(I'm pretty sure that "Philosophy of Education" was a class Josh took in college. I probably stole it for my title. Grace College, please forgive me.)
Disclaimer: This is likely to be a long winded post full of my musings on life, parenting, faith and how I/we (my husband and I) are striving to do these things well. If you aren't interested, no biggie :) Catch ya on the flip side! :)
Longer Disclaimer: Most of my readers/friends/family know that we are a family of faith. Since I link to Facebook for my blog posts often, I wanted to reiterate that...since not everyone I'm friends shares my views(understandably), but this post has a lot to do with our faith background and therefore I'm going to pull from that a lot.
I am/we are, unequivocally and unapologetically a family of faith. Specifically, we are Jesus followers! There have been many ways to describe our particular faith, and there are many different denominations today that seem to fall under the "Christian" umbrella. We aren't Catholic. We aren't Mormon, or Jehovah's witnesses :) Josh and I both grew up with a protestant (mostly Baptist) background. Today, we attend a church that doesn't subscribe to a denomination, but does a stellar job of following and doing their best to adhere to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what we believe its all about: Knowing and following the person and work of Jesus Christ. I'm not a Baptist. I'm not even Grace Brethren. (love you Grace College!) We believe in the written word of God, the Holy Bible. We believe it is sufficient for life and godliness. We believe that Jesus, God's son died on the cross to stand in the gap for us. We believe that because of our position in Christ, when God looks at us, he sees the cross, instead of our sin. We are redeemed because we have put our faith in Jesus! We believe there is one way to eternity with God and living life well on earth=JESUS. No confusion, right? That's pretty clear, eh? :) Great. Now that I've defined what faith looks like for us, lets move along. :)
I've had many friends/family ask me how we decided to pursue the route of public education for Owen (and likely our other children). Well, friends, family, that is a loaded question. That journey of researching, soul searching, praying, seeking and pleading for wisdom began about 8-9 months ago when we needed to pre-register Owen for Kindergarten at his preschool, Traders Point Christian Academy if we wanted to continue there. We began to consider our options.
Before I delve into the choices we faced, I just want to say...don't you think its great that we are ALL different? God created us to be have convictions about different things, and I think that's wonderful. Imagine if we ALL did the same thing?! Blah. I'm grateful for diversity and the freedom God allows to parent differently and still honor Him in the process. While some of my friends may be driven to school their child(ren) one way, and we are driven in another direction...this doesn't mean either of us are making a wrong decision. I completely believe God can (and IS) be honored within different parenting styles.
Option #1 : Homeschooling. While homeschooling certainly is a viable option and many of our dear friends love it, do it well and know it is the best decision for their family, homeschooling is not for us. We've never questioned that we felt God was leading us to have our children be in a physical school setting. Among other things, we like the fact that our children will be exposed to different types of educators other than their own parents. (Even if these educators don't share our faith or personal views! I know...gasp! :)) We enjoyed attending school (you know, for the most part), and hope with the right perspective and support at home we can encourage our children to be contributing members within their school setting, spiritually, academically, etc. Lastly, on the homeschooling front....I personally feel really, really uncomfortable being my children's academic teacher. I feel really confident in some areas, but know without a doubt that I would be doing them a disservice if I tried to impart knowledge or teach concepts in certain areas. I am not a teacher. I am a listener, I am a helper, I am...many different things, but an actual academic teacher...I am not. I am so glad that there are wonderful people out there who are called to this profession and went to school to further their education and be licensed in their field. This is not me. I could read books, follow curriculum, but I do not possess the skills I believe adequate to instruct my child well in every academic venue he/she would need to be instructed in...nor do I want to. :) I'm a big "it takes a village to raise a child" advocate. I love that my children learn from others. I welcome it, I embrace it. I welcome even the stuff I don't welcome :) There is confrontation in this world. There is and will be resistance to what we personally value and believe. (no matter how you school your children, they will face this) We have to be able to teach our children to work through these challenges...even at a young age, I believe its so important. Moving on....
Option #2: Christian Education. Obviously, we considered this. At one point I was confident that we would be sending Owen to Traders Point for kindergarten next year. We "like" and consider many things in Christian Education to be helpful, especially at a young age. We talked about how we found it valuable to surround our kids with Christian values and support at a young age so when they were older they would be more equipped to handle opposition to their faith and "the world at large". To be honest, we were confident that this is the route we would take in early education until God changed both of our minds at about the same time. :) We learned a few things about the school that we would be sending Owen to that we weren't especially excited about. We also started to talk more about our own experience in Christian Education (Josh and I both attended Christian school k-12...I was homeschooled 3-5 grade). While we felt it certainly had value and it did help shape our faith...we both truly felt that Christian education had the potential to be more damaging spiritually, that it had the potential to be beneficial. Obviously, this is taken from our perspective and our individual experiences. We also draw a lot from being sponsors at our high school youth group at College Park and seeing our public school kids be genuine leaders and have authentic hearts for Jesus...while the majority (not all, but a good percentage) of the Christian school kids became apathetic, stagnant in their faith ....and we saw some walk away from faith altogether. This apathy, stagnation and turning from faith is what I/we personally witnessed in my own school. While some certainly did have a heart for God and were genuine in their desires to be a follower of Jesus, MOST did not. Most had been fed a diet of Christianity, rules and regulations their entire lives and by the time they entered the critical stage of high school were either tired of it or done with it altogether. Josh and I talked a lot about how we could prevent that with our own children someday.
Option #3: Public Education. Early(ish) in our marriage, this is what Josh and I both believed we would do with our children. Ya'll know that we recently moved out of Indianapolis (Pike Township) to Brownsburg...for many reasons, but the biggest being that we wanted to be in a better location for public schools. I won't lie, with the decision right before us, we started to get nervous. After all, these are our precious babies that we are in essence sending out in to the world! Seriously, nothing about being a parent is for the weak of heart. But...when it came down to it...deciding on public education had me really looking at the core values of my life! Why did I desire to become a parent in the first place? Why did God give me these children? What am I to do with them?! (seriously I ask myself that question every day!! :) I tried to answer these seemingly basic questions. Well, I desired children. God placed something in me that wanted to mother. I wanted to parent because I wanted to pass on a life of faith and values....but at what cost? Did I want my children to inherit my faith? Certainly! But I wanted that passing of the torch to be all about the work of Jesus Christ in their life....leading them....drawing them...and NOTHING about me. Sure, I want them to have an example to look at...to draw upon, but man am I a sinner! Geez do I mess up ROYALLY! I want no part of my children to grow up thinking that they have Jesus because their parents had Jesus. Or that they have faith because they grew up in a Christian school or a church. When the time comes for them to make a stand and claim faith....I want it to be that without a doubt, Jesus Christ has stamped His names on their hearts and they have felt and recognized that pull on their lives. No confusion...its all about Him and what He has done...its not about us and what we have done! This line of thinking eventually led us to believe that public school was the best choice for us. Academically, the elementary that our kids will attend has passed ISTEP at a rate of 94%. We feel pretty good about that. Spiritually, we know that there are believers at this elementary school, but of course we know that our faith won't be capitalized on or celebrated. This has caused us to have several honest and valuable conversations with Owen about what he will face in this world. Obviously, he is five so we've done our best to explain in a way that is useful and understandable to him. We will continue to receive excellent support from our church in the way of AWANA, Sunday School, VBS and other special programs. We know the real work is for us at home, which would be true no matter how we schooled our children. We hope to help grow children that have such a heart for Jesus and the gospel that putting them in public school will honor God and help point others to His fame and glory. I'm not saying it will be easy. It will be work, we will be met with challenges and we of course run the risk that our children will choose difficult paths. We run that risk living life in this world....no matter what! Having children is a risk! We can't control them...we have to end with knowing and believing that they are on loan to us from God for a season...and that we have the big responsibility to love on them and instruct them in the best way we know how...for such a short time! So short it hurts my heart! :) (don't make me cry! ;))
At the end of the day, this all has to be about weighing the benefits against the risks. Knowing ourselves as parents, knowing our children...considering all of the factors...and good grief...trusting the LORD! So. This is where we are coming from. This is where we are and the direction we are headed in. We hope and pray for God's covering over our children. For his favor and grace to be upon them. We trust and know that He is Good and move forward knowing that he knows better than we will ever know what is good and right for our babes. We pray for sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit and trust that God will move us when we need to be moved!
I want to reiterate, that this is what God has led US to. We know that God leads different families in different directions for His glory and purpose. I truly do not sit back and think any of my friends who are doing things differently than we are are doing it wrong. And I know I can expect the same respect from you in return :)
On that note...I've taken almost the entire nap time to get this out. :) I need to wrap up and make dinner, get laundry done and concentrate on Owen's first day of school tomorrow! He is pretty excited and you can be sure that I'll have pictures and updates to come.
Thanks for listening...and for possibly partnering with us in prayer as we look to raise our children to know and follow hard after Jesus!