Book Review: “Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School”

When the idea of this website took root in my heart, “Public on Purpose” was the original title I had in mind. However, when I mentioned the idea to Mark and he had “happened” to have written, but never published, a book on the subject years before called “Going Public” we went with his quirky title. I went so far as to register the domain name, “ChristiansGoingPublic.com”, but when I went to search for it on Google, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a book already written by that name!

The book “Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School” was written by David and Kelli Pritchard of Tacoma, WA (just a few hours away from us). Parents of eight children themselves and other children they took in along the way, they provide great guidance for families with their kids in public school.

Before starting this site, I had searched for resources to help Christians with kids in public school, but did not find many at all. As far as I can find, this book is one of a kind and it is worthy of reading.

This book does not take a stand that public school is the only right choice over other options like homeschooling or private school. Instead, they think we should all actively seek God in our decision making. They also recognize that a majority of Christian children do attend public school, so we need to provide help for doing it successfully, just like we, at Public on Purpose, do.

The book points out parent’s role in the education of their children. We can’t leave it all up to the school. As they quoted from Missionary author Elisabeth Elliot, “There’s never been a time when children could be raised without sacrifice and discipline on the part of the parents.” The book gives many practical ways for parents to train and support their children’s education.

Homeschooling is also a focus in the book in the regard that we should all be “homeschooling”. The couple says, “Yes! We definitely homeschool our children…and starting at age five, we also send them to public school to get more information.” We have the responsibility as parents to make sure our children are getting an appropriate academic and moral education. We must see ourselves as teachers. “Education is not primarily about “them” (the school). It belongs to us first and foremost.” Remember that we need to prepare our children for being sent out. “If you fear that the tide of influence will run the other way – that public-school classmates will drag your child down from his or her standards – then this means you have some training yet to do.”

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the importance of sending your child to school with self-control. “The child with self-control has been trained to tell himself yes or no, based on certain criteria.” It gave me a focus for why I train my children the way I do. I want them to be able to control themselves when I am not around. This affects many behaviors and attitudes where I sometimes let their behavior at home slip. Now, I take action to help them correct behaviors so that they want to change them and will do so on their own.

The book also addresses that fear cannot be a reason that we don’t put our children in public school. “The issue is not whether we trust school officials to always do the right thing. The issue is whether we trust ‘that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28)” Our God is bigger than our society. If we prayerfully consider our ways and motivations, we can trust Him to protect and use our children and families even in public school.

In an interview with Focus on the Family at the beginning of this school year, David and Kelli Pritchard also shared that they believe you need to consider “each kid, each year”. This is what helped me in my decision to pull one of my daughters to homeschool her for the rest of the year. I felt like it was the right thing for her for this time.

There is so much more in this book that will help you in your public schooling journey and I can’t share it all, so grab a copy for yourself. If you have read any other good resources on Christians in public school, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to review other material.

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Each Child, Each Year – Facing Academic Challenges in the Classroom

Things have been keeping me busy, not the least of which was deciding to make one major change for our family. Even before we got this website fully off the ground, there were signs that we would face challenges with one teacher this school year. Despite many efforts to correct the situation, I decided this week that I would homeschool my middle daughter for the rest of this year.

It may seem that this doesn’t fit in with our title and mission of “public on purpose”, but actually, it does. We do public school for many reasons. I’ll write those out for you in a post some day. We do public school because we have spent many hours purposely thinking through every pro and con. Generally academics have been a pro or at least neutral in the public school. My children have generally learned what they were supposed to know each year.

However, to be purposeful about public schooling you have to consider each child, each year. Not every child is the same and not every teacher or school is the same. You cannot assume that it will be the best answer all the time.

I am blessed to be a stay-at-home and available to give homeschooling a try with my daughter. I know not everyone has this option, but since I do, I should consider it in my options…knowing that God can equip me for the task if it is something I should do.

So, what brought me to the final decision? Oddly, it was a very civil meeting with our principal about a completely different topic. Our school is going through a school improvement process because it hasn’t reached its goals for four years. So, they are being required to restructure. I went into the meeting with some ideas to help make positive changes and we talked. After 45 minutes I walked out and reflected for a bit. I realized that we had wasted our time. No change would come from my efforts. That realization made me reflect on the discussions about my daughter’s classroom and I realized that was the same case there. We had said a lot of words and I had waited, but made no significant progress. It was time to make the call.

So, now I hope that being both a public school mom and and home school mom I will be able to offer a unique perspective. I imagine it is all part of God’s plan, even with this blog.

I want to share the steps that brought me here in case it might help you consider each of your individual children and their situations.

Pay attention early in the year

We had to learn the hard way with our oldest. Each year we would send her to school and pretty much assume that all was going well unless we heard otherwise from the teacher. Now, after many years in the public schools, we know that you must pay close attention. Not all teachers are created equal when it comes to parent communication.

Our most successful years have been with teachers that send home graded work often, communicate regularly via newsletter or email, and keep our kids accountable to turning in work. Often these key ingredients are missing and symptoms can show up early. Also, we have found that good grades on a report card do not necessarily represent how much they have learned in the year. Watch for information from teachers about your student’s progress and if you don’t get much, be sure to check in with them to see how things are going. It may be that things are fine or it may be that something is missing in the classroom.

Define needs and goals

If you find that something is missing, you need to decide which are the most important issues. Perhaps you find there is no accountability from the teacher, your student is missing work or producing poor work, or maybe there is a classroom management problem. It would be a good idea to prioritize your concerns. Decide what are your most important goals for your student. This will help you know which battles are really worthy of fighting, and when action is necessary.

Communicate with the teacher

When you go in to talk to the teacher, ask questions to clarify your perception of the situation. Talk civilly and respectfully. Explain your perspective and your goals for your student. See if you can come up with an action plan that will fix the situation. Expect to do your part and hold your child accountable to take part in the solution. Do not leave the entire problem up to the teacher to solve. Keep your concerns professional and don’t let them become an attack on the teacher as a person. Try to be as positive as you can.

Communicate with the principal

If you do the previous steps and you are unable to make a plan, you may need to speak with the principal. The administration should be able to step in and help the teacher find a solution if necessary. Continue to do all you can to make things better. Don’t lose sight of your main goals.

Make decisions

Once a plan is moving forward, you will need to give the situation some time. Changes take a while to implement and solidify. However, if things do not seem to improve or you are unable to take the steps to open up communication with a teacher or principal, you may need to take action.

You may need to take the lead and create a specific new system so that you are able to get the information from the teacher that you need, whether that is a written progress report or graded work sent home in a packet. You may have to ask for your child to be moved to a different classroom, or to a different school if possible. If you have the option, you may decide to home school that child for the year. When things aren’t improving you have to take some kind of action. You cannot wait forever. Your child’s education is ultimately your responsibility.

I lingered in the waiting stage for these last two months. After communicating the challenges with the teacher and principal, I was seeing some improvement. It was very slow, and not in the area that was my biggest priority. The issue was really being danced around and I was not getting real answers from the teacher or principal. All of a sudden I realized that was what was happening. It became apparent that my daughter was going to suffer if I didn’t do something significant.

So here I am with two in public school and one at home. I imagine we’ll have our own challenges ahead, but God willing, we’ll make progress. I really feel that this will be a special time for my daughter and I. She has never had time with me on her own, being the middle child. She shines when she gets positive affirmation, so now I’ll be able to give it to her. It may be just what she needs to grow in her faith and be guarded socially for a bit. God works through these things and so I put my trust in Him completely on this new journey.

Image: Kittikun Atsawintarangkul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Quick Tip of the Week: Tracking Play Dates and Sleepovers

If you have more than one kid, you might have the same problem we have. Every weekend each child is angling to get a friend over to play or spend the night. On occasion I even let the pressure get to me and everyone has someone over at the same time! With all girls, it can be a crazy, busy party…but we all still have fun!

Problem

Sometimes it seems like we have a child over almost every weekend and my children don’t seem to appreciate that. Often, all they remember are the times we say “No, not this weekend.” They also tend to disagree about whose turn it is to invite someone over.

Solution

Lightning just struck my brain a couple weeks ago and I came upon an exciting and easy solution! I told my girls to write down their friend’s name on the calendar on the day or night they played or stayed over. There it is…documented! Wow, that helps my brain to relax, make wise decisions, and also helps the girls to appreciate how many times we actually do say “yes”!

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Bonus Printable

I go back and forth on prayer lists and journaling and arrow prayers all day long. It seems I pray and worship differently just about every day. However, I’ve found that prayer lists really help me to remember specific things and keep me focused. So, for a little fun, I’ve made you this printable prayer list with my “10 Things to Pray for Your Kids“. You can print it large and hang it on the fridge or you can print it as a 3×5 card and stick in your Bible. It’s just a little fun gift from me to you…if it would be useful to you. Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

See below where it says “Download Attachments” to click and save or print these files.

Blessings,

Shawna

Download Full Page Prayer List

Download 3×5 Prayer List

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Do Your Kids Know What They Believe?

I know the curriculum taught at school and the influence of our culture will undermine my children’s beliefs if they don’t have the right tools. As they face the world, one “tool” that will help them stand strong is understanding what they believe spiritually. I can’t send them to school with only my values in their backpacks…they need to have their own.

Do you know what you believe? Could you explain it to someone else? These are big questions even for adults. Why is it important that we fully grasp what we believe and how do we pass that on to our kids?

Why?

To Give an Answer for the Hope that You Have

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16

What is the “hope that we have”? It is the foundation of our faith. Our hope is that, although we are sinners and do not deserve the grace we receive because Jesus died for us, we have hope in heaven! We have been redeemed! …paid for!…washed clean! That’s something to get excited about. That has to be at the front and center of our hearts and a treasured jewel we pass down to our children.

If we have a solid grasp of that core belief, we can share it with others.

To Stand Strong and Not Be Ashamed

I have been reading Acts in depth lately and our children’s church curriculum is talking about Paul as well. I never really realized what a strong man he was. He stood his ground. He boldly spoke the truth. He did not stay quiet and mind his own business and neither did the other apostles.

“And [Paul] entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” Acts 19:8 NASB

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16 NASB

Knowing what we believe will give us the strength and courage to stand strong.

To Refute Those That Try to Derail

Atheists are evangelizing. Their “theories” are taught as truth, but actually require more faith than it takes to believe in God. There is plenty of reasonable discussion out there on how history, nature, and the Bible align in truth. Our kids need to know as much as they can about why the Bible is true, why Jesus is the Savior, and how God designed creation, so they can refute anyone that questions their beliefs.

I happen to live with a resident “apologist”. My husband wouldn’t call himself that, as he hasn’t had formal training, but he has been absorbing information from books and podcasts like a sponge. He has thoroughly researched answers to atheist arguments, so he knows how to respond.

The definition of apologist is “a person who makes a defense in speech or writing of a belief, idea, etc.” Can we send our children to school as Christian apologists, ready to make a defense for their beliefs? Of course, but it doesn’t happen by accident.

How?

By Knowing What You Believe

Do you know what you believe? If you grew up in a Christian home, do you remember when you really believed what your parents believed for yourself…and not just because you went to church with your family? If you didn’t grow up in a Christian home, do you remember what it was that changed your heart when you choose to believe in the saving grace of Christ?

Think about it, put your beliefs into words. Write it down if that would help.

By Getting Answers to Your Questions

Even Christians that have believed for most of their lives have questions for God. Look at David. The Psalms are full of his questions for God. God is big enough to handle those questions. Ask them and seek the answers. Talk to respected Christian friends and mentors. Research worthy sites and books. There are a great many intellectual resources out there. In the future I will share some of my husband’s favorites.

As you learn, share that with your kids and get them excited. Help your kids find the answers they seek as well.

By Purposely Bringing It Up with Your Kids

Pay attention to what your children are learning in school and from their friends. Seek opportunities to pour your Christian world view into their hearts, enough to flood out anything the culture is pouring on them.

I watch my husband share what he’s learning with my middle schooler. He sets her on guard for things to watch out for in class, gets her excited about the wonder of God’s creation, and gives her ground on which to stand if she should need to make a stand for her beliefs. I don’t know if she fully believes it all for herself yet, but she has many opportunities to gain understanding.

Please feel free to use the comments for this blog post as a place to log your questions about the Christian faith, history, and science in the comments. I will forward these on to my husband and have him research and give answers or resources to help you, in a way you can relay to your children.

Blessings,

Shawna

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No More Mrs. Nice Gal: How Consequences Can Be Your Friend (Part 2)

Last time  I talked about why I have recently been working so hard to become “meaner” to my kids. My tough love really feels brutal to them, but if I control myself and don’t get angry, they are able to see my love in it and understand…eventually. We know there are great reasons to give tangible consequences to our kids..but HOW?!

The how is the hard part. It is so easy to just ride the waves of life…letting the current take us where ever it wants. So often I don’t even think about the answers I’m giving to questions that my children are asking me. “Can we watch Jimmy Neutron?” “Sure.” Never mind that they’ve already watch 3 episodes, the chores aren’t done, and their rooms are a mess. Never mind that if they don’t turn on the TV, they’ll probably build a fort, play together, or draw. “Sure” is the easy answer that keeps them “happy” and occupied. So, I think to implement the “how”, we have to make a plan…chart our course, so when the wave hits us we’ll know what to do!

Set Clear Expectations

To the best of your ability, let your kids know your expectations in advance. They cannot be expected to read your mind.

Try having a family meeting and lay down your base of expectations for them. Include which chores you expect to be done and by when. Talk about how you expect them to treat their siblings and how they should talk to adults. You can even involve them in making those expectations. Encourage them to think of behavior goals based on what the Bible teaches. Talk about your expectations on school work responsibilities. Make realistic and attainable expectations.

I hesitate to call these “rules”. The law breeds rebellion. Instead, recognize the expectations as places where consequences will be given to help each child learn and grow. They do not “fail” if they don’t meet the expectation. They just have to deal with the consequences and learn from it.

Natural consequences still apply, even when the expectation wasn’t set up in advance. Do you ever give in or let your kids get away with things because you didn’t clearly define “exactly” what you wanted. Kids are very clever and will try to twist things so you won’t give them a consequence. They’ll try anything, so be prepared. They’ll say things like “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that” or “You didn’t say I couldn’t“. So, if the child’s choice reflects a lack of wisdom (or common sense) a consequence can still be valuable to teach them for next time. However, consequences for willful disobedience can and should be stronger.

Plan Out Some Consequences

What are your go-to consequences? Time in their room? Writing sentences? No TV or video games? No playing with friends? Extra school work? These can and should be tailored to each child and circumstance, but it is nice not to have to think too hard in the moment you need them. Does anyone have any creative ideas? One friend of mine commented that she didn’t do her chores when her kids didn’t do theirs…no dinner tonight I guess! Share your ideas that have a powerful way to teach below in the comments.

Embrace Natural Consequences

Life has a way of giving consequences for our irresponsibility. I have a habit of wanting to save my children from those consequences. I don’t want them to lose friends or get bad grades or go without a forgotten lunch. I want to replace the money they lost or toy that got broken. Now, when I pray for my children, I pray that I would be able to let them fail. I want them to learn from their own mistakes. I pray that God teach them as they go through it so they come out stronger on the other end. Even while letting them suffer, I can sympathize with them and encourage them through the challenge. That’s how God does it with me!

Respond, Don’t React

Believe me, I know this is hard! I need to bite my tongue sometimes or give myself a time out. It seems like our children’s bad choices are directly aimed at us and we shoot back. We need to pray for divine intervention in controlling ourselves when disciplining our children. Try to respond to the situation in a calm and collected manner. You can still be firm, but you must protect yourself from raging anger.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Redo If You Need To

I mess this up all the time. Sometimes I need to apologize to my kids…not for consequences, but for for the way in which I give them…or even if I fail them by not giving consequences at all.

Last week my daughter had a planned overnight with a friend. I told her she needed to clean her room. I went out to the treadmill and when I came in she was watching TV. Her excuse for not making any progress on her room was that she needed to ask me a question…”Where is my overnight bag?” Wait, what?…I am right out in the shop, come and ask me if you have a question. If she had finished cleaning her room she’d have found the bag jammed in the corner under a bunch of stuff…and WHY is it okay to watch TV if you can’t ask me a question. So, yes, her brain had momentarily quit functioning. I just couldn’t believe she had been that dense, so I got upset. I didn’t give her a consequence at first…I just got angry. I didn’t want to make her stay home because I thought that was punishing her friend.

I caught myself though…I stepped back and got my own brain functioning. I did a “redo”. I went back in to her and apologized for my anger. She recognized she had made a bad choice. I calmly told her I would have to give her a consequence for this instead of being angry, because that didn’t do anybody any good. I called her friend’s mom to see if it would be terribly damaging to break the date, but she actually figured it was good for her daughter to see others getting consequences. In the end, my daughter was devastated to not be able to go spend the night, but she actually learned something. Next time I will even take one extra step and have her call and apologize to her friend for ruining the plan.

Recognize we all mess up. It is good for our kids to see us acknowledge that and move on to a better way. Don’t be afraid to do a “redo” to make things better.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 (NIV)

Some, like me, err on the side of no consequences until a blow up. Some err on the side of never giving any grace. Our job is to teach boundaries to help our children survive and thrive in this world. We need to do it in a balanced and godly way, so that our ways point our children to His Ways…and God can help us along the way if we ask for his intervention.

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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No More Mrs. Nice Gal: How Consequences Can Be Your Friend (Part 1)

Recently I’ve been celebrating the fact that I am getting meaner. What? That sounds odd? Well, my mean isn’t so much “mean” as it is giving consequences. In fact, my new mean isn’t really any more mean than my old mean, just more effective.

When my kids were toddlers, I was good at nipping bad behaviors in the bud. I gave out the consequences without anger very purposely and consistently. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t running so many directions then, or maybe because their boundary testing was more predictable.

Over time I lost track of effective consequences. The ones I used for little ones just didn’t cut it anymore. My expectations for their behavior didn’t adapt as they got older. As long as behaviors weren’t too offensive, they were ignored. Ignored, that is, until I’d had “ENOUGH!”. Then, the consequence was hearing mom say things like, “Clean up this room, I can’t believe you can live in this filth!”, “What were you thinking!?”, and “Who do you think you are?!” The worst part was that behind those words was often a lot of anger. So even though the no-consequence mom is what I’m calling my “nice”, she wasn’t kind or controlled.

Giving tangible, effective consequences in love instead of getting angry is how I am being a better parent to my kids. To my children I’m sure that this new, stronger boundary mom is no fun. They have actually told me they would rather I just yell than give a consequence. So, why am I doing it? You have to know why you do what you do, or you’ll never keep doing the hard work.

1. To get them ready for the real world

My kids are going to grow up. They will not always live where mom can follow them around yelling…I mean “motivating”…them to do what they need to do everyday. At school, they need to be able to do what needs to be done even without someone constantly telling them what to do. Also, they will face consequences in life and they need to recognize what they are. Whether natural consequences or those from a teacher, boss, or other authority figure, my kids need to know that a consequence is an opportunity to learn a lesson. If they can apply those lessons to their lives, they will be able to avoid other consequences later.

2. So they want to make a change

The idea of the consequence is to make the child want to change. The consequence needs to be more “painful” than doing the wrong behavior. They have to figure out that consequences can be and are worth being avoided, but they have to figure out that concept themselves. They won’t if the consequences aren’t consistent. Kids are smart and will bet that sometimes they’ll be able to get away with it if there isn’t a consequence every time.

My daughter’s middle school has an online grading system. Every weekend I am sent an email if she has any missing assignments or grades lower than 75%. My husband and I have decided that if she has any legitimate missing assignments (sometimes we find it was the teacher that didn’t enter the grade) she will come home and spend Monday after school in her room. We don’t get angry anymore, but just impose the consequence without anger and with an attitude of regret for her saying something like “I’m sorry that you have to spend the afternoon in your room. We give you this consequence so that it will help you to be more careful next time about getting everything turned in.” Because of this conconsequence, the number of assignments that go missing is much less now than at the beginning of the year! She prefers getting the work turned in to having to spend time in her room.

3. To help them build self-control

The reason we keep giving consistent consequences to our children is to help them develop self-control. Consequences put the results and responsibility of children’s decisions onto themselves rather than their parents. Self-control is one of the very most important skills for people to have and can greatly effect how students perform in a classroom.

I have gone back and forth in the area of clean bedrooms. Is it their space to control as they please and I should just keep out of it? Maybe. But I’ve finally decided to look at it through the lens of self-control. Leaving bits of garbage on the floor is a sign of lack of self-control. Would it be acceptable to do that anywhere else? No…so I need to help my child recognize this lesson as one that will help her control herself in the rest of my house and other places too. Therefore, this is an area that I need to have expectations for my child and set a consequence for so that she will learn to control herself.

Proverbs 25:28 says “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

4. For their protection

Our tangible consequences now will teach our children to avoid natural and destructive consequences in their future.

We can decide if strong, consistent consequences are necessary in a situation if mismanagement of that area might put them in danger in the future. For example, if your child has a cell phone. It can be an expectation that they will NEVER use their cell phone while behind the wheel of a car. A tough consequence can be administered if you ever find that they do this so that they learn thier lesson from that consequence and not from an auto accident later.

“My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life…” Proverbs 6:20-23

Giving consequences out of love is an invaluable part of parenting, but it isn’t easy. If we remember some of these reasons “why” we do it, it will help us to put in the effort and commitment that it requires…and it requires a lot!

Next time I’ll talk about the “Hows” to providing those consequences effectively.

Blessings,

Shawna

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Planting Seeds – Let God Do the Rest

So I noticed that I was a little wordy with my last two posts. I’m just getting the hang of this thing, so stick with me. I know you all don’t have a ton of time to browse the web and read long winded articles. How about we bring it down a notch today and let me just tell you a little about me and something big that I’ve learned recently.

Almost two years ago we switched churches. We went from a great big church that was one town over, to a little tiny one just a couple miles from our house. The old one had a large and organized children’s church program, this one had up to 28 kids between 4 and 13 years old in the same room. The other had a great facility, this church sets up and tears down every week in our community center. Obviously, this was a huge change for our family.

Our motivation to change was just to get closer to home, but the fruitfulness of the change was part of God’s plan for us as a family. We have all tried on new hats and found a special place in this little church.

When the call went out last year for more teachers for the children, I said, “yes”. I never thought that I would enjoy such a thing, but I love it! I love the kids and I love the lessons that we get to teach. We follow a curriculum (so glad we don’t have to think of it all on our own) and sometimes I learn more from teaching that than I do sitting in the regular service.

A couple weeks ago we talked about Paul, but the lesson was “The Rest is Up to God”. One activity was to watch a time-lapse version of a plant growing. It is amazing to see a plant growing at a faster rate. What an amazing miracle God does in growing plants out of nothing but a seed and some dirt! The question given was, is there anything we can do to make a plant grow faster? There are a couple things we can do to give it the best odds like water and fertilize it, but there is nothing we can do out of shear will power. We can’t force it to grow. Like Paul, we are to go about our lives planting seeds…sharing the truth with those around us. Then we have to let those seeds go because we can’t force anything to happen. There is no guarantee how those around us will respond. “The rest is up to God.”

Seeds take time to grow. No matter what we do, we can’t make them grow fast like this time lapse. Enjoy the growth process! The seeds you plant in the lives of your children are also that way. Keep planting, let God do the rest, and be patient.

Does worrying about the response from others ever stop you from planting the seed? It does for me. Even posting on this website makes me worried about the response and has kept me from posting much in the first two months. But I’ve learned that I just need to put it out there and remember “the rest is up to God.”

My daughter in 7th grade was doing a science unit on the beginning of the universe. The teacher has some journal like questions where the students got to write personal answers. One of the questions was, “How did the universe begin?” She asked me, “What if I get in trouble for my answer?” I told her that I would go to bat for her if she did, but it didn’t come to that. She gave her honest answer that she believed God made the world, and she got full credit. You just never know what that seed might grow to be. I’m so proud of her for sowing it!

The children’s church curriculum also had us give each student a lima bean. They were to write the name of someone that they wanted to share Jesus with on it as a little reminder. My variation would be to put a little bowl of blank lima beans on your kitchen table. Explain the idea, and with your children, write on the lima beans the specific messages that you all want to plant in the lives of others, for example things like, love, joy, grace, and truth. Let the lima beans be a reminder to plant them where ever they go, but to leave the rest to God! You could even work on them one “seed” per week.

What other “seeds” have your children sown in the public schools they attend? What were some of the responses from other kids, teachers, or parents? Please add your thoughts to the comments! I’d love to hear from you and start a conversation.

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To Influence or To Be Influenced, That is the Question

Searching for resources to share with you on how we can be effective as Christians in public schools has been difficult. I found more far more arguments against it than resources for our success. Sometimes it can be discouraging. I am very happy that the homeschooling parents have so many resources and that is why I want more for those of us that have our kids in public schools.

One source in support for homeschooling really made me think. The author made many good points that we need to consider. The article, “Christian Children in Public Schools – Missionaries or Prey?”  lists three myths about Christian influence in public schools. It was written in defense against the argument that if all the Christians leave the public school there will be no one left to make a difference for Christ. The author is not so much arguing against public schooling, but “[calling] into question the thinking of those Christian parents who, without prayer, consideration, and preparation, send their children to public school, assuming that they will be witnesses just by being present.”

A great point! We can’t do this without prayer, consideration, and preparation. Let’s dive into these myths a little deeper and see what we can and need to do, because as Christians we want to be a light to the world, right? No where in life are our children going to have as much opportunity for influence as in a school, so let’s be serious about helping them in this area.

Myth 1: “Christian students at public schools will influence their peers, while at the same time remaining uninfluenced by these peers.”

If you put a sugar cube in a glass of water, indeed, over time the water becomes sweeter, and the sugar cube dissolves and eventually disappears. The hotter the water, the faster it dissolves. On the other hand, consider coffee grounds. If you pass hot water over coffee grounds, there is a profound effect on the water. Not only can you taste the difference, but you can see the difference. Yes, the coffee grounds are still affected by the water. Some of that water is absorbed into the grounds, but they do not disappear.

As parents we need to be aware of this concept. How do we make our kids and their Christian faith more like the coffee grounds than the sugar cubes? I do believe it takes more than Sunday school! Our children need to know what they believe and why. They need to see it lived out in their parents as they work and play. They need to see it in their homes and have real attention drawn to the development of their faith and not be casual about it.

The hot water of the world can be a test for us parents to see the strength of our children’s faith and influence. Do they dissolve into the world or do they make an impact on it? If they are dissolving it is sign that you need to do something different. Talk to them more, pray with them more, study the Word more, or just spend more time with them.

Be sure to pay attention to this aspect of sending your children to public school and do not assume that they will not be influenced by the world. Help them be a light for Christ!

Myth 2: Peers are the only negative influence parents should be concerned about.

This is another good point. The curriculum and the teachers have an agenda. Most of the agenda is purely academic, but there are many other view points and some alternative methods that are purposely being added to the curriculum in order to influence our children. Do not be naive to this fact.

The amount of this outside influence will differ between every classroom, school, district and state, but everyone has an agenda now and everyone recognizes the public school as an excellent platform for getting out information and normalizing their viewpoints. Do not ignore this part of the “hot water” equation. I think perhaps this type of influence is just heating up the water, and it is getting hotter and hotter every year it seems. Those sugar cubes will dissolve even faster when this influence is added to the mix.

Your children’s faith needs to be strong enough to see and hear these ideas from the world and still know and understand why they do not fit into their world view. Coffee grounds will not dissolve no matter how how the water gets.

Myth #3: If the student is a Christian, then he or she is ready for the battle.

The author of the article makes the point here that, when a country goes to battle, they do not send “half-trained, semi-equipped conscripts.” Indeed, they send well-trained and fully equipped soldiers into the fight. This is a valid argument. We need to train and give our children the appropriate weapons and defense mechanisms.

In the battle at public school, they train while they fight. They get stronger and more efficient with their shield and weapon the more they face the enemy. They need to be equipped, but as they grow that equipment will look different. First graders have first grade battles, but by the time they are seniors in high school they have faced many adult battles. It is not “Boot Camp” and they’re done. There must be on-going training. Thank goodness this training can happen while they still live at home with some (hopefully) strong examples of spiritual warriors to lead and guide them.

Also, our children need to understand that the “enemy” they are fighting is not the people at the school.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…” Ephesians 6:12-13 NIV

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV

So, you have to dress your children ready for battle in their armor and weapons everyday. Do not neglect this, but stand in strength and confidence when you do send them out ready. Their God goes with them.

Personally, I have to admit that I wish that many of my homeschooling friends would come back into the public school system. I do see the void of strong Christian families in the public school and don’t want to be standing alone with so few soldiers. There are hurting and broken people and children that need love desperately out there. I want Christ’s love to be radiated into their lives.

But I fully agree that we can’t do this “without prayer, consideration, and preparation”. We can’t expect to be an influence by just showing up. Nor can we expect that our children won’t be negatively influenced if we aren’t prepared. But, with care and much prayer, we can help our children stand strong in the world and fight to make a difference.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Ten Things to Pray for Your Kids

After the Christmas tree comes down and everything from the holiday season is being cleaned up and stored, I always take the opportunity to go through my garage and clean and organize. It always seems that everything unsightly gets piled in there throughout December just to hide it away and keep a calm peaceful look inside the house.

Isn’t that what we all do for ourselves every first of the year? Making resolutions is just cleaning up all the junk in our souls that we stashed away to deal with later. The new year makes for a great new start.

One thing I really want to work on is my prayer life. Is it a great sin to be envious of other people’s prayer abilities?…probably. I’m not proud of mine. It is an area that I want to grow in. I’d prefer to “pray continually” throughout the day to going through a list every morning, but it seems I often forget and lose momentum.

So, I do default to the list that I have come up with over the years for my children. With my kids in public school, I could spend my day worrying about them, but my best defense against anxiety are my prayers for them…in the morning from this list, but growing hopefully into in-the-moment, specific prayers for them all day long.

1. A desire to know God – I pray that my children will have a strong, internal desire to know God…to know him and not just about him. I trust that with this one characteristic, all the rest will fall into place. This is something that I cannot force them to have, but can gently guide them toward. The Lord must place this desire in their heart.

2. A great love for others and ability to demonstrate their love in kindness – Well, I guess it makes sense to start with the greatest two of commandments, love the Lord and love others. Don’t we know that loving others doesn’t come easy though? Giving my children access to “others” to love is one of the main reasons I send them to public school. I pray the Lord make them compassionate and courageous to love those that are hurting, those that are broken, and those that need a friend. I pray that they would not be self-centered, but others focused and actively kind.

3. Spiritual protection – Just recently I have more clearly recognized the powerful spiritual attacks that we as Christians face. We cannot ignore that the world, their sinful nature, and Satan are out to make them and be ineffective. I pray prayers on the offense against those attacks on my children.

4. Contentment – I pray for contentment for myself daily, but I see also that the struggle for contentment can be a battle even for children. I want mine to live in a world where other people have “stuff” they want, but they can come home and be thankful for the things they already have. I want them to be joyful and satisfied in Christ alone.

5. Humility/Repentance – It is not in our nature to be humble and repent when we make a mistake. I try to teach this to my children, but I want it to be come from their own hearts. I want them to recognize their weaknesses, not to feel bad, but to be thankful to God for His amazing grace!

6. Good Friendships/Future Spouse – Knowing that I am not always going to be there for my children, I pray that God will provide them with good, Christian friends that will help guide and protect them. Friends help them learn and grow, but they also have the potential to lead them down the wrong road. I ask the Lord to be in the middle of my children’s friendships. I even pray for their future spouses knowing that friendship will ultimately be the most important one for the majority of their lives!

7. Respect for authority – Children do not have respect for authority now as much as in the past. If they dismiss adults and their wisdom they miss an important guidance and protection. I want my children to have an appreciation for rules and consequences from adults, to see them for their benefit and not as a burden.

8. Strength of Character – I want my children to have the strength to do the right thing, to be courageous and confident, and to work hard to do their best. The hard part about this prayer is that growth in character often comes through trials. I don’t want my children to suffer, but they need to learn that life is not fair and sometimes you don’t get what you want. I pray for myself that I would be able to let them fail and not rescue them from those lessons.

9. Motivation and enthusiasm to be who God made them to be – Each child is so different. I pray that each one will discover the passions, gifts and talents that God gave them. Hopefully that will send them in the direction He has marked out for their lives. If they would do what He wants them to do, what more could I ask for?

10. Understanding – So often information goes in one ear and out their other…at home and at school!  I pray that my children will not only hear, but understand. I want the academic and biblical training to stick in their brains…then move to their hearts. As my oldest child has entered junior high, I realized this will certainly require divine intervention!

There are many other things that I pray specifically for my children, but these fit each one at all times. I find that these prayers help me to trust their lives to the Lord. They help me loosen my grip on their lives to give them room to grow into the people God wants them to be.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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