We had a couple over last weekend whom I very much respect. I look to their counsel on many things, particularly about marriage and child-rearing. We stumbled onto the topic of education, and the fellow said that he was very glad to have placed his children in Adventist Christian schools because, he contended, they give the kids so much more than public schools, and then he said something that probably shouldn't have surprised me. He implied that he was glad that his children weren't getting the public school's lesson on "gay people."
And I thought to myself, Wow. Because that's not my goal at all.
I've been thinking about education, and what really are my goals for my child's education. It's so important, and I feel that it's never too early to start thinking intentionally about it. So here are my thoughts thus far.
My chief goal as it stands is to give my child a foundation in the Bible. It is not something that I had, even though I attended Catholic schools for twelve years. I developed a cursory knowledge of some Bible stories, and I can recite the Apostle's Creed and obscure Marian prayers to sweep the category on "Jeopardy!," but until I began studying the Bible in my early twenties, I really didn't have a sense that the Bible could guide my life. I believe the Bible is God's word and that it is a trustworthy guide by which to live my life. I would like to share this belief with my child.
It is for this reason that I don't have a particular soapbox about whether or not to send my child to private, public, Christian or non-sectarian schools. Because I intend for her to know that beyond any earthly teacher, the Bible is the greatest authority for teaching. I know that many parents want to shelter their children from different viewpoints, be they about homosexuality, evolution, and other world religions. That is diametrically opposed to my educational goals for my child. I do not intend to nor do I want to shelter my child from the diversity of opinions, lifestyles, and belief systems that exist in our world. But I want to know that I have given my child a compass through which to navigate her way through these things.
I myself had this. My parents were not always available, but I knew how to access them when I had moral dilemmas. They often taught me to fight my own battles and sometimes I don't think this was necessary. I was young and inexperienced and sometimes I think I needed more compassion than I received from them. But I definitely knew that my parents could help me when I needed it.
I want my child to know that her parents are there for her to help her to navigate the moral landscape of her life. But beyond that, I want her to know that sometimes her parents are going to be wrong. Which is why a solid foundation in the Bible is important.
I have heard Christian parents say that they could not imagine sending their children off to spend 8 hours with a teacher Monday through Friday, which is why they homeschool. I respect their right to think this. I, however, do not view this as a valid argument to homeschool my child. I think this negates the fact that professional educators may offer our children something that we, as parents, cannot. I do not attempt to fix my car, nor do I purport to know everything about Mandarin, multiplication, mitosis. I hire a mechanic to fix my car. It seems only logical that I would also seek the knowledge of a professional to educate my child in subjects in which I am not familiar. Moreoever, I think that a formal school environment offers children a sense of the order of the world, that having to sit in neat rows and remembering to bring the right spiral notebook to class and dealing with playground bullies are all life skills that help to shape the character and helped me to accept that the world does not revolve around me. This is not to say that homeschooling does not have much to offer in terms of character building, but based on my experience in formal schools, I cannot imagine where I would have learned certain life skills that continue to guide me in the workplace, in church, and in my relationships if not for having attended formal school.
I accept that I am still very naive about educating a child. I know that parents do not always have the luxury of years and years to make decisions about their child's education. But I am hopeful that raising our child in an environment where her parents often study the Bible, where church is an important place not only institutionally but relationally, and also where her parents are clear collaborators with other teachers, that she will appreciate the decisions we have made towards her education.
I know that this is a controversial matter, and I hope that I have not been insensitive to any of your experiences in making difficult decisions about education. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!