Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Public School 101: Education on Public Education.

You are sending your kids where? Yes, it's true. That big brick building up the road, the one that says Public Elementary School on the sign, is still up and running, and most likely it is actually brimming with kids.

This week we are discussing the ins and outs and why and why-nots of the school options available to our kids. If you want to get caught up by reading the previous posts, please go here.  And to find out about the option to homeschool, please click here.
Today, we are talking about the big Public Schools!

Public School History:
Many say that 17th century bishop John Amos Comenius was the earliest advocate for public school. He wanted all children to be educated—not just the rich and powerful. The first American tax-payer-funded school was in Dedham, Massachusetts (Boston) in 1643. The original purpose by these founders was to teach children to read so that they could understand the Bible.
Horace Mann (1796-1859) is considered one of the founders of the modern American public school system, if you want to look him up. Some consider his impact to be a negative/socialistic one, but mostly he was a crusader for universal education for all classes in America. Thanks in part to Mann, by 1870 most states provided free elementary schooling.
There is a lot of information on the history of public schooling if you are interested, do a quick search! Here is one neat resource from PBS.

Formal schooling in a classroom setting has been the most common means of schooling throughout the world, especially in developed countries, since the early and mid 19th century.”

Interesting Public School Facts:
Whether we like it or not, about 9 out of 10 kids go to public school, and this number does not seem to be declining. 
80% of Evangelical Christians still place their children in public schools even though Christian schools have been around for 50 years, and the homeschool revolution has been in swing for about 25 years.
Many things factor into the “popularity” of public school, and although it may be a "last resort" to some, many parents are actually seeking out. Some parents are attempting to work with local schools to help guide their kids into “responsible adulthood that includes—is centered on—a love for God.” (pg. 40, Going Public)
Lots of people are concerned with the decline of American test scores. These scores actually need to be placed into a larger context. While Public Schools might not be the most efficient, most well-oiled machine on the planet, we need to remember that our standardized public school tests are not only plucking grades from the best of the best. American Public Schools are also testing those who have come from kids who miss a lot of school days as well as students who are speaking English as a second language.
Paul Farhi wrote this in The Washington Post, “No nation included in the major international rankings educates as many poor students or as ethnically diverse a population as does the United States. Yet even as the percentage of historically low-achieving students has increased, our test scores have risen.”

**Public School resources:

Public School Methods and Generalities
Public Schools still have great teachers (it's true!) I know this for a fact, not only because I personally have a mom, sister, grandma and very close friends who currently teach (or have taught!) in public schools across the nation, but also because I graduated from a public high school where I was impacted by amazing teachers. 
Shockingly, these teachers aren't in it for the money. For many, teaching at a public school is a way to express their love for Christ, and to show others His love for them.
Another unique aspect of public education is that it involves these requirements:

  • compulsory student attendance (until a certain age or standard is achieved);
  • certification of teachers and curricula, either by the government or by a teachers' organization;
  • testing and standards provided by government.

Public schools are also different from other schooling options because they are branch of government. Some parents consider this to be a deterent—we don't want the government teaching our kids! In another sense, we can view this as a huge opportunity. Where else in the government are we given so much power at the local level?

Testimonial Time!
Why do we choose public school for our kids? Here are our answers!

  • This is the first year that our son will go to public school, so we are very fresh in the schooling biz.  But my husband and I are choosing public school because we believe our son will benefit from learning to distinguish early and gradually in an environment that may be slightly different from a world that is always simple, and black and white. We know that the things he learns at school will not always mesh with our beliefs at home, but we hope and pray that he will learn to discern for himself while under the direct guidance and teaching from us at home. We hope that he will gradually gain the tools he needs to prepare him for the “real world” when he turns 18 instead of sending him out abruptly the day he becomes an adult.

Amy M:
  • We chose public school for a few reasons: The cost-factor {why pay for private school when they can get a good education that is 'free'?}
    • We felt that in our own family and our kids' lives, that we were becoming 'stale' to people outside of our own social group and weren't really feeling the need or desire to make an effort to meet people in 'the real world'. It was unsettling to see our oldest develop an attitude of pride toward people who didn't attend 'Christian' school and God used that to influence our decision to take our kids out of that scene and put them into the community to get a better understanding of people and their need for the Lord. And to show them where we'd be without the Lord.
    Kym K:
    • My husband and I decided to send our kids to public school because we felt we wanted our kids to be a part of their community. We are called to "go and make disciples" and we believe that begins at home with our children, then to those around us. Sending our kids to school has been a tangible way for us to have an impact on our community. We have seen first hand the benefits to this.
    What are the benefits of Public School?
    • Our son will benefit from receiving a great education—we live in a wonderful elementary school district. I am excited for him to make friends from a variety of backgrounds, to get involved with teachers, Moms in Touch, PTA, and other resources available to parents. I look forward to learning more about my neighbors and community instead of only knowing a small circle of Bible believing friends. It will be a huge challenge for us all!
    • One other driving factor for me is that Christians seem very concerned with the state of the schools, the state of the government, etc. However, many of us have pulled our Christian kids out of schools and many amazing Christian teachers have chosen to avoid public schools. Is this a local mission field? If we continue pulling our kids (and teachers) out of the schools instead of trying to reach the lost and make changes on a small government level, what will the schools (and government?) look like in 30 years when it's time for our grand kids to go to school?
    • The greatest benefit for this type of schooling {besides being FREE} is that we have had so much more interaction with people that we would have never known otherwise. The life lessons you learn from meeting so many different kinds of people are priceless. There are extremes in the public school - poor, middle class, wealthy, Christians, non-Christians, many races and personalities. They are who they are without pretense.
    • We are very involved with our kids school, teachers, and activities. We have had some of the best conversations with our kids. We have been able to point them to the cross and live out the Gospel through their experiences. Our kids know that many of their friends have hard home-lives. Just by having friends into our home and showing them how we live differently, by showing affection to my husband, praying before meals, the way we discipline and require respect has lead to great conversations. My daughter recently was able to share with a friend whose parents are divorcing that she was praying for her and that she would always be there for her. I could list many other examples.
    What are the greatest challenges of Public School?
    • Since we are just starting our public school parenting journey it is hard for me to name anything specifically. I foresee the challenges to be consistently teaching our kids about the truths in the Bible, explaining why we are sometimes different without it making look like we are better than them. I'm also assuming it will only get harder the older they become!
    • The hardest part is letting my kids experience things that aren't necessarily bad, but different than the way we do them. It's been challenging {in a great way!} teaching them WHY we do the things we do and WHY we believe what we believe. They have seen/heard things that they wouldn't see/hear in our home, but when that happens we seize the opportunity to talk about what God expects from us. We aren't responsible for other people. We are only responsible for ourselves before God and that is a valuable lesson for our kids to learn.

    Kym K:
    • Public Schooling is not always easy; there are honestly times I question if we are doing the right thing! I question whether we are putting our kids into impossible situations. We have no plans of letting our kids play the dating game, so we will definitely draw some attention to ourselves when that comes into play.
    • I think about how every morning I drive them to school—we have a special routine. When we reach a certain landmark we pray. My prayer focuses on my kids being bright lights that shine for Christ. I pray that they would reflect his Glory. That the staff and students would know we are different, not because we are good or moral, but because we love Christ and he is our hope and our treasure. We are trying to raise kids that are grace filled and have a heart for those around them. I want my kids to know that they are no better than anyone else around them, but they have the hope of the gospel.
    • Academics don't mean anything to me. Of course we ask them to do their best (and they do) but what I care about most is their hearts. I fully support my close friends that homeschool. I think its wonderful! We just felt a call early on that this was where we are to be. Many days honestly I think homeschooling would be easier for me. Practically speaking the kids play instruments and we practice daily, if I homeschooled we could fit much more time in. Plus I just love having them with me. I know so many families that homeschool, amazing Christians and I cant help but I wish we had more believers just like them in public school! The impact we could all have together, tag teaming on PTO activities, working in the classroom together and sharing Christ.
    • I feel that homeschooling would be the easy way out for me. Someday when my kids are raised, I don't want to say, "I'm so glad I protected my children." I want to know that, even though it was extremely difficult, and by God's grace, my children see the need to minister to ALL people. They have been walked through hard situations in real life, and know the only hope for ALL people is Christ. That someday they know their only source of ultimate joy is not a life of morality, but Christ.
    In Conclusion!
    • Griffin had his first day of school today, and already there have been a few times where pride got the best of me. I tell myself we are doing something noble by sending our kids into the public school system. Just last week my husband handed me a gentle humility check by asking, “So you're telling me if someone offered to send all our kids to private school for free, you wouldn't accept it?” I had trouble answering his question, and all my motives went out the window. I am scared, just like many of you, praying and hoping my kids make it out ok on the other end of all this!
    Here is one quick analogy that I love and some of the logic behind our decision.  This is from Dennis McCallum who is Pastor at Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, OH:

    "None of us who have children want them to drown. But how can we prevent it?
    One way is to keep them away from bodies of water deeper than two feet.  Kids won't drown if they don't get into deep water.
    But we can also guard them from drowning by another method: teaching them to swim.  Though it isn't foolproof, it works rather well and provides more freedom.
    In the same way, we should teach our kids to "swim" against the currents of the world.  Avoidance of the world is ineffective--children eventually go away to college or start their own lives and encounter all the things we guarded them from.
    They will be more ready to face the worldly currents if we have taught them to swim."

    **Extra Credit**
    A few tips to get you started on your public school journey.
    • Find a mentor! If you are considering public school, find someone who has firsthand experience and walk through the options with them. Kym and another couple who teach and send their kids to public school have been invaluable mentors to us in our decision.
    • Another great resource for those considering public school is a book by David and Kelli Pritchard called “Going Public.” This is the website:

    The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.  ~Sydney J. Harris


    1. Wow, you ladies are really wonderful people! I recently began homeschooling, and I really appreciate the perspectives you shared. You are earnest and high minded without losing sight of the importance of humility. I feel blessed to have stumbled across this site, it started with wanting to know more about Mod Podge and crafts, if you can believe it!!

    2. Thanks so much for the encouragement!! We are so happy you stumbled onto our site and we hope we can continue to learn a lot from each other! :)


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