To school or not to school?

My wonderful friend Marla has been busy blogging about her family's decision to homeschool or not to homeschool, and coincidentally the topic of education has been weighing on my heart lately as well.

But unlike Marla, my decision (homeschool? private school? public?) isn't a tough one. For one thing, my oldest child is three years old. I have two whole prayer-filled years before we must decide. I know God could easily change our hearts and minds. We stand firm in our decision today, but I am well aware that our decision could change not just when our children are school-age, but every year after that.

Before I type one more word, please know that I firmly believe God has different paths for different families - homeschool, private school, public school - for different yet equally important reasons.

I think it's also important to note that we live in a stellar school district. Our choice is made that much easier knowing that if we choose public education, our children will go to quality schools. I know my beliefs would be challenged if our public school options were not as hopeful.

I also can't deny that culturally speaking, I have been immersed in public schools. I grew up in public schools, I worked in public schools, and some of my best friends are superb educators in public schools. Public school education is a part of my DNA in the same way that my veins flow with uber thick German blood.

But when I try to separate myself from all of that (and no, it's not easy), I am still drawn toward public education.

Primarily, the reason we are choosing public schools is because of community.

At the core of my being, I am drawn to my community. I have a great big heart for the people around me. I love running into a neighbor on the bike path, a familiar face who walks the same concrete steps I walk everyday. Many of these folks aren't people I dine with or call up on the phone. Most of them are nameless - our conversations have never required titles. But they are my community. And I love them. And I cannot imagine how much more I will feel connected to these folks when our paths stretch beyond our backyards and into our childrens' schools. And it makes me just giddy to think of all the ways God is going to open doors through our involvement in this community via public schools.

Recently I read an outstanding article that challenges Christians to consider public schools for their families. The author's target audience is primarily Christian parents who lean toward private schools, but her arguments spoke directly to the reasons why I feel so strongly about public education.

There are two quotes from the article that I will share:

First, "One of the best places to build a relationship with families is in our public schools. They’re the hubs of our communities."

And this next quote brought tears to my eyes: "We can preach the gospel in the public schools, and the way we’re going to do that is through our lives, by allowing teachers, students, families, and administrators to experience the love of Christ through our actions . . . the church is not here with an ulterior motive—our ultimate motive is to love, to serve, to bless."

And that's just it. I don't have an agenda. Are you kidding me? Just thinking about evangelism makes me rashy. But I love to love. I love to serve. And I love to bless. And in turn, my life is transformed. I can't think of one time that I loved someone and it didn't in turn bless me.

I think that one of the best gifts that I can give my children is to demonstrate what it looks like to humbly follow Jesus in our community. I want them to see what it looks like to embrace a community, flaws and all, because God calls us to love the lost. And how can we love them if we don't go to them? Surely my humanity will fall short. But God never will. And that is where we will place our faith. Not in a curriculum or a method or a school district. But in the power of a God who is bigger than worldly influences and peer pressure and political agendas.

The list of reasons I believe God is preparing us for public schools doesn't stop at community. And I may or may not share more. For now, I pray that I will have eyes to see and ears to hear God's plan for my family. And I praise God that we live in a country where we have the freedom of choice and the opportunity of education.