February 14, 2020

What Should We Do About Schooling Our Children When Working in Hard Places?

This is probably the number one question we get asked when people visit 20schemes to see if this is where God wants them to serve. It is a legitimate thing for parents to consider. The decision to completely uproot your family and move them to another country for an unknown period of time is a big one. It should be considered very carefully.

Total Sovereignty

I know this well. When our girls were both under the age of two, we moved to the Amazon jungle! People thought we were being irresponsible and stupid. I’m sure those who sense that God is leading them overseas, whether that be to Scotland or somewhere else, have had the same reactions from their families and friends. On the other hand, the question, What about my kids? could be viewed as a silly one, because if God has called you and your spouse to go somewhere to serve Him, He hasn’t done so without considering the fact that you have kids (I know, shocking, right?). Funnily enough, God is sovereign over their little lives too.

So, God hasn’t just called you and your spouse, He has called you as a family—children included. He’s already got everything sorted out for you. All He’s asking you to do is be faithful.

Education

Now, when thinking about all the details concerning moving for the sake of the gospel, one of the biggest decisions to make concerns how to educate one’s children. Should they go to the local school, which may not be very good and is becoming more and more secularised? Should they go to a Christian school, if you are fortunate enough to have one nearby? Or should they be home-schooled?

In light of this, I thought it would be good to write something about this subject. It’s a crucial issue for families to consider. I’ve asked two other pastor’s wives, both of whom are working in schemes, about the decision they made about schooling and why they came to that decision.

Two Approaches

Firstly, I asked Lindsey who is serving in Glasgow. She has four children, aged six, five, two, and six months. The older two children are in full time local school. Her reasons for making this decision are as follows.

They didn’t feel equipped or gifted in a way that professionally trained primary school teachers are. They wanted to be part of the local school community as opposed to a Christian school (also, there is no Christian school nearby). Her husband has had opportunities to go into the school over the past 10 years and has a great relationship with the staff in the school. They trusted the experience and nurturing of the staff. They thought it would be better for their children to be in mainstream culture knowing that they are involved in the life of the school as parents and chaplains. They’re also committed to talking to the children at home about what they’re learning from a Christian perspective. They sent the children initially to the local nursery school because it had a good reputation and the staff are hardworking and experienced. Over the years they have built up good relationships with the staff (and they hope for this to continue). They make a point of being “useful”—volunteering to help at Christmas parties and having mission teams help out with gardening jobs.

I also asked what some of the pros and cons of them being in the local school were. She said this:

Pros:

  • The children get taught to a high, professional standard
  • They get to make connections and relationships in the community as a family and church
  • They have the opportunity to teach the children from a young age what it means to be ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’
  • They have made connections with families that have kids at their toddler group and school

Cons:

  • Some disagreement with aspects of the curriculum (particularly parts of sex education)
  • Exposure (perhaps earlier than they would like) to language and behaviour they wouldn’t promote at home

Next, I spoke to Rachel. She’s working in Middlesbrough (in the Northeast of England) and has two children, aged 18 & 11. The older one was home-schooled from the age of seven and the younger one has always been home-schooled. This is what she says as to why they made the decision to home-school.

“We became increasingly disillusioned with the education system. Ian was working in secondary schools and he became concerned regarding Hannah having to attend a secondary school nearby. I was a manager in social services at the time but having just had Esther, we decided that I should give my job/career up and home-educate. We watched many talks by Voddie Baucham on home education and met a Christian family who also home-educated. Prior to this, I didn’t even know home-education was an option (and presumed those that did it would be all geeks and weirdos). We strongly believed God was calling us to home-educate and, despite my worries at not being equipped, we deregistered Hannah from school. 

“Impress [God’s commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7) It concerned us that for the vast amount of the day, Hannah was in a secular setting and under no godly instruction.” 

According to Rachel, the pros of home-schooling have been:

  • Able to teach from a biblical viewpoint
  • Complete oversight of what your child is learning
  • Flexible learning styles
  • Cheaper holidays—not in school term!

She said she didn’t have any cons to home-schooling, but she did mention some of the pushback she gets from people when talking about home schooling.

“People often tell me they would like to do it, but it would get in the way of their ministry. We have always included the girls in everything we do, so that has never been an issue for us. What about your free time or time to yourself? people often ask. Well, there’s less time than I guess you would have if the children were at school. But should that be a priority in our lives?

Another huge thing that people ask me about home-schooling is socialisation (people who ask me about this usually haven’t met our children!). The issue of socialisation is most often stated as a concern that if children are removed from school and educated in the home, they will miss out on the necessary social skills gained at school. This assumes that school is in some sense a model for the ‘real’ adult world of work and recreation. In reality, schools are an almost unique institution in society. Nowhere else do you find a homogenous group of individuals of the exact same age, grouped together to complete the same task, each often working in isolation to the others in the group, with one person (the only one of a different age present) in control of the process. Children do not need a school environment to be ‘socialised’. My children mix with children and adults from all walks of life every day.”

Personal Decision

Lastly, I will speak from my own personal experience. We sent our girls to a Christian primary school. Before I had children, I was totally against Christian schools and thought like Rachel, that it was for geeky, gimpy, weirdo Christians! However, once I had my own little bundle of joy to look after, my thinking changed. I started thinking about what the Bible says about the responsibility of children and took more interest in what was being taught in the state schools. I was concerned about how secular the education system was becoming in the UK (that was over 10 years ago!) Today, it is much, much worse. It’s very anti-God.

We didn’t send our girls to Christian school so that they wouldn’t be ‘tainted’ by the world. After all, they were growing up in a scheme, so they came into contact with all sorts of people every day. We decided to send them because we wanted them to have the foundation of a biblical worldview before entering mainstream school.

The pros were that I knew the teachers loved the Lord and were praying regularly for my children. I didn’t drop them off and worry about what they were going to hear that day. The school was small, so they got a lot more input and attention from the teachers. The teachers knew them very well and so could pick up quickly where their strengths and weaknesses were. Which meant if they were either excelling or struggling with something, they could tweak their learning. The only con I can think of is the cost! We had to be super careful with our money for the years they were at that school. I honestly wouldn’t change the decision though.

So, what do you do with all this information? You have probably agreed with some things and disagreed others throughout this article. That is to be expected. Ultimately, I think how one decides to educate their children is such a personal decision, and one that each family has to make according to what they believe is best. I know there are some people who like to preach about the importance of any one of the schooling options that we have. But at the end of the day, each parent will know what is going to be best for their child and them as a family.

As you have seen, there are pros and cons to each one. Each parent is responsible before the Lord for how they bring up their children. How we choose to educate our children doesn’t guarantee their salvation, as much as we would like it to. We need to pray that the Lord would open their eyes to the truth of the gospel—and that we as their parents would point them constantly to Him—whether they are in a local school, Christian school, or home school.

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