Making the Big School Decision

Whew. I have had this decision on my heart and my mind for so long. Sure, as a parent I’ve had to make many decisions for my children already…but deciding where Kye will go to school has been the hardest one yet. School really shapes so much of who we are. Our friends, our education, our memories of childhood. I have been REALLY torn about what is best for Kye and for our family as well as for our other children down the line.

Why A Decision

When we built our house we built it in an area that is zoned for probably the best public elementary school in the county. Both the middle and high school are also considered good schools. It was hard to even think about schools at the time when we built our house as back then Kye was only 18 months old. When you have a toddler, the idea of school seems so far away

I first started to toy with the idea of possibly not going the public route when Sandy Hook happened. I remember that day vividly. I remember watching the tv non stop and feeling a fear I hadn’t felt before. 

I further started thinking about the school decision when people commented on my blog and Facebook regarding our amount of traveling and how when Kye is in school they have strict rules about attendance. I looked into it and Zach and I were both pretty outraged that the government can take us to court if our children miss over a certain amount of days of school without a dr note. Zach gets pretty heated if you mention it to him! We both do NOT like the idea of the government having control over our parenting decisions. (That being said: I understand why the laws are in place and also respect attendance policies!)

Why Not Homeschool

The day Sandy Hook occurred my Facebook newsfeed was filled with posts from parents saying they would be homeschooling their children. I have NEVER thought about homeschooling but on that day? I too started thinking about it. 

The idea of homeschooling never went beyond a passing thought. I never even approached Zach about it as an option. After just a couple days of considering it, I dismissed the idea. I know homeschooling is VERY popular now and it’s not what it was when we were kids. The stigmas that existed about homeschooling back then aren’t still around today. However, I am very confident that it’s not the best choice for our family.

The main reason we won’t be homeschooling is because we strongly believe that we are called to be a light in the world. When you hear about Columbine or the Aurora Colorado movie theater shooting you think about the heroes. The kids who confessed Christ as their King and died for it. The boyfriend who shielded his girlfriend from the bullets. While I could CRY even just thinking about my sweet boy put in those positions, our goal as parents is to raise him to be such a person. We want him to shine for the Lord and to be proud of his faith and be willing to die for it if that situation were to arise. 

We want him to bring other’s to Christ and to be an example of Christ’s love to the world. Our goal is to raise him in such a way that when people see him, they see Jesus through him. So many people don’t know Jesus and we pray that our children can show those people who Christ is! 

I’m not saying people who homeschool their kids aren’t lights in the world, but if our children were home with me all day they would have fewer opportunities to show Christ to others. Being in the world gives opportunities for our children to teach others about Jesus and also presents opportunities for our children to learn and grow in their faith.

I personally know that I would also not be a good homeschool parent. I am a type-A perfectionist personality and I see those traits in Kye as well. The combination of us together would be difficult. I think Kye does better learning from someone else and I’d rather be the helper and encourager at home rather than putting all that pressure on myself. I can see if all of our children were very close in age that homeschooling could possibly work, but I don’t think I could give my other children all their needs and still meet Kye’s needs for school as well. 

Why Public School Long Term

When I started thinking about the big school decision I talked to a lot of people. I think the best conversation I had about it was with my friend Kelly. We stayed up SUPER late one night when I was visiting and talked it out together. 

She gave a great example of a patient of hers who had three children. They all were in private school and they all played sports. The oldest got approached by a college for a scholarship and the collage recruit told the parents they got lucky that their child got seen since they were at a private school. They told them if their other children excelled in sports that they needed to get them out of the private school system asap. When they transferred their other children one was entering middle school and one was entering high school. The transition for the middle schooler was the easiest. 

I really liked the idea of Kye (and his siblings) going to private school for elementary. Then transferring to the public school in middle school. Much like my feelings on homeschooling, I also think private Christian school, longterm, can prevent our children from being the light in the world that they are called to be. 

I do NOT like when people say “in the world, not of the world” as a reason for public school. There is plenty of worldliness in private school! Heck, there is worldliness at church! Kye has already been faced with some inappropriate situations in his bible school class. They will get exposed to the world plenty without us “throwing them to the wolves.” I was a child who wasn’t raised in a bubble at all and I really want to shelter my children from the ugliness and sinfulness of this world as much as I can and for as long as I can. 

However, I do think in the private school situation that there would be less opportunity to teach others about Christ. Less opportunity to be a light and an example and less opportunity to be the change that our world needs. 

In my talking with people about this decision I also talked to someone who transferred their child from the private Christian school to the public one. I asked their reasoning and they said they wanted their child to be tested. The reality is we are all tested. No matter how much of a bubble we keep our babies in, they will be tested eventually. Do I want to keep them sheltered and then send them off to college where they will be tested and on their own? Or do I want to have them in public school for middle and high school where they will be tested while living under my roof? 

I’ve witnessed people who went through their “testing the waters” stage in high school. It was hard on the parents to see their child go through that but they got through to the other side before college. And in college they were more grounded in their faith, stronger in their ability to resist temptations, and were able to be a BIG shining light to so many. I hate, hate, hate to think about our children falling in sin and being tempted. And maybe they won’t be! Zach was never tempted to party or drink or do anything close to drugs. I pray our children follow that path but if they ARE tested I want to be here for them. I want to be able to guide them and direct them and help them through those murky waters. I just wouldn’t feel okay sending them off to college without knowing they had already been exposed to some of the worldliness and had already had the foundation to stay strong when faced with temptation. 

Zach would never, ever consider private school all the way through. He played sports and is obviously fine with the idea that our children may not want to play sports. However, if they do want to play then it’s much better for them for college prospects if they are in public education. Zach has been through that experience (he played football on a full scholarship in college) and he feels strongly that if our children do play sports then they need to be in that public school setting to be able to maximize the college potential. 

Why Private Elementary

I thought and thought and prayed and prayed and finally went to Zach over a year ago to discuss with him the idea of potentially putting Kye in at a local private Christian school for elementary. My main reason for wanting to go private for elementary school was to help build up Kye’s armor for the Lord. He has been at a private preschool (including this year for kindergarten) and I have seen how much it’s helped him grow in his faith. He has opportunities to lead prayers, he memorizes Bible verses, his school work incorporates the Bible stories, he’s in an environment surrounded by Christian influences and Christian peers. It’s been SO awesome. 

Yes, I want him to be a light in this dark world. I feel that by being in a Christian environment through elementary school that it would help his light to be even brighter when he enters in the middle school setting. It would allow him to be more grounded in his faith and have more knowledge of the Bible and more strength in the Word to guard himself from temptations. 

It breaks my heart to picture him in public school at 6 years old and sitting at the lunch table ready to eat and saying to his friends “Guys! We have to pray first!” and then some kids laughing at him or mocking his faith. I know that’s probably not a realistic concern, especially in South Georgia, but it’s just the mental picture I keep playing in my head over and over. 

I was very shocked (in a good way!) when Zach was open and accepting to my idea of private school for elementary only. He thought it was a great idea and something worth exploring. Y’all. I was THRILLED. However, he also expressed that his main concern was financial (the private school is a little over $5,000 per year). Zach is self employed and is paid on commission only. It’s stressful and he has added stress by us having a third baby. He doesn’t need any additional stress on his plate. I stay home with our children, which is a huge blessing and something we both feel very convicted about, but it means ALL the financial pressure is on Zach to provide. He was very honest and open about the concern that signing Kye up for private school would mean an increased stress to be able to pay the tuition costs. We also are really focused on spending smart and both agreed that we didn’t want to get in too deep with spending on education. 

Touring Schools

Zach and I decided to keep Kye at his private Christian preschool for kindergarten. It’s a half day program and we made the decision for many reasons. One of them being that it delayed our big school decision for an extra year 😉 I’m SO thankful we made that call as I cannot IMAGINE trying to decide all of this while mega pregnant or sending Kye off to a new school with a newborn! It’s been great that Kye and Britt have been together at their school this year and we for sure made the right call on waiting for “all day school” until first grade.

Recently we took the time to tour both the private as well as the public school. We asked questions. We toured the campuses. We knew going in that we’d only consider ONE private school in the area and it’s one that lines up with our beliefs and is Bible focused. 

When we left the schools we didn’t feel ANY clarity. I thought touring them would give us a sense of which would be the best fit. But it didn’t. We made a pro-con list. We thought about it for a couple days. We talked it out. I tossed it up on Facebook and asked for input from parents who had kids at either school. Neither of us had any clarity. Neither of us knew what was THE BEST choice. 

Pro – Cons

With the private school we really liked that it was so parent focused and driven. They wanted us to go there, they had a lot of parent involvement, parents matter to them. They had a MUCH better (meaning “less strict” ha!) attendance policy and I liked that since it was a smaller environment that it seemed safer. Zach and I aren’t big about education concerns. School is important and we value education, but in the big picture of life we just don’t think the curriculum is a huge concern overall. However, I’ve heard a lot of bad things about common core so it was a positive for the private school that they don’t do it. I liked the bus system with the private school as well. I like that the driver would be in contact with me and that it’d be a smaller amount of kids riding the bus with him. Of course the biggest pro of the private school was the same one we already knew before touring: the Christian environment. We loved that they have chapel every day and that they offer Bible Bowl (which we can see Kye loving!) and that he’d face less peer pressure and less worldly issues. He’s also have that opportunity to strengthen and build his armor before entering middle school.

The public school was very impressive. The public school is beautiful. The younger grades are downstairs which is nice and their facility was just extremely impressive. We liked that the bus picks up right outside our house rather than having to go to a local restaurant for the private school bus pick up. We also liked how close the school is to our house. The private school is a solid 25-30 min and the public is only 12 min. We were surprised that the class sizes were about the same with both schools (I had thought the private school would be smaller class sizes). We liked that the public school would put Kye and Britt on the same calendar whereas the private school follows a different calendar. Since the public school is based on zoning it is a mix of children who all live around our area which would be nice for friendships outside of school and we know they are being raised in a similar way in which we are raising our children. We really liked the councilor who toured us and were very open with her about our main concern: Christian influence. She assured us that she’s a Christian and that most of the staff are Christians and if Kye were to say “hey guys, let’s pray before we eat” at lunch that most of the kids around him would probably be joining in! The biggest pro of the public school was the same as it was prior to us touring: it’s free! (or, more accurately, it’s paid for with our tax dollars!)

The Debate

As I said, we went back and forth. After the touring I think we felt better about the public school than we had prior to touring it and I think we felt a little less in love with the private school than we had prior to touring. I knew that no matter what we decided that I wouldn’t have true PEACE about the decision. It was the first time where I felt like what was best for Kye was possibly not what was best for our family. Kye would love the private school. He’d love the Bible Bowl. He’d be among children who are similar to him. I think he’d really blossom there in his faith and that’s so important and valuable. However, we have to think about the big picture and the long term. 

The private school only has one class per grade. These kids get VERY close. Is it fair to pull Kye from that tight knit group in 6th grade? Is it fair to throw him into such a different environment as a 6th grader when hormones are already going to be making life tough for him? Is it right for us to start him somewhere where we know he won’t be able to stay for the long haul? Even if we wanted him to go from 1st-12th there is just no way we could afford it for him, let alone for all of our children (Kye alone would cost us $60,000!). 

We also talked about Britt (I can’t even think about Tess and other kids yet!). What we do for Kye we’d want to be able to do for all the kids. She’d enter first grade while he’s in 4th. So that’s 2 years of both of them being in the private school. That’s $20,000 roughly (actually a little more) worth of tuition costs in a two year period. Zach said “um…that’s their first vehicles” Or like my step-mom said “Emily you could send them to an ivy league college if you put that in savings rather than spend it on their elementary education!” We debated just putting Kye in and taking him out in 4th grade and having both he and Britt be in public school at that point. But is that fair? Why put him in the private school just for 3 years? Then he and Britt would both be adjusting to public school at the same time?

The Decision

As I continued to ask around and continued to ask questions about both schools I found out that in order for Kye to ride the private school bus that it’d cost us an additional $1,000 per year. That was the decision maker. An extra $1,000? I understand the reasons behind the cost, but we just can’t justify that. $6,000 a year is a lot of money. It’s money we don’t just have laying around. I explored all of our options for lowering tuition costs and there just wasn’t a way to make it a low enough number where we would feel comfortable.  It would cause Zach stress to earn more and it’d mean our family would have to cut back more on our long term financial goals as well as shorter term goals too (less vacations etc which are a top priority for us). 

Also in talking to friends I had someone bring up a good point: my parenting motto. I believe strongly in “starting as you mean to go on.” Why would I put Kye in a school setting when I knew I’d be changing it in the future? It goes against what I believe as a parent. I should start as I mean to go on. He will end up in public school. And it makes a lot more sense for him to go there now and get adjusted now rather than adjust to a private school now and then readjust to the public school later. 

My Feelings

I don’t feel awesome about the final decision. But I wouldn’t feel awesome if we’d chosen private either. I think for our family as a whole that public is best. It’s best for Zach’s stress. It’s best for Kye’s adjustments. It’s best for our finances. Will I worry? Yes. But I’d worry either way. He’s my baby and I will always worry. That’s part of being a mama!

The more I learn about the school where he’s attending next year, the better feel about it. Every single person says how much they love it and what an amazing experience they have had there. When I went to register him at the county school board the lady had several Bible verses and Godly quotes hanging in her office. I about started crying! I told her how I felt like it was truly a sign from the Lord that Kye would still be having a Christian influence while in the public school system. 

There have actually already been benefits to us making this decision. It got Zach and I REALLY talking about the importance of the kids getting the Bible knowledge and having their armor strengthened in our home. We, of course, focus on Jesus all the time but don’t have as structured of a Bible lesson time as we think is needed. It’s something I personally feel insecure about. I wasn’t raised in a Christian environment so I get insecure about my abilities to teach and lead my children. Zach and I talked about how important it is and he said our big school decision was a good kick in his butt to get in gear with leading our children even more intently in the Lord!

I’ve been looking into some ideas on some sort of structured program to do at home with Kye (and the girls when they enter the public school setting). So far I’ve been pretty impressed with the What’s In The Bible Curriculum. I like that it’s by the makers of Veggie Tales! Zach and I have discussed it and will probably be purchasing the curriculum for our home. It’s a program meant for a sunday school class but it looks like we would be able to divide it up and do it a little each day with him. It’s for 1st – 4th grade and we can do it with him over and over until 4th grade (it’s a years worth of materials) and we can also use it for the girls when they are old enough. I know it won’t be 100% Biblically accurate which is why I want to make sure it’s something that we do together with Zach. His knowledge is so much better than mine and I like the idea of him truly leading our children in their Bible studies! 

Finding that program has helped me feel a LOT more peace about the decision. If anyone has any other great resources for Bible study time in our home I’d love to know about them! I like structure (shocker) so I like the idea of purchasing the curriculum as it would provide me a guide to follow. I also have a lot more peace after reading this post from Dave Ramsey. His thoughts on private school, including Christian private school, very much line up with how we ended up coming to our final decision. 

Kye’s Feelings

Kye is SUPER thrilled about school next year! He’s excited to get to eat lunch at school every day and is excited for more special classes like art and PE. He’s especially excited to have more boys to play with on the playground (right now he only has 5 kids in his class…and he’s the only boy!). I think Kye will have a wonderful experience in first grade…although he is nervous about not getting his nap time in the afternoons! haha! I’m in a lot of prayer that his adjustment goes well and that we will have confirmation that we made the right decision! 

It’s Official: He’s a VIKING!

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