Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public SchoolTuesday, August 30, 2011
There was a time when homeschooling was a very lonely place to be. Perhaps in some contexts it still is. In today’s Christian circles though, at least the circles I’ve been exposed to locally and across the continent, it seems that homeschooling has entered the mainstream and for many families is now the default option. Speaking from experience, as the father of 3 children who all attend local public schools, I can attest that public schooling can be a very lonely place as well. Not only that, but there is little guidance for those of us who have chosen to educate our children in this way.
I recently came across a book titled Going Public, written by David and Kelli Pritchard, who together have raised 8 children, all of whom attended public schools. This is not a book that is anti-homeschool or anti-Christian school. The purpose is not to convince you that you ought to place your children in the local public school. Instead it seeks first, to show that your children canthrive at public school and second, to provide a parent’s field guide for helping them do just that. In this way it fills an important niche.
What the Pritchards do is simple: they allow us into their home and family, telling us why they made the decision to public school and then showing us how they have gone about it. It’s not like they public school out of ignorance. To the contrary, they do what they do out of conviction that this is the way they can best raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. That word “fear” is important to them. Following Proverbs, they say that the fear of the Lord “is the foundation on which all learning, all knowledge-gathering, all schooling should be built.” To do that, they focus on instructing their children from their earliest days in loving the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength; on learning unconditional obedience to their parents; and on attaining self-control. With these values being instilled in their children, they are ready to guide them through their education.
The most valuable lesson of all, at least in my view, is that public schooling is a family affair. The decision to place children in the public education system is a decision to have the whole family involved in this system. They say, “We should not think in terms of sending our child off by himself to ‘the mission field.’ We go there together. This is a family expedition. When we show up each August to enroll our kids for another school year, we are enrolling our family into the life of this institution. This is a joint venture.” This means that mom and dad are involved not just with the children, but with the school and teachers and leaders.
A second valuable lesson is that is the lesson that all parents are homeschoolers. The Pritchards make it clear that public schooling still calls for the parents to teach their children and to be involved in all that they learn. No good parent can abdicate all of the children’s education to other people.
There are many other lessons, of course. Some of them are broad in application while others are more specific. What I appreciate, though, is that all have come out of the testing ground of their own family. Through it all the Pritchards show their unshakeable belief in the sovereignty of God, their trust in his promises and their heartfelt desire to honor him in all things.
Going Public is, as far as I know, about the only thing on the market that addresses this topic of how to public school to the glory of God. And no matter how you choose or have chosen to educate your children, I’m sure you will be glad to welcome a book that teaches parents how they can help their children thrive in their schools. Let me assure you that Christians who place their children in public schools need far more than a lecture on the evils of the public education system, and trust me when I say we’ve all heard it. What we need is hope that it can be done well, guidance on how to do it right, and help to see what the particular challenges and opportunities may be. This book addresses all of these areas and does so in a way that I found deeply moving.
If you homeschool or have your children in Christian schools, I’d encourage you to buy a copy or two of this book. Keep them handy and when you meet people who know the Lord and who feel convicted that they can or should put their children in public schools, give them a copy as a way to love and encourage them. You may even want to read it with them. If you are a public schooler, buy a copy for a friend, but also make sure you get a copy for yourself. You will find it a source of challenge and comfort and maybe even a little bit of rebuke. Speaking personally, I found it a tremendous encouragement and genuine challenge. It was exactly what I needed to read and I’m indebted to the Pritchards for this labor of love. In writing it, they have served the church well.