Book review: Going public: Your child can thrive in public school

So how do you feel as a Christian if you end up having to send your child to a public school?  Or choosing to send your child to a public school?  In some circles this can be seen as the 'less Christian' option.  It can be a polarising issue.  I often get asked about sending my kids to public schools.  'Are you happy with it?  How is it for your kids?'.  There's a desire to be reassured that our kids will be OK, when there are so many other apparently more Christian options out there.  It can be hard to feel confident that our kids can still be Christian in a public school.

And this is where this book comes in.  The Pritchards are parents to eight children so often people assume (especially since it is American) that they would be homeschooling.  But after much prayer and discussion with others they decided to send their first child to the local school and haven't looked back.  And they are very, very committed to Christian parenting (much more than I would ever advocate myself - up at 6:30am for family prayers - wow!). When asked about homeschooling they say:

"We smile at the question.  Then we reply enthusiastically. 'Yes!  We definitely homeschool our children .. and starting at age five, we also send them to public school to get more information.  We consider ourselves to be our children's number-one educators, and we will never give up that responsibility or privilege - even though they spend 30 hours a week in somebody else's classroom.  We instruct our kids everyday.  We look for the teachable moments that intersect with what they are experiencing outside our home.  We draw frames around their encounters and activities, showing how they fit within God's greater perspective."  

Each year they review their schooling decisions and start each year saying:

"We go there together.  This is a family expedition.  When we show up each August to enroll our kids for another school year, we are enrolling our family into the life of this institution.  This is a joint venture"

For them working out how to be a constructive and positive influence in the school is a huge part of this joint venture.  They are keen to contribute to problem solving.  They have a whole chapter titled "The Magic of Being Nice" that speaks of the power of being servant hearted and other person centred in their dealings with the teachers and staff at the school.

While I didn't agree with every aspect of their parenting approach (a lot of it is too Christiany/Americany for me as an Aussie) and I think it is short on God's grace and saving work in Jesus, it is encouraging to read a book that reflects a good deal of thinking and experience about how to be a Christian family in a state school.  They are very committed to giving their kids a great education.  But they are more committed to helping their kids grow into a strong faith and trust in God's goodness, able to face the realities of the world.

Interesting read.


Wendy said…
You must get references from the same blogs I do - I am still waiting - 2 months later - for this one to arrive from Fishpond! Hopefully this week. I was keen to read it too. I haven't read your review too closely yet, until I read it myself. Then I'll come back to your comments!
Meredith said…
What a great post. Thanks Jenny.

I especially loved the idea of the kids themselves being intentionally Christian in their school. I know we view sending our children to the local primary school to give us, the adults, some good contacts within the community and we certainly talk the kids about their personal evangelistic efforts with their own friends - and pray with them every day that they will be a blessing - but drawing that out to a wider sweep of blessing the wider school community and doing it as a family unit - that's lovely. Thank you for taking the time read this book and posting this blog - a great encouragement.
Sarah said…
That book sounds cool. Definitely one to read in the future, I think. I am generally pro-public schools after having the experience of becoming a Christian through having Christian friends at a public high school.

One interesting thing is that the whole public/Christian/homeschool debate seems to be more relevant for city people. We country folk don't really have much of a choice when it comes to schools. In my town of roughly 2000 people we have a district high (K-10) and a small Catholic primary school (or you could homeschool). Many towns have one public school and that's it. Unless the kids are old enough for boarding school (and you can afford it) or you're keen to homeschool, the public school is all there is.
mattnbec said…
Thanks. I'm keen to get a copy and have a read. I love their response to the homeschooling question. It's the way I think, but a better answer than I think I could have articulated.

mattnbec said…
If anyone is interested, I just googled and found the book on google books. There are a few pages missing, as is the way with google books, but the vast majority of it is available.

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