How to choose a school for your child

I’m not a parent. I preface everything I say about parenting with that statement because I know parenting is one of those sensitive topics that people feel strongly about, and I know parenting advice is a dime a dozen anyway. And who am I to comment on how you’re raising your offspring, who is/are no doubt (a) unique and amazing snowflake(s).

But I agree almost entirely with what Simone says – in terms of how I plan to bring up any children that I should happen, if God wills is, to produce with my wife, should she agree with the very strong case I will put forward. Not only does Simone invoke my favourite Biblical mandate – the Great Commission – her son is also cool enough to be lobbying his local MP on humanitarian issues.

As I said in the comments on her post – I think her points are of particular importance for people engaged in Christian ministry (full time or otherwise) who might habitually surround themselves with other Christians. I don’t think you should sacrifice your children for your ministry (or in this case their academic future). But I think public education in Australia is not the basket case we often describe it as (having been the product of some pretty woeful public schools with some pretty excellent teachers on occasion). It’s a bit like our hospitals. We bemoan things in our country that other countries would give an arm and a leg for… learning about imaginary numbers is a luxury (and one I probably could have done without, in hindsight).


queenstuss says:

I thought I’d just poke my head in on your blog to have a look, and was quite interested to read this post. I read Simone’s post too, and all the comments, but I wasn’t allowed to comment there. So I’ll comment here.

I am a parent (to a unique and amazing snowflake), with the ‘where to go to school’ decision looming. We are very close to choosing Cathedral (an Anglican school), despite the fact that it is 15 minutes away and there is a public school five minutes walk away.

The more left-leaning my political views become, the more I sway towards public schooling. But my husband is somewhat more right-leaning in his views and I don’t always insist on my way, especially when:

-He works at Cathedral. There is an expectation from the school that our kids will attend. We get a massive discount on fees. It’s convenient. Probably more convenient than the school down the road.
-It has a fantastic music programme.
-The academic average of the kids is reasonably high, and smart kids aren’t ostracised like I was at school. I have a bright kid. Not a genius, but well above average. One public school nearby I wouldn’t send him to because he would probably stick out like a sore thumb (based on what I’ve heard from people about the school).
-There are only 2-3 classes per grade. The school up the road has 5-6. That matters to us.

I am nervous about the wealthy parents. I am concerned about whether we will actually be able to afford it, especially with more than one child at school, and my full intention to avoid returning to work so that I can be fully available for a) my children b) ministry. I am worried about my kid arriving at school and having achieved the outcomes for Prep two years early.

In the end it comes down to this (probably) being the best choice for our family. Not anyone else’s family. Ours. I’m not going to lay judgment on anyone else’s school choice, because they have their own reasons and priorities, even if I think they are wrong.

Tim says:

I work in a school as a school chaplain and can I just say that for me in my ministry- committed Christian Kids are Gold. Last year I had my youth pastor’s daughter t my school and just because she did live a committed Godly life she really stood out and because of her life I had some great spiritual chats.
One student even said to me “Whenever I sit near her I actually want to do the right thing.” I then followed up with ‘Why do you think she is different?’ and we had a great chat about morals, lifestyle and that kid has now plugged into a local youth group and has a far more stable group of friends and is back on track. Not because of me but rather because of her and a realization his life needed to change or he’d end up in jail like his brother. This really struck home to me and I’d love my kids- if I ever had any- to have that sort of ministry.

Nathan Campbell says:

Hey Stuss,

Welcome back. I reckon, as a rule of thumb, it’s a bit like choosing a church. Choose the one closest to you with acceptable teaching and be part of the community.

That’ll be my approach. I think the “can I afford it” question is also important – but rich people, especially rich Anglican people, need the gospel too.

Lee Shelton says:

I’m not an Australian, so I certainly can’t speak to the condition of Australian public schools. As an American, however, I can say that I have seen our schools go right down the toilet. They aren’t just “worldly” obstacles for our children to overcome; they are outright hostile to the gospel of Christ and anything even remotely Christian.

I realize many believers think of the public school system as a mission field, and that all Christian children should be made to attend. One of my friends actually said she thought it was a sin for Christian parents not to send their kids to public schools. (Seeing as how she wouldn’t even allow her kids to listen to secular music, I thought that was a rather interesting position to take.) At the time I didn’t press the issue because we didn’t have kids of our own yet. Now, I see my first duty as a parent embodied in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Some will argue that hostility toward the gospel is all the more reason to get Christian kids into the public school system. I agree to the extent that public schools, like any other earthly arena, needs the gospel. Still, I have yet to meet a single couple willing to send their child into a strip club or crack house in an effort to be salt and light to the world.

At what age are our children equipped enough to handle an environment that is directly opposed to their worldview? Five years old? Ten? Sixteen? Personally, I couldn’t send my five-year-old lamb into a pack of hungry wolves and trust she will emerge unscathed. Likewise, I wouldn’t allow her to play in a busy street simply because I have a belief that God will protect her. I do have faith in God, but with that comes a serious responsibility as a father to make sound decisions regarding my child’s welfare, and that includes education.

Those are some of my thoughts on the subject. I know that every school is different as well as every family situation, so I don’t think anyone can say one way is right and one way is wrong. As believers, our duty is to approach this issue thoughtfully and prayerfully.

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi Lee,

Our contexts are probably different in that for the most part, our schools equip people with a reasonable education that is quality controlled by a state-wide (soon to be nationwide curriculum). Children are tested throughout by the governing bodies, and schools are monitored to ensure some form of quality control.

I think Proverbs 22 is applicable past the decision about schooling – schooling, in my mind, is such an insignificant part of training a child. Most of the stuff I learned at school was eminently forgettable.

“Still, I have yet to meet a sin­gle cou­ple will­ing to send their child into a strip club or crack house in an effort to be salt and light to the world.”

I think this analogy breaks down – because sin is at the heart of the sin club, and at the heart of the crackhouse – and we should be bringing people out of those areas in the process of redemption. I’d hate to think, even if you disagree with some of the content of a public education, that it is fundamentally sinful in nature to educate your children.

“At what age are our chil­dren equipped enough to han­dle an envi­ron­ment that is directly opposed to their world­view? Five years old? Ten? Six­teen?”

By themselves? Probably never. Which is where your role as a parent comes in – do you keep them from the environment? Or help them navigate the path that environment? What happens when they leave the family home and are confronted with a world they didn’t know existed?

Lee Shelton says:

Again, my perspective is that of one who went through the American government school system. There is much more to the issue of public education for me than just providing my children with a biblical worldview.

I’m a little uneasy with the whole concept of someone taking my money at gunpoint (i.e. taxes) and using it to further an agenda that stands in direct opposition to my beliefs. But that’s a can of worms best left unopened for now. I only mention it to help explain a little of where I’m coming from. I’m a libertarian, politically, and have a problem with just about everything the government does.

I agree that my job as a parent is to prepare my kids for the real world, but it would seem to me that a biblically based education would be an extremely important part of that preparation. Learning science and history is important, but even more so in a biblical context. Giving our children a firm grasp on the Truth will give them the ability to stand up to the assaults they will inevitably face.

Mmm, interesting perspective Lee. Just wondering how you square your attitude to taxes with that of Jesus, who told people to pay taxes to ceasar.

Lee Shelton says:

There are a lot of things to consider on that particular issue, such as whether or not what the government is doing with those taxes is legal or even moral. That’s another discussion for another time. But paying taxes, or having a good attitude about doing so, doesn’t change the essential nature of taxation: the confiscation of funds under the threat of force.

The “render to Caesar” passage in the gospels was not to address the duty of citizens to pay whatever the government demands. The Jewish religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus, most likely trying to trick him into saying something treasonous that could be used against him. Recognizing their hypocrisy, Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Everything, ultimately, belongs to God, including my children.

queenstuss says:

I will confess my ignorance on the American public school system. I don’t know much what it’s like. I know in Australia that too much is being squeezed into the curriculum, but I think that has a lot to do with deflected responsibility of parents, not particular agendas. (I haven’t looked at the proposed National Curriculum yet. It wasn’t available to the general public initially, and don’t know if it is yet.)

But I fully support universal access to quality education, because I believe literacy is power. Look at a country like Papua New Guinea. It is close to a failed state, and has a corrupt government. It also has under 60% literacy. Education is free (but underfunded) until grade six, and expensive beyond that. Private schools are generally funded by private enterprise, plus fees which only the wealthy can afford, and provide a far better education than government schools. If they can afford it, parents will send their children to Australia to boarding school – and quite often those kids don’t return home.

My role as a Christian in a democracy is to be a voice (even if it might not be loud). I can write letters to my local politicians, and to the editor of the newspaper to make my voice heard – because I can read and write.

queenstuss says:

I mean to say a voice speaking God’s truth, not just a voice.