Last year we completed our secondary schooling for the very last time – our third child finished High School and we celebrated!
Over the years we have sent our kids to a variety of schools, because we have geographically moved around and also because I had to revisit our initial decisions made – that’s right as parents we don’t always get it “right” the first time around and we need to be open to change. The schools we have been a part of include Christian schools, where they actively teach and encourage children to have a real and vibrant faith; public school; Catholic school; and pseudo-Christian schools – that have values and ethics reflect Christian thinking but the majority of kids are not Christian or pursuing their own Christian faith.
I started out keen to send my kids to a Christian school. For the first few years I was thrilled. But the school principal changed and I found that dramatically changed within the school that was not obvious in the lower primary. What was sweet and smooth became our nightmare and anguish. Staff were encouraged to be very punitive towards children, simple spelling mistakes resulted in punishment, and isolating children for punishment purposes. I found this rather difficult to watch as school was doing these things under the name of “God”. The picture being painted to my children was of a cruel punishing God. Children were being taught to respond in fear, and rather than faith. So mixing school and faith together stopped working for us.
At that point I drew the line as I was more concerned about their long term faith formation and how they saw God. We moved on. This doesn’t mean I am either for or against Christian education.
But this is what I've learned.
Blanket statements don't work
To make a blanket statement that Christian education is better than public schools is simply not the way to approach the decision. Each school is highly impacted by the principal and senior staff. To make that decision you need to make it case by case – don’t sacrifice your children’s faith formation – which is largely comes from the home and church. Don’t sacrifice your child’s education for Christian schooling.
Different strategies for different kids
Some children are best in a Christian school others are not. We transferred our oldest boy into a public high school because we felt sure his calling was to be in business world. We wanted him to know about his generation and how to reach his generation. We didn’t think he would do well in a small insular environment that mixed faith and schooling. He got to see the contrast between school community and church community as well. That led him to his own decision to invest into his long term Christian friendships. Another one of my kids is very academically inclined. We felt the need to place her in a school that would allow her to feel “normal” in her pursuit of academics and not be isolated as a “nerd”. Different strategies for different kids – but we needed faith and wisdom for each of them.
We can change our minds
As parents we can change our minds! Children are able to change schools and go through hard times if needed. Whilst not every child finds it easy to make changes, it is good for them and we shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves to get it right the first time and not be open to change. We shouldn’t fear about getting it wrong or living with a decision we first thought was right and turned sour – make a change. Children are more robust than we give them credit.
Family is the best place to nurture faith
Does your commitment to private/Christian school add stress to your finances and hence your home life? Does it make you or your spouse work longer hours and have less time and energy for your kids. Family is the best place to nurture faith. We can’t outsource our role as parents and pastors to our children. We as parents are the disciple maker of our children. My children have finished school and I am still discliping them. If sending your children to a Christian/private school creates a family lifestyle that results in no time and/or energy to have prayer times together, attend church, serve in church, read the bible together – then it may not be worth it.