I stood in the kitchen and burst into tears. Standing beside me John didn’t know whether to hug me or suggest a psychologist. My outburst was abrupt. I used to be a crier, but since I’ve gotten older, not so much.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“EG is starting kindergarten next year.” I managed to get out between sobs.
Despite having five years to prepare, I started thinking about school for my daughter before she was born. I blame this obsession on the fact that I used to be a reading teacher. I dreamed of unpacking my decodable books, sight word cards, and letter tiles to use with her.
My experience as a teacher proves to be a blessing and a curse. I’ve been in a lot of classrooms, and I’ve seen a lot of things. And like all mamas, I have high hopes and dreams for my girl along with uncertainty and fears.
Children are educated in three ways – through homeschool, private school, or public school – and I’ve made T-charts in my mind of the pros and cons for each a hundred times. Now that kindergarten is a reality on the horizon, my list making has become more frequent, bringing a low-grade anxiousness I try to ignore. I like boxes and checks, control and perfection. Everything that life is not.
But as always, God is faithful to reveal to me more of my true self when answering questions such as “Where should our daughter go to kindergarten?” and less of giving me a pretty answer with a bow on top. Through wrestling with my T-charts, He’s opened my eyes to a deeper sense of how He sees children and schools, and He’s shattered some of my perceptions.
No school is perfect.
This sounds like an obvious observation, but my thoughts and conversations sometimes reflect that I believe one school is perfect. But for every pro I can give to each of the types of schools above, I can also give a con.
For example, lack of diversity is not good. It will not benefit my daughter to rarely see a child of a different race, socioeconomic background, or developmental level. It’s not good for her to be isolated from children with disabilities – physical, emotional, or intellectual. It is good for her to be long-suffering, even at her expense sometimes, when a classmate is struggling in some area.
Practicing empathy and compassion makes my daughter more like Jesus by taking her focus off of herself and onto others. It gives her a servant’s heart and prepares her with an eternal worldview.
Lack of diversity is a characteristic of homeschool and private school that I don’t like. Because let’s keep it real, there’s typically not a lot of diversity with these types of schooling.
At the same time, I taught in public schools for a long time. There are many aspects parents don’t see. Like no matter how much a parent is told their child is receiving individualized instruction, he or she is most likely not. Why? Is it because the school, teacher, or administration is bad? Is it because they’re lazy? Is it because they don’t care? No. It’s because it’s almost impossible.
Think about it. With a classroom of about 28 students, how can one teacher possibly differentiate instruction for each child? She can’t. Then enters crummy practices like tracking or denying low-performing students extra tutoring since they probably won’t contribute to the school’s test score goals. I watched students in my fourth grade classroom who were reading on a first grade level denied extra tutoring because they would most likely still not pass the standardized test and benefit the school.
Lack of individualized instruction is not good. Curriculum based on bureaucracy instead of best practices is not good. An over importance of standardized tests is not good. These are big reasons why parents choose homeschool or private school.
No school is perfect. But here’s the good news – God is perfect. He is sovereign over all aspects of a child’s life, and He uses each child’s school experience for His glory, to fulfill the purposes He has for that child’s future.
God is sovereign, so there should be no fear.
One day several years ago God showed me that the imperfections in my daughter’s life are what He’s using to make her into the woman He designed her to be with the calling He ordained for her. In other words, God uses it all for good. Even the horrible, yucky stuff. Because no matter how hard I try, she’s going to have yuck in her life. And guess what? Some of that yuck is going to be from me.
Of course I don’t want my daughter to suffer. Ever. But I know that suffering is inevitable because we live in a broken world, and through suffering will she come to know and love Jesus. It’s hard to realize our need for Jesus without suffering.
Think for a minute about the children in the Old Testament who God placed on purpose in environments and homes that were not God-honoring. A few are Joseph, Moses, and Samuel.
Although it was a time of spiritual drought in Israel, God protected Samuel from evil influence in answer to the faithful believing prayers of his mother, Hannah.”
(Community Bible Study. A Return to Jerusalem. Volume 1, Community Bible Study, 2016, p. 6)
When Joseph and Moses went to live with Egyptians and Samuel went to live in the Jewish temple (Samuel’s mom gave him to God to be raised in the Jewish temple, but under Eli’s authority, the judge at the time, life in the tabernacle was not God-honoring), God was there and even orchestrated the whole thing. Then look at how God used their lives later?
The events in my daughter’s life now are building blocks for what’s to come. God orchestrating them for His glory and purposes. Knowing this brings me peace because there’s something bigger at stake than just a school.
It’s not about me. It’s about my daughter.
Recently I read a Facebook post where someone wrote that they homeschool their children because otherwise they’d miss them too much. Missing your children isn’t a healthy reason to homeschool. In fact, that is a western-culture, first-world kind of mentality. I’m guilty of these types of mentalities myself, so I spot them early on.
The questions I’ve been asking myself over the past few weeks are, “What is the best school for EG within the circumstances of what I can give her?” and “Which school is God leading her to that will help her grow into the person He has ordained her to be?”
It’s not about me. It’s about her.
Will that require some sacrifice from me? Probably. Will that require me to lay down some ideas I have about how I think she should be educated or maybe even the idol of control that I’m holding onto? Maybe. But my decision should always be about my child, not about me.
We live in a culture with many choices. This is a blessing, but often it doesn’t feel that way. If you’re like me you stand at the fork in the road, looking at the three paths ahead, paralyzed with making the wrong decision. However, there is no wrong decision. For one, each day is a new day. Each week, month, and year is new, too. Changes can be made.
But most importantly, God is sovereign. He is sovereign over all of our choices and all of our schools. His plans will prevail despite us. This truth should give us peace.