Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Hack-Schooling Isn't The Answer For Us



I spent my morning at a knee-high table with first-graders decked out in gold chains and rainbow loom ephemera, silver teeth and brand new high tops. I spend most Monday mornings this way, helping them sort laminated picture cards according to letter sound.

Learning the difference between long A and short A is tricky enough on its own merit, but add to the mix the fact that for most of your life, the letter A actually makes the sound of short O. I = long E. Etc... Imagine that you, a first-grader, know more English than anyone else in your home. Now what?

I'm baffled by the way they piece together an entirely new language when they still need help tying their shoes. I don't really understand why a gifted teacher would shoulder this additional challenge when a room-full of kids like my first-grader, steadily learning their letter sounds since forever, would be challenging enough.

Eduardo holds a picture of a skirt, "What is this?" I press him to guess, and he comes up with "dress". So I point to the girl sitting beside him, fortuitously wearing a glittered skirt, and we talk about why it's different than a dress. He totally gets it. Except, "I only know that word in Spanish." 

These kids are bright and rascally and shy and determined. They're the full-spectrum of the characteristics of any first-grade class in America.

This is Ruby's first-grade class.
It's making me weepy right now just thinking about it.


Back when my concept of a low-income school was based solely on the fear-laced narrative of the media and others, like me, knowing next to nothing about this sort of thing, the idea of sending my kids to a school where over half their class did not speak English as their first language sank a stone in my stomach.

It's not as though I spent much time at all contemplating this scenario, and it was always theoretical and hazy, but when it did come to mind, I simply knew my kids deserved more. I believed their potential would be short-changed. I wanted the best for them - the best facilities, the best test scores, the best programming. I wanted them to learn in a classroom with kids who were right on track with them, in every possible way. It seemed only logical that kids trying to learn English while they also learned everything else would be a distraction at best, a handicap at worst. But bless their hearts all the same.

Just so you know, I'm ashamed to admit these things.

I'm a woman with so much cultural love. I've never been close to being prejudiced, or that's what I used to think. I wanted all the kids to get a fair and sturdy education, but my priority was my kids and it seemed their best shot would be at a whole-wheat, Sunday-best, middle-class, front-page, thriving elementary school.

I told myself it wasn't my fault that not everyone had access to what we have. It would be a waste to not take advantage of what was offered. Simply put, I saw absolutely no responsibility to try to fix anything, or even to be involved. In fact, I ran from the problem and pretended it wasn't mine.

The past 18 months have been an invitation to move out of our comfort zone, into a new environment that used to scare me. Way down to the wire, I was second-guessing our decision, digging for an out beneath everything I was finally starting to see. With every arched eyebrow and every slow shaking head around us, I defaulted to retreat. It seemed so much safer to stick with what we knew.

It's stunning and humbling to realize how wrong I was.
The backwardness of my rationale is embarrassing.

In truth, the unique fabric of our public school creates a dynamic that could, at times, pose what some might consider a distraction to a portion of the population. But regardless of the socio-economic or cultural breakdown of any school, there are necessary adjustments and inevitable modifications. No matter how homogeneous a learning environment, kids are not cranked out of a copy machine, pre-stapled and collated.

Not only are my kids receiving a quality education by adults who care for and push them, they're gaining a cultural awareness that I never knew we needed. They're recognizing their place in the world and discovering what they have to contribute. It's a beautiful thing.

Saturday night I watched the now-famous TED Talk, given by an intelligent and engaging 13-year old, Logan LaPlante, who is "hack-schooled" (think home-school with a de-emphasis on "home"). The picture he painted of entire days spent learning to survive in the wild and tweaking, or "hacking" all other facets of his education to suit his interests, was idyllic and inspiring. I went to bed that night feeling a bit blue at the edges, like maybe my kids are missing out on something, something I'm probably even equipped to provide.

The problem is, I'm starting to wonder if we're not missing the boat when we place such high premiums on educational success, or even creativity. I don't doubt for a minute that Calvin would rather be traipsing through the woods, whittling spears and tracking imaginary predators than memorizing math facts. But I know he was created for community and this is it. I know he was made for ministry. We all were. Right now, his ministry includes being picked last on the soccer team but continuing to turn out every day in spite of it. It's struggling through math while his peers whiz past. It's noticing the humor of his friend and thinking nothing of the fact that this friend is repeating 3rd grade. His ministry, today, is being his own little person, offering all that he is to the community around him, adding value to this haphazard body of students by simply being a part of it.

Our end-game is no longer high test scores, and eventual attendance at "top" Universities where they'll funnel into profitable or at least noble professions. Of course I want my brainy kids to realize their potential. I suffered a real sort of agony when Calvin struggled through math last year. I paid for tutors and made it my job in life to help him figure it out. I value the education of my kids and everyone else's, even the ones whose parents show up at a school program in April having no idea who their child's teacher is.

But we need to be careful that we're not elevating something that is only available or attainable for a select few. We need to do our part to advocate for the quality education of all the kids. Sometimes, we may even need to hop into the trenches.

I'm all for instilling a love of learning, but which kind of learning do we value most? Is our child's "happiness" more important than anyone else's?  What do we really gain by sectioning ourselves off and closing ranks? More importantly, what stands to be lost?

Our family happens to be on a steep and rocky path of learning to place prime value on different things, things like humanity, community, being compassionate and supportive citizens of the world. These values are simply easier to learn and practice by throwing ourselves into opportunity. We're not trying to out-sacrifice anyone and we're not even close to being martyrs. To our surprise, this shift in the education of the Wee Martins has been a true bright spot, a point of clarity in a year filled with questions. We're learning to love being proven wrong.

As Nicole Baker Fulgham states in her slam-dunk treatise on public education, Educating All God's Children*, "As Christians, we are called to fix broken systems and restore what has been lost or been allowed to decay." We can all agree that there's work to be done and plenty of fixing on deck when it comes to achieving quality education for everyone. Whether we public-school, home-school, or hack-school, no matter our preference or calling, we aren't afforded the opportunity to sit this one out.

Meet me back here tomorrow and we'll talk more about that call to fix and restore, and what we can actually do along the way.


*This is an Amazon link. But seriously, you need to read the book.

94 comments:

  1. It's my temptation to always ethicalize (new world alert!) the decisions I make. I can get on a high horse about gardening, chicken-butchering, homeschooling, traveling to Guatemala, etc. But the truth is, I'm doing all this stuff because I want to. It makes sense to me, it makes me feel like a complete person, and I WANT that. It would be wrong to do something that didn't make sense to me or made me feel incomplete.

    Right now I'm in the middle of leading a two-Sunday class on homeschooling. One of the things I point out is this: "If you can parent, you can homeschool. This is different from deciding that homeschooling is the way you want to parent."

    The world is full of people who do things all different ways. What makes YOU a complete person might shrivel MY spirit and vice versa. This is the beauty of diversity!

    Also, in my class I pointed out another myth: "Homeschoolers weaken the community because homeschooling families are not involved in the school system," which I counter with this:"The community is much bigger than the school system. There are other ways to be involved, to give back, to help out."

    I LOVE thinking, talking about, and processing these ideas! Thanks for going out on a limb!

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    1. So well said! What a blessing you must be in your community!

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  2. Interesting... as a homeschooling fam, I've never felt that we're "out of touch" or shirking our ministry or community obligations or opportunity. I still don't. Isnt it possible that our ministry lies elsewhere? There are plenty of opportunities -for me AND my kids - without being in public school. We don't homeschool because we're better, or trying to insulate or exclude - but I certainly don't think we're missing out on anything either.

    Interested to see where this discussion goes! xo

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    1. I sure didn't state or imply that homeschoolers are out of touch or etc.. etc... etc...

      I simply said that for US, being called into this community, it would be inauthentic and counterproductive to sequester our kids from the community we were called to. As I said, it is much easier for us to love and relate with our neighbor when we really live *with* them.

      Of course I understand that not everyone has our call. And of course you and I have values that overlap.

      Over the years, I have read hundreds of blog posts from homeschooling moms on why homeschooling is right for them. They usually talk about how hard it is, but that they do it because they love their children *so much*. Not once have I read their words and felt as though they were saying I didn't love my own children.

      On the flip-side, I have read maybe 2 or 3 posts about families who chose a path similar to our own. I can only imagine there are others out there, and that we could all use a little support. So, I'm not here to tell everyone's story. I can only tell our own. And this post is about why sending our kids to a low-income, urban school is absolutely right for us.

      True, I have big feelings about the importance of Christians going into the world - even their kids. Just as you have big feelings about homeschooling your kids. If I'm being honest, I wish more Christians would shut down the fear that keeps them out, though not once has a homeschooler admitted that fear is part of their rationale, so maybe I'm knocking the wrong door with that thought. I know people homeschool for so many different reasons.

      I don't know enough about the Holy Spirit, but I fully trust that He moves among us differently, and all we can do is trust and obey. We have things to learn from each other and someone's enthusiasm for living a different way shouldn't diminish our passion for our own calling.

      Thanks for weighing in and giving me the opportunity to clarify a bit more!

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    2. My word there are strong feelings about this topic all over the web! I won't repeat what many comments have already voiced much more eloquently than I could, but I wanted to mention something here. I understand your reply to Christi, Shannan, and I appreciate you clarifying. But this: "True, I have big feelings about the importance of Christians going into the world - even their kids." in light of the topic made me pause. I guess I thought: "Yes, me too. I feel strongly that Christians must be in the world but I don't think that the public school is the ONLY area or way in which Christians AND their kids can enter the world." I think this black and white thinking: "public VS. homeschooling/private" can trip us all up and make us think we are not on the same team. We are all just trying to raise compassionate, fiery disciples of Jesus who will change their community. We are all called to the same thing: touch the hurting, speak for those without a voice, right the wrongs. We all play for the same Coach! But He has given us different paths to the same calling. Just because a family homeschools their kids it does not mean they have not taken that calling seriously in a thousand other ways. You can homeschool your kids and still be salt in the world and in your community in so many other ways. In may require being more intentional about seeking opportunities, but we don't sit around watching the world around us suffer injustice and hurt just because we don't send our kids to school every day. I know you didn't say that, but I wanted to make sure that was clear :) Interesting discussion!

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    3. Yep, we're on the same team!
      I WISH more parents would resolve the fear that keeps them from seeing their neighborhood school as their community. I'm not saying you don't or that all homeschoolers or private schoolers don't. But I know SOME choose to believe their community is something they choose. I'm more of a "Bloom where you're planted" sort of person, and I always want to encourage people to take that leap. Not that we ALL should, but yes, some of of should!

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    4. Hey, hey Shannan - I totally get what you're saying, and I know you're not implying things about homeschoolers. :-) Just wanted to say that AS a homeschooling family we've never felt that way. I live what you said about what you're doing being authentic for you - EXACTLY. I get it, man. I'm happy that all of us are doing what we feel we need to do - and I'm thankful that there are people who are doing something different than we are. It's important!

      I love reading here because I can always count on a good discussion. You are awesomesauce, lady! xo

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    5. And just to chime in on the fear part - I'm sure it's absolutely part of the equation for some families. In fact, I know some who homeschobfor just that reason. But for us, it started out as 5 feeling too young to be away from home all day. It really had NOTHING to do with education at all. And it continues because we feel it's right for us... I think my kids are cool & enjoy hanging out with them. I'm one of those rare peeps who doesn't care what YOU'RE doing with your kids (you collectively, not you FPFG) - I think everyone should do what works for them. :-)

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  3. School systems baffle me totally and completely. I just had to go into mom beast-mode in regards to my son and a teacher. I hate being in that position but then I realized I can NOT let 1 teacher ruin it for the others teachers. Many times I contemplate home schooling since I do have a framed degree and I feel it would be better for my child. Then I realize what my child has accomplished and he has a school system and a school at home and realize he is okay. I pray over my child everyday in our drive to town and I give to God.

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  4. Yes! You put into words so well my reasons for wanting to send my little ones to an urban "failing" school district. Granted my girls are still 3 and under and I already stress out about sending them to school, but
    I will read this again to remind myself of the importance of not running away from our urban district. I used to teach there before my daughters were born. I get really fired up about the injustices in our schools. Thank you for this post and the book recommendation.

    I just recently started reading your blog, and I love everything about it!

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  5. I'm very interested in this topic, as a preservice teacher, but was wondering if you had any other book recommendations (in addition to the one mentioned that I am surely going to check out!) that have shaped your view?

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  6. You just peaked into my heart and wrote out my guts.
    And you perked up my little bit of brave.
    Man, I so love your heart.

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  7. "I wanted all the kids to get a fair and sturdy education, but my priority was my kids and it seemed their best shot would be at a whole-wheat, Sunday-best, middle-class, front-page, thriving elementary school." I think this quote really captures the problem that parents wrestle with. Our urge to protect our kids vs. our desire to love ALL of our neighbors. It's wrenching and confusing, but when we remember that our biggest lessons are learned through trials and not ease, it makes a little more sense.

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    1. "but when we remember that our biggest lessons are learned through trials and not ease, it makes a little more sense" This is SO good and a reminder that I'll always need. xo

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  8. "Our end-game is no longer high test scores, and eventual attendance at "top" Universities where they'll funnel into profitable or at least noble professions."

    I love this sentence so much and I'm very thankful someone else shares this sentiment. Of course education is important but it's not the most important thing in life! I have no aspirations of being successful, as the world defines it, and I surely wouldn't wish that on my kids. The world's success is a hindrance to the life Jesus calls us to live.

    Thank you for writing. Thank you for being different and helping the rest of us weirdos feel not so weird!

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  9. Thank you for articulating many of the thoughts that wrestle in my brain on a daily basis. We have a sophomore boy and a 7th grade girl. I taught as an Aide, a High Ability teacher, and then 1 year in a 5th grade classroom. I worry and pray, pray and worry for my own kids, as well as their peers. An education will not save you. There has to be more. I had cohorts saying that the kids wouldn't notice or care that their principal had a baby out of wedlock because that's what they're used to, and as long as she is a successful (financially and educationally) then she is just fine and is still a good example of .... I don't want to disparage the character of the principal, i was just so disappointed to hear cohorts say that having a degree and rising to the level of administration was the endgame, and that any and all choices apart from that were irrelevant. What about the kid whose mom tells me his grades are bull crap, and when I try to reach her by phone the minutes are all used up, so I call her at the bar where she works part-time and she won't come to the phone? There is so much more that our kids need in addition to an education... Well, I fear I've gone off track so I'll say goodbye for now.

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    1. What about if the mum working in the bar is doing so to make ends meet? What if the mums can't come to meetings at school because they aren't at a suitable time because they are working several jobs?

      I thought this article was quite interesting about the myth of the culture of poverty.

      http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/The-Myth-of-the-Culture-of-Poverty.aspx

      "MYTH: Poor parents are uninvolved in their children's learning, largely because they do not value education.
      The Reality: Low-income parents hold the same attitudes about education that wealthy parents do (Compton-Lilly, 2003; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Leichter, 1978). Low-income parents are less likely to attend school functions or volunteer in their children's classrooms (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005)—not because they care less about education, but because they have less access to school involvement than their wealthier peers. They are more likely to work multiple jobs, to work evenings, to have jobs without paid leave, and to be unable to afford child care and public transportation. It might be said more accurately that schools that fail to take these considerations into account do not value the involvement of poor families as much as they value the involvement of other families."

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  10. I think we all need to "Hack" our education. Whether in school or not. You get that. You have to take your child and listen and watch and challenge them. You have to be watching for their gifts and their personalities to see what to make available for them to flourish in it. They may go to school or they may not. But their education is the responsibility of the PARENT. The word tells us to raise up a child the way he/she should go. That is speaking to us as parents. I chose to do that at home while taking them here and there (and believe me, homeschooling doesn't mean you are always "home") and everywhere to expose them to the world and things around them. Our goal is not just to be "happy". If we set that as our goal, we will surely be disappointed in our life journey from time to time. We all try to be accepting of other cultures but homeschooling seems to be a culture that people don't understand so it's hard to accept. Especially to those who send theirs to school. We have to make sure it isn't a comparison thing or problems arise. We just have to all do what God has put on our hearts to do and then accept it full circle. Great subject and great post to get us all thinking and caring more!

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    1. Yes to all of this!

      And I hear you on being part of a culture that people don't understand. I would venture to say there's more support (among Christians) to homeschool that to "throw kids to the wolves", as it has often been stated to us.

      The good news is, none of us was called to be "understood"! :)

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    2. The "thrown to the wolves" makes me sad. such "name calling" doesn't belong in a circle of friends. grant it, scary things can happen in a school, but I have seen scary things happen in a few
      home school situations too.

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  11. I work in low income schools in the great city of Philadelphia. I see great teachers and great children every day. I see sad neighborhoods besot with hardships. I see frustration. I see despair. I see love. I see police cars and drug dealers. I see death. I see drugs. I see too much. If it is too much for me, at 37, then it is too much for a child at age 5.

    My child does not go to a Philadelphia public school because I don't want him to see those things. I weep for the children that experience that every day. I often cry on my way home from the city.

    I love that you go into the school and help. I am sure you are a blessing to the children.

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  12. Going to hear Nicole Baker Fulgham speak today at Calvin College!

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  13. ok i am buying the book. My son has started at a new school this year and at back to school night I was one of 4 parents. He is the probably one out of three in the class that English is his first language. We have been challenged to jump into the public school system and meet our neighbors and you know what? It is so so beautiful! I cannot tell you how this post encourages what my heart wants to share! Love it & going to order the book. In my circle of church/friends who ALL homeschool and think I have sent my kid to the wolves I just love that what he needs is the community he is learning and serving and being a part of. This made me cry.

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  14. When we come from God's perspective, that each person is His creation and loved by Him, then we, as stewards of that Grace, get to dispense His Truth and point souls to His Son. These acts of Love can be done wherever a Christian goes. When we come from His perspective we realize we get to live out the same character whether homeschooling, private schooling, public schooling. Each educational choice has their merit, that's why they exist, and believing God's Love and purpose is greater than any schooling philosophy provides peace, I think.

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  15. Wow! I teach English as a Second Language in a predominantly low-income school that my son attended from grades K-5 and where my daughter is now a 1st grader. I have watched many other families in our fairly affluent circle of friends shy away from sending their children to this particular school and opt for other schools in our district where the students and families are more "like their own." I am so thankful to teach at this school, and the fact that my children have developed true friendships with many of the ESL students that I teach means more than any academic knowledge ever could (though thanks to the remarkable teachers here, they have excelled in this area, as well). Thank you for expressing what I know to be true in our own life!

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  16. The beautiful thing about God's Spirit is that it moves EVERYWHERE. It moves in my kids' school, where they are often the minority in their classrooms. It moves in the church where my friend sends her kids to a private school. It moves in the Spanish Immersion school up the street. It moves in the home of my other friend, as she sits at her dining room table with four of her children and teaches them herself. I don't need to put God in this corner of the education system, or that one. He's in them all. And I'm so thankful for His grace as we try to make decisions concerning our kids' education. And while I'm helping them with math homework. Yikes.

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  17. I needed to hear this and it came just in time. We are looking at the options for enrolling our son in Kinder for the fall and my heart has been aching over the decision to place him at our neighborhood school right around the corner or put his name in a test-your-luck lottery at THE school...the blue-ribbon, best-scores school. I've been struggling with exactly what you said - my son's ministry as part of our community right here vs. the best possible education a couple miles away.
    I taught 3rd grade for several years in the ghetto in downtown Los Angeles. Literally on the line of the major gang lines and I loved, loved, loved every minute of it.
    God used me where I was. I need to trust that he can use my son wherever he ends up as well. There are no blue ribbons in Gods book, just love of your community.

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  18. A thousand times, yes! We were specifically told to go into all the world. Your little people will gain so much by being in and loving on this world. Love all of your Martin hearts!

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  19. if i knew you in real life i would call you right now because i am so angsty about this post. my stomach is in knots. it is everything i have said and wish i could say until i was blue in the face. it is everything i believe in for public education. except we did the opposite. probably for different reasons. but we went against everything we believe in and went out of our comfort zone to a new school. we were not interested in labels. or getting more or getting better than other kids. we have no design for what our children's future will be. we don't have a competitive motive to get them into college. we just wanted to know why our kid stopped thriving. turns out in the school district we live in you have to be labeled to be noticed. so that happened. except he didn't get the kind of label that means we should look at this kid and see what his deal is. his label was perceived the way you alluded to in this post, that we must think our kid is better than other kids. not what we really thought: our kid's mind processes information different than other kids. for example, kids with dyslexia are taken to a reading specialist. my second grader was sent to kindergarten because they would not/ could not create a plan for him. like you said in your post, our school is low income, forty percent esl. they didnt have resources to address our child. we processed the information we were given, we met with teachers and staff to work on options. instead of addressing how he was different they worked to prove we were wrong. so we left. and it goes against everything i believe in about staying and making it right. about being in the fight to make a difference. about struggling through. but, he is thriving. for us the bottom line was doing what was right for our child and leaving behind our community school. truth. we are benefitting from the injustice in the system. it makes my stomach ache and my heart hurt. but so did watching my child decline. and doesn't that just prove what you were saying? that sometimes people choose to make their lives easier rather than the lives of others? makes me feel dastardly and selfish. that's the truth, ruth.
    *disclaimer: i agree with everything you said in this post. i am just confessing, not criticizing. at all. i love your words as always!

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    1. I mean, why is life always so complicated? I understand you here, Sister. Sometimes, up is down and down is up. What can we do other than fall and flail a bit while we're being flung about? I know that sometimes, there are no easy answers. This angst keeps us where we need to be, I think. I love your words, always, and just regular YOU.

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    2. thanks for your grace-full words. i am always seeking growth and knowledge on the kinds of issues that cause my heart such pain. one solution i was given (aside from volunteering, becoming a teacher or principal, and generally advocating for children) was to run for the school board. me. on the school board. seems like such a big solution for my small life. why does God push me so?

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  20. I love a child that can flip from English to Spanish in no time flat and make it look like an Olympic sport!! They may have a whole in their t-shirt but they have "skillz!!"

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  21. For us, public schooling wasn't an issue. Our concern was social. My husband and I can fill in the blanks in their education. We can spend that extra time on weekends coasting ahead in math and reading. What we can't do is step in for that 6 hours a day of socializing they do with the world outside of us.

    When we first became a family, we lived in a lovely neighborhood- bright, cheerful, middle income neighborhood. Everyone seemed pretty friendly but as we held our babes and attended cookouts we heard the most offensive language from parent and children alike. There was a huge attitude of intolerance that permeated conversation so freely that my mouth was agape the entire time. I reached out to other circles but found that either people participated in this or no one would shut these types of interactions down. I couldn't find enough like-minded people to help make a place for our children in this Blue-Ribbon school district so when my husband received an offer to relocate, we flew out of there like the Little Prince on a comet, right quick.

    Our new public school is not Blue-Ribbon, but it is lovely. It is diverse. It is kind. The parents and children we meet make us feel that we made the right decision for our family coming here.

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  22. we've got Isaiah 58 as our family motto. who even does that? has a family motto?

    and He's led us many different directions on how to live that out. we did homeschool for a time, each of our 3. and they all attended (2 still attend) our neighborhood elementary school with the low test scores and the free breakfast and coats if you need one and a resource team that is worked to the bone. (and who does that, moves in both the homeschool world and public school world all at the same time??? we just never can find a place to fit-He never leads us to a place where we fit. i really would like to fit somewhere, but i digress.)

    and i've shared struggles in the midst of following His lead and been slapped with; "well, that's what you get for going there." ouch. the funny thing is, i've gotten that comment from opposite camps about opposite 'theres'

    control is an illusion. and we think 'safe' is an entitlement. and God is big. really big. and He always leads where i am desperate and needy for Him to show up. if He doesn't show up i'm sunk. and i don't want to live in such a way that i don't need Him to show up......except that i do. and there's the rub.

    but i come here because it's a hard and lonely road and i find encouragement. i am thankful for your courage to wrestle these things out in this place.

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  24. I think it's one of those things...you go where God sends you. That's it. It might be inner cities and it might be golf courses, but you go.
    I'm glad you follow his call. xoxoxo

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  25. :) Have you read Going Public? It's another book you might be interested in reading. I wrote a full review on my blog at http://www.thissimplehome.com/2013/10/school-choice-book-review-of-going.html if you are interested.

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    1. Thanks for reminding me that I need to track this one down!

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  26. I teach kindergarten in a low income school. I would not want to be anywhere else! I have a mix of races, backgrounds, English ability. If I had kids, I would absolutely send them there. It may be rough around the edges, but teaches me how to love and how all-emcompassing God's love is for all people, no matter what kind of people.

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  27. Hehe... We are homeschooling this year in preparation for leaving for Africa (where we will have to homeschool although our children will go some to the school on the grounds of the orphanage where we will be). We moved into the poorest neighborhood in our city, next door to drug dealers (I kid you not; SWAT team has parked in front of our house 3 times and know us well). But we, and our church, are passionately involved in our local school that is 3 blocks away. We had mostly positive experiences there, especially with the gifted program (our son has a 180 IQ, and we found out that this low-income school had one of the highest percentages of gifted children in the lower grades but it tapers out as they get older... I have theories on that one.). We all have to do what we are called to do with our precious children. Some should homeschool, some should send their kids to school. No judgement either way as long as we are seeking the Lord in the decision. Even while we homeschool, I am at the local school at least once a week, mentoring and our church does monthly meals and date nights for the teachers.

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    1. "Even while we homeschool, I am at the local school at least once a week, mentoring and our church does monthly meals and date nights for the teachers." Really love this;

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  28. I was often that mom, the one who felt my kids would be disadvantaged by being in the local low income school. I heard the stories. I heard about the lack of English skills, and the low math scores, and the scrap together income of most of the school population. And it made me scared. So we homeschooled, as if we had no other choice. I won't say that our homeschooling season wasn't a gift-it was. But I'll be honest in saying that fear of the public school kept my kids home when God was clearly pushing us to send them out.

    Looking back, I am embarrassed at my pre conceived ideas. I was wrong. Yes, the school struggles. Parents are absent, kids are hurting, teachers are stretched thin. But I have no doubt that this is exactly where we are called as a family-it is our ministry and it has become the most important part of our lives. Because schooling is about way more than education.

    And we're all learning more than we ever thought possible in terms of loving and serving all of God's people. We feel privileged to be part of such an excellent community, where God is making himself known, despite the obstacles. And darn it, we believe God is using our family to be a part of that. It's humbling when I get down to thinking about it.

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    1. I *just* said in a comment ^^ up there that no homeschooling mom has ever admitted to me that fear was part of the equation. And then I read this! Ha. Thanks for your honesty and just for doing what you're doing, being lead to tricky places and following blind.

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    2. PS - OH MY WORD, we were typing our comments at the same exact time!
      haha

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  29. My husband is the assistant principal at a 100% free and reduced lunch, Title I school. And my son is a kindergarten student there. It is not in our district (though it is closer to our house than his district school due to crazy somewhat socioeconomic driven district mapping), but we chose for him to be there--this is our community--it is our neighborhood--and this is where God has called our entire family to be. He is in the bilingual program with kiddos who as you described, speak more English than their parents. We were blessed by your previous post about being called to public school, and just as blessed by this one. We watched Logan's hack schooling video over the weekend as well and couldn't have worded better what you said, "...we need to be careful that we're not elevating something that is only available or attainable for a select few. We need to do our part to advocate for the quality education of all the kids. Sometimes, we may even need to hop into the trenches." Thanks again, for sharing your heart and saying so eloquently what I have in my own head and heart.
    I love that God calls us to different places and to minister to our children and to our communities in different ways and am thankful that there are others out there that have similar callings to our own, so we can share in our struggles, our fears, and victories.

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  30. I'm a homeschooling mama who never wanted to homeschool; I was all about public education and participating and making what might be a struggling school better for all the kids. And then...we met our daughter. And I had to accept that what I thought we would do, my ideals for changing the world, the battles I thought we would fight (together! as a family!) were simply not the ones we were meant to engage in. I watched that hack schooling video and felt jealous, frankly. That kid has a ton of resources that we don't have. But then I remembered why we were doing school our way, and how much it gives my daughter, so many of the things you're talking about, but in a different way, and in a way that still allows her broken heart to continue to heal. We talk to homeless people almost every day that we are out. She has learned to open her own snack bag and her own tiny wallet to give what is hers to others, without prompting. I'm so glad there are people like you and your family who are in the public school, where I thought we would be, and I'm learning to be grateful for being where we are, too.

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  31. I love this post. You have articulated what I have tried to communicate for so long. My husband and I had a conversation about this as we were looking for houses in different areas and we continued to say we can't change a whole school district (although clearly Michele Pfiefer can in "Dangerous Minds") BUT our conversation ended that maybe we can change a classroom or some kids that we love or even better - they can help change my stinky ol' privileged/middle-class mind. I love this! I want everyone in the whole world to read this. What would it look like if we invested in kids where we were and where our kids are - we invested our middle class great educations into the school districts now? I'm with ya lady!

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  32. as a homeschool kid myself, who then homeschooled my own kids up till 3 yrs ago, I will say sending them to public school was the best decision we ever made ~ can't speak for other homeschoolers but yes, the biggest thing that held me back was fear! my own, within. and without- what all my other fellow homeschoolers would think of me.

    true God leads us all differently and that's where faith comes in {for us to believe He's working in the next guy's heart same as my own}.. but as you said, our school system is a huge part of our community and ministering shoulder to shoulder!!

    last week at school my 10th & 11th grader's were walking down the hall and when they passed a group of kids they said, "there go the Bible thumpers!"

    "we've no idea how they even know we're Christians mom," my son said, "we've never even talked to those kids.."

    I told him I know how they know! :))

    we can share the light of God without ever having to open our mouths and say a word - but we do have to be out among the people in order for them to see that light!!

    great post, Shannan dear! love your heart ~

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    1. In the most respectful way possible... were you never out amongst the people as homeschoolers? I find we're in contact with a lot of people throughout the day - most of who aren't homeschooled. Yes, it's true that my boys aren't out amongst 5th & 3rd graders during the day... but other people, sure! :-)

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    2. Yep, we sure were! :)) but I find my kids being in school is a different way to be in our community - without mom & dad always by their side which has been a big one for my teens in finding their own faith and boldness. Not saying homeschool kids don't have that.. remember, I'm a homeschool kid myself so I'm a fan!! ;))

      I certainly don't think the way my kids are "out among others" in the public school is better, just different. And for our little family some valuable lessons have come that I don't think would have otherwise.

      Thanks for the reply- great conversation here.

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  33. Flower Patch Farmgirl, I love your blog, your humor, your adoption posts, and seeing the beauty of the world through your
    eyes. However, in this post, you came off as self righteous and sounding as though you were critical against homeschool families. There are many reasons to homeschool, so many that have nothing at all to do with keeping kids out of public schools, blue ribbon, inner city or otherwise. The world needs kids like Logan LaPlante just as much as the world needs people like you and your family. Just my two cents worth.

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    1. I agree. I homeschool now but sent my daughter to public school for a while. I think it is great that you have a good teacher who welcomes you into the classroom. You can make a difference for the students in that class. But what do you do when your 6 year old is being bullied by the teacher, the principal refuses to intervene, and the teacher refuses to allow you in the classroom? I was in that situation. I prayed and pulled my daughter out to homeschool.

      I understand that this isn't the right choice for everyone. That is okay. But, I felt judged by this post. Good luck, but I won't be back to read more.

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    2. I don't see any critique of Homeschool families in this post. The title is even "Why hack-schooling isn't the answer for US" It's not "Why hack-schooling isn't the answer for EVERYONE". Just because FPFG made this choice for her family doesn't mean she thinks what other families choose is wrong. I'm sure you have your reasons for choosing Homeschool just like she has her reasons for choosing public and if you share the reasons for your choice you wouldn't be critiquing public school in doing so.... or at least I hope you wouldn't.

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  34. As our daughter is only 4 months old, who knows where the Lord will have us by the time she reaches kindergarten. I do lean toward homeschooling, but mainly because I get really excited thinking about teaching my kids. I love to read and write, and it's sort of fun to think about curriculum for me. (I'm also a former teacher.) So, I'm a little nerdy...and I realize my enjoyment is not the paramount goal in this issue, or in anything, really. Haha.

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  35. My oldest will be starting kindergarten in August. We went on a tour of our base public school last week. I'll be honest, I went into it with hesitations. I've never been a student in a public school, but I have taught in the system. The school while being an international baccalaureate school is what many would call a lower income school. I have been back and forth on homeschooling, actually really wanting to, so I was surprised at what peace I felt walking those halls on the tour. While I still don't know what we will decide, I felt a strong reminder from God that I need to practice faith in this. Another idea that brought me to tears was this: "What if someone else needs him?". What if a friend, teacher, etc needs what he can give more than I need the comfort of teaching him at home? Se we wait in prayer and put it fully in God's hands. Thank you for sharing your heart. It's clear your family is impacting your community and beyond.

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  36. I have wrestled with much of what you write about here - but I am coming up on the other side (at this time... I think...) I am a former public school teacher, a public school teacher's daughter (my mom has always taught in "the worst" schools and currently teaches ELL, which she loves). I went into teaching to be an advocate for public schools - I moved to an ELL-heavy state to teach for awhile. But now that I am a mama living in a neighborhood where 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch, I hesitate big time to send my kids down the street to school. My oldest is in kinder next year, and I just can't do it. He is a follower-type-quiet kid. My youngest is technically in public school b/c he receives services for his IEP, but we don't put him in preschool down the road b/c I just can't. And part of that IS fear. And part of that is me knowing my kids (just like you know your kids). And part of that is from the knowledge of all that has jaded me from my years in the classroom, working my butt off to make a difference and frustrated at the system. I'm trying to figure out how to make a difference in my community at this phase of life, mama to two boys, one with special needs. And right now, my community is the waiting room. Each week I get a chance to meet with some people in my community with whom I have nothing in common except all of our kids receive services. I hear them cuss at their kids at b/c they are just doing the best they know how. A preschooler I don't know except in the waiting room tries to hug me for what I am guessing is lack of hugs from his own mom. I don't know if I am rambling here or not, but I have struggled so much with this issue (plus I am falling madly in love with the charlotte mason approach to learning - and I love teaching my kids,etc.), but thank you for making me think yet again. I don't have to agree with everything you said to appreciate it, and as always I see your heart and your passion for your community. And for Jesus. And isn't that what it is all about? All of us trying to follow Jesus, listening to what He is telling us to do where we are planted with our unique strengths and weaknesses?

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    1. You make such an important point here Amanda. So much of the school decision is knowing your own child! Thank you for adding this piece to the discussion.

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  37. Thank you for writing, Shannan. This topic has been right in my face lately

    When I married my husband, he took me from my suburban, mega-church, comfortably Christian existence to his small town where the houses don't look nice and the churches are poorly attended. I was not comfortable with that.

    Last week, I had lunch with my son's second grade class and was completely astounded when his classmates were sharing their terrible family situations with me....a stranger.... my kid's classmates....in the cafeteria.... I'm not comfortable with that either.

    In fact I'm afraid. Public schools are scary places and not just the urban underperforming ones. The teachers in my son's school say they can already pick out the kids who will be doing drugs, in trouble with the law, and worse when they're teenagers. These kids will have an impact on my kid. His public school education will include the stuff he learns from other students who have lost so much innocence already. I'm not ready for that.

    I'm tempted to pull my kid and homeschool him....especially this week. So thank you for being honest and sharing how you feel. I'm encouraged to keep him there....

    I'm reminded that its really beneficial to be uncomfortable and even to feel discouraged. That means I'm not leading the way.

    Who at my son's lunch table is going to be a light if I yank him out now. Your remarks also reminded that this is an investment. We, as followers of Christ, cant abandon those kids or those schools now.

    I just wish there were more who felt that way....what an impact we would have on our communities!

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  38. Yes, yes, and yes again! You wrote my heart here, Shannan. You wrote much of our experience over the past 16 years. And you wrote out many of the reasons we stuck it out, joyfully and gladly.

    I notice that many of the commenters here justify their decisions based on their experiences. ("I was raised in public school and I turned out OK" or "I'm a homeschooler and my kids are just fine.") But here's the thing--I don't think our experiences are enough to help us make a life-decision. I think, if we are Christians, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit's call on our lives and to let God make the decision for us. I have been reminded over and over again that God is not a God of fear, and because of that I cannot make a decision based on fear. So, a long time ago (our oldest is now a senior in college) my husband and I visited our local public school for kindergarten visitation night. I was terrified--it had been a long time since I had been in a public school; plus, I had heard so many horror stories from friends who had chosen private Christian school. But my husband and I were committed to praying about our decision and to NOT making a decision based on fear, so we visited our local public school. After that visit, we couldn't think of a good reason not to try public school--after all, where would we meet other parents in our community who might need to be introduced to Jesus?

    Over the years we've been told that we're not doing the best for our kids (which really makes us laugh because isn't being in the will of God the very best we can give our kids?). We've been excluded in some circles. We've been looked down upon and have felt the sting of judgment from people we call friends. But you know what? It has been so worth it. It was worth it every time I had the opportunity to show love to a child who didn't get much at home. It was worth it every time I could encourage a teacher who was having a bad week. And it was especially worth it when a couple we met asked my husband and I if we would study the Bible with them. I could tell story after story of how God has used public school in the lives of our children and in their friends.

    No fear. We must be committed to this. Thank you for writing this post.

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  39. As an ESL teacher-in-training who hopes to work in public schools, this post makes my heart so happy. I pray I will be able to someday work with families and kiddos like yours, who are brave enough to make the everyday act of coming to school a chance to show love and give hope.

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  40. I love reading your perspective on this. I wrote a post last week about our different convictions as Christian moms, and I think this is a prime example :) I know some Godly women who I admire so very, very much who choose to homeschool their children. I do think different situations are different for different families, but I love your challenge to help restore what's broken.

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  41. This is one post that will go into my FPFG file. Your words are a hot cup of coffee and a warm blanket in front of the fire on the coldest of days for me.
    P.S. I follow a number of blogs. I enjoy them all but have a file for only one.

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  42. I've been lamenting my comments from yesterday. So many factors played into that particular situation. That teaching experience is laden with disappointment and grief. I was technically a first year teacher. I wanted to help all the kids. I get poverty. I grew up in it. I paid for my own school lunch in high school because I didn't want to be on the free lunch list -yes, those used to be out in the open for everyone to see. I worked from the time i was 11- babysitting, then moved "up" to waitressing at 15. I paid for all my own clothes at rummage sales and thrift stores. I bought my own glasses, and paid cash for all my textbooks. I finished my degree as an adult with the loving support of a wonderful husband. The principal with the baby was not my principal; my principal made it her job to torment me;That is a whole other story. I had no curriculum for English/Language Arts when I entered the classroom, purchased, borrowed, begged, etc. to get enough novels for my students to read. I stayed after school and helped kids practice for the spelling bee. I came in early and helped kids who wanted it. I did all I could think to do to reach out to parents. I want to put all that behind me, learn from the situation, and move on. My deep desire still is to help kids develop a love for learning. I experienced first-hand the daily stresses of a classroom teacher. I fed kids who missed breakfast. After resigning from my teaching position (another long story), I took a position in an office where I have every Friday off. I am now the Director of our Kids Hope USA mentoring partnership between our local church and the elementary school in our little town. I train and encourage others in our church to mentor one child each in our school. We serve special breakfasts and lunches to the teachers and staff about once each month. We have prayer partners who pray for our teachers and administration. Maybe the daily classroom setting wasn't right for me, but now I can be of help to students and staff with encouragement and support each week.

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    1. Don't lament your previous comment! This is a safe place to vent. I do it all the time! :)
      Thanks for sharing.

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  43. Good timing! I am going to visit some schools tomorrow as we try to figure out which route we are going when our first child enters school next year. I am a big proponent of public schools (I taught at a Title 1 school for 10 years.), but our local school system has begun making some very controversial (and in my opinion, detrimental) curriculum decisions that have even made national news. If we send our son to our zoned school, he will go to a Blue Ribbon school that is one of the 10 most affluent in our state. Do rich people need Jesus? Yes. Our zoned school is still a mission field.
    The awesome part of reading this post- I totally "got" and agreed with every word, but I still did not feel convicted to send my kids to public school, something I never could have dreamed of 5 years ago. I think the key in this debate is understanding the calling that the Lord has placed on your family. You understand that calling so well and are living missionally with that in mind. Our family has a different calling. We are foster parents and are ministering to broken, hurting kids and their families. I did not feel judged, as others have said. I felt inspired to continue clarifying our family's calling and living that out daily. Thanks for sharing how you are doing just that!

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    1. Thank you, Dear!
      Sidenote: I just started reading Kathy Harrison's foster parenting stuff. You know, I "stumbled" upon it. All I can say is, Uh-oh!!
      :)

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    2. I have never heard of it, so I just read the reviews on Amazon. I think I know what I'm reading next!

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  44. Hm. I'm not a mother, should I even comment on this?? Haha! I'm a pseudo-foster mom though- my mom is really sick so my sister and I (we're 21 and 22) have stepped in for her to "parent" our 17 year old foster sister, who just came from a junky background. So that makes me a bossy sister-mom? :) Speaking as a student here- I was both homeschooled and public schooled. They both were really good! I never could decide which was better, but then I went to Africa. And realized it didn't matter, education in any form was a huge privilege, and WAY more important then I realized before. And now I'm headed straight for a teaching degree, (just a little while longer!) and when I get my degree, I want to teach in a low income community. I want to work with kids who have hard home lives and are underprivileged. Those are the ones God is calling me to. And when I have kids? I don't know, can't really say until I do...but my sister attends our public high school, which in the past has been her source for drugs and not-so-nice companions. Now she's been with us a month and has done the craziest about face. The school calls and stammers on the phone, wondering what happened to her. I'll tell you- she is learning what love and a family mean. And are we dumb to keep sending her to the school where she had all the bad influences? I sure hope not, but if it gets messy, we'll just love her though. Plus she knows I'll come track her right down in that school if I think it is necessary :) Thanks for these posts, they really get me thinking! I love your heart. I come her for wisdom, I'm a little young for this parenting a hurt/tough teenager thing, but we're making it. We even like each other, most days!

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    1. COVERED UP with goose bumps. Who on earth couldn't use a bossy sister-mom in their life???!
      Honestly, the way you describe your relationship with your foster sister is similar to how I see our relationship with Robert. Isn't life the crazy-best??!
      And I loved this: "education in any form was a huge privilege"
      Sending you a shout-out of general love today!

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  45. I'm so glad that I am your friend who sent her kids to public school, then homeschooled, and now has them at a covenant christian school. I've never felt judged by you. Sorry for the ones who said they're not coming back…I know your worth doesn't come from blog readers {thank JESUS} but still, those comments are hard.

    I wonder every single day if we need to put our kids back in public school.
    Especially since our county's schools are one of the best in our whole state, which isn't saying a whole lot.
    {sorry state of GA…I love you, but you need to get your act together in the school systems!!!)

    When I read a post like this, my mind has a hard time shutting off or slowing down.
    But, I can't jump on every amazing bandwagon that comes my way or ride the coattails of someone else's convictions.
    I have to stop. pray. listen. trust. And, rely on God.
    I REST in knowing that God is able to speak to Andy and me regarding our children. So far, he's used all of my mistakes in parenting to make me more dependent on him and he's been so good to draw my children to himself despite all of my shortcomings.

    Who knows what he'll tell us regarding our children…we all have reasons why we do what we do…I want it to be said of us that we did what God asked us to do…oh Lord, give me ears to always hear you and eyes to see what you're doing around me.
    adore you Shannan...

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    1. THIS::
      "I can't jump on every amazing bandwagon that comes my way or ride the coattails of someone else's convictions.
      I have to stop. pray. listen. trust. And, rely on God.
      I REST in knowing that God is able to speak to Andy and me regarding our children. So far, he's used all of my mistakes in parenting to make me more dependent on him and he's been so good to draw my children to himself despite all of my shortcomings."

      Love you back. :)

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  46. I love, love, LOVE this post and your latest one too! As a public school teacher, a pastor's wife, and a new adoptive mom, I wish there were more Christian parents who shared this same desire to be involved in our public schools. It makes me so sad to hear parents within our church and community talk about how they have pulled their kids out of their local public school (or not even sent them) because the test scores weren't high enough or because they want to protect their kids from being exposed to unchristian things. I have seen Christian kids thrive in our public schools and have seen their faith grow more as they are challenged and learn to be a light to the students around them. I've witnessed kids hearing about Jesus for the first time from other kids in their class. That's why it is so heartbreaking to hear about Christians pulling their kids out. We desperately need Christian parents and kids in our public schools. And also, low test scores for a school does not mean the kids are not receiving a good education. It more likely means that most kids don't have the support that kids in more affluent schools have. Obviously you know this. Just something I wish other parents knew when they are judging a school off of it's scores. Thank you for articulating the very thoughts I have been thinking and wanting to write about for a long time now. You said it far better than I could have. Love your blog!

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  47. If I could get coffee with any blogger, it would for sure be you. I just can't even tell you how your obedience to your calling has ministered to me. And I thank you for putting this perspective out there! I have a 2 year old and a 3 year old, so we aren't making schooling decisions yet, but it is something I am praying about now.
    Every person must follow the leading of the Spirit in these decisions, but I think you are really on to something that is consistent with the biblical truth of really, truly loving others as we love ourselves. I think of the boy who brought his lunch to Jesus to feed a crowd. He must have been nervous thinking, "wait, what about me? what's gonna happen to me if I give him my lunch. What will I eat??" Then not only did Jesus feed him but fed the multitudes with his offering.
    I think of being that good Samaritan. If we are always thinking, "what about me? what about my kids?" We will never stop and help the bleeding and dying on the side of the road. We have got to start asking, "What about them? What's gonna happen to them if I don't stop?"
    Much love to you, and I am so thankful to God every time I think of you and read your words, because He is mobilizing His Church, and He is using the story He is writing in your family to encourage me and my family.

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  48. I always love reading your words, friend. These in particular are exceptionally beautiful. For the last few years we've had a child in a failing public school, a child in a fancy-pants private school, and two kids who are homeschooled. Four kids in three different learning communities during the same school year. I didn't want to leave here without mentioning the freedom that comes with realizing we don't always have to be in "this camp" or "that camp" or be "this kind of family" or "that kind of family." I've loved living in all the camps and being reminded of the beauty and complexity of each place of learning - each place needing love and light and each place offering those same gifts back to us as a family. I mention those things because I am silly sometimes and completely forget that option exists when I'm making big decisions (about lots of things - not just schooling choices for our families). We have loved this set up so far and the windows it has provided into all sorts of worlds within our community. We're calling it the "educational sampler" approach. When I say that, I suddenly want cheese sticks. Bye.

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  49. I am the counselor at the low income school. It takes a village... Go to a child's home and you will never 'see' the world the same. Thank you for being in the drenches and stretching our thinking!

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  50. I was one of those people you preach against. I grew up in a hyper-insulated Christian home and I graduated from a hyper-insulated Christian college. Near the end of one college semester, the faculty asked all those 'in the ministry' (aka Bible majors) to stand up for recognition. I clapped, but something didn't feel right. I realized what it was later on: was not 'in the ministry' because I wasn't a Bible major? Were pastors the only ones really called to serve? Did being a Bible major make you a super Christian? I came up with a super NO in answer to all those questions. And your blog posts feel a little like the same thing, only in reverse. I don't send my kids to the public school, but that doesn't mean we're hiding from a mission field. Just because your kids are in public schools doesn't mean you have found Christianity that's somehow more authentic. Self-righteousness can wreck even the best intentions. And public, private or homeschool: educational environment isn't going to be the deciding factor for my kids' future success. I believe their future 'success' depends on knowing they're loved so immensely, by both God and their family.

    ps: supporting public schools isn't the issue: we already support them with a ginormous part of our tax bill and we're given no choice about how that money is spent. School unions pretty much decide all that. Making a difference is bigger than hitching a wagon to a particular organization. It's about showing God's love in a million different ways every day to everyone we bump into.

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    1. I keep repeating myself, but I don't mind saying it again.
      This post was written about MY family. We intentionally moved to a disadvantaged neighborhood, so educating our kids anywhere other than at our neighborhood school would have been hypocritical and in direct disobedience to what God asked us to do. As you said, it's about showing God's love to everyone we bump into. By being involved in our local school, we bump into SO many people who need to see and feel the love of God. Why would we ever run from that?

      I'm not comparing my "Christianity" to yours or anyone's. I would disagree with the idea that different "kinds" of Christianity exist. We are called to love the poor and marginalized. This is one way WE do it. (And as I say clearly in the next post, I do think supporting public schools is an issue that everyone can be involved with, in some way. Simply stated, the poor kids go to the poor public schools. They need all of us, some way, some how. Tax dollars are irrelevant to this discussion.)

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    2. PS - Most importantly, not only do they need all of us, WE need them. For a thousand different reasons.

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  51. my parents homeschooled me and then sent me to private school. For me, it was the wrong choice. They wanted to protect me from "bad influences"(so their decision was based on fear) - kids with bad attitudes, kids who used bad language, or kids who were lazy in school. Instead I went to a private school where the kids all pretended to be sweet but were horribly mean to each other when no adult was looking (before going to chapel and raising their hands in worship), where the sin was no less prevalent, it was just sugar-coated or well hidden. Honestly, that's worse. I wish my parents had sent me to a public school - here's the truth! - PREFERABLY A LOW-INCOME ONE. It would have given me SO much more compassion and love for the people of the world. I was never exposed to that in any way, I was surrounded instead entirely by rich Christians who gossiped and slandered each other behind their backs. As an adult - now 28 - I had to figure out how to befriend non-Christians and I was totally lost, having never even had the chance to try before. I think everyone needs to remember - you are raising your children to become adults, not to stay children in a protective bubble. For ME, a public school would have given me a better perspective.

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  52. Friend, my heart is tied to yours so tightly on this one. It sorta scared me silly to send Josiah off to school anywhere, but public school in a "run down" town? Coming from a mama and dad who were raised in large wonderful private Christian schools, this indeed was a bit scary. But being scared of the unknown shouldn't stop or hold us back. And here we are half way through his first year and we are SO DANG HAPPY. Si is thriving and shining his little light and we are ALL learning. People at church whisper their concerns to us "You're sending Josiah there?? Why not enroll him in the Christian school like so and so?". Those questions/judgments used to take me aback, but now we're not fazed at all. We tell them we are confident and comfortable with our decision, that we are so blessed to be involved in the community in this way, that we LOVE it. It's fantastic to raise our kiddo alongside others who teach and stretch and surprise us, people who are so different from us, but so very much the same.

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  53. My daughter went to both private and public schools. I mentored in public schools and also taught some in private schools, so I know about both of those worlds, and I’m not against public schools, although I don’t believe the quality of the education system is up to par in many of our cities nationwide.


    As for homeschooling, I never had the desire to do that but I have many friends who did and who do. I am familiar with their heartbeat and the reasons behind why most of them have chosen this path for their children.


    I understand what you're saying about your family being "called" to a “disadvantaged” neighborhood, and how it would seem hypocritical to do anything less than send your children to the schools there, but I think what homeschooling parents take issue with, regarding this sort of reasoning is, unlike adults, children are not mature Christians. Children are easily persuaded (at least all of the ones I know are) and don't yet have the tools or the knowledge they need to “be strong in the Lord,” to resist temptations that might present themselves in a public school environment, where God is not part of the curriculum, where sex education begins as early as kindergarten, where prayer is not allowed.


    I have known many children who graduated from both public and homeschool environments, successfully. There are pros and cons on both sides. But the parents I know who homeschool their children believe it is their God-given responsibility (their calling, if you will) to educate their children in a spiritual environment. I really can’t fault them for that.

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  54. For days, I have been running away from this post, justifying why the prideful words you ripped from my brain really weren't as bad as they seemed. But you nailed me here, " I wanted them to learn in a classroom with kids who were right on track with them, in every possible way. It seemed only logical that kids trying to learn English while they also learned everything else would be a distraction at best, a handicap at worst. But bless their hearts all the same."

    Laid bare, I'm ashamed too. I am determined to embrace the community inside my geographical boundaries and outside my comfort zone.

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    1. Friend, I know that feeling SO well. So thankful for a God who nudges us in the direction He needs us.
      Thanks for your honesty here.
      xo

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  55. I'm not a blogger but I stop by a few blogs often and yours is one of them. I don't comment much either, but this post really grabbed me and, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts.

    I admire many things about you and your husband, and I'm not saying what you're doing sounds crazy. It doesn't. I have no problem with parents who put less emphasis on education and more on experiences. Still, be cautious that you don't sacrifice your children on the altar of your calling. They are still very young and they are, in God's eyes, your first calling.

    I pray you receive what I'm saying in the spirit in which it is written, a spirit of love and concern, and not one of judgment.

    I have missionary friends who felt God's call to minister on foreign soil. They became so engrossed and involved in trying to save the heathens around them that they ended up putting their children in risky situations. Without going into details, things happened and great, irreversible harm was done. The ultimate outcome was heartbreaking for the whole family.

    While it's a noble thing to want to save the world, to salvage each and every lost soul, we cannot forget where our first ministry lies, and that is at home. We can't protect our children from every evil around us, but we must do our best to make wise choices on their behalf, then leave the rest up to God's divine protection.

    God bless you as you follow His lead.

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    1. I don't think you can equate putting your child in public school with putting them in a "risky situation". In addition, there is something very derogatory about describing the people that your friends were called to serve as "heathens".

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  56. Thank you so much for this post! I'm one of those teachers who work in a Title 1 school teaching English Learners every day. (Out of my class of 24, 21 have English as their second, or third, or fourth language.) While my system is considered "wealthy", so many of the other schools in our system have large and active PTA's with budgets that run into the tens of thousands. This year, we're just trying to keep our PTA afloat. The disparity between the school where I teach and the ones where my own kids go to school is clear. (And they are only about 10 miles apart from each other.) We have at least 40 students who go home every day to an extended stay hotel room, where they don't have a bedroom of their own, and some of them don't even have a bed to call their own. It's heartbreaking, but, over the years, I've decided I wouldn't really want to be anywhere else. We chose not to put our kids in my school for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that we wanted them going to school with their neighborhood, but I don't know if I'll ever leave. Sure, it's a lot easier to teach middle class and upper middle class kids, but when the eight year old sitting across from you is able to match the twelve rhyming words we've been working on for the whole week, there really isn't any better feeling. And, yes, watching a second grader switch from Chinese to English and back to Chinese without skipping a beat puts you in awe of their abilities. These kids may have lots working against them, but lack of ability certainly isn't one of them.

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  57. I wish I could sit with you and talk over a cup of coffee. Thank you for opening your heart to us. As a "retired" homeschooler and a student (almost done with my teaching degree) I thank you. I am an educator by heart, I love teaching, learning and sharing. That is why after 14 + years of homeschooling I will continue the journey I have been called too, in the public school system. I have seen both sides, and have tutored many homeschool and public school children from all backgrounds. I know there are many home-schooling families in similar situations as those in low-income schools. There are a few things I have learned over the years and I look forward to learning more, aw well as sharing. As for where I will teach I have no idea, but I find that in all schooling options(home/public/hack/private) you will find the broken, hurting, and lost. I hope to serve all that I can. I look forward to reading the book your recommend. Thank you
    Paula

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  58. Can I tell you how much I love this post? I am a teacher, specializing in urban schools, who is home today because I need a mental break. I don't take them often, but as the years move on, the standards become more stringent, and creativity is extracted from the classroom, it is hard to forge ahead some days. I am not in it for the money, I am not in it to "save the kids", I am in it because I love kids. I'd rather spend my time with 40 first graders than one adult most days. I love their honesty, their whole hearts, their broken souls, and most importantly, their resilience and desire to constantly learn. It is infectious. I am also a mother who believes, whole heartedly, that my kids are not just learning math and reading, they are learning compassion. Compassion for the student who doesn't have a home, compassion for the student who has a hard time keeping it together all day, compassion for those less fortunate and more fortunate than us. That is why my kids and myself spend our days in public school. From the very bottom of grateful heart, thank you so much for writing this. Keep writing, keep volunteering, and keep making me laugh and cry with this wonderful blog. You are an inspiration.

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  60. You just put into words for me what I so desperately needed to hear and wish I could write. We are in a title 1 school where most of the kids speak spanish and we moved here just for that. I want my kids to be a light. I know they can be that wherever they are, but I want them to know so many more aspects of life, and culture, and truth, and have more socioeconomic realizations than I had as a child. I want them to truly love their neighbor and know their neighbor has someone who is almost nothing like them. And not even bat an eye at that part. I want them to be generous and realize that some people need their generosity right by us. Generosity in a smile, in a snack, in help with homework. And the same with their teachers. Man, those people are saints. They are the rock stars. I want to help them in any way I can. Every last Friday of the month they do this little pep rally where all the kids get together and they say their little school pledge and it is the sweetest thing. I cry every time. The end says "I am a leader and I will SOAR" and thinking about those kids soaring- against so many odds- just wrecks me. I am so thankful for you. For how you are really doing it. How you encourage us out here who are trying to bloom where we are planted, too. Thank you for letting us into your life and allowing your life to give us the community we need when we need it most.

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  61. I appreciate your thoughts here and have been mulling them over since reading earlier this morning...
    I think the key is-- what is God leading our family to do?
    And then next-- with the caveat of "for this year".
    I'm with ya on no hack-schooling for this year, but we've had enough surprises over the last while of parenting to know that so much can change and those changes might make us open to an option that wasn't even on the radar when our oldest was just starting school (she's 14 now). Adding more children, job changes, moves, death, disabilities, or God-given interests can all be used by Him to shift our thinking as He opens and closes doors to place us where He wants to use us to reach out to others and to live for His glory. I love, love, love your heart to live as light for Him in the midst of your community though. Love, K

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