This is part 1 of a 3-part series on "Making the Most of Your School Year". Listen HERE to the full conversation with our Private School parents or find it on the Watermark Family Ministry Podcast. Be sure to check out Part 2 on Public School and Part 3 on Homeschool for helpful principles specific to those educational environments.
Yesterday, my youngest son got his driver’s license. He gave my husband and I a thumbs up, a huge grin and a wave as he drove off alone for the first time. After twenty-six years, nine months and twenty-eight days of taking our three kids and carloads of others to countless appointments, parties, practices, games and school days, very suddenly, our taxi duties are over. Our 6’7” “baby” boy had just taken a huge step out of the nest with his size 14 feet and I already missed my time with him as a captive audience in my car.
It was one of those times that we old moms like to tell young moms how “the days are long but the years are short” as if somehow that is really supposed to make sense when they are totally sleep deprived and up to their elbows in diapers and preschool and carpool. The time with our children can seem so fleeting as we look back and we are left to wonder if we are doing everything possible to love them well and point them to the truth that life is found in Christ alone. As another school year approaches, my husband and I have been discussing the three years that we have with our son left at home. Back to school season is such a great time to take inventory on how we are investing into our kid’s spiritual growth, how we are loving others, and how we are spending our time. These three areas are ones that parents ought to evaluate in order to make the most of their private school year.
We have chosen to send all three of our children to a private Christian school. I am so very grateful for a school where the faculty and administration are followers of Jesus! For the last 21 years, I have had the privilege of entrusting my kids to men and women who love the Lord, know the truth of the gospel and want to reinforce to my children the goodness of God. Even with this gift, the ultimate responsibility of our children’s spiritual training rests on us as parents.
We are clearly commanded many, many times by scripture to teach our children God’s word and tell them of His goodness. Just a couple examples are found in the following: Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers “do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 32:46, Moses was reminding God’s people to “take heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law.”
It can often be tempting in the crazy busy-ness of our world to believe that somehow our responsibility for spiritual training is lessened when we send our kids to Christian school. No chapel, Bible class, or scripture memory assignment can reduce our responsibility no matter what the cost of tuition. All those things are a great partner and tool in training our kids but our kids desperately need to see us as parents authentically walking with Jesus, living out our faith and processing life’s challenges with scripture and in community with other believers. We must help them to do the same.
Begin the school year with a plan! From the time our kids were very small, we have used breakfast as a time to get in God’s word together. Some years we would go through books, sometimes we would just listen to the scripture from Join the Journey and ask what their “so what?” was for the day. We often text applications to family members from our time in the word. Be creative, don’t just assume your kids are getting all they need from school.
Another area that is great to evaluate as the school year starts is how we are doing loving teachers and administrators that play such a vital role in the lives of our children. As I mentioned before, I have been so grateful for those adults who love my kids and partner with me to train them through their time in the classroom and in athletics. As parents, we have found we have such an opportunity to love and encourage these folks through our words, actions and attitudes.
The temptation can be to embrace a “consumer” mentality. Let’s face it, tuition is crazy expensive and we live in a world where we expect value! We want the best teachers, coaches, facilities, and curriculum that our money can buy, and often we place unreasonable expectations on the people that we expect to deliver an excellent education to our kids. It is helpful to me to remind myself I have chosen to place my child under the authority of the teachers and administrators of their school. I am called to love, not gossip and attack.
Not every year and teacher has been perfect for my kids but we know the Lord is faithful to redeem that time and teach them through the challenges. It is such a mistake to shield our kids from disappointment rather than teach them to respectfully address the issue themselves or see us do it as parents in the way that Matthew 18:15-16 calls us to do. As believers, we know this, but we must be deliberate in the moment to live it out and to help our kids learn the life lessons of loving others, resolving conflict well and respecting authority even when it’s hard.
Finally, each fall we try to evaluate how we are spending our time. Are we investing in things that matter or just running? The school we have chosen for our children has proven to really challenge each of them academically, making the homework load significant at times. They also have always been very involved in different sports and extracurricular activities, as most kids are. If we are not careful, time flies by and we miss connecting as a family.
A few years ago, we began to use Sunday nights to sit down together as a family and coordinate everyone’s calendar. It has helped us prioritize scheduling time for dinners as a family as well as supporting each other at various activities. It has really helped one of my kids in particular to learn to plan ahead and helped greatly in school. As a couple, my husband and I have tried to be very intentional and thoughtful in the ways we spend our time in the evenings and not commit to too much that requires both of us to be gone often.
Psalm 90:12 says “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” God has faithfully reminded us when things get too busy that the time with our kids under our roof is a season that ends all too quickly so we must choose wisely.
We are so blessed to be given another year at our Christian private school, to partner with the teachers and administrators not only in our son's educational journey but his spiritual journey as well. Keeping an eye on the three areas mentioned above helps us to be good stewards of this gift for him and I pray will be an encouragement to you in your private school journey as well.