Friday, April 29, 2011

Reflections on Kindergarten at a Public School

Last year at this time, I was freaking out.  Kindergarten Roundup was happening at our local public school, so we took Micah because we were checking out all of our options.  Option #1 was private (Christian) school, option #2 was public school, and option #3 was homeschool (and I often flipped around #2 and #3).  We went to kindergarten roundup and I was in tears - I could not imagine sending my baby to school for 6 hours a day, under the care of some stranger I had never met.  I was worried about everything - the influences, the lack of supervision, the schedule, the food in the cafeteria, where the bathrooms were, and on and on and on.

Yesterday I saw parents at the school for Kindergarten Roundup again, and it all came back to me.

The first few months of school were torture for me.  I cried almost every day.  This was not what I wanted for my child.  Yet in my heart I felt that he was supposed to be there - even more than he was supposed to be with me at home (which would have been a nightmare, I might add).  I knew that this journey was a faith-step for me that I needed to take.  I needed to trust God with my child.  I needed to believe that God was bigger than any obstacle we might face in public school.

If you recall any of my previous posts about this topic, you already know that we have struggled the whole year.  He has been fine. He has enjoyed going to school, and he has a strong group of friends.  In fact, he is doing excellent. I, however, have wrestled with God, almost daily, for coming on 9 months now.  Despite the fact that I've been worried about the lack of instruction happening (just in his class, not in the others), God has continually showed me a few things.  I hope this encourages those of you who also might face a situation like this.

1 - Public school is not the enemy.  Certain websites told me it was.  Certain books told me it was.  Even well-meaning parents told me it was.  But I have learned that public school is not the enemy.  In fact, there are amazing teachers there, and many of them love Jesus.  Our school had massive budget cuts that took each class up to 30 students, moved teachers around, and caused some general chaos. But I still remain convinced that much good still happens there.  The students are learning, not only from amazing teachers, but from each other.  And that brings me to my second point.

2- Public school students are not the enemy.  Sure, I was afraid that my kid would come home and drop the F-bomb after hearing it from some other mouthy kid.  But that never happened.  Yes, in the first month, Micah did come home and quietly said a cuss word he had overheard.  But somehow, even though he had never heard that word before, he knew it was wrong, and that's why he whispered it.  We had a good conversation about honoring God with our mouths.  That was the only instance I heard of a child cussing (and that kid was in another grade), and my husband and I are in the class several times a week.  A few weeks ago, I took the boys to the beach where they heard a kid next to them repeat several cuss words.  They heard more from that kid than Micah heard at his own school.  Public school kids are from all sorts of homes, including good homes.  But many of these kids are also from homes where parents are not good examples, and they desperately need good examples around them.

3 - Public school has much good to offer.  You may be surprised to hear me say that after the year we've had - a year of numerous meetings with the principal and with other parents due to circumstances we have not been happy with.  YET, I will still say that Micah has been afforded opportunities that are fun and educational, and I cannot think of another environment where he would have gotten to do those same things.  He has also made great friends with most kids in the class, 4 boys in particular who love playing together. They are all good boys, I know all of their parents, and we get together outside of school too.  (His best friend in his class is a boy who he went to preschool with, who happens to live down the street, and his parents are involved in their church, too - this alone was an answer to prayer, and a way that God was reassuring me that we are where we're supposed to be.)

4 - Do not avoid public school simply because of your own fears.  This is where your faith kicks in.  Everyone has to make their own decision about what is best for them.  For us, we wanted Micah to go to a school in our community where we could form relationships and be a witness.  We have had to daily overcome our own fears and trust in God to keep Micah safe and secure.  God has answered our prayers and proven that He is with Micah at all times.  Micah has been protected, he has been happy, he has been safe - despite my fears that something could happen to him.  This year has been more of a step of faith for me than anyone.  It has grown me, stretched me and exercised my faith in ways I didn't even want, but needed.

5 - The kids in public schools need good, Godly influences.   Micah has told me about his conversations with one boy, who I will call John.  John's family is from another country and they do not believe in Jesus.  John told Micah about what his family believes, and Micah told John what we believe. This boy had never heard of Jesus before.  I overheard them talking just this week and Micah said, "Jesus is God's son!"  Now, we have never pressured Micah to witness or even spoken with him that much about it, but it just comes naturally to him - and now this little boy has heard the name of Jesus.  

I know every single child in this class, and my heart breaks for them. Today I read a quote that says, "There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child - and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own." (Robert Brault)  When I read this quote, I immediately thought of all the kids in Micah's class. I love them, care for them, and want them to know Jesus.

I also know most of them have never been to church.  But when they come to me crying, I say things like "I will pray for you!" I give them hugs and just try to show them God's love. I still remember one little girl who was being made fun of; I had her come sit by me (she was from another class), and she had a crucifix necklace on.  I just asked her what her necklace meant and who was on it. She didn't even know.  I pray for that girl now, and her face lights up when she sees me.  

Most people I share this with say things like, "Oh, wow, it's so good that you are there!"  I don't see it that way.  I feel that we are all called to reach the kids and families that God puts in our lives, and these are the kids and families that God has put in my life.  What a huge blessing and opportunity!  And it makes me sad that some Christians are too afraid to reach out - to afraid of what could happen to their 1 child if God might call them to reach 30 more.  

In saying that, I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty - I really believe that God calls each of us to make decisions based on what He wants to do with our particular family.  For some, that is homeschooling; for others, it is a Christian school. But for us, this year, it was public school.  That may change next year, and I am open to that.

But for now, I am thankful that God did call us to this place at this time, because 30 kids have had seeds planted in their hearts that may someday sprout.  I may not have changed their lives, but these sweet kids definitely changed my perspective.  Although my first choice would still be that my boys go to Christian school (for reasons I won't go into here), I still trust that God had a plan in this.  We tried to be obedient to Him, and He showed himself faithful.  

(Micah's class this Wednesday):


  1. Jaimie, thank you thank you thank you!

    I am struggling with our recent decision to put our oldest in public kindergarten. We have planned to homeschool for years, but several circumstances changed our plans. I waver almost every day, but my husband is standing firm that public school is the right choice for next year.

    This post was a huge encouragement and reminder to me. Thanks again.

  2. Love this. Just did a public school post myself. My son is in first grade and my daughter starts kinder in the fall!

  3. Hi Jaimie,
    My, reading your post has brought back so many memories for me and my oldest child which also was a son and his first year of public school. I was also a stay at home mom. My son is now 30. Time has just gone by so very quickly! I think I was so drawn to you for many reasons. I taught pre-school at Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Torrance. Lived just a bit from the beach. I too am very fair and so understood your message. Loved your post about your mother and your relationship. We moved away from the beach 20 years ago and to the mountains. Which I love! We are now near Yosemite. I have been very blessed over the years and I believe you will be also. All my best to you.