We Just Don’t Know

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!

About that.

IMG_3633David 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.

6. Complain.

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.

7.  Attack.

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.

8. Retreat.

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)

10 responses to We Just Don’t Know

  1. donna says:

    My gosh..can I just say AMEN to this? We have done both, Christian and public, and I am grateful for the experience our kids had in both places. Printing this one to have on hand for the many who ask us “how/why we did it”.

  2. Bev Klaiber says:

    Once again, Kim, you nailed it. Thank you for that. We have done both, but have “gone public” for the past 4 years for each of our 3 boys. Your wisdom and insights are so helpful. I love how you call out that sin is not some disease that our kids catch by being around sinful kids, but is in EACH of us … perfect. Thanks again. I always look forward to your posts.

  3. Rebeca Jones says:

    As a veteran homeschooler, may I say that all eight of your points could apply to us too. Although the descriptions would look a little different, I think that we all can benefit from your list. I never dreamed I would homeschool at all, let alone this long, yet I have not felt at all released to go public. (The only other option after 8th grade here.) It’s far too easy to either fall into a legalistic “this is the way we should all do it” mindset, or a victim/combative mentality regarding our educational choices. Whether we choose public, private, or homeschool, may we train our children to love Jesus with their whole hearts. May we shine with a heavenly brightness and leave a sweet fragrance wherever we are! Nice post.

  4. Lillian Pedersen Holm says:

    We live in another country but the concerns are the same. We have experienced God’s leading and help in both public and private schools. Thank you for your very relevant and helpful article, God bless you and your family!

  5. This post was so timely! Thank you Lord for using this blog to help us all who are “going public” in the fall. We are in that transition period after homeschooling since day 1. I knew the Lord had me homeschool until highschool. We will have three teens heading off to our public school less than 2 miles away. Great information about the school, but we still need to rely on God and pray daily for all the kids. We have three going in and two little ones still home.

  6. Jana Stauffer says:

    Love it Kim! Thank you! Home schooling and private were not an option for our family (The Lord showed me how I idolized both options). Having been in the public school system now for 6 years has been a huge blessing. It has been a great place to minister and be ministered unto!

  7. Cara says:

    Thank you so much for this! As someone who went through state school as a Christian but was surrounded by families who homeschool and knew a few families from different places who see state school as practically evil incarnate, it’s so good to be reassured that there is more than one way to educate your kids. I guess it’s different in some ways for us because we live in the UK but all of the things you’ve said in this article are so true! The difficulty for us was that there were no Christian schools nearby and then when we moved to a church where everyone homeschooled, my parents struggled, wondering if they were doing something ungodly or wrong. I think there’s a balance when educating children. School and homeschool can teach you all of the academics but I found that all the important things about life and faith were learned at home and at church. It’s not either or. You can learn in any environment. Although sometimes I wish I’d been homeschooled (it would have been a whole lot less painful at times) you have to remember that if you choose to put your kids through state school and you run into tough times, those times can be the making of them. The world just looks so much less attractive when you go to school with its kids and I’ve found that a blessing because it has helped my faith by showing me that the world’s ways just aren’t as glittery as they seem. But just to say, I’ve seen homeschooling work really well too. I’m not biased. I’m just thankful to God that he gave me the opportunities I had during twelve years in state schools.
    To all you parents: don’t worry. Make the choice and trust it to God. He’ll honour you for it and your kids will thank you one day.

  8. Janie K. says:

    Thanks for writing this! I have done all forms of education with my 3 sons. My last school age son is now a junior in the local public school. As a teacher all of these years at home & in private schools & a substitute in public schools, I was recently offered a job at the local public school where my son is attending. So I am going full time into this field and will be here, as a Christian, for the next 10 years at least. I recently overheard one of my “goth” students bashing Christianity (he was sitting right next to my desk) and I stood up for the faith, of course, and told him that he was making an overgeneralization. He claimed (to no one in particular) that people only believed in God & went to church because the feared going to hell. I told him that yes, some people are like that, but not everyone. I told him that I am not a Christian because I don’t want to go to hell. That I go to church because I love God & want to worship Him. He didn’t really acknowledge me much but he conceded my point. A few days later…he came into class very stressed out and we talked about it alittle bit. I told him that though he didn’t believe in God, I would be thinking about him and praying for him. And do you know what he said??? He said thanks and that he appreciated it. Those are seeds. They might be little but they were thrown. If all Christians did was stay away from these public schools, who would be there to throw the seeds for the Spirit to water?? Every day I look at my students and wish I could tell them openly about Jesus and what He wants to do in their lives…..but I bide my time and wait for opportunities and I know that the Lord will bring them & use me.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for writing this!!! As a parent we do question if we “ARE” doing the right thing… Great article and one I will pass on to my loved ones and friends.

  10. Anonymous says:

    As a 20 year old who recently attended both a public school and a private non-secular high school (I don’t want to name names, sorry.), I can tell you if you think anything even close to “Well if I send my kid to a Christian/Catholic/Jewish/Mormon/X denomination private school, he or she won’t encounter the same temptations he or she will at a public school.” you are, at least in my experience, completely mistaken. The bottom line is teenagers are teenagers and high schools are high schools. Your private school may have smaller class sizes, may have more involved faculty, maybe it’s even well-distinguished among top tier college admissions offices, but there is going to be some level of peer pressure ANYWHERE (I hate typing in all caps, I only do it when I really, really, really mean it. Lol.) your kids go to school. I’m not a parent, so it’s my place to preach about parenthood to parents, but (while I don’t still consider myself still “a kid”) I’m not that far removed from being a kid, and from my perspective the three things I think kids will always both appreciate and respond to are: 1.) A reasonable amount of trust in the way you’ve raised them. While most kids know that when their parents are “monitoring” them, they’re doing it out of love, if it gets unreasonable, it’s a bit of an insult isn’t it? Teenagers are just now becoming adults, and I don’t think giving them their first taste of independence is unreasonable, so long as they’ve earned it. 2.) A reasonable amount of understanding and forgiveness should he or she make a mistake, and on some level, everybody’s child is going to “make a mistake”. How big of a mistake is the question, but keep in mind he or she is “just a kid”. The worst thing your child can do isn’t unforgivable. If Jesus can the most heinous and despicable actions of humanity (and he can) you can forgive your child for indulging his or her impulses in a moment of weakness. Discipline’s important, but there’s a difference between disciplining and chastising your child. Or even worse, turning your back on them completely. That happened to a friend of mine (with very strict religious parents), and yes he did screw up in a rather big way, but it was nothing short of a miracle that he overcame being kicked out of his home at 16, and he’s doing well now. I don’t know that I would have been able to do the same. Adolescence is in and of itself a learning experience. No human being has ever been perfect, much less a teenager. Holding your kid to an unreasonable standard is, well… unreasonable. 3.) A reasonable amount (are you sensing a theme here? Lol… Everything’s within context of “reasonable”. The child must, I don’t like the word “earn” because it makes it sound like he doesn’t DESERVE trust and forgiveness unless he does X Y and Z, but rather meet the expectations necessary for trust and forgiveness.. anyway) a reasonable amount of letting your child steer his or her own education. I think too often kids get pushed into things they aren’t comfortable with, and in my opinion, that’s what makes a child want to rebel against his parents… and that’s when things get a little ugly. No he or she shouldn’t be given full control of his or her life at school, but instead of picking out activities and classes and friends for him, give him a chance to choose for himself. You’d be surprised how passionate kids can be when they like what they’re doing, and how apathetic they can be when they don’t. Again, it’s all within reason, if his choice is to smoke pot and skip school of course you have to step up as the parent; the dominant voice in the relationship, but keep an open mind. He may not be interested in what you were interested in at his age, and I don’t like when parents react badly to that. Let your kid be his own person, nobody wants to feel like they were brought into this earth with the attention of being their parent’s mini-me……..

    That’s my (as I like to refer to myself, a “recent child, new adult”) perspective on parenting… And I believe if you do those three things, and don’t panic after every speed bump, your kids will be fine at either a pubic or private school…. Because like I said, I really never thought there was that much difference. In fact the only practical difference I can think of; what happens more openly and sometimes shamelessly at public school, happens just as frequently and ten times as secretively at a private school… So maybe there’s one advantage to public school. The cards are on the table… It’s easier to tell the “good kids” and the “good but troubled kids” apart, at a private school you don’t always see it so clearly.

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