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Bloom Where You Are Planted: Why We Chose Public School

Bloom Where You Are Planted: Why We Chose Public School

A year in the life of a mom and community member turned public-school advocate.

Many years ago, a mentor told me, "Be careful what you teach on, because the Lord will probably make you live it as well as teach it." This has proven true for me over the past decade as my husband and I have begun our family here in Venice, California.

For 5 of the 10 years before we married, I was a youth worker, and I taught a particular lesson to high-school students each summer. The talk, entitled "Bloom Where You Are Planted," used passages from Genesis 12 to Jeremiah 29 to Esther to John 15 to show that God wants us to use us wherever he has "placed" us—in our families, friendships, schools, work, and communities. Our role as his people is to settle down, grow roots, and allow him to bear fruit in our lives as he sees fit.

When we moved to California from Washington, D.C., we tried to live this out first in our church decision when we deliberately chose a small eclectic neighborhood church over the city's large evangelical ones. Seven years later, we found ourselves making the same decision for our daughter's kindergarten.

There were good private and parochial school options in town, but we were convinced that we needed to choose to participate in the school right where we lived. We believed that God wanted us be a blessing—to bloom where we had been planted—at our neighborhood public school.

Throughout our first year at the school, I attended the monthly Parent Booster Club meetings and encountered a steep learning curve about the plight of public education here in Los Angeles and throughout the country. By year's end, I realized that I could offer fundraising experience from youth ministry to serve the school. That's when things took off. I went from jumpstarting our Annual Fund to overseeing all of fundraising, and am just now finishing my second year as the group's president.

Throughout that time, I have been a part of an amazing community of educators and parents—mostly secular with a few Christians thrown in for good measure—advocating for our little school's revitalization. And of course, ultimately we are advocating for the students—some of whose parents are not in a position with their time to be the advocates that they would surely like to be, but all of whom are the children whom Jesus welcomed to him and called us to do the same.

As part of the second-largest school district in the country, my learning curve continued. I found myself in regular meetings with our school board discussing education as this generation's civil rights movement, and even sitting across the table from our superintendent, asking him to let our school be a role model for other neighborhood schools.

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Displaying 1–5 of 11 comments

Carla Anne

August 11, 2012  10:52am

The thing I appreciated most about your article is that you said you put your kids into this school because you felt God leading you to. it seems to me that every parent should inquire and ask God where and how they want their kids educated. God will direct some to public school like He did you, others to private and some to homeschool. It was also very evident that much of your positive experience was likely because of your involvement as a parent. The key to any education for our kids is exactly that - to be fully involved no matter what kind of education they get or where they get it. I appreciated that you spoke from your experience, which was positive, instead of degrading those who have received a different directive from God. Some say we would do well to have our children exposed, others say we would do well to shelter our children, but the truth is none of us do well unless we educate our children the way God directs and in the places He directs. Thank you and blessings!

James Cain

April 16, 2012  9:33am

Sarah, thanks for your column. I appreciate your willingness to write about this issue, which has been a divisive one among Christians for some time (as Dewey's comment unfortunately illustrates). Your irenic approach provides a gentle corrective to the escapist strain in private schools, while (I think) allowing room for those of us who see our work in private schools as gospel work, too. We are opening our doors wide and fostering community renewal alongside public schools, and hoping to influence teachers and educational practice. (For an idea of how a school can do this, check out the work of the Oaks Academy in Indianapolis: http://www.theoaksacademy.org) @Dewey: I have spoken with many parents and teachers in my school district who would disagree with your "even playing field" statement. On the contrary, the scale of most public education demands radical standardization. In other words, if your child doesn't fit the basic school mold, you will quickly find him on the fringe.

Rob F

April 15, 2012  4:50pm

There is only one thing left to do Sarah...run for school board. My story is similar in advocacy on behalf of my kids in the public schools. Then someone said, "you should run for a seat on the Board of Education" I did and have served for 8 years. It had been very fulfilling and allowed our entire family to bloom where we were planted. BTW, my daughter is leading a bible study in the school by following the rules of a club and even though some tried to protest, the "club" is growing and blooming!

Aaron T. S.

April 15, 2012  5:42am

For some of us Christian parents whose children go to public schools, this is a validation.

John G.

April 14, 2012  10:00am

I spent 38 years as a public school teacher, after which I volunteered my time to teach a class to a group of homeschoolers, and now I substitute often in a Christian school. There are certainly advantages & disadvantages to each form, and a lot depends upon every realtor's favorite three words, location, location, location. No one setting is ideal for every child or every family. However, public schools must be approached with great caution, particularly in this day when everything is politicized and radicalized. (Oh, and I'm sorry that Christine finds Christian and homeschooling "saddening." She really shouldn't. In many cases, they are the better options.)

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