Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Public versus Private schools, Home schooling, etc

Alien Warrior writes,
I have some questions about schooling decisions for one's kids. Home schooling is being recommended as the right thing for a Christian to do. Increasingly people I come across are recommending parochial schools, on the grounds that the kids get a better foundation, both academically and spiritually. Is that really true? I even met a Hindu who sends her kids to a private Roman Catholic school for similar reasons.

My concern is that these schools are very expensive and I am not sure that they really offer more academically or spiritually than we can give to our kids at home. In my opinion even if we send them to the best private schools, we will still have to teach them at home and train them spiritually, so what is the advantage to a private school? The public schools here in Wichita Falls are excellent. I know a doctor who took her kids out of private school and put them in the public schools and actually found the standards to be higher in the public schools. What is your take on this?

Certainly if I lived in a really bad area with bad public schools, I would find a parochial school for my kids, but does it make sense in suburbia to take your kids to a private school? Can that money not be stored for college? The property tax I pay is partly for the running of my school district, so why should I pay school fees twice?

I know that the Scripture Union we had in high school in Ghana greatly influenced our spiritual upbringing and faith, but a different situation exists here and the ACLU and other "civil libertarians" get jittery if a parent or a teacher in a public school tried to introduce anything like that. But was it the school that afforded us the opportunity to be introduced to true Christian faith and maintaining the walk by allowing the SU to operate freely?

Does sending your child to a "Christian" school mean that he or she is safer from the world's corruptions or is it the effort we Christian parents have to put in outside of school? Has "SU" for our kids moved into our homes because of our new environment? I am also concerned that the reasons we may be favoring Christian schools may not be for academics but for our peace of mind, since we think the outside world is too evil for them. Is that not excessive shielding of kids? Do any of you have parochial and public school experiences? - Alien Warrior.

Very cogent questions. There are certain myths that are perpetuated by some otherwise very fundamentally sound Christians. One of those myths is that parochial schools- or even worse, that home schooling- is better than public schools. I think they are wrong, for all the reasons that you give.

In my mind, it is similar to the myth that a good Christian wife should not work. It is very unbiblical. Most of the good women in the Bible- like the Proverbs 31 woman- worked outside the home. And let us not forget that Eve was created to HELP Adam - presumably to take care of Eden, since that was his only job, and there were no children yet. It may be right for some people, but we should not make good Christian families feel bad because the women are working.

My children go to public school. We live where the schools are decent. We pay taxes to the state and the feds. There are no tax returns for skipping from public school. Religious and disciplinary education should come from the home if the parents are Christians. It is our duty. It should not take Charles Barkley to tell us that. I believe it is best to expose our children to the world while they are under our care and able to be influenced by us. When they become teenagers, they will learn more from their peers and the world than their parents. If they have not been well prepared by us then, they will have problems.

What we do is that the children go to public school, and we teach them additional math, English etc at home. We choose their reading material carefully, and we control what they can watch on TV if anything at all. There are other things that are not taught at all or not taught well, including Music, Bible Knowledge, Ghanaian heritage, and Art. These things have to be taught at home, sometimes formally.

In our case my wife doesn't work, so she volunteers in school. It is hard work for her, but it is invaluable. It gives her the chance to observe the teachers working with the kids, and it makes the teachers careful how they handle all the kids. It builds bridges with the school. It makes the children very comfortable too. For example when we lived in Maryland, my wife was invited to set up an African room. She took some Ghanaian musical instruments and artifacts and gave a demonstration and a short lecture. It was very well received, and it helped to make our children comfortable with their differences, because they could see others admiring what their mother did. It also gives her some exposure to things outside our immediate circle.

For reasons like this I think home schooling is bad, bad, bad. And parochial schooling is like a second unto it. It may be good for some people, true, but not for the majority of us. And I disagree with those Christians who make it seem that that is the only way to go. My two cents
- Calorius

This is certainly a very important topic for all of us and I don't think one can be dogmatic on this. What Paul says about all things being lawful but not all things are helpful or binding can be applied here. Increasingly, more and more Christians are uncomfortable with the liberal nature of the public educational system and will rather not subject their children to that environment till they're well grounded in their faith. We are in a post-modern Christian society with an almost anti-Christian philosophy approach to public education.

The other day I read that a gay teacher in California was allowed to share his sexual preference with his 5th grade class. Our children are our best investment and we cannot afford to expose them to obvious corruption and temptation in their formative years. Some argue money or taxes should not be the issue here. Our taxes go to support many programs we don't approve of and we don't benefit from.

Jesus indicated we're in this world but not of this world. However those who preach isolationism from anything to do with our neighbors or local community are dead wrong. It is also true that our children spend more time at home than in school and if we are doing our work well our influence should be more than that of their teachers. So, there is no right or wrong answer to home schooling, parochial school or public school and they can all be helpful and have their advantages and disadvantages. We are sending our 3 year old to a Montessori school because I like their teaching methods and this has nothing to do with spiritual education. When they reach formal school-going age it may all depend on the environment and our comfort level. - Gaius Chicago

I am greatly impressed and encouraged by the involvement of Mrs. Calorius in the local school and I think that is certainly a great plus for any school when parents take interest. I think most of the problems the inner city public schools experience have their roots in the breakdown of the family and social environment and with few exception the quality of the local school merely reflects the quality of the environment.

Before we moved to Pittsburgh, we lived in a suburban Connecticut town with fairly good public schools and indeed the town next to us was reputed to have the best public school system in the state which was reflected in their exorbitant property prices. However I noticed that a lot of people who lived in that town, some of my wealthy bosses included, still chose to send their kids to fee-paying private schools (not necessarily Catholic schools).

Incidentally in England the fee paying exclusive schools are paradoxically called "Public Schools". Figure that one out. - Robbo

I had another chat with the doctor who advised me to send my kids to a public school here. She took her kids to a private Catholic academy because she was a busy doctor and wanted her kids to learn how to be good Catholics. When she took them out to the public school at the insistence of her older kid, her kids were actually behind academically. She also remarked that she noticed that the private schools were not very competitive because of the low numbers of kids and that also contributed to formation of cliques. Her last comment was that as long as the kids form good peer groups she has come to realize that public schools are just as safe for the kids' morals as "Christian" schools.

One of my partners at work went to parochial schools all her life- she categorically told me that there was drugs and sex there just like anywhere else. A lot of my Christian colleagues who send their kids to Christian schools are doing it for a better moral climate for the kids, but this may not really be true.

When I visited Calorius recently I saw his two delightful daughters who are very well behaved and extremely interesting to talk to. I did a secret IQ test on them- thanks to my "extensive pediatric armamentarium" and found them to be of a higher stock than their father! I of course give all the credit to his stay at home wife who gives additional teaching and training to these kids in a way no private, private or parochial school can.

So unless the local school is in the throes of serious gang warfare and drugs, I will go after my tax dollars in the public school and add the extra tutoring at home for the benefit of the kids. Let's face it, how many of our own American colleagues at work went to private schools. We are not talking about Gbese Roman JSS No 2 here. As for evolution, I am not worried. If my kids cannot see Christ in my home I have no business touting intelligent design to them via the school corridors.

This may seem a little too simplistic but I will certainly relish a fight to the death with anyone who attacks me or disagrees with me on this one. ;-) Alien Warrior


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