I’m a big believer in real-world parenting. This means that while our home is a safe, insular kind of “domestic church”–outside our home, I don’t intentionally shield my children from the realities of our world by sending them to private, Christian schools. I’ve never expected school (or even church) to reinforce my children’s faith identity. In short, that’s my job.
I simply don’t believe that sending a child to Christian school makes a child more Christian. In fact, I’m pretty sure a carefully controlled religious environment can actually have the opposite effect. Which is to say, I knew more hypocrites inside my tiny, sheltered Christian school than I did once I entered public school. I was a hardened little hypocrite myself. There seems to be something about insularity–even for “good” reasons like protecting a child’s faith–that engenders hypocrisy and self-righteous religiosity.
The last thing I want to do is create a pack of brazen little legalists sitting around our dinner table arguing minor points of theology–and my experience has been that the vast majority of Christian schools emphasize ideological conformity rather than messy, real-life, outwardly-focused faith.
The truth is that kids are kids are kids. Just because you’re in a Christian school does not mean your child is surrounded by good influences. Furthermore, Christianity was never meant to be sheltered behind impenetrable fortresses, totally removed from the culture wherein it dwells.
In order to achieve mature faith, every human being must go through trials by which the faith becomes real and personal. I see no reason to delay those kinds of refining experiences by building walls of insularity around my child. Our faith-centric home is insulation enough.
This is why there are only two reasons I’d send my children to private, Christian school:
- If the academic education was superior (and affordable)
- If it was physically safer
It wasn’t always this way, though. When my children were young, I was bound and determined NEVER to send my children to public school (those evil bastions of secular indoctrination!). When I expressed my fears to administrators of Christian schools, they were all too happy to feed and reinforce my anxieties. Of course, they also stood to profit from my fear.
Real Life Lesson #8,262: Be wary of advisers who profit from your fear.
These fears were only exacerbated by well-meaning Christian parents who said things like: “You never know what those public schools will teach your kids!” (To which I replied: “And you don’t really know what the Christian schools will teach your kid, either.”) I’m more afraid of the unquestioning religious child than the seeking non-believer.
The thing is, I’m not attempting to mold religious ideologues. Our home life is decidedly conservative and we teach the orthodox faith, but ultimately, I really do just trust the providence of God to grant my children the gift of faith. I do what I can and trust God to do the rest.
This is why I can mother without fear. I’m not worried about the future or my children’s faith. I never ask questions like: “what if my kids grow up and reject Christianity?” I just don’t worry about that. Instead, I pray. I commit them to God and then I enjoy life.
I believe a joyful Christian life lived openly in the secular world is a greater example than a private, sequestered Christianity lived out among other private, sequestered Christians.
After all, how can I be salt and light if I’m hiding inside a sheltered, separated Christian community?