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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Where Should Your Child Go to School?

By Billie Davis
Aug. 31, 2014

When their daughter was approaching school age, Jeff and Lori Larson decided to keep her with them in homeschooling. They wanted to protect her from popular, worldly values and guide her in their own Christian lifestyle. They wanted her to receive basic knowledge in reading, writing, math and history, without “postmodern” ideas related to social issues.

The Larsons were members of a thriving church with active ministries for children. Both Jeff and Lori had college degrees. Each was employed, but Jeff’s income was sufficient to support the family. So Lori suspended her career, and they both devoted themselves to the many tasks of preparation. They talked with experienced homeschoolers; consulted the library and the Internet for information on homeschooling legislation, state and local requirements, and available resources; registered in compliance with local regulations; selected materials from Christian publishers; and transformed their child’s room into a comfortable, attractive place in which to teach and learn.

“It was worth the effort,” they say. “Homeschooling was the right choice for us.”

Sam and Doris Adams, a young couple with two elementary-age children, had moved to the city to take advantage of job opportunities. One of their new neighbors urged them to visit his church. In the friendly atmosphere of the evangelical service the Adamses began to understand that they and their children had spiritual needs. They felt conviction, accepted Jesus, and soon became members of the church.

The pastor suggested the Adamses visit the church-sponsored Christian academy and think about enrolling their children. They were impressed with the school. They saw it as an opportunity to give the children Christian teaching and a suitable peer group, along with good basic schooling. Tuition costs were no problem for them.

“Christian schools really support young families,” the Adamses say. “We made the right choice.”

David and Fern Miller were both from Christian families, and were mature Christians when their first son was born. He and three siblings after him were reared in the church. Their first school was Sunday School. Among their first words was a prayer.

Before the children were of school age, the Millers visited the local public school open house. They met some teachers and learned all they could about the school’s academic program and extracurricular activities. As each child entered the school, both mother and father showed interest and talked with the children about their school experiences.

Today the four Miller kids are participants and leaders in school music and athletic activities. They invite school friends to church events. As a result of their children’s involvement, the Millers have more opportunities to be of influence in the community.

“I’m glad we kept them in public school,” David explains. “They have been given excellent help in developing their skills and interests. And they have learned how to face challenges to their beliefs and values.”

Each family made the right decision.

“Train a child” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV). In three syllables the writer of Proverbs proclaims an essential responsibility of parenthood. Many biblical passages make it clear that the home is the first “school” and parents are the first teachers.

God called leaders to form an earthly society. Under divine guidance these leaders gave God’s people specific instructions that included the admonition to teach them to their children. Every symbol and tradition in the Old Testament has two purposes: to help people know and worship God, and to perpetuate to the next generation an understanding of God’s plan.

Every human society since the beginning of history has had concern for the training of its children. People always organize to form communities and nations, and social organization always includes some reference to child-rearing principles and methods. As populations have grown and moved throughout the earth, ideas about education have changed and multiplied.

School systems that started in homes became attached to various religious and political systems. Today we have an incredible array of options. There are public schools, private schools, church-related schools, charter schools, and various types of Internet and distance-education programs.

“School choice” has become a political slogan. But for Christian parents it is much more than that. School choice is a matter for prayer, and for some of the most serious thinking a parent will ever do.

Many parents are trying to decide among the three most common choices: homeschool, Christian school or public school. As we see from the examples, each choice may be correct in some situations. Decisions must include consideration of children’s needs and characteristics, parents’ values and characteristics, and the availability of reliable information and resources.


What is best for the children?

“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

A parent’s first concern should be what is best for the children. Although they may not express it in distinct terms, most parents want development of the complete person as indicated in Luke’s statement about Jesus: mental, physical, spiritual and social.

Schooling is not all about facts and skills. It is about growing and learning. Obviously the home is the first growing and learning place. The question is this: What other opportunities for growing and learning should parents provide? How much should come from a formal academic curriculum? How much from church, community, friends and specialized training to enhance individual gifts and talents?

How can parents decide?

Confusion over school choice may result because advocates of various types of schooling tend to go to extremes. Some overly emphasize negative aspects of public schools in order to promote Christian schools or homeschooling. Some have more interest in marketing materials than in helping parents make appropriate choices for their families.

When three options are available, decisions should be based on the parents’ understanding of their children’s needs and personalities as well as their own feelings, motivations and qualifications. After praying for guidance, the best course of action for parents is to carefully examine positive and negative aspects of each option and make specific personal applications.

If you are a parent with options, here are some points to consider:


Homeschooling

Successful homeschooling begins with a positive motivation — to give your children the best possible opportunities for growing and learning — not in a spirit of anger and rebellion against public schools and popular culture.

The strength and value of homeschooling is not that it protects children from outside influences, but that it cultivates their special interests. It guides them in the formation of values and goals, and allows them to focus on individual achievement rather than competition in a fixed system. It releases them from the need to defend their Christian beliefs and adjust to peer pressure. More of their energy can be devoted to family activities and spiritual growth.

Studies of the results of homeschooling are mostly positive. Those schooled at home are accepted at Harvard and other prestigious schools. Their test scores compare favorably with students from the best public schools. The reasons most often cited for these positive outcomes are parental involvement and attention to the student’s individual needs.

The average scores of homeschoolers are higher because homeschoolers are fewer and they receive individual attention, whereas public school scores represent masses of students from all types of homes. This can mean that homeschooling is better. Or it could mean that the involvement of parents always makes a difference.

The advantages of homeschooling include the following:

• The home is strengthened. Families are kept together with shared goals.

• Schooling can be tailored to each child’s potentials and needs.

• Individualized, flexible schedules allow for more learning opportunities.

• Families can take advantage of community events and volunteer services.

• Large classes and rigid schedules are avoided.

• Less time is spent on routine matters required in public schools, so more time is given to learning.

• There is a spirit of learning together with less competition.

• Spiritual and moral development can be emphasized.

Homeschooling requires the following:

• Qualified parents who enjoy reading and are enthusiastic about teaching.

• Flexibility; willingness to find what is best for the children and the situation.

• Careful attention to regulations and standards of the school district and the state.

• Ability to invest the required time and finances.

• Ability to choose resources and make appropriate adaptations.

• Ability to provide suitable social activities and opportunities for special interests.


Christian schools

Like homeschooling, the decision to enroll children in a Christian school should be motivated more by positive considerations than by a desire to escape negative aspects of public schools. It is true that politics, economic interests and cultural changes influence public institutions. Good ideas, such as civil rights and equal opportunities, can get twisted to extremes that cause conflicts in values.

Children can become torn between parents’ teachings and a “postmodern” school environment. Especially for new Christians and those without a stable Christian background, Christian school is an excellent choice. It is not unreasonable for parents to feel apprehensive and express a need for support. Support is a key word.

A primary function of the Christian school is to reinforce home values. From early childhood through the teen years, children notice when parents and teachers agree.

The advantages of Christian schools include the following:

• Biblical knowledge and spiritual growth are educational aims.

• Many have accredited academic programs equal to or better than public schools.

• Curriculum materials are both excellent in academic quality and true to Christian values.

• Christian schools provide suitable peer groups for the students.

• Christian teachers are role models for the students.

• Christian parents can form a supportive community, help and pray for each other.

• Many of the school programs are integrated with children’s and youth programs in the church, so students have good opportunities to develop talents and interests.


Public school

Dissatisfaction with the public school system has been widely reported. On the other hand, there is much evidence that Christian parents and their children can have exceptional experiences, both educational and spiritual, as a result of involvement in public school. Parents are the most important factor in any child’s education.

In his book Creating a Positive Public School Experience (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Eric Buehrer suggests that public school can be the right choice if the parents do the following:

• Establish family goals; discuss goals; encourage individual goals.

• Emphasize spiritual growth through church attendance and family teaching.

• Initiate opportunities to get to know teachers in the school.

• Have appropriate understanding of the school’s student culture, customs and beliefs of personnel.

• Are able and willing to encourage and support the child at home.

• Display interest in the child’s school subjects and lessons.

• Read together with the family, and talk about what they read.

• Limit television time, monitor programs and discuss program content.

• Promote thinking skills through conversation, sharing ideas, active listening.

• Promote family togetherness — family traditions, pleasures, feelings of security.

For Christian parents who are able and willing to provide the required guidance and support, public school can be a unique opportunity to cultivate Christian character.

Children who experience Jesus’ love and develop faith at an early age can learn to think of themselves as leaders at school, rather than objects of peer pressure. As they are exposed to errors and wrong ideas, they can learn to think critically without questioning their parents’ values. As they grow, they can learn to analyze and evaluate without doubting the reality of truth. Often such young persons are especially sensitive to ministry opportunities, receptive to God’s calling, and likely to be among the strong Christian leaders of tomorrow.

This article was originally published in the Aug. 25, 2002, Pentecostal Evangel.


BILLIE DAVIS, Ed.D., is a former writer and editor of educational materials for Gospel Publishing House and a professor emeritus at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo.

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