Last year, we made the decision to send our girls to public school. Growing up, I never knew there were any other options, but when we became parents, we received loads of solicited and unsolicited advice on all the alternatives. Public school, private school, Christian school, homeschool — there was a lot to think about. Ultimately, the decision was easy when the time came, and nearly a year and a half into it, we’re very pleased with the education our girls are getting.
Still, though, we encounter some incredulity from well-meaning people when they hear that we’ve sent our girls to public school. Within our community, there’s a strong homeschooling network, and while we consider that option to be valid, respectable, and ideal for many families, we also see great value in our girls being part of Duncan ISD.
Here are a few of the reasons why we chose public school.
– Wes and I are both products of public school. I went to school in a small town and graduated in a class of just 142 people. Wes attended an urban area school in a large city and graduated in a class of over 1000 people. I was in a poor district that didn’t have all that the big schools had to offer, while Wes spent his time in state-of-the-art classrooms with an array of extracurricular options. I was in a school where I could leave my locker and car door unlocked without fear of theft, while Wes was in a school where lockdowns, metal detectors, and armed security were the norm. Clearly, we experienced the two extreme ends of the spectrum of the public school system, and we reached the same conclusion — public school more than adequately equipped and prepared us for the next step in life.
– My mother was a public school teacher for the entirety of her teaching career, and my sister, after years as both a teacher and an administrator at a public school, works as a consultant at a regional service center for several public school districts in Texas. I’ve seen the work and study they’ve both put into their craft as educators, and as they’ve gone more than the extra mile again and again for students, I’ve come to really respect teachers as true professionals in their field. It’s not a job that just anyone can do. It may be naive to assume that ALL teachers work as hard and are as professional as my own mother and sister are, but the two teachers our girls have had so far in their public school journey are equally committed and gifted. I am constantly awed by how many “tricks and tips” they have for teaching concepts and ideas to our girls, and I am completely unashamed to admit that I don’t have even half the know-how and skills that they do when it comes to education. As my sister once aptly said, she doesn’t try to fix her own AC unit — she calls a professional to come out and do it. When I look at our girls and consider their education options, I’m much more confident in a professional’s (ie, our wonderful public school teachers) ability than I am in my own. (And, no, this is not me putting myself down. It is me recognizing that others may be more gifted and equipped than I am to teach my children basic academic skills. And praise God that they are!)
– Our girls benefit from being around other children their age in a classroom setting. Sure, they could probably achieve somewhat of the same thing as a pair homeschooling together, but they wouldn’t have the wide expanse of worldviews, ideas, and behaviors to observe as they do at public school. While my inclination is to shield my girls from everything outside of our sanitized moralistic bubble, I know there are great learning opportunities that come from experiencing a “real world” setting. Being given time with other children and the freedom to form friendships is teaching them social skills that will help them as they work and live in the real world.
– Public school will NOT prevent our kids from following Christ. I’ve actually heard this as an argument against public school. Seriously. Honestly, Wes and I both grew in our faith while in public school. Both of our testimonies involve moments in high school when our head faith became our heart faith, largely because God used the vanity and emptiness of circumstances around us to draw Him to Himself. My own experience of living out and sharing my faith on a public school campus grew my faith, and I can honestly say that the times when what I knew to be biblically true was in contrast to what I was being taught (and this happened more and more as I attended a large, public university later), I grew in certainty of my faith and my convictions. I’m not going to lie and tell you that there weren’t times of testing, but honestly, my faith then, in the midst of differing beliefs and philosophies, was more dynamic and rich than it was years later when I was in a seminary where everyone thought and believed the same thing.
– And on that same note, our willingness to partner with our public school system in educating our children does NOT mean that we step out of the process entirely. I work more with Emma on her letters, numbers, shapes, and colors than I did before she went to school, largely because I’m given a direction to work towards, thanks to her wonderful teacher. Ana’s teacher (who is equally wonderful!) works hard to provide many opportunities for parents to work on lessons, homework, and plenty of reading/math practice with their children, so I feel like I’m still part of this incredible process of teaching my girls. And as far as spiritual learning and growing goes, we’re able to continue on with what we’ve done all along, with the added element of applying what Jesus taught to what happens at school. Ana tells us that a little girl cries on the playground because someone was mean to her, and we ask her how Jesus would have responded, prompting her to do the same. Emma tells us that someone in her class disobeyed the teacher, and we’re able to talk with her about how we honor Jesus by obeying those He’s put in authority over us. As our girls get older and grow into a faith that is entirely their own, we eagerly anticipate walking with them as this faith is lived out and enriched in a public school setting.