About this time every year many families are praying through their schooling plan for next Fall. Though it’s a heavy subject for those in the thick of decision-making, the up-side is we have so many options to choose from!
Just to name a few possibilities, you could educate your children through the public school you’re zoned for or maybe a different public school. You could do a charter school or a private school. Then there’s online schooling, homeschooling, or a hybrid option of sorts. Not all of these are viable choices for every family’s context, but you probably have at least 2 options to pick from. And for that reason, it’s not a bad idea to yearly, open handedly, ask God what’s best for your family.
Schooling, of course, is a loaded topic, and over simplification helps no one. Nevertheless I’ll state my position simply: All options have potential to be great options. Each family has freedom insofar as they filter their decision through prayer, biblical priorities, and godly motives. Which often will lead families in differing directions.
With that said, here are 10 questions that may help with the filtering process:
#1 What initially seems best for your family?
Schooling is a decision that affects the whole family (not just the school-aged kid). It often impacts family time, marriage, sanity, and the little ones in the home.
So considering home dynamics, work schedules, ministry commitments, personalities, responsibilities, and ages of kids — what seems like the best fit? In other words, with life as you know it, what do you want? This is not the most important factor, in fact we’re sometimes called to do things we don’t prefer, but it’s helpful to at least clarify our preferences (even so we can put them aside as we think through more crucial factors in this decision process).
#2 Which option allows you to best disciple your child?
Without a doubt, you need to invest in the souls of your kids, and this is of utmost importance! Every schooling method is going to have it’s advantages and disadvantages in this regard.
If I can be direct, if you homeschool your kids or send them to a Christian school, discipling your kids is no less important than if you send them to a public school. In fact, a potential danger of homeschool/private school is assuming biblical discipleship is automatically happening (whether or not it is).
All that to say, spiritual investment is hard work no matter the education method. So think realistically about your plan to train your kids, and make sure you’re ready to give it all you got with whatever schooling method you choose (There’s a whole lot more to say on this specific aspect of schooling and I hope to write more about it soon!).
#3 What would meet your kids needs academically?
An academic education is not everything, but obviously it’s an important reason we do the whole school thing. Even from a spiritual standpoint, it’s important we raise kids who can think well, and will be competent influential members of society.
The most rigorous education isn’t necessary, but it is necessary to consider which method will get the job done well. For example, some parents know, deep down, that educating their kids is not their strength (so homeschooling is out). On the other hand, some kids don’t learn well in the typical classroom setting. Or some parents feel their kids need to be challenged beyond what certain options provide.
Again, academics isn’t everything — but it is something.
#4 What will best prepare your child for the future?
Not only do we want to invest spiritually and academically, we want character development and life skills to be emphasized. Every schooling method has it’s varied benefits in this regard.
Think through categories such as your child’s ability to interact with other kids and respect authority. Or their ability to work in the home, work hard, and work independently. Consider whether they’re developing a love of learning and critical-thinking skills. Think through their capacity to wisely engage with the culture and be a light to non-Christians. You could even think through the way different methods will allocate time for these different categories.
No method will teach everything, but you should be choosing their education with these considerations in mind (while actively making up for the weaknesses of your schooling method).
#5 Will you prioritize your local church with the option you are considering?
Sadly, this is an oft-overlooked component in our decision making. Each of us is a member of the body of Christ, and like a body part, we should play an integral role in the functioning of the church (1 Corinthians 12). If your schooling choice (or any involvements for that matter) hinder your ability to meaningfully engage and serve in your church, then something needs to change — and if it’s a schooling change, then change it should.
#6 Has your current method of schooling been harmful or helpful?
Since schooling effects so many aspects of life, consider whether your current set up has been more harmful or helpful. No need to quit at the first sign of difficulty, but if things aren’t going well (spiritually, relationally, financially, practically, etc), it could be time to try something new.
On the other hand, if schooling has been going well, perhaps you should reconsider the fact that you don’t need to reconsider a different schooling method (as odd as that sounds, external pressure from what other families say or do can make parents feel burdened to unnecessarily change methods).
#7 What is the wisest use of your resources?
Whether it be money, skills, or time—we should invest our resources carefully (Matthew 25:14-30).
This may mean you pay for a private Christian education, or it may mean you don’t, so you have the funds for other godly purposes. This may mean you use your ability to teach your kids at home, or it may mean you send them somewhere (even for a couple days a week) so you can use those hours elsewhere.
Basically we want to see everything we have as from the Lord, and seek to use it for kingdom priorities.
#8 What would benefit your child most right now?
What are your child’s current needs? Maybe multiple methods could address the issues, but do specific issues narrow down your options?
Some parents have changed schooling routes (even mid year) to break ties with detrimental influences. I know a mom who prefers the daily 30 to 1 classroom ratio so her kids can learn they aren’t the center of the universe. Some families keep their kids home for a few years to work on specific character issues. In some situations, parents need to seek out schools that provide extra academic help.
Maybe you need to choose a certain education route for just the next year to wisely handle where your child’s at.
#9 What allows you to be godly parents?
This might seem like an odd question, but it’s important to consider. The truth is, no matter the form of schooling, your children are learning the most from watching you.
Put another way, if any type of schooling is going to make you a frenzied unholy mess, than it’s probably not a good option! On the other hand, if a certain method allows you to have daily time in God’s word, or quality prayer time, or maintain a hospitable home, or display godliness in any other fashion, that should weigh in to the decision.
# 10 Does your conscience tell you a certain method is the right choice for your kids?
To the disappointment of indecisive parents everywhere, the Bible doesn’t specify what schooling method is best. As Romans 14 discusses, there is freedom to choose among the grey areas of life. When it comes to making these decisions Romans 14:5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” In other words, a clear conscience is a key component, provided our motives are to honor the Lord (Romans 14:6).
In many ways, we should leave this topic understanding that, biblically speaking, the default position for schooling is there is no default position. God instructs us to raise our children in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), and we can delegate their education to whatever means is most prudent.The default position for schooling is: there is no default position. Click To Tweet
For those tempted to stress about the decision, don’t forget, schooling is not a forever decision. You can try a method, and you can switch things mid-year if necessary. You’re simply making the best decision you can, and if you are truly asking for God’s will, he can change your course if need be.
While I’m sure there are more factors worth considering, hopefully this provides a helpful starting point for those in decision mode. All in all, let’s hold the options out with open hands, ready to head in whatever direction God leads. And then let’s pray, pray, pray — pray for wisdom, pray God guides, and pray he uses whatever method we choose to grow our children into who he wants them to be.