By Brenda Buzzard
Parenting should require a degree! You give birth to a baby and just as you finally master juggling feeding, nap-time, cleaning, bedtime, play-dates and Dr visits, someone asks: “So….where are you sending them to school?” School?! It took me a year to decide between Pampers and Huggies! Could I handle sending my precious child away for even part of a day! How to decide? I never had a class on this! We both knew, however, just how important this decision was for our child.
Terry and I had both attended public schools all the way through high school, but both attended Christian colleges. But times have changed, as they say. Locally, there were budget and educational quality issues. There were safety issues in the public school system. We also had spiritual concerns with the secular curriculum content. Fortunately, we did have better choices in educational institutions, both secular and religious.
Knowing there is power in prayer, we prayed. Knowing there is wisdom in many counselors, we listened to the testimonials of others. Through this process, we became assured that our primary desire was for a Christ-centered, private education. We even knew our eldest child’s first teacher from our church! We were thrilled with our daughter’s experience and so our four subsequent children have followed in the same school.
The backbone of Christian education is the Christian teachers. I love that Christ can be proclaimed everyday and in every classroom discussion or activity. I love that my children can hear faith stories from other Christian adults and be challenged to walk with Christ. The teachers have been a great source of encouragement and pray for our children. It is undoubtedly the best financial investment we could make in our children.
Yes, there may be downsides to Christian education. One is the expense. Sacrifices have to be made. Second, there is complacency. Children can feel “saved” just because they attend and are bathed in Christianity, without feeling a need to make their faith personal. They can hear the gospel daily and yet miss it all. At times, we have seen our children grow apathetic with religion as they are immersed in it during the school day, then Wednesday night events, and also on Sundays. I have heard my child say, “I know that verse…I hear it all the time!” My response would be that we need reminding. Don’t just be a hearer of the word, but a doer of it. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us to take all opportunities to proclaim God’s word to our children.
It is exciting to know that there are educational choices. There isn’t a perfect school or a perfect way to “do” school. One child may need homeschooling and another would love private school. We have choices and I know the LORD will strengthen our resolve. He will go before us on this journey and encourage us all along the way.
By Kathy Jensen
One’s mental picture of a homeschooling mother often evokes an image of a denim jumper wearing, makeup-less woman with a long braid down her back who is scared to death of the world around her and desperately tries to sequester her children from the evils of this life. That was not me. We were not running from society. Our decision to homeschool our children came slowly.
We were living in Chicago when our eldest daughter reached her 5th birthday, forcing us to make a choice. I first heard of the homeschooling idea from fellow parents at our church on the North side. Since the Chicago Public School system was such a mess, the trend among these churchgoers was to teach their kids at home through the 2nd grade. Being the type of mom that really loved having my kids around and also loved teaching, I reasoned…”I’d better be able to teach the subject matters to early elementary aged children.” Then I discovered that there were many types of curricula available and there was even a massive homeschooling convention each Spring. I jumped in headfirst, thinking I’d follow my friends’ lead and homeschool through 2nd grade. However, by the 2nd grade, we’d discovered that our eldest was special needs. Two tutors (who by day were public school teachers) strongly advised me to keep her at home. Twenty years later, we finished up the senior year of our 4th child…homeschooling almost all the way. No one was more surprised by that than me! Basically, each year we would step back, analyze things, and decide if we wanted to continue. Our children were definitely a part of this decision making process. We never ruled out public or private school, we just saw that what we were doing was working.
Homeschooling is a challenge though. I was painfully aware that my children’s education was completely in my hands. It was up to me to select the curricula (that is a huge feat), to make sure all their assignments were done, that each year they were up to grade level. and that accurate academic records were kept. We were blessed to find a co-op that offered classes, sports, and socialization as they reached junior and senior high. We also made it a goal to get our kids out in life through Scouts, youth groups, etc. and to have friendships with kids who attended both public and private schools. As we completed their education, we were exceedingly pleased to find that the self-motivated study habits of homeschoolers were extremely attractive to colleges.
When they graduated and went off to college, I had a very satisfied sense that (while certainly not done perfectly) I’d poured myself into each or our children. This resulted in close bonds with each of them that thus far have continued into adulthood. Home school is “a” way to educate children, not “the” way. I believe that whichever mode of education a family chooses, the parents need to be involved whole-heartedly. That’s the key to success!
Kathy has been involved in Children’s Ministries for over 35 years. She says, “It is my heart’s passion to convey the love of God and the riches of His Word to children!” Kathy is a mother of 4 grown children, one of whom has special needs. She is happy to share her life with her husband Randy of 29 years (and counting!)
Education…what an important decision for parents to make and it can sometimes be overwhelming. There are so many more options than there was when I grew up. If you are anything like me, you want to evaluate all of them.
My husband and I went through the public school system in Rockford and on the whole it was a good experience. However, for our oldest daughter we chose to place her in a private Christian school. We appreciated her education at this school, but were overwhelmed to put our younger two there. We had to honestly evaluate what was best for our family.
Some Christian friends of ours encouraged us to try the public school system in Rockford. We visited our neighborhood school by setting up an appointment with the principal. The principal took us on a tour and it was surprisingly nice. We were encouraged to see that the classroom settings were calm and the kids were engaged. Because of our conversation with the principal and the ability to visit the school environment, we enrolled them.
We were pleased with the experience our kids had at our neighborhood elementary school. For the most part, the teachers were hardworking, caring, and encouraging to our kids. There was an open door policy to come and help in the classroom, at lunch and at special events. Of course it was not a perfect environment, but when there were problems with friends or concerns with education we felt the freedom to discuss it with the administrator or teachers and it would be taken care of.
Our kids have found good friends; some even come from Christian homes. As parents, it has given us times to communicate about various things that are going on at school and with friends. The challenges became greater at the secondary level. Just like at the elementary level, we found the teachers and administrators easy to approach about our concerns and we were not disappointed in the handling of situations that arose. Also, we found our kids being challenged with how to respond to inappropriate talk, different religions, and being made fun of for their faith. These discussions are not always easy; in fact, they can be challenging and emotional, but beneficial to our faith journey. As parents, we see our role as the spiritual leaders in our kids’ lives. We believe this responsibility rests squarely on our shoulders. However, we need partners like our church and our Christian friends.
One of the things that the public schools have been criticized for is whether or not the students are getting a good, quality education. In other words, will the students graduating from the public schools be ready for college? We decided to get our kids independently tested from a learning center. It was encouraging to find out that they both tested above their grade level. This continued to validate for us that our kids are being challenged and they are college bound!
As you consider the public school system I would encourage you to do the following:
- Set up an appointment with the principal.
- Visit the classrooms, lunchroom, and recess area.
- Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions about the environment, education, and teachers. (Are the teachers approachable?)
- Find out from other families who attend the school about the things mentioned above. (Ask the principal for some names of families to talk to.)
- Look at test scores.
- Find out if there is a rating on the school from the board of education.
- Find out how long teachers stay at the school and how much education they have.
- Find out opportunities for involvement.
- Is there an open door policy to help out in the classroom?
- How do they put classrooms together, can you request a teacher? (Can you request your child not be with a certain student?)
- Honestly evaluate whether it is in the best interest of your child and your family.
- If you are concerned about their education, then get them independently tested.
- Take it a year at a time and re-evaluate. (Evaluation may need to be more often than that.)
Most importantly, come together as a family and keep this decision before the Lord in prayer. Above anything else, trust God in the decision you make. Always remember He will not leave you or forsake you. What an incredible promise!
These days the major concern of any parent is the education of their children. I know it is and always will be a major concern in our family. As parents we start getting tense as soon as our children reach school age. The question that is always asked is what is best for my child and our family. The choices are public school education, private school education and homeschooling.
I thought it would be practical to talk about each of these choices from those who have experienced them. I have asked two of my friends to share about their experiences in homeschooling and private schooling. I will be sharing about our choice and experience in the public school setting.
Before I continue, I would like to affirm that I believe this is an area in which Christians have freedom from God to do what they feel is appropriate for their individual families. I do not believe that one form of schooling is better than the next. Each family must follow their convictions on this matter.
As believers, we must validate and uplift our friends and the choice of education they make for their families. We do not want to allow the evil one to have a foothold in this area by despising or condemning those who hold a different view from our own. I know with my friends we are an encouragement to one another and we are active prayer warriors for each other and our children.
By Laura Larson
“Grieving the loss of a child is the worst form of grief,” I once read. “Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. When you lose other family members whether it be a parent, a spouse, or a sibling, you grieve the past…when you lose a child, you grieve the future.” Your arms ache intensely to hold your child, your heart is broken into a million pieces, and your mind can’t fully grasp what has happened. You look around you and wonder how can life continue for everyone else? Your world has been turned upside down and finding the strength for your next breath is all you can handle.
As humans, especially American humans, we hate pain and we do whatever we can do to avoid it! Proof of this fact can be seen all around us…..from Advil to alcohol….whether it be physical or emotional pain….we do not like discomfort. But the pain of losing a child is unavoidable…it’s like open heart surgery without anesthesia. Every form of coping that we once relied on doesn’t work for this new situation. Nothing seems to take that gut-wrenching pain away.
Coping through the pain can mean different things for everyone. Unfortunately, many people seek unhealthy alternatives when trying to numb their pain. There is never a good time to pick up a bad habit….but this is especially important when you are grieving. If you long to come out a whole and healthy person on the other side of this valley; it is important that you set up boundaries for yourself.
Below are some very practical suggestions to guide you through the first few months and years of your journey:
• Read the Psalms—they will bring comfort beyond words to your aching heart
• Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you and have your best interest in mind
• Talk about “your story” and how you feel
• Find a counselor that you trust and that can speak truth into your life and heart
• Read books by other parents who have lost children:
“From Mourning to Morning” and “From Grief to Glory” by Harry and Cheryl Salem
“I’ll Hold You in Heaven” by Jack Hayford
“Gone But Not Lost” by David Wiersbe
“Treasures in Darkness” by Sharon Betters
“One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie—and any other books by this author
• Journal your memories, thoughts and feelings
• Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine
• Plan in advance what you will do on holidays and anniversary days—these days are tough and making decisions on these days is next to impossible—have some sort of plan whether it be a vacation or a special family day in memory of your child. For example—we let balloons go every year on our daughter’s birthday—it is special to us and our other children.
• Accept help from other people when it is offered! Whether it be a meal, babysitting other children, cleaning, etc….people want to bless you during your time of sorrow.
• Be honest with God about where you are at….He longs to be everything to you and to see you through this dark valley.
You know the old saying, “Time heals all wounds”? Well…it isn’t true. ”God heals all wounds!” There are many bitter people walking on this planet that lost a loved one decades ago that have gaping open wounds. Though you and I will never be completely whole until we see our Lord face to face….we can be wholly His…broken and beautiful. It is sometimes in the face of your utmost despair that you see more clearly the face of God. Lean into Him and He will carry you!
I am a tech nerd and proud of it. I do not serve technology I make technology serve me, and I want you to do the same. Here are a few resources I think you will find helpful…
Not sure about a movie or wonder if a movie is appropriate for your family? Check out http://www.pluggedin.com, a resource from Focus On The Family…they also have an app for your iPhone.
Do you have younger kids? Take them to http://www.jellytelly.com. This is now a FREE site that has some great biblical content, my boys (7yrs, and 4yrs) love it!
Feel free to post your favorite resources in the comments below!