Where Should Christians Send Their Kids to School?

Sophie Widmer, Luke Avula, and two friends at Chimborazo Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia

I have a new article for Christianity Today’s magazine that is now available online: The New School Choice Agenda. In it, I write about a group of friends who moved into a low-income neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia who have decided to send their children to the local public schools. I also had a chance to interview men and women across the nation, all Christians who have made similar choices. The article prompted me to ask the question–are Christians “called” to send their kids to public schools? To struggling schools? Or perhaps we’re called to send our kids to Christian schools or to home school or even to private schools? How should our faith and our desire to love our neighbors impact these decisions, which are often made based primarily upon what is “best” for our individual children?

For the rest of this week, I’m going to be running a series of guest posts this week in which a variety of people share the choices they’ve made. You’ll hear from Abigail Liu and Elisabeth Klein Corcoran about sending their children to Christian schools, from Margaret Philbrick and her son’s maturation in a public school setting, from Sarah Reimers about involvement as a parent advocate at her children’s neighborhood public school, from Steve Garber about his children attending a private high school, and from Helen Lee and Marlene Molewyk about the choice to home school. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself grateful for these many voices of parents who are trying to follow God’s lead in educating their children.

I should add that all of these come under the banner of Christianity Today’s This Is Our City Project, which is looking at five different cities and the ways in which Christians are seeking to bless their communities.

For now, here’s the beginning of the article for Christianity Today:

Chanan Wijesooriya in class at Chimborazo

When Cheryl Burke first walked into the dark lobby of Chimborazo Elementary School, where she had just been appointed principal, she noted the distinct smell of urine. Outside, the playground was littered with “40s,” large empty beer bottles, and crack cocaine was stashed in one of the bathrooms. “I just cried,” says Burke, recalling that day in 1996.

Sixteen years later, the brightly lit lobby sports two armchairs and a coffee table. Where black asphalt once surrounded the buildings, there is now green grass. Sterile white cinder-block hallways now vibrate with colorful stripes of paint. Over the years, “Miz Burke,” as she is known to staff, parents, and students alike, convinced the local faith community to pray for the school, raise funds, and counsel and tutor students. Chimborazo’s scores on the state Standard of Learning exam have climbed, and now the number of students declared “proficient” in math and reading hovers around 60 percent.

Still, 88 percent of Chimborazo’s students are so poor they receive free or reduced-price lunches; with that poverty comes a litany of challenges for the PK-5 school. As bright and beautiful as Burke has made it, Chimborazo reflects its local community, with all its hurts and all its possibilities.

To keep reading, click here.

 

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Amy, I just read your CT article this morning and thought I had to let you know how good it is, then I get directed to your blog from Ellen Painter Dollar’s site and here this is! So now I can tell you that the CT article is some of the best reporting I’ve read in a long time.

    Plus, your writing is so evocative. I felt like I was actually walking through those doors with Miz Burke on her first day as principal, and meeting with the fellowship among the professionals and those who are homeless, and sitting in the classroom with the volunteers. Thank you for sharing all this with us, Amy.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  2. “…are Christians “called” to send their kids to public schools? ”

    No.

    • Jazookie says:

      And why not? Are you sure?

      • Because it’s our job as parents to protect children by not sending them into potential hostile and dangerous environments as little missionaries.

        • Abby says:

          There are plenty of potentially hostile and dangerous environments that are also Christian schools. I went to Christian school K-12 and was in class with kids who were kicked out of their local public school for dealing drugs, kids who became impregnated during high school (and many who COULD have become impregnated), kids who ended up under house arrest, many kids who experimented with drugs, kids who habitually stole from both stores and other students…. I could go on and on. It’s a sinful world. God calls us to all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons. He is faithful to protect us and provide for us wherever we may go. And as parents, we are never free from that responsibility to our children, whether they are at home, in Christian school, or in public school.

          • “God calls us to all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons. He is faithful to protect us and provide for us wherever we may go.”

            I am pretty confident if I walked into traffic I will get hit by a car. You don’t put yourself directly in harm’s way bc God will protect you. That is tempting God.

            Just like you don’t through kids, still learning their faith, into an urban jungle and expect God to protect them.

            Puh-lease.

  3. Tim says:

    Public schools support teacher unions which are bent on destroying organized religion and the various institutions that make this country great.

  4. page says:

    I think it is perfectly fine to send your kids to a public school, private school, or homeschool. Do what is best for your child and prayerfully make that decision.


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