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The Bible does not speak to most things in a specific way. Who should you marry, where should you work, or what should you buy? There are objective directives and prohibitions in Scripture, but most of our life dilemmas require personal wisdom, Spirit-led illumination, and community input. Trying to determine the educational path for your child is one of those gray areas.
As you ponder the school choice question, the first thing you want to do is distinguish between the articles a and the. There is “a” way of doing things, and there is “the” way. There is only one way to get to heaven: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). But when it comes to how you want to educate your child, there is “a” way, which will be different from others but perfect for you.
Homeschool, public school, private school, or charter school all fall under the category of “a way” of fulfilling this secondary need in your child’s life. It could be wise to homeschool one child, while it is wiser to send the other to a public, private, or charter school. One of the vital keys in making this decision is for the parental authorities to be on the same page. Seeking input from others that know this family well is essential.
When making this decision early in a child’s life, you want to be open to the possibility of changing their educational path in the future. You can’t discern a child’s tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses as clearly as you will when they are older. You will pick up on signs of their personalities, but only after they mature more will you be able to connect those previously hidden dots.
It’s been instructive to watch our children age. Today, we observe them and say, “Oh, I can see why [the child] is this way. I saw the seedlings of this behavior when they were toddlers but did not realize it would mean [this] today.” Though you can see the sprout protruding from the earth, you never exactly know which way it will grow, the fruit it will produce, or the things that may happen to alter that plant’s life.
To dogmatically say, “I will educate my child this way for the next twelve years,” could prove to be myopic and unwise. See James 4:13-17 and Proverbs 16:9. The wise parent will hold all of their educational decisions loosely while always seeking the Lord’s will as they learn more about the child’s needs.
Trusting God with our children is one of our most significant challenges. I’m no different from these parents. There are times when I parent more by fear than faith. I can live as though providing our kids a wrinkle-free life is God’s will for them, which lurches me into self-reliant living that is devoid of God’s best. Affection for children can cloud the mind as quickly as anything could.
A child’s education is one of those sensitive areas. Some parents in the education community have a militantism vibe as they switch the articles from “a” to “the”—”This is the way!” One of the infectious strains that create this delusion is the education-centric worldview: academics is at the top of the pyramid when it comes to a child’s success. There is one goal, aim, objective, and passion: “My child will make A’s and get a college education because that is the path to being successful.”
The education-centric worldview collides with what God teaches us as the most vital thing your child needs to be successful. The initial steps these parents must make are to rethink and redefine success with a biblical hermeneutic. Joshua gives us a purer insight as to how to think about success.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then, you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).
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 (Deuteronomy 6:7).
The context for this passage is the Lord talking about how to equip children according to the Word. If God’s Word does not shape a child’s character, their future brilliance will be one of their biggest hindrances that keeps them from becoming a person after the Lord’s heart (Acts 13:22). The most extraordinary call on a parent is to train their children to be biblio-centric, not educationally-centric.
I’m not making a case for academic ignorance. I’m making a case for the right priorities. When Joshua talked about “this book of the law,” he was piggybacking on the foundation that Moses laid down for generations to come. The central question that any parent should ask when thinking about their child’s smarts is whether the child is learning to love the Lord God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
If the child is missing this main thing (Matthew 22:36-40), the school choice solution will not benefit him in the way that he needs. One of the more common counseling situations is with educated people. They have succeeded through the academic rigors, but they don’t know how to steer from addictions and marriage problems as they train children according to their dysfunctions.
You can connect part of the “success formula” to this notion about future provision—the things they hope to have and the contexts they want to live as adults. When you talk to parents about this tension, you will tease out two typical struggles. The first is a preference for their children to be on the higher end of the wealth scale. The second is trusting the Lord to provide this kind of life for them. Jesus had some clarifying words for this tension.
O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:30-33).
You could ask yourself a game-changing question: “When you think about where your child goes to school, how does Matthew 6:19-34 influence your decision-making?” Another one would be, “Are your school choice decisions made from a heart of contentment because you know the Lord will take care of your child?” You will find the answers to these two questions by examining the amount of mental and physical energy you put into your child’s biblical success compared to the effort you put into their academic achievement. Here is a brief analysis.
As you think about the type of academic environment you want for your child, the first thing to tackle is what you are “in faith” for their academic life. School choice is, first and foremost, a faith issue. Here are three faith, trust, and belief statements that should be the starting blocks to determine how you will move forward.
As you wrestle with the Lord about these statements and seek input from competent, biblio-centric friends, here are a few questions to help you nail down your worldview. It would be best if you settled on these prerequisite queries before you make your school choice decision. These are the common-sense questions that flow from the three preceding faith statements.
As you think about developing a child for their future life as adults, the most critical thing—apart from salvation—is character development. Their character forms the first foundation upon which everything else will sit. For example, if your child learns integrity from your example and instruction, it will impact whatever he knows about God—his theology.
Alternately, theology sitting on top of a child with flawed character may make him the quickest student in the Bible drills, but he will corrupt his extraordinary knowledge. Satan is a knowledgeable theologian but an awful being. The first infographic—Christian Maturity—speaks to the essentialness of assessing and addressing a child’s character as the initial thing.
This second graphic—Balanced Christian Life—highlights more elements of a person’s character in the red sphere, though it’s not an exhaustive list. An excellent exercise is to list each element on a document and assess each of your children to see how their strengths and weaknesses compare with each item. Your determination will give you clues as to which academic environment is best for your child.
Perhaps you have a more insecure child who needs a tighter community before exposing him to a broader experience. Maybe it would be wise to homeschool this child for an extended period, which would give you time to assess and nurture this child out of their “fear of man stage.” Of course, every parent does not have the homeschool option because both of them work outside the home. In such situations, you want to make sure you’re spending adequate communication time with the child to assess and nurture.
I’m not suggesting that homeschooling is the only or best option. It’s not wise for some parents to homeschool because they do not have the skill set to teach children in this environment. It’s not true that every person aspiring for a role is good at it, whether we’re talking about pastoring, counseling, homeschooling, or some other function that requires a specific gift mix.
You could have a child who is more socially centered and needs robust character development. Placing them in a public academic setting could prove wise. The opposite could also be true. You have a social child who is mischievous. Introducing temptation opportunities too early may create addictive behavior for the wrong things.
The goal is to train them in the way that each one should go, not your dream for them. Parents should customize their care according to the specific little humans in their homes. It is quite common for a parent to overthink, oversteer, overcontrol, and over-worry school choice. Trusting God is easier on paper than in practice.
If the parents are pressing into loving God and others more than themselves, and it’s objectively evident in their personal and marital lives, they are at the best starting point. Suppose they are exporting their attitudes and actions to their children by creating an environment of grace in the family. In that case, there will be more freedom and flexibility to think about education because they have a proper biblical foundation.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).