Our kids have walked the halls of our neighborhood’s elementary, middle, and high-schools for the past thirteen years.
Today, with the oldest out of the nest and into his first year of university, you’d think we’d have all the schooling philosophy fairly worked out. And you’d be a reasonable person to expect that – because at some point after four kids and twenty-three years of marriage, it must all come together, right? There has to be some wisdom/peace pay-off for the angst! Surely, a generous measure of satisfaction from choosing the right educational way for your beloved offspring is due!
David and I never set out to “do” public schools as a personal statement or a moral philosophy. Like most parents I know, we sometimes wondered (and still do) if we were wrecking our kids. We waver. We wrestle. We beg for clarity. We weigh the pros and cons. We stare at each other blankly. We just don’t know.
Fortunately, we have very good local options. The schools in our district are excellent, the teachers are more-than-competent, and the administrators really do care. I understand that this is regretfully not the case for everyone, everywhere.
Even so, there has been a years-long conversation around what’s best for each child (and the family) in every new phase and stage. Here and there – as needed – we’ve made a decision to keep this son home for a semester, or teach that son at home for a year, but the lion’s share of our children’s days have been in the local schools.
Only seven more years, and we will have been a steady part of our public schools for twenty-one years. TWENTY-ONE YEARS! I wonder if our community will be any better, brighter, or more beautiful because of it?
To be clear: this is not a post about the merits, failings, or future of public education. Rather, this is a list of nine temptations – I’m sure there are more – that David and I continue to encounter as we trudge or traipse (depending on the day) through the wilderness, the woods, the pleasant fields, the back-alleys, and the shadowy valleys of our children’s primary education.
1. Make too much of it.
You are neither a hero, a martyr, or a criminal for making the decision to stay local. Make a wide-awake decision as a family and own it.
2. Make too little of it.
You have been put in this particular place – at this exact time – for a host of eternal good that you will never realize this side of heaven. Your family has been planted in soil that is rich with the widest array of interesting and precious people. These are your people! And you are their people! Just like you, they walk the halls of life with all manner of grief and trouble and passions. They bear God’s image, as do you. They are your people – given for you to enjoy, learn from, and care about.
3. Wring your hands.
There really is nothing more unattractive, or more tempting. The sky is not falling. Who will see your children through to the end? Who will care for you and yours all the days of your life? Who holds the whole world in his hands?
“For from Him, and through him, and to him are all things. To Him be the glory. Amen” – The Apostle Paul
4. Throw up your hands.
God has not left the building! There are so many shining lights – so many healing hands – in your neighborhood schools. Can you see them? Do you champion them out loud? Pray for them? Can you add your light to those that are chasing away the darkness? All is not lost.
5. Stomp your feet.
Petulance should not define us. What does it say when we cross our arms, stomp a foot, and draw a line in the sand that others can’t cross? If you feel the need to stomp, stomp at God. He can take it. He can change a prideful stomp into a step of faith in a heartbeat.
You are not a victim. If you’ve decided to be in your neighborhood school, be all there. Respect authority. Find the good and the praiseworthy. Be thankful. Be helpful. Be kind. Use your words (emails and spoken) to build up, enable, and strengthen those who are with your children throughout the day.
This is your school and your people! Be more creative and more winsome in all your efforts. Can you be an alert advocate for your children, and still leave the fighting to the LORD? Can you be more hospitable? A better listener? A trusted servant?Who is the real enemy? Hint: it’s not your people.
We can’t catch sin like we might catch a contagious disease. Hunkering down and huddling up (so that we don’t catch what they have) shows we don’t know ourselves very well. Sin resides deep in the hearts of all men, but Grace has covered us since before the foundation of the world. We take our sin with us wherever we go to school, and yet we also – miraculously – take the risen Christ.
9. Try to control everyone and everything.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ if you don’t trust me?”
It’s not: “Let go and let God.” It’s not: “Jesus take the wheel.” It’s not: “Heaven helps the good parents who help their kids.”
It is: “I know who holds all things in his hands. I know my child’s name is tattooed forever on the heart of his Redeemer. He will not let us go – he will move with us and through us to the beautiful finish. He will give us more light and more grace. He will see all things to their perfect, right, and true end.”
A double-portion of peace to those of you who are planning to go (or remain) in your public schools this fall.
The same measure of grace for those of you who plan to educate your loves in other ways.
Keep your eyes on the One who called you, and who will surely keep you and yours.
*Repost from July 2014 (with edits)