Making decisions is a fundamental aspect to parenting. From day one, we’re faced with questions like: are we going to breast or bottle feed? Will we put the baby on a schedule or feed on demand? And then there’s the harrowing decision of how early is too early to introduce ice cream (or maybe I’m the only one who stressed over that one)?
Another decision that every parent faces is where their child will attend school. It’s important to acknowledge that to have varying options when it comes to education is a privilege, though a privilege that certainly comes with many pressures and challenges.
The Overt Biblical Guidance
Anytime we struggle over a matter, it’s important to look first in God’s Word to see how it explicitly or implicitly guides us in the decision at hand. In the case of our child’s schooling, the Bible does not give an explicit answer on a “correct” form of education, but it does make completely clear that we, as parents, are the primary disciple makers.
Look at these words from Deuteronomy 6:4-8.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…
Here is the essence of this passage, which is directed to parents: Love Jesus with all your heart and do everything you can, by the grace of God, to point your child to Him. Yes, education is important, but what’s even more important is your child’s heart and their understanding of the Creator of the World.
If we’re more concerned about the form of education our child receives than we are about their relationship with Jesus, we need to pray that the Lord will reorder our priorities.
If you’re fearful because of your failures as a disciple maker, you are not alone. Every single one of us fails, daily, which is why God’s grace is so necessary and so amazing. We need Jesus, and parenting magnifies this need. And because we fail so frequently, it can be tempting to try to make a school choice for our child that we think will insulate them from our failures. However, we cannot rely on any form of schooling to do the work that we feel ill-equipped to do. Jesus will give us the strength to do what He has called us to do as parents.
This is exactly why Jesus says, “Come to me” (Matt. 11:28). He will guide you, strengthen you, and give you the wisdom needed to make decisions for your child (James 1:5), and He does all of this as a God who loves you and your children infinitely more than you could ever imagine (Rom. 8:38-39).
Know Your Child
As the primary disciple maker, you get to know your child’s idiosyncrasies better than anyone else, which makes you best suited to make the decision regarding your child’s schooling. And education is not a “one size fits all.” What’s right for one child may not be right for another.
At one point, we had all three of our children in three different schools, in large part because of their unique giftedness and personalities. There are a lot of practical reasons why parents keep education uniform for all children in the home, but there are other reasons, such as personality differences, financial strains, and unique learning needs, that this does not always work.
Pray specifically for each individual child, and then trust fully that if the Lord is leading you in a certain direction, he will make a way for the details to fall into place. Sometimes this means starting in one school and switching to another. That’s OK to do, mom and dad. No decision in education is permanent, and kids are incredibly resilient. If the Lord is leading you to pursue a school change, this also models the importance of flexibility and humility as you trust the Lord’s leading in each varying season of life. As we watch our children’s stories unfold through these different seasons, what remains constant is the Lord’s provision and love.
Know Your Context
Not only do you have to know your child, but you need to know your individual context. We should do our due diligence to research the various schooling options in our communities, especially if we’re new to a city. We can’t just assume that each context is the same when it comes to education.
If you’re considering homeschooling, talk to other parents in your neighborhood or in your church to see what extracurricular opportunities are available in your area. If you are considering a public school, read about the latest issues addressed at the school board meetings and talk with staff at the schools about your specific questions. Knowing as much as you can about the context in your individual community will often assuage fears and give clarity in educational decisions.
Know Yourself as a Parent
I have a friend who has homeschooled all her kids from kindergarten through high school. She amazes me, and when I listen to her describe their routine, it sounds so intriguing. But I know myself, and I know I do not have the same giftedness or tolerance as my friend. We must know our unique strengths and weaknesses as parents as we listen to each other’s experiences.
But we also need to be willing to have the hidden idols of our heart exposed. Asking the Lord to reveal these idols is not easy but naming them makes such a difference when it comes to making decisions for our children. Perhaps, for example, you idolize the safety of your child. If this is the case, you probably tend to make decisions mostly out of fear. Knowing this about yourself sheds light on the importance of trusting in God’s sovereignty and it helps guard against making decisions that are less about the child and more about your own fears and insecurities.
Know Your God
Most importantly, we need to know our God who is sovereignly loving over all things. I’ve heard friends say, “but what if the direction we’re going is not the Lord’s will?” Trust that where the Lord is leading your family is where you’re supposed to be in this moment and in this time.
Yes, there will be challenges, no matter what decision you come to as parents, but what is comforting is knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those challenges shape and strengthen our faith and the faith of our children. It’s often through the difficulties in life that we see our Savior in new and beautiful ways.
We may only be able to see the rocks on the path in which we currently stand, but Jesus knows the whole path. Trust his hand to lead, his wisdom to guide, and his strength to uphold as you parent through educational decisions for your child.