Yesterday I wrote a guest post over at Ed Cyzewski’s blog “In a Mirror Dimly” on our experiences so far in Edgewater. Ed was a classmate of mine at Taylor University and we’ve stayed in touch since then. He has some great insights on theology, parenthood and writing.
You can read the post here.
Currently there is a great discussion in the blogosphere about the missional implications of education. Here’s a couple good examples from this discussion: Jamie Arpin-Ricci and Tony Jones. There is not a “one size fits all” approach to education and living on mission. The key is that we pray and discern where God is leading each of our families.
Here’s my attempt at explaining our current decision to enroll our kids in a public school and join what God is doing in our neighborhood. My hope is to be descriptive not prescriptive.
When I accepted my current position at Mountair Christian Church, Hillary and I knew that it meant that we needed to move into the neighborhood around the church. At my last church, we learned the benefit of living in the neighborhood where the church building was located. Fundamental to our family’s beliefs is the idea that our role as a family is to make the Kingdom of God tangible to our neighbors and community. We are sent to be God’s instruments of unconditional love and grace.
We see ourselves as missionaries.
This belief that we are sent as missionaries to our neighborhood and community means that our kids go to the same public elementary school that our neighbors attend. According to our daughters’ school, the area they serve is “a low-income, working class community. Approximately 50% of students are in a one parent household, 20% do not have parents, but are being raised by family members or friends. Approximately 20% of our students are homeless, living in foster homes or temporary housing.”
We have realized that in some ways we are sacrificing our daughters’ education to join what God is doing in our community. They won’t necessarily be behind in school but they won’t get all the opportunities they might receive in a suburban school. It is up to Hillary and me as their parents to supplement what they are learning at school and give them other opportunities to learn. This is hard to stomach sometimes.
This morning Hillary helped with writing in our daughter’s kindergarten class and she noticed that many of the students seemed behind as they start their school experience. Statistics show that some of them may never catch up. Over 80% of the kids are Hispanic so our daughters are in the minority. Parent involvement is low, especially among white parents. Hillary and I have a big role to play in making the Kingdom of God tangible at our daughters’ school. We are learning to write grants that would help contribute resources to the school, especially in the area of technology. We are starting to volunteer in the classroom and help kids read. Our daughters look for kids who are learning at a slower pace and find ways to help them out. Our oldest especially is learning leadership skills that she might not learn in a suburban school. And we are all slowly learning Spanish.
I’ll admit it’s not easy. Most days when I drop them off at school I wonder if we are doing the right thing. I want to protect my girls. But sometimes valuing safety and security can get in the way of living on mission in our community. All I can do is pray and step out in faith as a family.
For our family and for our daughters we know God has put us in our local public school to join what God is already doing there and to make his Kingdom real and tangible.
“A child miseducated is a child lost.” John F. Kennedy
With massive state budget cuts, schools across our nation are in need of basic supplies. Donors Choose is a great website for finding specific needs in your community schools and showing you how to make a difference financially. I found 1o needs right here in Champaign.
Check it out here:
Now that Anna is in kindergarten in a school district with some pretty interesting dynamics, we are seeing first hand some of the issues in education today. It seems like education is always a hot topic in the news especially around election time. Today a movie highlighting the current education climate, Waiting for Superman, is making waves. The movie follows five different children as they struggle to succeed in the American educational system. In big issue discussions on topics like education, we hope to find one magic pill that will fix everything. Maybe if we had enough money our educational system would work. Maybe if we had more well-trained, creative teachers students would graduate high school. It is hard to say that one thing will fix education in America.
In my mind, it once again comes down to the parents or guardians of the children. We have a big influence on our child’s education even before they go to school. When they are in school, we play a major role in supporting and supplementing what the child is learning at school. Even with great teachers, innovative curriculum and state of the art facilities, can a child with unsupportive parents succeed? I would like to see the statistics on a scenario like that.
The hard part of parent involvement in education is that some parents are working two jobs just to pay the rent and come home worn out at night. The current economic climate and its impact on lower income families makes education tough.
All of this is to say that communities need to rally to support our public schools. Volunteer to read to kids in the classroom. Bring homemade cookies to the teachers’ lounge. Send your child’s teacher an encouraging email. Teachers are saints and we need to let them know that.
Below is the trailer for Waiting for Superman: