Last week, I wrote a post on how the gospel of Christ must shape the approach to schooling for Christian parents.
There is great benefits to a church community that embraces all of the schooling options provided in our culture, but it requires that families have confidence in the gospel of Christ and not their “right way” of schooling. When this confidence in Christ prevails, it leads to families who do not condemn others for choosing a different schooling option while allowing for collaboration across the various schooling perspectives. Each option of schooling has its benefits and challenges for Christian families who seek to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also must understand the full implications of believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ as the definer of all of our lives, including family life.
Placing your faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, believing that having faith in Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross for your sins, and believing in His bodily resurrection from the dead requires that we bring our life and our life’s purpose under God’s gracious reign. In parenting, this means Christians aim to raise their children to know and live like Jesus. The scriptures go on to say that this is displayed through a lifestyle that reflects Christ’s holiness in morality, but also His gracious boldness in mission. For families in the church, personal morality and gracious engaging culture on mission have often been seen as mutually exclusive, but the gospel of Christ demands both.
This means that schooling options and outside of schooling family life must be evaluated in how it influences the family’s ability to truly follow Christ. This perspective leads us to ask what are the benefits and challenges for families trying to reflect Jesus in each of their schooling environments.
These are broad strokes that attempt to take complex family situations and summarize them in simple phrases of benefits and challenges. They are not comprehensive. (yes, this is my disclaimer of my own imperfection)
I’m distinguishing between private schools and private Christian schools because they have different benefits and challenges.
Many private schools promise preparation for a great future in education and career success. Private schools carry with them a reputation of future success based on their rigorous education. This helps families embody the gospel of Christ by honoring God with excellence in education that can lead to influencing culture for the common good, not just the exaltation of a Christian nation.
Provision for Gospel Mission
While many parents choose private schools because of their education reputation, one thing they may overlook is the opportunity their family now has in displaying Jesus to an area that can typically lack a gospel presence. Christian families have the opportunity to display the grace of God to their children in an environment where acceptance is usually based on individual performance. This contrasts with the gospel proclaiming acceptance through faith in Christ alone.
Stressful high performance atmosphere
The challenge for families in this environment is not crushing your children under the weight of stressful performance. Your child may excel at school and yet have their soul crushed by the demands of achievement. Private schools cultivate an environment that will challenge parents in encouraging their children to not base their worth on the grade or rank in class. The freedom the gospel of Christ brings in the area of performance can actually enhance their performance because it places the performance of Christ over the performance of self. This realignment is freeing to pursue excellence without anxiety.
The cost of private school is beginning to trump the cost of Ivy League education. While the church needs families who display the gospel in every socio-economic class, the financial burden can be a challenge to stewarding resources for God’s kingdom first.
A Culture that can Lack Diversity
While many private schools are seeking to improve diversity, they predominantly have one demographic. For families who are seeking to prepare kids to love all different types of people, they will have to identify ways outside of their natural schooling environment.
Preparing for Authority Outside the Home
This is true of private schools as well but I didn’t want to keep repeating everything. One of the primary roles of parenting is to be the life teacher of their children. Deferral parenting prevails throughout schooling outside the home, but parents never move on from being their children’s educator. Schooling outside the home provides focused time for children to be educated by trained educators and freedom to parents to become supplemental educator.
This is a great opportunity to educate in the gospel of Christ or provide additional focus in areas of weakness for your children. Eventually, children will work for someone else and schooling outside the home prepares them to work for an authority that may not reflect the character of Christ. Following Jesus’ example and the teachings of scripture, Christians are to honor all earthly authorities as set up by God ultimately.
Exposure to diversity & culture
There are certainly public schools that lack diversity, but the majority of public schools provide the other education of social intelligence. It is increasingly important in our country that our children learn to appreciate the cultural distinctive and learn to extend the gospel of Christ to a variety of belief systems. This provision of gospel mission is a challenge to any family, but by living this in front of your children, you are educating them with & without words to love people for their dignity as God’s creation and not simply because they benefit you.
Quality of education
In many areas of the country, the quality of education through public schools is lacking and not getting much better. Parents are faced with the challenge of valuing education, seeking education reform for the benefits of the children in their area while seeking the best education for their own children.
Environment that can contrast home
Just as the world around us does not always reflect the values of a Christian family’s home life, the public school does not promote Christianity. This can be a challenge and an opportunity for parents to prepare their children for a society that does not believe the same as them.
Family time becomes dictated by school
Schooling outside the home is giving up autonomy and freedom for families for vacations and family activities. A lot of people, Christians included, don’t like giving up autonomy to a perfect and gracious God, let alone to an impersonal institution.
Private Christian School
This provides an environment that seeks to reinforce the home environment while seeking to provide an excellent education. This has its advantages in assisting parents in educating their children in the truths of the scriptures and in the lifestyle that models Christ. It does not always reflect it perfectly, so parents must beware of deferral parenting in this environment.
Quality of Education
The quality of education is also typically better and similar to the benefits mentioned for private schools.
Lack of gospel mission as family
Natural relationships that can come from private school or public school do not exist in this environment as readily and will require that families find ways to incorporate the mission and mercy of Christ into their rhythm of life.
This also plays into the lack of diversity mentioned above. Christian families must ask whether they are seeking private school for educational purposes or for child-protective purposes. Pursuing a safe and secure place can be beneficial to a point, but safety as governor of a child’s life can impede the mission of God in their future. I’m not advocating throwing them to the wolves of culture, but in light of the gospel this must be considered.
There is a benefit for families to dictate their time and even utilize their time for great extension of the gospel as a family through having more autonomy of schedule. Families can dictate their time and this provides great responsibility for families in stewarding their time for God’s ends and not their own comfort alone.
Parents who shape the content & environment
Parents are able to determine the curriculum and shape their children’s education and the environment where they learn. This enables parents to customize their children’s education to enhance their strengths, to supplement their weaknesses and even add classes not naturally provided in public school environments.
Teaching & Parenting, especially w/ multiple kids
While parents never stop being a teacher of their children in general, they don’t always have to provide grades. The mix of being a parent that loves unconditionally and a teacher that grades conditionally can be a challenge in seeking to reflect the gospel of Christ. This gets enhanced when trying to parent younger children and educate older children.
The very nature of homeschool provides constraints socially and culturally. This can be overcome, but the gospel of Christ that prepares every child for eventually interacting with the culture demands that families consider how they will supplement their homeschool to provide social interaction. Children need friends and need friendships that become best friendships and need to deal with the loss of friendships.
Using Time for God’s Mission
The flexibility of homeschooling can be a temptation for many Christian families to focus on one-half of the gospel, moral adherence. This is the natural tendency of many in the American church and while moral adherence must not be sacrificed, children must be prepared for it to be confronted by the culture around them. We do not live M. Night Shyamalan’s Village and must not be naïve as parents in assisting our children in encountering culture.
High-performance of a private school without the cost
The rise of charter schools has provided quality education without the natural cost. The challenge can be getting a spot in the competitive lottery system.
Diversity of beliefs & cultures found in public school
A natural provision of gospel mission enables families to reflect the gospel as similarly described in public school above without some of the challenges facing public school parents with low quality of education.
High-stress & typically time consuming environment
All success comes at a cost and with charter schools that can be the sacrifice of time and the increase of a stressful environment. Parents will battle the similar challenges as private school families.
Accompanying diversity of beliefs and culture is the challenge for parents to help their children process the differences without condemning others that are not like us. The gospel of Christ offers an inclusive invitation to all to an exclusive claim that Jesus Christ alone is Lord & Savior. That’s a challenge for me to process let alone to assist children in dealing with these challenges as they face other children from different cultures and belief systems.
While the scriptures and the gospel of Christ do define one “right way” to educate your children, the gospel of Christ must shape our approach to understand the benefits we are choosing and confronting the challenges we will face as families who adhere to the Christian faith. Churches with a diversity of schooling families benefit as these families collaborate instead of condemn one another.
We eventually chose public school and I will be writing about why we chose public school while providing an update on Eli’s first year in public school in the near future.