Trying to made an informed decision about school is like walking into an arena filled with thousands of bossy and impassioned experts. It’s overwhelming. The voices are too many and too loud. Conversations are laced with everything from fear and self-righteousness to politics and religion. People invoke everything from the Constitution to classical education. Smart people with their big words and important books seem to have all the right answers.
So why do you still feel clueless?
School is a huge decision but you don’t have to be afraid. It’s okay to research and talk to others and listen to the voices that speak life-giving wisdom into your life. But when do you need to stop listening? When do you need to put your fingers in your ears and close your eyes and say to the world, “La, la, la, la, la. I can’t hear you.”
Here are five ways to know it’s time to stop listening to certain voices.
1. When the person tells you a certain way or model is the only way. And if they use the Bible to support this one and only way as God’s one and only way for all families, it’s okay to shut the book or leave the room or plug your ears.
God provides instruction to parents on raising children. He gives principles in Scripture. He even tells us what to teach them about the world, about wisdom, about Himself. God went so far as to send a Counselor who reminds us of Truth. But God does not provide a hard and fast educational model. Those who tell you otherwise are making Scripture say more than it actually says.
2. When the person promotes one way or model by disparaging other ways or models by contrast.
If someone tells you why homeschool is awesome but in order to make their case they need to tell you all the reasons why public school is not awesome, they’re highly biased toward their way.
3. When someone makes generalizations about alternative choices.
- “Public school math doesn’t require kids to get the right answer anymore.”
- “Homeschool parents are selfish because they only care about their kids instead of caring about all the kids.”
- “Sending your Christian kids to public school is like committing spiritual suicide.”
- “Private schools make kids entitled.”
No two public schools, private schools, or home-schools are alike. There’s brokenness and imperfection in all the ways. There’s beauty in all the ways too. Don’t listen to those who give all homeschoolers the same narrative or who speak of public education as though it’s a monolith. Differences abound, even within the “same kinds” of educational systems. Generalizations only reveal how out of touch someone is. It’s okay to stop listening.
4. When they use fear.
If someone tells you all the bad things that might happen to your children if you send them to this public school or a certain private school or homeschool them away from their peers, it’s time to plug your ears. That’s like listening to a fortune teller. And most of us would say that’s crazy. No one can predict your kids’ future. No one can guarantee anything.
Making fear-based decisions is common but it’s not fruitful. I’m still guilty of it at times but I’m learning to practice trust. Choose something because you want to choose it, not because you’re afraid of the alternatives. “Don’t take counsel from your fears.”
5. When they don’t take real life into consideration.
A method or model is only as good as those carrying it out and the context in which it stands. When a homeschool mom is battling clinical depression, when a marriage is struggling to survive, when one child is in decline because his special needs aren’t being met in the school system, when you can’t pay your bills — it’s time to get practical. Fast. If someone tells you that you can keep going down the path you’re on and that it will all work out, that’s not a wise voice.
Maybe this particular voice sounds a whole lot like your own. Are you telling yourself that you have to keep going in a certain way? Are you resolved to the path you’re own even though it’s no longer a fruitful or reasonable way to continue? Is real life pressing down hard but your list of rebuttals is keeping you in the fight unnecessarily?
Friends, this is not a decision to go off life support. This is a decision about school. And while it definitely matters, it doesn’t trump weightier issues like marriage, health, emotional stability, or even deep financial burdens.
My own story is one of clenched ideals and soldiering on. But when real life began bearing down on the ideal life to the point of suffocation, it was time to let a good thing go out of necessity. Though it felt like failure at the time, God used it to reroute us in ways that are actually grace.
What would you add to the list? Which kind of voices conjure up fear instead of freedom?