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!