Choose Wisely: A guest post by Lisa Bartelt

This is a post in a series, Jesus At the Blackboard, a place to come and share our stories about educational choices in order to broaden the conversation without making parents feel bad about themselves. You can find all of the posts in this series here.

How much do I love this post by Lisa Bartelt? It is so honest and so, so true. It captures the way we have this discussion and they way we need to be having it. I am so excited about sharing it with you!

Jesus at the blackboard: choose wisely

There’s a scene toward the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the ancient guardian of the Holy Grail advises the greedy Nazis and the archaeologist/adventurer to “choose wisely” when picking from a room full of possible cups.

In a way, deciding the education path for our kids has been like that scene: one wrong choice and we’re doomed.

Before we had kids, the “holy grail” of education was homeschooling. We had friends who did it and loved it and made it sound so appealing, and my husband and I were sold: We would home-school our children, if and when we had them.

Then, our daughter was born. And her social needs outpace my capacity to meet them, and I found myself quickly abandoning any notion of homeschooling. Then another child came along, our son, and I couldn’t imagine trying to teach my kids and care for a house and be a writer. (And I’m still in awe of women who do all of these things!)

Now our daughter is five and starting kindergarten in the fall. And school choice is no longer hypothetical but an actual decision that has to be made.

Some time ago, we decided that public school was the way to go. My husband and I both attended public school (I’m not sure either set of parents had much choice in those days) so it’s a place that’s familiar to us. What sealed the decision for us was the built-in community nature of public school. We moved our family 800 miles from our hometown so my husband could attend seminary, and now that he’s graduated and we’re about to move again, we need a place that will offer us a way to connect with people.

Public school provides that opportunity. And our daughter will thrive being with other kids and a teacher all day. At least that’s our hope.

Even with the public vs. private vs. homeschool decision behind us, choosing where to move based on the schools has been another weighty decision. We’re moving to a city where the schools have a bad reputation because of poverty and ethnic diversity (I think) but rent is low, and where the rural schools are better overall but rent is higher. I’ve dismissed the city schools as not good enough for my daughter because I’m afraid she won’t be challenged the way she needs to be.

But God has been softening that stance, forcing me to face the sources of my fear. That she won’t be safe. That I’ll be counted among the poor and marginalized. That she’ll act out if she’s not challenged enough.

Choose wisely.

I’ve been making school choice a life-or-death decision, as if where we send our daughter to kindergarten will shape the rest of her life. As if God can’t—or won’t—meet her in the classroom, wherever it is and meet me where I’m at in my fear.

The choice, then, isn’t about where we send her to school or what type of school it is. The choice is whether I’ll trust God to be God wherever that school is.

Like Indiana Jones finds out, the wisest choice might surprise me yet.

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10 thoughts on “Choose Wisely: A guest post by Lisa Bartelt

  1. Like your parents, Lisa, my husband and I placed our children in public school without a thought for other options. Connecting with the school community through the children’s activities like scouts, field trips, carnivals, band, choir, and theater helped us know what the schools were doing and be known when help was needed. I liked the opportunities we had to witness for Christ through relationships that began in the public school.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience about building relationships and offering help. That’s what we hope to bring to the table, especially if the school is not one of the best in the district.

      • I have worked at some not so great schools and maintain that there you can still get a top tier education. Truly. Also, if you have the capability to be a “room mom” you may be the first one the teacher has ever had. What a blessing!

  2. I love this post and applaud your decision and perspective. I attended low-income, ethnically diverse public schools and now teach in a low-income, ethnically diverse public high school. As with everything in life, public schools are what you make them. If you stay involved in your child’s education, communicate with their teachers, and make sure they’re involved in extracurricular activities, public schools (even the “bad” ones) can be wonderful. From what I’ve seen, things fall apart when parents allow their children to be “lost in the shuffle”– and it can be relatively easy with the overcrowding, lack of funds, and other issues that come in public schools.

  3. We choose public schools and were pleased with the choice. I think as Katie says above that if you stay involved in your child’s education then the experience can be mostly positive. I agree with Lisa in that the choice is much more than what school to attend but if you are trusting God with not only school but the other important issues in life. In some ways we home schooled our children as in several of their classes I taught them a lot of what they learned rather than getting at school. I am sure no matter where you go there will be good teachers and not so good and that has to extend to home schooling as well. I was glad to be part of the education of my children regardless if they were in public school or not.
    I think we have to remember that growing up academics is only part of what learning is about. It includes growing in wisdom as well; learning how to deal with people and issues. Sometimes those are more important and we neglect those opportunities at times.

    • Very true, Mark. How much of what we learn in school is what we need for life? (That’s not a criticism of the education system but an observation about holistic learning!) Thanks for reading and sharing.

  4. Pingback: A conversation about school choice | Living Echoes

  5. Pingback: Jesus at the Blackboard: A call for your story | Accidental Devotional

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