My Kids Are In Public School. Are They Doomed?

Posted on September 6, 2011 by

This may be one of those posts when one is simply saying what she must for the sake of her own peace of mind. Can we acknowledge that up front? Good. That doesn’t mean I’m not right.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the homeschool vs. public school debate. For many of you, private school is your educational option of choice, but since it’s not a viable one for me, I will leave it out of this particular discussion, though I think it may fit in somewhere. Regular readers here know that I am eagerly anticipating homeschooling my younger children. My nose is always in some book or on some site concerning the subject.

My older children, however, are enrolled in public school. (This is some history for those interested in why). Thankfully, they are nearing the end of these years, but there is much talk about the perils of children and even the possible sinfulness of parents who have chosen to send their kids there. At least there is that talk in the blogosphere, which is often vastly different from what you’ll encounter in non-virtual, day to day living.

I have often read that for the child enrolled in public school, spiritual wandering and rejection of truth is almost a given. Never mind that the vast majority of us here now extolling the virtues of motherhood, Biblical truth, and traditional value  attended public school ourselves. We contradict our own argument. It’s also true that for many of us, our journey included years of rebellion and wandering, even if we were raised by believing. So the reason we strayed MUST have been the evil influence of public school? I beg to differ with that. It implies that had we been homeschooled we could not possibly have strayed. That is not a Biblical assessment of our fallen natures and the plan of salvation.

I am no fan of the government run school system. I can’t wait to be rid of it and pray that there will be no hindrances to me homeschooling my little ones in future years. But I think if there is one overriding factor to explain why it seems like the children of Christians in public school stray more often, it is whether or not there is a full time mother in the home and parents intimately involved in their education. This is largely anecdotal, of course, but every thing that I have witnessed as a parent, even as far back as my own childhood, leads me to believe that this is true.

My husband and I are constantly being told how “mature” our children are, how well mannered, well spoken etc. While I personally don’t care for the jeans they wear to school ev…er…y day, we are often complimented on the fact that they are covered up and faces not covered with makeup. Kids and parents alike are astonished by the shows and songs that they haven’t watched or heard. Sometimes they take a little heat for not hanging out where everyone else hangs out when school is not in session. They don’t look like all the other girls their age.

And that is largely because I am here. I see what they have on when they walk out the door, I see what they watch on TV, and I’m available to talk to them when they need a listening ear while dealing with the challenges they have faced during the day at school. I know who their friends are and I know many of their parents. When they go to a friend’s house (most times their friends come here), I have spoken to that parent and been assured that they will be at home during the visit. I also make a point of introducing myself to the parents of the kids that visit here. You’d be surprised at how many parents are surprised by this!

In other words, I am able to do the things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I left home every morning at 7 and didn’t return until 5:30 or 6 in the evening. I am able to watch well over the ways of my household. I am available to train and model for my girls how a young woman is supposed to behave. And most of the Christian parents I know whose children have emerged from public school with their faith intact, or whose children are distinctly different from the vast majority of kids at school have also made the commitment for mom to be at home. And many do it with great financial sacrifice.

By contrast, most of the children of Christian parents whose children are struggling to remain true to their faith in the public school environment are the children who spend almost every waking moment under the influence of their peers and/or the most destructive elements of the culture by way of the television shows and music they are constantly exposed to. They lock the doors of their empty houses when they leave for school, and come home again only to unlock the doors of their empty houses. They watch deplorable music videos or reality shows on music video channels such as VH1, MTV, and BET. (Enter links at own risk. I included them for those interested in knowing what the average kid is exposed to for hours a day!) They spend their afternoon on phones or computers with their friends who are also spending all their free time soaking up the same garbage. By the time parents begin to return home, there is little time for anything other than dinner, homework, and bed. The only spiritual guidance they receive is what they get at a one hour church service on Sunday mornings. And we wonder why many go astray.

I know that there are some mothers who MUST work. My suggestion? Find a mother you trust who doesn’t work and ask her to help you out. It doesn’t matter if your kids are 13 or 14 years old. 3 or more hours of unsupervised time every afternoon is too much. It just is. At the very least, get rid of cable TV. And monitor Internet activity closely. We revisit the issue often and evaluate what changes we want to make. Pay attention to the music your children listen to in their rooms. This matters. Just remember when you were a teenager how much the music world affected you. And we didn’t even have gangster rap and explicit lyrics to contend with. There really are things that we can do to shelter our kids even if they go to school. We don’t have to let the culture extend into our homes.

To blame this on public school alone, is, in my opinion, an overly simplistic way of viewing a much more comprehensive problem. Maybe homeschooled kids do better for a very simple reason: they are WITH their parents, their parents are involved in their lives, and there is nothing more powerful in the life of a child than that.

So for those of you who, like me, sometimes wrestle with the fact that your kids are in public school, take heart. You DO have the power to make a difference. Make the most of it.