The school chosen by parents will vary from family to family due to all sorts of situations and circumstances. A family in Broken Hill may have no choices—another family in suburban Sydney may have many choices. Also, each of our children is different and unique. The school that suits one child will not necessarily suit the other. The following are some options along with some pros and cons that we have taken from years of involvement in different schools and school systems.
In virtually all Christian schools, your child will be taught by Christian teachers. There are some Christian schools that will give your children a clear biblical understanding of the world in which they live as they educate from a biblical perspective. There are other Christian schools that will teach your children a legalism that may turn them away from the fear of the Lord and godly wisdom.
Many church schools employ non-Christian staff. As with Christian schools, there are some church schools that will give your children a clear biblical understanding of the world in which they live as they educate from a biblical perspective. But there are other church schools that will teach your children a dualism where God is separate from his world and is largely irrelevant. This also may turn your children away from the fear of the Lord and godly wisdom.
With state schools, what you see is what you get. Many state schools educate well but will never teach from a biblical perspective. Some state schools have Christian parents and teachers who will support Christian students through Inter-School Christian Fellowship (ISCF), Crusaders or similar lunchtime groups and Special Religious Education (SRE). There will be minimal or no support for your child to understand the fear of the Lord through state schooling.
This is an option where you are able to fulfil your responsibilities as a parent in teaching your child from biblical principles, while equipping your child to live in this world as one of God’s people. In some ways it is the most ‘biblical option’ to schooling. However, it does assume you know what you are doing. It has the danger of producing children who cannot relate to the world around them. Some parents have addressed this problem by meeting with others who home school, working together and providing strong social interaction.
But you haven’t told us which school!
In the end, you are of course free to make your own decisions on schooling. However, recognise that some schools will support your educative goals and others will not. If you are Christian and have your child enrolled in a good Christian school or church school, the support of your Christian ideals will be great and you will reap many benefits. However, you are not to
hand your responsibilities over to the school but should see that the school is working alongside you to enable you to fulfil your responsibilities as a Christian parent.
If your child is enrolled in a state school, recognise clearly that you will need to spend considerably more time working with your children to enable them to understand the world from God’s perspective. For example, teaching the acceptance of homosexuality, divorce, sex outside marriage, evolution and not creation, etc, will be commonplace. God will be talked about as irrelevant, if not non-existent. There will be many times when you will need to ‘unteach’ and ‘reteach’.
Remember that whichever school you choose, things keep changing—the school philosophy, teachers, classmates, individual attention and needs. Know what is happening in your school and with each child—never sit back and relax.
Timing the choice
If you determine that it is best for your family to send your child to a church or Christian school, one of the questions is: ‘When should they start?’
Often we are tempted to think that it is high school that ‘matters’ the most. However, the old Jesuit maxim, ‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,’ suggests that most of what our children learn in attitude and behaviour is learned in the first seven years of life. High school is merely an expression of earlier learned attitudes and behaviours with the newfound confidence of adolescence. Perhaps it is more logical to send your children to the school that best supports your Christian teaching at home in the early years, and then to the state schools, if appropriate, when they are secure in their thinking and faith later in their lives. Something to think about!
Evangelism: Think Outside the Square
Beware of making your child the pawn in your evangelistic zeal for state school families. You are free and able to be involved in your local state school―some examples are teaching SRE, the canteen roster, P&C meetings, etc―whether your child is enrolled or not.
The Sovereignty of God
Parents, be assured: the Christian commitment and faith of your child does not rest in which school they attend (nor does it rest in your success or failure as a parent). It rests in the hand of our sovereign and gracious God. What we must do is prayerfully and faithfully instruct our children in the wisdom of God, entrusting them to his care and will.
But if we are to make good decisions, we need to know what God sees as important and to let this guide us in our choice of school.
For Judy and Tony, as we ‘captained’ the ‘team’, the ‘coach’ had words to say like:
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
From these words we see that parents have the God-given responsibility to educate their children in the fear and wisdom of the Lord. Fear in this context is not so much being afraid of God so that we avoid him, but rather a respect for God and who he is.
This then changes our focus. When thinking about choosing a school for our child, we no longer see their learning outcomes purely in terms of the most prestigious profession for our child. Rather, we consider whether they will serve God and others by applying his gospel to their lives. We will still rightly desire the best education for our children with the resources available to us, but subjected to God’s wider purpose for us and our children in this world.
How Does All This Affect Our Choice of School?
For Christian people, essentially we want a place that will allow and assist our children to grow up understanding who God is and how they can serve him and others in his world. This means that the only school we won’t consider is a school that is hostile toward this goal and teaches and practises against the truth of the Bible. All other areas are a matter of freedom.
The best school for one child is not necessarily the best for another.