4 Tips for Christian Parents with Public School Kids

4 Tips for Christian Parents with Public School Kids

Parenting is a tough job.  Throw in school, homework, sports activities, PTA meetings and extracurricular clubs and life can get wild!  It seems there are posts by the dozens for Christian parents who home school (as many of my friends do) and many posts about common core and all the issues surrounding education, but not much is out there encouraging the Christian parent who has children in public school.  So, these thoughts have been on my mind for quite some time, and I finally have a few minutes to share what’s on my heart to encourage you to stop living in survival mode when it comes to school and begin to thrive!

Here are 4 things to consider: (in completely random order)

(Massive Disclaimer:  I am so not even close to the perfect parent.  My son is starting third grade and my daughter is starting first grade.  So, I’m learning too.  I will say — so perhaps you’ll keep reading — that I have had the opportunity to speak to over 100,000 students and several hundred teachers in public schools throughout the mid-west over the last few years, so I have had a great deal of experience interacting with all kinds of different schools, administrators, counselors and students.  If that helps!)

1) Set-and-Stick-to Realistic Boundaries – The idea that you and your children can “do it all” is a lie.  I am amazed by how many parents are running themselves absolutely ragged and nearly killing their kids in the process.  OK, that may be an exaggeration, but seriously.  We need to prayerfully consider each decision we make in terms of the activity level for our kids.  Is there time for homework?  Is there time for family?  Is there time for devotionals?  It’s our job to create margin in our schedules so that priorities remain priorities and our kids aren’t so exhausted they can barely function, much less learn well and excel.  So, how do you do that?  Well, in our house we set firm priorities and make decisions about our schedule based on those, usually seasonally.  For us, being at church and having time to study God’s word is A-number-1, so activities that would infringe are out.  If we are going to be too tired to attend, something has to go; but it’s not going to be Bible study or church attendance.  Time as a family unit is important.  If we are always split up running from activity to activity, something has to go.  Bedtime and sleep are important.  We know our kids and we don’t ignore the fact that they need downtime.  They NEED good sleep and un-rushed bedtimes to talk and read and pray and reflect.  It is our responsibility to make sure the schedule doesn’t prevent this from happening consistently throughout the week.  Don’t ignore your child’s limits.  They may be awesome, but they are still kids.  If you fail to set boundaries, you and your kids will both be overwhelmed and no one has any fun.  And that ain’t no way to live!

2) View School as a Tool – As a Christian parent YOU are instructed to teach your child.  You are responsible for their learning.  So, have a proper perspective about the role school and your child’s “teacher” has in the educational process.  I am so grateful for the school my children attend.  They learn like little sponges that can’t get enough.  My children have both had and are getting ready to start a new year with teachers who are amazing people and so, so good at their jobs.  I admire and respect what they are capable of immensely.  But, I’m not counting on them to make my kids smart.  I’m not counting on them to make sure they can read and write and do math and understand science.  No, no, no, I’m using them to help me.  (sneaky huh?) I’ll make sure they get it.  I’ll work alongside educators, as a team, to make sure my children are educated and educated well, but I won’t fall into the trap that THEY are responsible for my children’s success or failure.  That’s on me (and Daddy).  This makes relationships with teachers so much easier.  (They’ll love you for this.)  I encourage you to spend some time learning about the school your child attends.  Talk about amazing resources!  They have so much to offer your child; and, trust me, the SCHOOL WANTS YOU to be a huge part of your child’s education.  You’re not just turning them over to the system.  You are actively a part of what goes in each kid’s brain.  Teach.  Do homework together.  Read together.  Be hands-on and involved in projects.  Enjoy seeing your child develop and learn new things.  It is SO EXCITING!  Your kids will thrive as you grow and learn with them.  (And, hey, chances are they’ll even love school too!)

3) Live on Mission – A huge part of the decision to send our children to public school is this:  we are on a mission.  Public schools need Christians because people need Christ.  As a Christian parent you have a unique opportunity and command to BE LIGHT and to share the gospel as you go.  The best way to do that and to have influence is to BE INVOLVED.  Attend meetings when you can, volunteer when you can, go to the class parties, meet other parents and be known for your faith.  (Of course, your availability will depend on your success with number 1.) There are endless and countless opportunities to be light in a sometimes dark place.  So many children walk through those halls everyday who need a friend, who need a hug, who need a safe place and an adult who is honest, polite, warm and loving.  You can be that person.  You should be that person.  Be encouraging to the teachers and administrators.  Be positive.  Take time to have conversations that matter and build relationships.  Ask God to give you chances to talk about Him and to share His truth.  And at the same time, teach your child to do the same.  Our children are to be light as well.  Teach them, by example, to be an example.  As you instruct them at home on kindness and love and grace and service, they will have the opportunity every week to put those lessons into practice.  Talk about training ground!  Put your faith into practice by being on mission in school.

4) Pray like Crazy – Not one single thing about this is easy.  There ARE many challenges you and your child will face in public education.  Pray.  Pray for wisdom and discernment.  Pray for protection for your child. Pray that God would keep them from the evil one.  Pray that they will in fact remember those spelling words!  Pray. Pray. Pray. and then don’t worry.  Trust that God loves your child more than you do and that He is there, everyday, caring for them and meeting their needs.  Be in constant communion with your heavenly Father and experience the joy of seeing Him at work in the life of your child, in your home and in you!

When Naaman Went Home

*Disclaimer: My featured image for this post has nothing whatsoever to do with my content.

If you’ve ever heard a sermon on the story of Naaman (found in II Kings 5) then you’ve probably come away with a great lesson on humility, trusting God’s command or avoiding greed — unlike Elisha’s servant, Gehazi. If all of this is unfamiliar to you, please read the passage. It’s great.

Naaman was a commander in the army of the king of Aram (Syria). Moreover, Naaman was at the head of the Aramean army when they defeated Israel. He was a mighty man, but he was also a leper.

Through the testimony of a captive Israeli servant-girl, Naaman learned that he might be able to be healed by Israel’s prophet, Elisha.  After a journey to see Elisha, some quibbling over the method of healing and having to eat a plate-full of humble pie, Naaman was healed of his leprosy. But that is not my favorite part of the story. 

While listening to a sermon by Tim Keller, my attention was pointed to two verses I had never noticed nor remember being emphasized. After Elisha refuses to be paid for the miracle the Lord performed, Naaman says this, “…please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter” (II Kings 5:17-18 NASB).

After experiencing the work of the living God, Naaman knew he could never go back and continue his old life as if nothing had happened. However, as a high-ranking official in the Aramean kingdom, he knew that he still had to go back to a world that did not know God.

Is this not the same paradox that Christians in the 21st century face?  After conversion to belief, a decision to complete surrender or simply living as a disciple from day-to-day, those who follow Jesus do so in a world that is mostly hostile to his message. As I see it, in America there are two major temptations that we, as disciples of Christ, must avoid:

1. The temptation to privatize our relationship with Christ. In a multicultural society that has largely embraced the idea that “what’s true for you is good for you and what’s true for me is good for me,” we are told that people ought to keep “religion” to themselves. Your religious beliefs should remain private because no one can possibly know what is true and so it is offensive to share your faith openly.

To privatize your faith is to live in the world, and perhaps not participate in certain immoral activities, but never speak of your faith nor for its validity in the world. Privatization often leads to compromising or neglecting values set forth by God in order to avoid conflict.

This is not an option for the Christian because if you are a believer then your entire life in every aspect — your very identity — is Christ.

When Paul went to Athens, he went to the marketplace to talk with people about the gospel. Athens was the cultural center of the world at that time, and the marketplace wasn’t just for physical goods, it was where you had to go to learn about religion, philosophy and other ideas. There was no mass media back then, and so the “marketplace of ideas” was literally the marketplace. Paul essentially took the gospel straight to the equivalent of what would be Wall Street, Harvard and Hollywood all rolled into one place. He did not set a good example from a distance and hope people would be curious enough to come ask him “what’s so different about you?”

2. The temptation to withdraw from the “world.” It is tempting, for the sake of living a “righteous” life, to try to avoid all non-believers and secular culture as much as possible. This might mean quitting a job where you have an unbelieving boss or wild coworkers. For some, it means unconditional avoidance of the secular education system. For others, it means never associating with non-believers unless it is in a purely “outreach” context.

This approach, too, causes problems. It is hard to be the light of the world when you’re doing your best to avoid any contact with the world. Jesus prayed not that his followers would be removed from the world, (by God) but that they would be “kept from the evil one” (by God).

Naaman set a great example of how to be “in the world but not of it.” As a symbol of the truth he had learned about God, he took dirt from Israel back with him to Aram to create a place of memory where he would sacrifice to the true God only. He went back to his old job, but he would never do his job the same way again. Naaman knew that his boss, the king, would not convert, but that did not stop Naaman from being an example. Naaman did not disassociate with the people in his life nor demand that the unbelievers convert immediately or he was out. 

Is it possible that we, as Christians, need to stop overthinking every detail about how much of the world to be “in” and just be Christians where we are? If we will be Christ-focused and trust and listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us and we won’t have to put so much human effort into determining exactly what our life should look like.