Over the past several months, I have been sharing about different educational models and how you can use them to encourage your kids in their faith and character. We have looked at the benefits of homeschooling, homeschooling with co-ops, homeschooling with an eclectic approach, and the University Model® school thus far. Please check them out if you are interested in any of these great approaches to education!
This month I have interviewed Julia, a mom who has raised two wonderful kids who follow the Lord and are now in college and graduate school. She has had some insightful experiences when her kids attended Christian private schools that she is going to share with us. Thank you Julia!
What was your kids’ educational experiences like when they were growing up with you and your husband?
Our kids have experienced public school, private school and homeschool! I’m a firm believer that each child is unique, and has unique educational needs that change as the child grows and develops. In this interview I am talking specifically about our experience with Christian private school. Our daughter attended a Christian private school in Virginia from 2012-2015, for her Sophomore through Senior years in high school. Our son attended a Christian private school in Texas from 2015-2017, his Junior and Senior years in high school.
What made you decide to put your children in private school in high school?
The decisions to put our children in private school during high school were for different reasons, but both as a result of moving to a new area. You see, my husband works for a large multi-national oil company, and we moved about every 3-4 years.
We lived overseas for almost four years, where we had the children in private school for almost two years. We realized very quickly that although the school had a Saint in the name, there was very little that was Christian in the teaching. Consequently, we then homeschooled them for the remaining two years.
When we moved back to the U.S. our daughter was a rising Freshman, and we sent her to our local public school. It was a medium-sized school, by today’s standards – roughly 450 in her class. However, we soon realized that it was just too much of a shock for her to go from homeschooling overseas, to an American public high school. Midway through her Freshman year, we began to look for alternatives and landed on a very conservative Christian school that educated students K-12.
We moved to Texas the summer after our daughter graduated, and before our son’s Junior year. We considered moving him to our local public high school because he had done so well in the public high school in Virginia. However, when we visited the schools in the area where we were house hunting, we were shocked to learn how large the schools were – roughly 1000 students per class, We were also told that the students would have to choose between band and sports – both of which were very important to our son! We investigated and visited several private Christian schools in the area, and chose one that was for grades 9-12.
What do you feel are the advantages of private Christian schools?
Our daughter’s Christian education truly was phenomenal! Each year she had a Bible class that was a very in-depth theological study taught by teachers who had Masters degrees in Theology. Her senior year, each student had to write a 20+ page thesis and then defend their views in front of a faculty panel – including the headmaster. This experience really challenged her to wrestle with her beliefs. Because of the small classes, she really felt like she got to know her teachers on a personal basis. When she got to college, not only was she exceptionally prepared academically, but was also prepared spiritually to confront the numerous attacks on her faith.
Our son benefitted more from the size of the school, rather than from the excellence of Christian training. Although Bible classes were taught, it was more from the standpoint of general Bible principles rather than truly training the minds for Christ. The benefit here was that the culture of the school was supportive of the Christian faith, rather than hostile as many schools are today. He was able to participate in band, jazz band, and a number of sports. This helped him find his place quickly among the student body.
Additionally, both schools encouraged the prayer support of parents. In each school, I was involved in the Mom’s in Prayer group which met on campus. The administration and staff of each school truly valued and were engaged in the work of the prayer group. This was very different from my experience at the public school where our group had to meet offsite, and had to function as somewhat of a clandestine operation.
What were your kid’s experiences in private school?
The experiences of our kids in private school were completely different. Part of the difference in experience can be explained by the disparity in vision of the two schools.
Our Virginia Christian private school’s vision:
By God’s grace, through his word and Spirit, we seek to transform students by the renewing of their minds after the image of him who created them. We desire to bring into conscious subjection to God what has been redeemed in and through Christ.
Our Texas Christian private school’s vision:
Our students are cultivated to become discerning, well-rounded, accountable servant leaders, ready to impact the world for Christ.
One is not necessarily better than the other – just different. The Virginia school required the students to take a Bible knowledge test prior to acceptance and required the parents to sign a statement of faith prior to registration. They were completely unapologetic about their approach to “educating students to the glory of God.” The Texas school described their approach more as “seeker-friendly.” They accepted any student, but then sought to expose them to the gospel of Christ through the religious education and chapel services.
Both of our kids are very thankful for their Christian private school experiences. They both felt supported spiritually, and cared for emotionally. Both of them were able to participate in the activities of their choice, and developed friendships with strong believers.
Our daughter had more of a challenge “breaking in” to the friend groups. I think that this was primarily because her school was K-12, and many of the students had been together since Kindergarten.
What drawbacks do you see in a private Christian school?
The main drawback that I see (other than the tuition bill) is that depending on the school, there can be a lack of diversity among the student body. Most of the students may look similar, have similar backgrounds, and think similarly. This can be helpful in their formative years, but can be challenging when the student gets out into the world and is exposed to different thoughts and beliefs while in college.
What would you recommend looking for in a Christian private school to ensure kids will get a solid Christian education and good influences?
I think that we, as parents, need to see ourselves as our kids’ primary Christian educators. With that being said, if you are looking for the school to actually teach Christian beliefs and values, then I would suggest looking for a school that has a vision similar to the one of the Virginia school. The vision of the school can reveal a great deal about their teaching philosophy.
Additionally, it helps to talk with other parents at the school and ask them questions about the philosophy and instruction. You can also learn more by speaking with some of the key leaders at the school.
How have the Christian private schools your kids were a part of helped you to raise them to know, love, and follow the Lord?
Both of the schools clearly supported the teaching that our kids were already getting at home. They both provided an environment where our kids felt comfortable talking about their faith with their teachers and peers. Hearing Christian principles taught by adults in positions of authority, other than their parents, was also helpful. The influence of peers, especially in the high school years, is significant. It was very helpful to know the families of our kids’ friends, and to know that for the most part that we shared similar Christian values.
To a mom considering a Christian private school, what would be your biggest piece of advice?
Pray! Pray! Pray! Our kid’s are under attack on a daily basis, regardless of our school choice. We are not to operate out of fear, but from a place of wisdom and obedience. Take the time to truly listen to your kids on a daily basis. Listen for their concerns, challenges, insecurities, and lift them up in prayer. Most importantly, listen for the Lord’s leading and act accordingly!
Thank you, Julia, for sharing the insights and wisdom that you have gleaned from educating your children. I know this information will be very helpful to parents thinking about what type of educational model is best for their children. As we seek the Lord for wisdom, He promises to direct our paths!