Monday, February 4, 2013

Going Public by David & Kelli Pritchard

As I am out of the country, I have asked my friend and fellow pastor, Luke Rosenberger, to share some thoughts about parenting in relation to education. This is part one of his thoughts after reading Going Public by David & Kelli Pritchard. I hope these thoughts will be helpful to everyone, regardless of which path they take for the education of their children. You can follow Luke on Twitter by going HERE.

In the fall of 2010, we would be sending our first child to school and with that there was a decision that had to be made. Do we homeschool, do we send Madison to the public school that is right across the street or do we make the commitment to send her to the Christian school that was a forty-five minute drive away? We couldn’t just follow the pattern of how we were raised because my wife and I had come from completely different experiences when it comes to school. Laura had been homeschooled her entire life, while on the other hand, I had spent all my time in the public school. 

We knew plenty of people who had very strong feelings and convictions about where and how their children were educated. We were not as convinced that God demands our children to be educated in a particular place. But we did believe whole-heartily that no matter where our children attended school, Dad and Mom would be the primary teachers. We would be the ones that continually pour into their lives, give them instruction, help build a foundation under them, and take every opportunity to shape their minds with a biblical view of the world.

We were certain that we didn’t want to homeschool, so it was down to the other two options. We came to our decision one day while we were taking a family walk like we often do. As we were walking through our neighborhood we passed a house of a family that we knew through our AWANA program at church. They faithfully sent their young kids to our children’s program while I knew that they as a family held religious beliefs that were directly opposed to our church.

At that moment we made our decision that in her first year of school, we wanted her to be in a place that affirmed and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. We made the commitment to send Madison to the Kindergarten at Genesee Christian Academy. We came to the conclusion that in her first year of school, we want her surrounded by other Christians. And we wanted her first teacher to be a person who loves Jesus. Practically speaking, we also liked the schedule of all day Monday, Wednesday and Friday (not everyday, all day like the public school in our district).  

This was not a commitment for the rest of her life, but one that we would evaluate every year. At this time we are considering once again where our daughters (we have four, only the two oldest are school age) will attend school next year. In the midst of a discussion on this topic that I was having with Thad, our Pastor, he suggested that I read the book Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David and Kelli Pritchard.

It was a book that I found very practical and helpful! I found that the authors have very similar desires to our own. Regardless of where our daughters go to school in the years to come, we have a tremendous desire to shepherd our girls through this life and encourage them to be a living display of the gospel, no matter whether they attend public school or the Christian school in our area. As I read through this book I was greatly encouraged to hear the stories of this family and how as a parents they walked side-by-side with each of their eight kids as they received their education outside of their home.

There were four ways in which this book challenged and impacted me as a parent who desires to raise my girls to the best of my abilities. I will share one today and the rest tomorrow.

1.  Focus on Teaching the Three Most Important Things
In preparing for school there are so many things that every child must have. They need the right clothes, the right shoes, plenty of paper, something to write with, a calculator, a backpack to carry it all in, and probably other things that I haven’t even thought of. But more than supplies, they need a foundation that is built into the character of who they are. The Pritchard’s take three chapters to explain what every child needs.

First, they need to be taught to have an incredible love for Jesus. Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” They go on to comment on this verse by saying:
Nothing is more important. Nothing is more foundational. Nothing will steer your child more effectively through the complexities, distractions and temptations of a day at public school. Young people who, of their own free will, deeply love the Lord and care about God’s divine perspective can navigate the most treacherous waters with steady confidence . . . We are talking about far more than just being a regular church kid. Lots of grade-school, and middle-school, and high-school students go through the Sunday motions, spend a week at summer camp, sing in the Christmas program, bring a can of food drive and maybe even recite the Sinner’s Prayer at some point along the way – but the core of their being is not captured by the love of God. Jesus asks for something deeper.
The second thing that my children must be taught is to obey me unconditionally. The child that understands what it means to obey dad and mom has been taught two very important truths about their lives. For one, they understand that they are not the boss, but that somebody else is in charge of them. In addition, they will understand that parents often delegate their authority to other responsible people. The child who has an understanding of what it means to obey is well on their way to succeeding in school.

The third most important thing that the Pritchard’s believe is essential to teach every child is self-control. While self-control and obedience are very closely related, they are not the same the thing. They say:
Obedience is the response to an outside authority. Self-control, on the other hand, is internal and free standing. It is how a young person behaves whether Mom and Dad is in the same zip code, let alone in the same room. The child has been trained to tell himself yes or no, based on certain criteria . . . At birth we hold virtually all the control; the infant is like clay in our hands. We give instruction and gradually transfer more and more decisions toward the child, so that by the age 18 or so, he or she arrives at the point of total self-control, where we no longer have to exert outside pressure. The young person is now self-governing.
I believe these three chapters are tremendously helpful as a parent regardless of school. As a daddy, I have an enormous desire to see my girls loving Jesus with everything they have, obeying whatever authority is over them and doing the right thing because they have a control over themselves.

Tomorrow, I will share the other three points that I learned from this book.

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