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, the University Model® school  and Christian private schools thus far.   Please check them out if you are interested in any of these great approaches to education!

My next interview is with Kelly, our pastor’s wife and wonderful mom of three amazing boys, ages 12, 14, and 17.  Her family started Declaration Church in Spring, Texas and has served the church and surrounding community for the past four years. Her kids have attended public school for eleven years, and she has a passion to encourage her kids in their relationship with the Lord.  Kelly, thank you for sharing your public school experiences with us!

Declaration Church launch at Snyder Elementary School

What gives you a passion to raise your kids to follow the Lord? 

 I had a beautiful example of motherhood.  She loved the Lord and she loved Him in front of us.  She loved my dad in the good and the hardest of times.  She loved my bother and me when we succeeded AND when we failed.  The biggest thing I learned from my mom in regards to parenting is that the Lord loves them more than I do, and my energy is BEST SPENT praying for them.  

What have you learned through this process of raising your kids to follow the Lord?

I had a very enjoyable and happy childhood.  I think originally my desire to raise children that followed the Lord was a bit selfish.  I wanted them to be happy; I wanted to recreate for them what I had!  And to then grow up, have a good life, and be good people!  I didn’t want them to be bad teenagers that got into trouble or ruined their life.  The only problem with that thinking, I have now learned, is that it put all the weight on me to parent them perfectly (which I can’t) and all to achieve a goal that might not even be the Lord’s. 

God is gently washing away fear and control in my parenting, and so I can say today that my desire to raise my kids to follow the Lord is out of joy as I watch them learn and grow.  There is even joy in watching how God walks with them in their mistakes and how He brings healing.

What types of schools have your kids attended?

Jadon has been in public school since 1st grade, Jack has been in public school since Kindergarten, Kyle has been in public school since 2nd grade.  So they have attended public schools and private Bible based schools.

What made you decide to choose public school for your children’s education after the early years?

Kyle serving the community during Hurricane Harvey.

I have never been the type to give up on something just because it has challenges, and in many of my personal experiences I had seen people use private school as an alternative to what they believed to be a broken public school.  Even before our kids were born I had a desire to support the community and support our schools.  It wasn’t ONLY about the kids for me.  It was about the community.  I wanted to walk beside the teachers, parents, and neighbor students. I wanted to support the staff and principals.  I wanted to partner with them and be inside our community as much as possible.  I wanted to know faces at the football games and grocery stores and I wanted the same for my kids!  So I guess really my desire to send the kids to public school started more as a love for the community.  

What advantages do public schools offer?

I feel like it’s hard to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of public school over private school because it just depends on the school.  Making generalizations can often be a disadvantage.

In my experience, with my kids, the advantages have been socially and spiritually.  In public school, my kids have seen more students that don’t live like they do and don’t act like they do-other students being raised by parents that might not love Jesus the way their parents do.  They have encountered other religions and students that claim to have no religion at all.  They learn to love others that are not like them,  they learn to deal with difficult situations, they see sin and learn to how to love the sinner.  They learn how to handle moral and spiritual confrontation. 

The public school by no means teaches the kids how to deal with the situation – it just provides the opportunity.  It’s the conversation at home with mom and dad that provides the solution.

At the higher education levels I have loved the wide variety of classes and clubs that are offered.  Our experiences with band, theater, football and technology have been great!

Jack’s football game

What do you feel are disadvantages of public schools?

I feel like the disadvantages have been the same things.  The public schools we have attended are large in size and where this offers so many learning opportunities, it can also make it hard for each child to be catered to as an individual.  

Sheltering parts of our children until they can handle something is what we do.  We don’t let them eat spicy food until we think their tummy can handle it.  We don’t put them on a bicycle until we think they can ride it.  I think school can be one of those things too.  When we pray for our kids and surrender our will and mind to be led by the Spirit, and when we walk by faith and not by sight, we will know what our children are ready for.  

When the boys were at a private Christian school, I loved that they had a teacher with them all day that carried the presence of the Holy Spirit.  She spoke truth and love to them.  As each of them transitioned into public school, God was so faithful to place godly teachers, coaches, and band directors into their path.  These men and women have made a difference not just in their education, but in their LIVES.

It really has been so much more about walking closely with the Lord and watching how He has provided for the boys exactly what they need.  He has done that so faithfully no matter what school they have attended.

How has being in public school helped strengthen your kids in their faith in God?  

Jadon leading worship

I absolutely feel like it has strengthened them.  The challenges will come. We live in a broken world.  I started out in parenting wanting to keep them from any challenges or mistakes, but that is not going to happen.    I have learned a better way.  I want them to learn to face these challenges in a way that builds their faith.  A wise woman once taught me to think of faith as the channel for grace, and grace as the power of God to do what we cannot.  We are saved by grace through faith.  I want the boys to walk in GREAT faith. 

Being “in the world but not of it” has strengthened their faith.  It does not come without bumps and bruises.  I don’t say that lightly. These are wounds that require healing… but in the healing faith increases.

Have you ever had times in your kids’ lives when you questioned your decision to put them in public school, and when those moments happen, how did you respond? 

I can’t even tell you how many times I questioned if I had done the wrong thing…if I had sacrificed my kids for my community, or if I had put them “in the world” too early, before they were ready.  They each entered at different ages and when the first challenge hit – I always felt that same way.

I think that being treated poorly (bullying) has been the hardest part of school.  I can’t say with confidence that public or private makes a difference but maybe the size of the school does.  It’s hard to figure out who you are in a sea of people who are all trying to figure out who they are.  Others that don’t have the same spiritual training as your kiddo does will respond differently to challenges than your kiddo will.  My heart just breaks when this happens. 

I remember one of the boys in 4th grade being made fun of – terribly.  And through tears he asked me “why don’t they like me?”  The world was trying to tell them who they were. But God was working! God was teaching him to find his identity ONLY in Him.  God was teaching my son at such a young age that His approval was all that mattered and he ALREADY had that.  So I think that is how I began to respond to those moments. 

I would remind the boys over and over again who they were in Christ.  How GREATLY loved they are.  How treasured they are.  And then I would remind them how a hopeless world feels and acts when they don’t know about that love, the love of God.  Between the three boys we have had too many opportunities to drive this lesson home.

What have you found to be the best way to deal with challenges that come in your children’s schooling? 

PRAYER – I have had to learn that prayers are so much more powerful than my hands and my words. Hands and word are important, but without prayers behind them they are our own agenda.  I don’t want my plans for my boys. I want God’s plan for them.

How do you as a parent encourage your children in their faith, relationship with God, and character while attending public school?

When the boys were little it felt easy to me.  That toddler through elementary age came easy to me.  I loved the bedtime Bible stories, I loved our morning devotional about how to walk with God at school!  John and I chose a Bible verse for every letter of the alphabet, made laminated flash cards and made up hand motions!  The kids all had 26 bible verses memorized when they were very young.  Foundations are so important and they take time to build.  This time and energy was physical.  It was more about me doing and them learning.

Jadon and Kyle leading worship at a local neighborhood Bible club

When they became teens I felt quite a bit more challenged- why did they have different opinions than me? Why did they want to take one or two steps over the boundaries that I set up?  The foundation had been laid and now it was time to teach them how to make their own choices, work out their own ideas about the Bible and salvation, morals and what the Bible vs the world says is right and wrong.  This also took a great amount of time and energy, but this time it was more about them doing and me listening.

I also think for John and me, we have wanted the boys to watch!  Watch how we minister, how we love people, watch us love church and the word of God.  Listen to how we talk about others in our home, watch how we react when others hurt us.  Watch us take radical steps of faith and talk out loud about all that God has done.  Watch us make mistakes and talk out loud about repentance and forgiveness and healing.  The Bible calls us to remember.

To parents considering public school for their children’s education, what questions should they consider when making their decision?

I want to say pray and listen to the Lord… but let me be a bit more detailed in my answer.  God put in you what you love. He put in your spouse what they love.  Listen to that… I didn’t know if I even knew why… but I wanted the boys in a preschool that loved Jesus and helped me teach them Jesus.  I always wanted to be a part of our community in a deep way and in our public schools.  So we followed that!  God gave you those desires of how to parent and educate your kiddos for a reason!  He has such good plans for them and for His glory.  You can trust it! 

So as far as what questions to consider in choosing how to school your kids, think about how God has wired you.  Think about what gives you joy.  Don’t make a choice out of fear for their future or trying to control their behavior.  Choose based on who God has created you and your kids to be!  What makes you light up and get excited!  Kids are in school a LONG TIME – we need to love it!

To parents with children in public school, what is your biggest piece of advice?

I can’t narrow this advice to public school.  But I can’t think of a better piece of advice.  And I implore you to start soon!  All that energy that you want to use to control them, all the lists, all the chores, all the activities, all the etiquette and all the morals, even all the rules… let them take a back seat to prayer.  Take that physical energy that you have been putting into making perfect kids who don’t make mistakes and put it to prayer.   They ARE going to make mistakes – so stop working so hard to make sure they don’t.  And when they do, teach them.  Allow the Lord to fill you with compassion for their hurt and wisdom for how to lead and teach them.  Mistakes don’t define who they are, they are opportunities to teach them. 

So my advice is to pray!  And when you question, like I did, if you are doing the right thing, if you are parenting well… let the fruit of the Holy Spirit be your measuring stick.  Is your home loving, joyful, peaceful?  Is it full of patience, kindness and gentleness.  Are you able to parent with self control? They are children, if they didn’t need reminding they wouldn’t need parents.

I wish I had learned this sooner.  I put so much energy into protecting the boys from bad, wrong and evil with my rules and my control instead of my prayers.  He is their protector, He is their shield, He their defender.

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your experiences with us and what God has taught you through the process of parenting while attending public schools.   I agree that prayer is SO important and helps us to let go of the things we can’t control and give our children to God, who, like your wise mother said, loves them even more than we do.  Thank you for sharing this wisdom with us!