Both my husband and I grew up attending our local public schools and were raised in Christian homes involved with our churches. While there were certainly some challenges in being a Christian in a secular setting like a public school, neither one of us would have traded our experiences for anything. Personally, I know that I got the best education I could have in my town, and I learned so much about myself, others, the world, and what it means to minister to people in all walks of life. I feel that attending public school actually made me a stronger Christian, which is why we have decided to send our children to public school as well.
I consistently hear Christians discuss the virtues of homeschooling, and many view it as the most Biblical educational option, with Christian schools falling close behind. Consequently, when I hear public schooling mentioned in Christian circles, it is many times regarded with fear, negativity, and seen as a necessary evil for those who cannot afford a “better” option. Rarely do I hear public schools discussed in a positive light amongst Christians, which I feel is unfortunate. So here are my reasons why I believe public schools are best for me, my kids, and Christians in general.
Salt & Light Opportunities
While it has become cliché to refer to your own backyard as a mission field, it’s a truth worth revisiting. You don’t have to travel to another country to show the love of Jesus to others, you can simply walk up the street. When Christian kids attend public schools, they have daily opportunities to show kindness and love to kids from all walks of life. We live in a very diverse neighborhood with kids that come from million dollar homes to kids whose families are on welfare. All of these kids go to our neighborhood school, and my children have been able to befriend kids from all walks of life and religions. They’ve also learned that not all kids are brought up with the same morals and values we teach in our home, and they’re able to share their beliefs with their friends at school.
Encounter the Real World with Mom & Dad
One of the biggest problems I have with homeschooling is that it’s not a true representation of the real world. Staying home with your family and interacting with other homeschool families that share your beliefs does not show kids a true cross-section of the types of people they’ll encounter in their adult lives when they finally do leave home. But when kids go to public school, they’re faced daily with kids who are brought up in all kinds of homes with all types of belief systems. While many parents are scared that their kids will embrace other values or negative behavior, I see it as an opportunity to teach my kids about what they’ll encounter in the world and how to appropriately deal with what they see and hear as Christians. I would much rather give my children the tools they need to interact with others while they’re living and growing under my roof than shelter them until they’re eighteen and then unleash them into a world they know very little about and have not experienced. By sending my kids to public school now, they’ll have already practiced living with others, so they’ll be ready for those interactions when they leave home, having already talked it out many times with Mom and Dad.
While I realize that many homeschool groups exist to give homeschoolers opportunities outside their classes, I have yet to see the opportunities match those that many public schools have to offer without costing a lot of money to replicate. Because public schools are funded by the taxpayers, they oftentimes have a lot of various learning opportunities for students. From theatrical productions to sports teams, from art classes to clubs and other enrichment opportunities, public schools simply offer more ways to learn and grow than any homeschooling group could. And all of these things are led and taught by professionals in these fields, whereas parents who homeschool can’t possibly be experts in every subject, which is a huge disadvantage to students.
Learn How to Interact with Various Opinions
One of the biggest drawbacks I see with homeschooling and Christian schools is that there is one majority of opinion and little else is represented. While the Church itself is diverse and denominations vary on their opinions about God and the Bible, there’s still an undercurrent of “us” (Christians) against “them” (the world). But in public schools, all opinions and viewpoints are represented, and Christian kids can not only learn how to respectfully disagree and learn from others, they also have daily opportunities to share their faith and learn what it means to come alongside others in ministry and friendship. I know that I learned a great deal about people in general by attending public school, and those experiences have equipped me to be a good friend and neighbor in my diverse neighborhood as an adult. I may not agree with other parents and teachers about various subjects, but I know how to still befriend them and show them love while holding true to my beliefs because I practiced it for twelve years within the public school system.
Overall, I believe that public schools should be a first choice for Christian families instead of a last resort. If more Christian kids were encouraged to live out their faith in this way, then the church would be stronger and the world would be a better place as more Christians were trained up living out the great commission, beginning in their early years.