My kids go to our neighborhood public school, though we did not start out there. Our oldest goes to a middle school and the middle one goes to the elementary school just blocks from our home.
C started his Kindergarten at a small Christian School, but by Spring Break we had changed our minds. The teacher and the school did not work for us. Thus far, not realizing this problem sooner is one of my biggest parenting regrets. C was miserable and hated school. It is a rule, Kindergartners don't hate school!
We moved to our neighborhood elementary school in March of that year. The first day I could tell all was redeemed. C was a little evangelist at school. The first day he asked to pray before the snack. He was told he'd have to do it silently.
In First Grade, he started a Jesus club. He invited all his friends to join as long as they knew about Jesus. If they didn't know, he'd tell them all about Him. While the Jesus Club was shut down due to "rules" about non inclusive clubs (of course, C said anyone could join), it didn't stop his mother from starting a Bible Study with school moms that is still going strong some 5 years later.
Our family did not go into a Public School with the plan to revolt against the "worldly" view often expounded at the school. We didn't protest the fact that Christmas was not celebrated. We just continued to sign our cards "Merry Christmas" when we brought gifts for the teachers.
I decided the best way to make sure I wasn't offended by the Halloween party in the classroom would be to volunteer to be the room mother and watch the festivities up close and personal.
Yes, there have been times when I've been tempted to protest things taught about Holidays we don't celebrate, while they omit anything that might be considered "Christian" which is offensive to the PC crowd. Instead, I've learned to pick my battles and build relationships with teachers and administrators. This way, I can make my views known in a non confrontational way.
Through this, my kids have seen a world that does not always share our beliefs. They have learned that talking about God to others is always allowed, but that talking one-on-one and having a relationship with someone first is probably the best way to share our faith. They've learned to be bold and to stand up for their faith while still having a mom and dad watching their every move and making sure they are supported.
In many ways, I've found more Christian Friends for myself and my kids at the Public School than I did in 6 months at a Christian School. I've been bolder about seeking out like minded friends and so have my kids. I've found that there are a lot of Christians in the public school systems including many teachers, administrators, parents, and kids. They are being salt and light in a world often dark and abandoned.
Our family has been able to minister with other parents/families to hurting families in our school environment. Not boldly about Christ, but by being Jesus with skin on in today's world. Our kids have had opportunities to invite non-churched friends to youth group activities, summer VBS, and events at our church that otherwise they would not have been so exposed.
I realize that our family is blessed to be in a city and a school district that has conservative educational values. Textbooks and teaching subject for the most part are non offensive. I know that this could change and as we go up in grades I know that the Science curriculum and literature books might cause some further discussions. I'm OK with that. We know what we believe, we talk about it at home and our kids are equipped to stand up for what they believe or ask for help from us.
For now, I feel that we are like Esther. In the Public School for Such A Time as This....
C gave a speech this month in front of the entire 5/6 grade student body for Cultural Awareness Week. At first, I was surprised that my son, a white middle class suburban boy, would have any knowledge of Cultural Diversity. Yet, his speech was chosen from among his classmates by the teachers as the one that stood out. Amazingly, his speech mentions God and was not edited.
Here's an excerpt of the speech. I've changed a few words to protect people's identity.
At my years at ***, I have had many cultural experiences including a very special one, when I met Mrs. ****. Many of you probably know her, but what you might not know is that she is a missionary. When I heard about her orphanage in ****something inside me clicked. I started to think more about what I have to offer as opposed to what others have to offer me. I was very disappointed at the beginning of 5th grade because many of my elementary friends were on the opposite team as me. I have made many new friends and I have no regrets. Don’t get me wrong I still like my elementary friends, but I know that God put me on the “A” team instead of the “B” team for a special purpose. Part of that reason was to meet Mrs. ****.
When I heard this speech, tears rolled down my face. Not for how wonderful my son was, which he is, but for how wonderful God is that he uses a Public School teacher who just happens to be an Christian Missionary and FCA advisor in my son's life. God did put C in a certain teachers' classroom last year for a reason.
I think C is wondering now if you can you be a missionary and an Aeronautical Engineer at the same time? Who knows. Only God.