Confidently Terrified: Why We Chose Public School

When it comes to our children’s education, I know we all want the absolute best for them, but navigating what that looks like is no easy task for any mom. Just four days before 4K began for my oldest I felt God lead me to pull her from the private school we had chosen and enroll her into public school.

Very few people from our church or Christian community attend public school. When they ask me about our decision to send our daughter to our neighborhood school I often answer, “I’m confidently terrified.” I am confident in our decision but terrified as we are sending our 5-year-old daughter out into the “big bad world.” We live in a culture that is not safe, post-Christian, and filled with more brokenness than any adult can handle, let alone a child.
Some Pros for Us:
-Working on campus doesn’t help us get connected to the community, as college students are so transient.  After 6 months with our daughter in public school, I felt more connected in town than I had after 3 years here, which was a very specific answer to prayer.
-Although we have been on Nav staff our entire married life, my husband and I have struggled with the flexibility of the Nav schedule. While it is a total perk, we find it hard to set boundaries, have healthy rhythms in our schedules, and take any time off.  Adding the public school schedule has provided a wonderful structure for our family. We lined up our ministry schedule with the school schedule and have found it to be incredibly helpful to us to have something concrete to tether our ministry schedule to. It is a challenge when we attend Fall Conference or Regional Meetings and have to pull our daughter out of school, but we have found the school to be totally accommodating. And her school schedule keeps me home more often for our good at times.
-None of us are morning people so the transition to get out the door EACH DAY was a huge one. But it’s a total blessing to know we will all be up, fed and ready by 8 am. I used to struggle to make it on time to storytime at 9:30. This change has added an hour to our day which has become the best time for my husband and I to chat about ministry, or things we never seem to find time to talk about. I have more time to reply to student’s texts and some of my best discipleship times have come in the morning since I know we will all be up, ready and fed by 8 am!
-With my health, I require a daily uninterrupted nap, which is increasingly hard as our kids get older.  It’s a blessing to have more flexibility throughout the day as when my youngest sleeps, I have to sleep EVERY day.
-As we have chosen to give our life investing on the college campus, we find that our capacity to minister in meaningful relationships with non-student non-believers is challenging to cultivate. It’s easy to be invested in the lives of many Christians, but outside of our campus work we are continually asking “Where are we Insiders?” The local public school is an incredible window to connecting with the heart of those in our community. Not only can we model for our students what we hope for them to live out when they leave the college campus in their workplace and community, but we can minister right alongside our kids to the people they know and are connected to.
Stay Connected
I’m painfully aware that public school means my daughter is away from home 7+ hours a day, and so it essential to find ways to stay connected.
-I’m thrilled to be able to volunteer each week and there is a classroom of kids who still runs up to give hugs to me.  It is a total open door to show faithful, consistent love to needy kids. And I’ve made excellent connections with multiple teachers and classmate’s parents.  It’s incredible.
-I love that when she comes home after school, home can be a safe, fun-filled, memory making place. I can carve out 3-7 pm each day to be totally present. In ministry, we all feel the weight of the late night texts, the weekend conferences, the hosting, and sharing life with college students all of the time. But we have found that we can preserve this family time to read books, have dance parties, memorize scripture, help in the kitchen, play games, etc.  It sets a helpful boundary for me to know we have “set apart” family time.
-It’s been great to connect with students on campus who also volunteer at my daughter’s school with the after school program or big brother/big sister or in the classrooms.  It’s great to be reaching out in similar ways even though we are in very different life stages.
It’s a Partnership
My mom has always told me, “It all depends on the teacher”.  It’s very possible that some day it won’t be a good fit for my family, but I have been astounded at the positive connections and interactions we have so far.
-I love that I don’t have to be shouldering her academic load. As an education major, I do have opinions and experience, but I love partnering with her teachers. She has an incredible reading curriculum that she absolutely loves.  Her 4-year-old sister is keeping up with her on everything she has learned because she eagerly comes home and teaches us about all she has learned.
-With my own health struggles/fatigue I’m thankful that even if I’m not up for getting out the glue and scissors, I know she has gotten awesome instruction, time to be creative, art, music and phy-ed each day.  The pressure is off of me to create those activities or prep all of the curriculum. I feel the freedom to snuggle up and read Laura Ingalls Wilder, or bake cookies, or spend the whole day preparing to host a social, or head to campus.
-Last year I felt so strange as I just didn’t know ANYONE at her school. But this year I ran into the principal at Pizza Hut and found out she is fostering a student in my daughter’s class. I met with the guidance counselor to talk about some anxiety my daughter is having and after mentioning something about church, she replied, “OH I’m so glad you said that. Now I can recommend this Christian book to you.”  As I partner with the staff at the school, it’s made the school feel much more welcoming and less nerve-wracking to me.
From the Mouths of Babes
There are many times I have to surrender my anxious thoughts to the Lord. I wonder what our kids will pick up from their peers. I fear for their safety. I want confirmation that I’m not crazy to send my little 5-year-old off to school each day. God has been gracious to affirm that we can trust Him as He leads. Here are some examples:
-This week at supper we asked a question, “If you had 2 million dollars to invest in your state, what would you spend it on?”  My kindergartener said, “I would make LINCS (her school) go all the way to 8th grade!” And my 4-year-old said, “And if I had a million dollars I would make there be 3-year-old Kindergarten at LINCS (then she would be old enough to go).
-Last year Ellie got in the van after school and said, “Mom, I’m really sorry to tell you this but the kids were making fun of me today and they really hurt my feelings.”  I totally PANICKED as every mom would. She continued, “At snack time Liam and Lacy were making fun of me telling me there isn’t any “L’s” in my name, but I do have “L’s” in my name!”  It turns out 4-year-olds with an L name, don’t recognize it’s lowercase letter.  🙂 🙂  Even though Ellie has TWO of them 🙂
While I know our time in public school will be full of challenges, I’m thankful that our kids learn one year at a time, and God can give us all grace to handle it one day at a time 🙂 I trust that we all will each be faithful to follow His lead whether it’s to take on homeschooling, attend a public school, or invest in a private school in our community. And I hope we can all be more confident than terrified as we trust Him with our precious children.
Katie Haas has been on staff since 2007 when she married Noah Haas. Both graduates of UW-Eau Claire and Wisconsin natives, they joined staff at UWEC and then did their staff training at The University of Illinois under Norm and Katie Hubbard.  They have been campus directors at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater since 2013.  She is a mom to three little girls: Ellie (5 1/2), Josie (4) and Annie (1). She loves hosting,  playing games, crafting, reading to her kids, creating Shutterfly albums and cheering for the Green Bay Packers.  

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