Raising kids is a big responsibility, and choosing how to educate those kids is one of the most important decisions parents face. Before I explain why our family chose public school, I want to preface this entire post by emphasizing that I am in no way arguing that public school ought to be what you choose. There are many, many factors that influence parents’ decisions on how to educate their child(ren), and each family must consider their own unique circumstances. This post is simply about our experience and our decision, but I hope it may help others to think through public school as an option for their family. Below are some questions my husband and I thought through when making this decision.
What is realistic?
The first question we thought through was regarding which options were actually possible for our family. My husband and I are members of a local church that we dearly love, and there is a wonderful private school affiliated with the church. For our family though, private school tuition for three children is not wise financially. So to be honest, we really never considered private school. This decision was made not because we don’t think private school can be great, but because it simply was not realistic for us. Sometimes (often, really) schooling options will be ruled out simply by what is possible. In our situation, this was actually a relief because it narrowed down the choices and made the decision less stressful.
Similarly, home schooling was technically possible for us, but it is not practical. My husband and I both work full-time so time-wise, home schooling isn’t realistic. We both love our jobs and feel that we are serving others with our professions while still being present and active in the lives of our children. I went to school for a (really) long time to do what I do today, and my field is one in which it is extremely difficult to leave for a period of time and then return later. If I quit my job, it is likely the end of my career in higher education. My husband has no interest in being a homeschooling dad. And so homeschooling is not realistic either. This post could end right here and I could tell you that we chose public school by ruling out the other two options. But as with most big decisions, this choice was more nuanced than that.
What do we believe is the purpose of schooling?
This is likely to vary, at least to some degree, from family to family. We wanted a school where our kids would learn to read and write and do math and kick a ball. Public school fit the bill. We wanted a school where our kids would be exposed to (and befriend!) kids who are not like them and who look, act, or believe differently. We picked a certain school based on the diversity there for this very reason. We also want our kids to learn how to interact with others who are different from them now, while they are young and living in our home, where we can shape and influence them and help them to develop a worldview that we as their parents adhere to. We believe that public school is providing that opportunity in a unique way.
What is good for the child and our family?
We are fortunate to live in an area with excellent public schools. We purposefully bought a house in an area where we knew the public schools were strong. Yet I fully recognize that not everyone has access to great public schools, and this is yet another reason why school choice is such a personal, individualized decision. Our oldest child has just completed kindergarten, so we are still quite new at this. Our daughter does not have special needs nor any unique circumstances that required consideration and influenced this decision in any particular way. For some families, circumstances unique to the child will play an important role in the school decision.
What is good for our community?
We believe that strong public schools are good for the community and that participation in local schools is an important contribution to that community. That said, I’m definitely not arguing that every child should attend their local public school or that it’s somehow wrong to make a different choice. We want to see the same families at school, the library, the pool, and the park so that we can get to know them as families and as neighbors. Areas where public schools are excellent enjoy high property values, and people want to move to those communities. While I would never sacrifice my children on the altar of community, so to speak, I do view participation in public school as a wise investment in our community.
What has our own educational experience been like?
It’s natural for parents to consider their own educational experiences when choosing education for their children. Of course, just because a parent had a great experience in any type of schooling doesn’t mean that their child will have the same experience, but family traditions and experiences are important to acknowledge. For us, we both attended public high school and I attended public school all of my life. My parents were public school educators for their entire careers (my dad just retired after 45 years in public education!), and my husband is a public school teacher himself. It would be foolish not to acknowledge that our histories impacted the choice we made for our own kids. After all, the only experiences we can ever have are our own.
Can we still be the primary influencers of our children if we make this choice?
While we believe our public school is great, we don’t want the school or the teachers (however great they may be) to be the primary influence on our children. Sending your child to school each day is sometimes scary, because we don’t have control over all that she hears and is exposed to. But this also forces us as parents to take full responsibility for her social, moral, and spiritual development. In our particular case, we desire for our kids to develop a worldview centered on the Bible. That’s obviously not the goal of public school, so we cannot rely at all upon the school to teach those things. All responsibility to impart those things, then, falls to us as parents, and we cannot be tempted to rely on any other source. Sending our kids to public school requires that I work hard to intentionally help my kids learn what I want them to learn. It’s accountability for me as the parent, and I think that’s good.
We think public school will help our kids develop academically and socially. I’m sure that private schooling and homeschooling could achieve those goals too. I also believe that a good decision here is one that can be re-evaluated at a later date. Sometimes things happen to change your mind, or new information comes to light. The bottom line is that educating children is a big decision and a very personal one. Mamas, I hope you have much success in making this decision and then you can confidently rest in that choice you make.