Travelling the road from primary to high school
Our son Harry started high school last month. It was a mixture of pride and excitement that filled me as parents, but we have to confess there was also a huge sense of relief. We had finally arrived at this point after what felt like years of travel. On the first day and now after the first week, we remain confident that it was the right choice for us as a Christian family. Here are some of our thoughts we would like to share with you about the journey to get to this point.
We live in a society where children are almost treated as idols. We find some parents want to compete with each other to give their children the most exciting experiences and stimulations, the best sporting, musical and academic opportunities, and the latest clothing and technological devices. The quest for the ideal or best of everything seems unstoppable and that includes decisions about high school. It seems to be all about the child and what the school can offer them in the way of opportunities and not, ‘Where can my child best contribute?’ Not only this: if the child shows any sign of disinterest or lagging performance, the parents are quick to pull out their child and move on to the next best activity or even school. Education is now a consumerist activity where making sure your child is given the absolute best of everything at any price – including community, family time and basic needs such as physical activity and rest – is the top priority. Making decisions about where your child will spend the next six years in this environment can be daunting and challenging unless you are strong in your beliefs and core values.
As parents, God wants us to bring up our children to know him and to teach them life lessons they can use when they become adults. Why? Proverbs 22:6 tells us, ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it’. The lessons learned through the process of doing as a child are often just as (if not more) important than the outcomes. We have to teach our kids to have faith in God’s plan for their lives, and that can be difficult to demonstrate if we don’t have the confidence to make a decision and encourage our children to persevere at it.
The lead up...
During Year 4, Harry sat the selective test for the Year 5/6 Opportunity Class. After glowing academic reports in early primary school, we had great expectations. But when the results came out, Harry did not get in. So it was with some trepidation that we agreed Harry would sit the selective high school test early last year. Determined to hold to our principles, we resisted the temptation to have him privately tutored. Instead, we prayed that we would trust God and have faith that, whatever the outcome, we would have confidence that it was within his plan. The process of being unsuccessful taught Harry some wonderful lessons about perseverance and trusting that God really does have a plan and knows best. In other words, Harry learnt that success doesn’t come automatically in this world when you trust God.
Last year we also attended the open day and information evening at the local public high school and we were very impressed with it. We also applied for a place at the nearest Christian school.
Towards the end of the year, we were delighted to have the choice between a place at a selective public high school, our local high school, and a full scholarship at a Christian school. Then we had to make a decision!
Public or Christian
Christian schools surely promote Christian growth in children and for some families a Christian school is the right choice. But both of us went to local public primary and high schools and we felt that the experience had enabled us to develop an authentic and robust Christian faith. We also both felt that the spiritual encouragement of our children is primarily the responsibility of us, as parents, and the help we need to do can be found by being active in our local church.
Local or travel
Dave is a regular public transport user and often sees very tired kids on the train spending hours commuting across town to their school. So when it came to putting in our preferences for a selective high school, we applied for the one that was closest and most easily accessible to us by public transport. But even this would have required Harry to be out of the door at 7:30 am and riding his bike or catching a bus and then a train (for 14 minutes). The local high school is about 20 minutes’ walk from our place. The Christian school we applied for is relatively close and has a bus that passes just down the road which also made it very easy for Harry. Incorporating independence and some physical activity into his trip to school through the teenage years, Harry didn’t have to rely on us to drive him to school, which we would have taken as a priority for us as a family. We felt this was also important for him in terms of marking the step up from primary school days when he was dropped off at or walked to school every day.
Perhaps the biggest influencing factor was in what kind of environment we felt Harry had the most opportunity to grow, mentally, physically and spiritually. Every child is different but we feel Harry is a natural leader who thrives on a challenge and is able to handle a bigger school where there are plenty of opportunities to find like-minded friends and to interact with different faiths and cultures. This environment would deepen his faith and resilience as a Christian because he would have to sometimes make choices between loyalty to his friends and his loyalty to his faith, just as it happens regularly in the secular workforce. He would also have the opportunity to demonstrate and explain his faith to others without the safety-net of being in an openly Christian school. Both the local public school and the selective school would have delivered on this issue but the selective school has the added academic challenge.
Although many times we prayed and talked to Harry about the different options, we felt strongly that it was ultimately our responsibility as parents to make the final choice. Towards the end, we felt that Harry wanted us to make the decision for him anyway, and was relieved when we told him where he was going.
In the end ...
We chose the selective public school for Harry. God has answered our prayers to make him stronger spiritually, more organised, independent, and able to deal with challenges without us being there to pick up the pieces. It has been hard letting go. Driving off when we knew he’d just missed the train on his first day was tough as we’d been used to helping him for so long. But we can see the process of me letting go and him stepping up has helped him to grow so much more. His new independence and manageable travel is now a highlight of his day. He has learned much from missing the train and bus, and also learnt to take responsibility for getting himself to school on time. We can see God working in him already and helping him grow up.
When your time comes to choose high school, just remember your child will learn what’s important in life by the very factors which you have taken into consideration in making your decision. Talk through the issues as you see them with your child and then make your decision confidently, knowing that God’s purposes in your child’s life can be fulfilled in whatever school they go to.
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