Homeschool vs. Public School: How a Christian Parent Should Decide on Education
Introducing "Mom Says/Dad Says," an exclusive Christian parental advice column by Gregory Slayton, former U.S. Ambassador to Bermuda and author of the best-selling book Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, and his wife, Marina Slayton, author of the new book Be The Best Mom You Can Be. The Slaytons have been featured on "Fox and Friends," Focus on the Family Radio and numerous other media outlets. They donate 100% of their royalties from parenting books to fatherhood and family nonprofits.
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Governors Jeb Bush and Sam Brownback and pastors Tim Keller and Luis Palau, among others, have endorsed the Slaytons. In their exclusive series for The Christian Post, both Marina and Gregory will answer thoughtful Christian parents seeking to raise their children up in the goodness of the Gospel and the Glory of God. If you would like to have Marina and Gregory answer your questions, please contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parent's Question: We have a 4-year-old son who is starting school next year. I am getting all sorts of advice from my family and friends. All the choices can seem overwhelming at times. Public school, Christian school, private secular school and even home schooling are on the table. How do I know what is best for my child?
Mom says: Schooling in the 21st century is an adventure which requires great parental courage and discernment. Many of us were raised by parents who chose the local public school option before their kids were even born and never had cause (or opportunity) to revisit the issue. Today, parents are faced with so many options and choices that many parents are fearful of making the wrong decision.
It's a mistake to go into any important decision (including schooling choices for your kids) with biases or blind spots. Each major form of K-12 education has pros and cons. The key is to really know the strengths and weaknesses of your child as well as your own.
Even if there are lots of other homeschoolers in your area, you must be honest with yourself: do you really believe you have the talent and fortitude to homeschool? If you do — that could be a great option. But if not, be honest with yourself and take that option off the table (we've seen some home schooling disasters, just as we have seen problems at times with private, public and Christian schooling).
As your children grow and mature, you may find your schooling decisions change to take into account the best academic and moral/cultural environment for your child. You may also have to move (we've moved many times — never an easy thing for children).
Moves force us to make an educational re-assessment. What may be a wise decision for your child in one season of their lives (and your own), may simply not work as well when they get older.
Gregory and I have found that especially in middle school we must be very careful. What worked in sixth grade by eighth or ninth grade was untenable because of drugs, drinking and all the rest (sadly, what hit high school in our generation is hitting younger and younger).
We cannot expect our kids to always swim against a cultural flood tide. If the prevailing culture at your kids' school(s) is impacting them in a negative way, it may well be time to explore other schooling options. Making kids stay in a toxic environment and essentially saying "Make it work" is a recipe for disaster. We would not do that to ourselves ... and we should never do it to our children.
So sit down and thoughtfully discuss your options with your husband and pray for our Heavenly Father's guidance. Be confident that He loves your kids — in fact, He loves them as much (or more) than you do. So you can be confident that He will help you craft a successful school path for your child. You may have to rethink your academic strategy from time to time, but that can be liberating.
If you go forward knowing that a recalibration may likely occur, you won't have the fear of getting the next 13 years wrong with a wrong decision today. So do pray, talk with your spouse and together choose the academic option that seems to fit best with your child's needs, your family circumstances and our Lord's direction in prayer. And then take it year by year going forward. If you commit you and your children's future to Him, He will show you the way (Proverbs 16:3)
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DAD SAYS: Yes, it is very important to make good schooling decisions for our children. That can be an understandable source of fear and anxiety for us parents. The first thing to remember is this: we must trust in the Lord and His love for our kids (i.e. stop worrying).
Our four kids have been in every type of school (and home school) situation — and some of them have not worked well. But even in the tough situations our kids have learned important lessons. Lessons they might not have learned had all been going beautifully on the academic front.
What is super important is that our kids know that we are with them and for them, especially in the tough situations. And if things get really bad it's important for them to know that they are our first priority — and we will help them make a change if necessary. Putting them first in this way is empowering to them — and that is good.
No matter what school our kids go to, if they don't like to learn they will not be good students. So let's be sure to help them develop a love for learning early on. As parents we can do this in a variety of ways:
- Answering their questions with good, full answers. Whether it's a question about insects or buildings or how a train works. Be sure to answer it in an interesting and age appropriate way. Making learning fun is a huge asset for our kids;
- Reading to our young ones. Studies show that this is one of the most important things we can do for our young children. Developing a love for reading at an early age is the No. 1 determinant of our child's future educational success;
- Be learners ourselves. Do we read the newspaper? Have interesting discussions around the dinner table? Listen to and learn from our teens and older kids as they explain new things to us? Like almost everything else in parenting "more is caught than is taught." If we want our kids to be good learners, we ourselves must be lifelong learners. This sets a great example for our children and is hugely beneficial to us as well.