Public School. Private School. Home School.
It's a decision that every parent has to make. Especially for Christians this choice is hard. There are pros and cons to every choice. The past two years Greg and I have been praying regularly that God would direct us to the educational route He wanted us to take. We talked for countless hours. I cried multiple times. With all of our hearts we wanted to make the right choice. I'm so grateful for the journey we've been on...the struggle...the toil has caused me to understand the reasoning behind why parents make all three of these choices and has made my vision and goals for choosing public school strong.
I'm definitely not the kind of mom who is eager to push my child off the doorstep toward some school so that I can regain my "freedom." Spending the next two decades educating Christian and Abbie at home would be my kind of paradise. But I came to realize that my children weren't created for my happiness. God gave me children in order to train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and I need to find the best avenues to accomplish this purpose.
*Disclaimers: It is definitely not my intention in this post to be critical of private schools or home schools. I simply want to share the reasons we have chosen to send our children to public school. Also, Greg and I will never say we are definitely sending all our children to public schools for their entire education. Every year we plan to evaluate our children, the school setting, and pray that God would continue to affirm the choice to send our children to public school if this indeed the calling He has for our family.
1) Greg and I are our children's #1 educators.
If a student spends 6.5 hours in school multiplied by 180 school days per year, that's 1,170 hours over a year's time. Meanwhile, parents have access to the other 9.5 waking hours of the school day, plus all the weekends, holidays and assorted vacations, including summer – a grand total of 4,670 hours per year. School receives 20% of the time pie.
Greg and I are our children's #1 educators, and we will never give up that responsibility or privilege – even though they will spend 33 hours a week in somebody else's classroom. We instruct our kids every day. We look for teachable moments in every experience (Deuteronomy 11:19). We have access to more hours per week with our child than any outsider, and we put that time to good use.
Every night we have devotions as a family. Every Sunday we serve in church as a family. We eat breakfast and dinner together each day as a family. We talk about our days - the good, the bad, the funny, the annoying, and we talk about how God wants us to use the good and bad for His purposes.
2) We're in the public school as a family.
We go in together, we come out together. My kids are not alone. We're right beside them. This is family expedition. As Christian is getting to know his classmates, so I am getting to know the moms. With time Greg will also get to know the fathers. We are choosing to embark into the public school system together.
3) We want our children to learn discernment.
The public schools are a wonderful place to teach our children discernment. We want our children to learn to decipher what is truth versus error while they are still living in our home. We want our children to learn to evaluate everything they see and hear at school in light of their Christian worldview.
When our children enter the real world someday, we don't want them to be leaving a Christian bubble. I want my children to be challenged while they are in our home and have the daily support system and example of Greg and me. We want to guide our children in learning discernment.
4) We want our children to learn to stand up for their beliefs.
Pressure makes us grow. The pressure of public school life is not necessarily a bad thing. It can cause growth in us all. Of course, we can circumvent these trials if we want, making our children feel better in the short term, but if we trust that God has a plan in molding us more into Christ's image with every trial He brings into our lives, then we have a long range vision of teaching our children perseverance, endurance, and leadership. "Our children will be more ready to face worldly currents if we have taught them to swim."
5) We want our children to learn to be the influencers rather than the influenced.
We want our kids to mix with all kinds of kids from all different races, backgrounds, religions, and values. We want our children to know it's not enough to wait on the sidelines when they see someone being disobedient, mean, or rude. They need to see if they can be part of the solution. They need to stand up for kids who can't stand up for themselves. They need to be leaders - influencing those around them.
6) We want our children to learn to shine as light in the darkness.
As Christians one our main purposes in life is to bring the light of Jesus Christ into a dark world. What message would we be sending to our children if we taught them to run and hide from the world?
Our children's main job in public school is simply to be a good student and a servant leader – to model Jesus Christ. They must earn the right to be heard. It is then their job to always to be read to give an answer for the hope in them (1 Peter 3:15).
The truth is that we do not have to take God into the public schools, He’s already there! And God has put us here, in this place, at this time, for a reason.
For an excellent resource on Christian families in the public school system check out: Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive In Public School by David & Kelli Pritchard
We only own one car, so my sweet husband bikes the 5 mile round trip to our church every Tuesday-Friday. He sent me this today and it made smile - so true! His favorite part was the *Almost worth it. I'm grateful for a husband with an awesome attitude who's willing to bike to work to save money and stay healthy.
This is a pie. Apples. Cherries. Pumpkin. Sugar. Official Definition: "A baked food having a filling of fruit, meat, pudding, etc., prepared in a pastry-lined pan or dish and often topped with a pastry crust." A pie.
This is a pizza. Tomato sauce. Cheese. Toppings. Official Definition: "A flat, open-faced baked pie of Italian origin, consisting of a thin layer of bread dough topped with spiced tomato sauce and cheese, often garnished with sausage slices, mushrooms, etc." A pizza (not a pie).
This is a wagon. Toy. Used by children. Official Definition: "A four-wheeled child's toy designed to be pulled in the transportation of people or objects." A wagon.
This is a cart. Used by adults to shop. Official Definition: "A small vehicle pushed or pulled by hand." A cart (not a wagon).
This is soda. Short for ice cream soda. Also known as a float. Notice the old fashioned glasses. Official Definition: "A beverage consisting of ice cream and pop." Soda.
This is pop. Carbonated bubbles "pop" in your mouth (hence the name). Official Definition: "An effervescent beverage consisting of water charged with carbon dioxide." Pop (not soda).
Now that you know the proper name for things please change your speech accordingly. Thank you.
We Can Reject It, We Can Receive It, Or We Can Redeem It.
Since Greg and are in ministry in October we often get asked a lot of questions about Halloween. Do you celebrate Halloween?" "Do you let your kids go trick-or-treating?" "Should we give out candy to trick-or-treaters?" "Isn't the history of Halloween wicked? Should we let our kids be involved in something with evil origins?" "Is Halloween Satan's holiday?"
An idea that is very important to our family is the idea of redeeming our culture - shinning as lights in our communities, not running away from them! "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
Holidays are very important in our culture and as Christians Greg and I feel it is imperative that we don't reject holidays or blindly receive holidays, rather we have chosen to redeem holidays. In the spring I wrote about Redeeming Easter and last winter I wrote about Redeeming Santa Claus, and today I would like to share with you how the Vruggink family has chosen to Redeem Halloween! From pumpkin carving to handing out candy - our desire is to share the gospel with our children and shine as lights in our community!
Every year our family reads My Happy Pumpkin together before we carve our pumpkins. This story/poem is a beautiful analogy of the story of redemption. In this book, the farmer selects a pumpkin, cleans the yuck from the inside, carves a happy face, and puts a light inside the jack-o-lantern. In the same way God chose us, cleaned the sin out from inside us, gave us His joy, and wants us to shine as lights for Him!
As we select our pumpkins we talk to our children about how God chose us to be His followers.
As we clean out the slime, pulp, and seeds inside the pumpkins and wash off the dirt on the outside of the pumpkin, we talk about how God desires to cleanse each of us from our sins.
As we carve a happy face, fun design, or Christian symbol onto the pumpkin, we talk about how God has made us a new creation designed to share His love, joy, and peace with others.
As we place a light in the pumpkin on Halloween we talk about how God wants us to shine as lights in our dark world.
We use pumpkin carving as an outlet to create a vivid gospel analogy for our children.
Handing Out Candy & Cider
Every year we hand out candy to trick-or-treaters who come knocking on our door. In fact - we give out full size candy bars! Why? We want to be known as the most generous house on the block!
Hopefully each of us is shinning as lights in our neighborhoods and our neighbors know that we are followers of Jesus. We should use every opportunity (including Halloween) to show that we are loving and generous people!
What does more good? Giving generously to our neighbors when their children come to our door asking for candy. -OR- Turning off our lights and refusing to give candy, in essence sending the message that we either think our neighbors are wicked for letting their children collect candy or that we're too selfish to spend a few dollars on candy. The choice to us is obvious - we want to be known for being people of grace and generosity.
We know some of our Christian friends also choose to give out tracts on Halloween along with candy (please don't ever just give a tract - this does not send a good message). This can be good or bad depending on the tract and your neighbors. We have chosen not to give out tracts because we don't want to be seen as "Bible shovers," but neither do we think this practice is a bad idea.
We also encourage the trick-or-treaters who come to our door! "Wow - that costumes looks fabulous!" "Cool - it's Superman!" "Oh my goodness what a beautiful princess!" We want to be neighbors who build others up with our words.
On cold Halloween nights we also plan to have hot cider on the stove, and offer to fill a travel cup up as a treat for parents taking their little ones from door-to-door. Parents like yummy treats too! :)
Every year we allow our children to participate in trick-or-treating. We considered Halloween a day to celebrate the imagination, to become for a short time something wonderful or funny! We love reading stories to our children! We've read the C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, the Wizard of Oz, The BFG , The Little Princess, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more. We want our children to use their creative minds and enjoy the idea of imaginative characters.
We teach our children discretion when choosing costumes. We do not allow them to be extremely dark characters (such as demons, vampires, scary people, etc.) rather we encourage our children to be positive characters (such a heroes, princesses, heroes, animals, etc.).
The original origins of Halloween are pagan (please see the below Halloween History), but this does not mean that today the practice of children trick-or-treating is wicked. Just as we do not associate with things that had good origins but are now corrupt, so we do not necessarily disassociate with things that had bad origins but can now be celebrated in a positive way.
(From Is Halloween a Witches' Brew? by Christianity Today)
Halloween's beginnings preceded Christ's birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions.
But the church from its earliest history has invited people to celebrate the season differently. Chrysostom tells us that as early as the fourth century, the Eastern church celebrated a festival in honor of all saints. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Christians celebrated "All Saints' Day" in May in the rededicated Pantheon. Eventually the All Saints' festival was moved to November 1. Called All Hallows Day, it became the custom to call the evening before "All-Hallow E'en."
Some people question the whole idea of co-opting pagan festivals and injecting them with biblical values. Did moving the celebration to November to coincide with the druidic practices of the recently conquered Scandinavians simply lay a thin Christian veneer over a pagan celebration? Have we really succeeded in co-opting Christmas and Easter, or have neopagans taken them back with Easter bunnies and reindeer? In a sense, it's always been the same debate: do we ignore a pagan romp, merge with it, attack it, or cover it up with seasonal fun?
History would indicate that there has been much value in the church's Christianizing the calendar, introducing rich traditions of celebration and spiritual disciplines. Its success could be debated, but when the neighbors are fearfully sacrificing to a lord of death and dodging witches' tricks, it would seem an apt time to celebrate the Lord of life and resurrection.
Jesus Christ is big enough to redeem not only individuals but also the holidays celebrated in their cultures! So enjoy Halloween - use pumpkin carving to share the gospel with your children, encourage your children to use their imaginations, and shine as gracious and generous neighbors!
Today marks five months officially waiting for baby #3 to enter our lives...so eager to meet him/her! When will we get the call?!?!
"But I trust in You, Lord; I say, 'You are my God. My times are in Your hands.'"