the direction and vision they have for their families to be educated and their families to embody Jesus in every environment.
Without confidence, condemnation will be felt and conveyed, but confidence provides the freedom to communicate the motivations for the schooling options. This sets you free from the need to exalt your choice above others and the ability to acknowledge and understand others’ choices.
Collaboration For Every Holistic Flourishing
Since each schooling options provides its unique challenges, I imagine the beauty of collaboration among families. Imagine the homeschooling families sharing their wisdom in teaching their children scriptural truths being shared with families of children who only have a few hours every night and weekends to do so because of school outside the home.
Imagine public, charter, and private school families inviting their homeschooling friends to share in the social and missional benefits they lack from schooling at home.
I see great benefit, encouragement, and empowerment in families with confidence in their schooling choice seeking to collaborate for the benefit of their children. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to be an alternative community in our way of living, but also to be that community in the midst of people who believe differently than we do.
For families, the way we educate our children has implications for our ability to embody the gospel to one another and to the world around us. We have a responsibility to our kids, but also to our neighbor’s kids so we must take that corporate responsibility to seek the holistic flourishing of our families and the families of our city.