Imagine that your oldest child is about to start preschool or kindergarten. You have a few options and feel overwhelmed by them because they all look wonderful. You and your spouse visit each school and then sit down to choose, agonizing over the options in front of you. You see the years of education laid out in front of your children and wonder how to choose the perfect school for your child.
We hate to break it to you, but you can’t choose the perfect school for your child. It doesn’t exist.
Nothing is perfect. No schooling method, ideology, brick and mortar building or homeschooling option will be the perfect fit for you and your child 100% of the time.
But we still need to make those decisions, right? The education and formation of our children is our responsibility and we want to make the best choice we can.
So how do we make a good decision about our children’s schooling? It’s in shifting our perspective from how to choose the perfect school for our child to how to choose a schooling option that’s a good fit for our family.
The Myth of Perfection
If we were to tell you that the perfect schooling option is out there, then we’d be lying. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a school that will check all of your boxes for every child every year. And that’s okay!
Despite what you might be thinking, that schooling grass isn’t always greener in the other playground. As parents, we want the best for our kids, but when that leads to our consistently questioning our decisions, we’re on the wrong track.
We will never be perfect people and will never make the perfect decision – it doesn’t exist! So give yourself some grace and trust your instincts. You have everything you need to make a good schooling decision for your children!
It’s All On You (Sort of)
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just look to someone else to make these big decisions for us sometimes.
It feels so overwhelming to make big life decisions and to have the responsibility to make them!
God gave us our children as a gift. These children are ours to raise, form, and educate, bringing them up to know the Lord and to serve those around them. Because they are ours, we are the absolute best people to make these kinds of decisions for them! And because we have this responsibility, God gives us the grace to make good decisions.
So obviously, we don’t make these decisions alone. We can rely on counsel from trusted others and from prayer, but in the end, it’s on us to decide.
But here’s the thing. The most important thing to remember in schooling decisions is this: you can change your mind!
It’s that simple. Just because you chose to send your child to kindergarten at your local Catholic school doesn’t mean he has to be there through 8th grade. You could decide tomorrow that you want to homeschool and make the change pretty simply.
The point is that the decision to send your kids to whatever school or not isn’t a permanent one. Needs change and we can be flexible enough to discern how to respond.
Family Needs First
Every family, and each individual within it, has different needs. Depending on how many kids you have, that’s a lot of needs!
So how do you decide whose needs come first? We can’t put everyone’s needs first. So how do we decide? It all boils down to a simple question:
What’s best for our family unit?
The needs of your family as a whole have to trump the individual needs of each person in most cases. Obviously things like special needs schools, etc. don’t fall into this category, but in general, family needs come first.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t assess everyone’s needs. Start there! But find a solution that works for your family as a whole, rather than spreading yourself too thin in search of the perfect situation for each child.
For example, your preschooler might be thriving in her school, but it adds extra time to your drop off and pick up routine. If that extra time means that the baby misses her nap, making dinner and bedtime stressful, it might not be worth it.
The only time where the needs of the family don’t come first is with mom. Because mothers tend to take the brunt of the schooling tasks, whether that be homeschooling or pickup lines and homework, the needs of moms should be heavily considered for the good of the family.
When to Invest
Finally, the most important thing to consider in choosing a school for your children is when to invest.
Most of us don’t have unlimited resources so we have to make hard choices about when to spend money and when to save it.
We have found (through research and experience) that the most important times developmentally, socially, emotionally and morally are ages 1-4 and 18-22.
Preschool sets the foundation for learning while college is where your children launch into the world. Of course, everything in between is important too, but we’ve found these times to be critical for our children’s success and ease in learning.
Bring It All Together
Choosing a school is one of the toughest and most stressful choices we make as parents. We understand the gravity of the decision and feel the weight of being the only ones who have the authority to make the decision.
Remembering that we can change our minds and that we have the freedom to choose different options for different kids can ease that stress significantly. God gives us the grace and wisdom to make good decisions for our children, but we will never make perfect ones. It’s not about how to choose the perfect school for your child, but instead about how to choose the best school for your family.
And that’s exactly what it should be.
If you’d like to hear more about this topic, check out Mike and Alicia’s most recent podcast episode here.
Do you need some dedicated time with your spouse to talk about goals and plan for your family’s future? Our Family Board Meeting course registration is now open! Check out the details and register here.