Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Learning Experience Truce

I'm a bit disappointed in my peers.... the insults and criticism aren't getting us anywhere.

It's not such a hot topic once you graduate High School, but growing up, I was very privy to the great home-school v. public education debate. And indeed, it's quite a hot topic, even now among Christians. I would even venture to say that a parent's education choice is often equated with good versus bad theology. 

I'm only twenty years old, but I think I have a perspective to offer. 

1999 - 2002 I attended a public elementary school
2002 - 2003 I was homeschooled
2003 - 2004 I went back to a public school
2004 - 2005 I homeschooled again
2005 - 2007 I went to a public charter school
2007 - 2008 I attended two different Christian junior highs
2008 - 2010 I attended public high school
2010 - 2011 I took a year at home through a charter homeschool program
2011 - 2012 I went back to my high school and graduated and graduated with an "A average."
2012 - Today I attend college at a Christian University with a great scholarship as a History Major
I'm not trying to prove anything with my long resume of different school experience, but I just wanted to start off this piece by saying that I've had the opportunity to see every side. Almost every piece I've read that discusses the argument has been very one sided and I'd like to offer a more well rounded point-of-view. 

My word isn't law. I'm not a fountain of wealth. But I'd like to think that my experience might be of value to this controversial subject. 
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" Phil. 1:9-10
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Rom 12:2
 Before I say anything, I'd like to offer my parents point of view. As you can see, I've attended a variety of schools, none of which really fit a single category. I suppose that this is highly uncommon. Most parents have some opinion about the best way to educate their children - homeschool, public school,  or christian school. So why did my parents put me in all three situations?

Well, Those two verses I shared above? That's a pretty good description. If you get a chance, go and read this article. It goes into far more detail. But simply put, my parents were always involved; we were always talking. Whatever my teachers taught me, we would discuss it at home. The idea was exercising wisdom and discernment through a Biblical worldview in every situation.

Once we grow up and leave home, we will be faced with a very broken world - filled with Christians and non-Christians alike. Having the ability to access and act in those encounters is important.

Public School:

Honestly, I didn't have many Christian friends when I attended public school. Most of my Christian friends I only saw at church-related gatherings. I heard plenty of cussing during those years, I got bullied, and I had friends who didn't share my morals (drinking, smoking, extramarital sex). This is probably a very scary thought for many parents and students. But don't think that's all that happened during those years.

I love my non-Christian friends. They are kind, incredible, hearty people. Every time I talk to them, I see someone God created and loves - I've done my best to show that to them. I learned a lot about sharing my faith during my years at a public school. When I was bullied, the school came alongside me and defended me, but I also learned a bit about confrontation and conflict resolution - especially with people who are difficult. Those years really stretched and pushed me.

I love the Christian college I'm at right now, but I do miss conversation with non-Christians, NOT preaching to the choir, and the way my heart breaks every time I see someone who is a creation of God and doesn't even know it.

That Brandon Heath song, "Give Me Your Eyes," is like an anthem when I think back on High School
All these people going somewhere, why have I never cared? Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see, everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken-hearted. Ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me Your eyes so I can see.
My public school was pretty good, as far as academically rigorous. I was challenged in some areas and I enjoyed the teachers who taught my favorite subjects. I guess I'm a fairly literate person. I love reading. I know a lot about history. I have a general understanding of Math and Science.

But here is something that most of the articles Ive read about school choice that won't address: Public school fits my learning style.

I'm an extremely externally motivated person. I work well in a competitive classroom environment. I take in information best by reading and taking notes and then hearing a lecture and copying down the powerpoint. I get excited about group projects or individual presentations where I get to share something that I care about with a group.

Christian School:

I know a lot of people who are huge advocates of Christian education. Some even call it the alternative to homeschooling for those parents who don't have the wherewithal to homeschool. I suppose that's a valid claim. I can't say it's a bad option - I have attended Christian schools and I even now attend one by my own volition.

But Christian schools are not the catchall solution to a Christian education. I think you can develop a Christian worldview wherever you attend.

To be frank, some of my experiences at a Christian school were terrible. It's often said that church is a hospital, not a monument to perfect people. So surrounding myself with other believers was not an escape from "mean people." One of my greatest hurts from Christian school was inflicted by a well-intentioned teacher. Christians have their hurts and hangups too. And not all students who attend Christian schools are believers.

But that said, attending a Christian school taught me a lot about loving God's church - warts and all. In Romans, Paul says that it's easy to love people who are kind to you, but Christ showed his love for us by loving us while we were STILL sinners.

On the upside. I got a lot out of the small class size. Two of my favorite teachers are from my years at Christian schools. They were amazing ladies. I didn't have a lot of friends among my classmates (due to the small class sizes - Christian school kids can be a bit clique-ish) but some days I would spend hours with my teachers talking about subject material, art, books, etc. They were an incredible encouragement to me.

Home Schooling

Some of my best friends are homeschooled. I've been homeschooled.

I have to laugh as I write this, however. Remember what I said about being externally motivated? Well, one of the qualities of a good homeschooler is being internally motivated/self-driven. The second requirement is a very-well structured environment.

Put simply, My mom and I couldn't quite manage those two things. We flopped all over the place and I learned how to talk my way out of anything and everything. I did better when I tried again my Junior year with the Charter program, but I think that because we had an Education Specialist (ES) checking in on us monthly, there was a bit of an accountability factor that kept me going.

Honestly, in order to get work done, my mom and I had to simulate a class-room style lesson plan. I would watch videos of teachers lecturing on each subject.

Homeschooling taught my mom and I a lot about prayer and depending on God to get us through.

But I missed seeing my friends every day. Certainly I saw them at youth group and we'd get together on a regular basis, but not as much as I would have liked. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the same experience every homeschooler has. I know many who are heavily involved in co-ops and get a lot of the class-room experience that way. They see their friends more often than I did. And I know that many of them are extremely active in extra curricular activities where they meet all kinds of people.

But honestly, homeschooling didn't suit me very well, my mom and I just weren't very cut out for it. Now, you could argue that we should have tried harder - that may have made a difference. But I think home-schooling made my mom tired. Putting together my schoolwork was a lot on top of being a wife and homemaker. I think she got more accomplished during the day when she had a few hours to herself while my brother and I were at school.

On the upside! I took voice lessons while I was homeschooled. That was incredible. Through the Charter, we had free curriculum available to us. I could have taken any language I wanted to, technically, if I hadn't already started on Spanish. And those funds counted towards those voice lessons.

For English, I had more choice over the books I wanted to read. While my parents and I were often frustrated with my public school's choice of fiction (Catcher In the Rye, Siddhartha), my mom and I hand-selected the books we wanted to read. Don't get me wrong, they were literary classics, but we got to toss out a few with questionable content. My junior year, I read "My Antonia," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "The Great Gatsby," and one Christian book called, "Peace Child."


I've had both positive and negative experiences in every learning environment. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer about what the "most Biblical" choice is. I think that the real answer lies in seeking God in everything you do. Look for Him in every person you meet, every circumstance you face, and every idea you are presented with. Remember that when Jesus ascended to heaven, he called us to share the gospel with others. So no matter what school option you choose, seek opportunities to share your faith. And also, remember that everyone has a different learning style that is better suited to different learning environments.

Make the best of whatever type of schooling you are involved in. God will use you and take care of you WHEREVER He puts you.

Can we call a truce?

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