'This Is a God Place': Why I Send My Kids to Christian School
Ms. Baker passed me the bag with the wet shirt at school pick-up. My shirt-sucking 6-year-old ran to me with a big smile and latched onto my leg. Since my husband lost his job last summer, our house had become all hills and valleys—mostly valleys. It was starting to show in the kids.
At our kindergarten parent-teacher conference, Ms. Baker told us what we could not see for ourselves: Joshua had been exhibiting some anxiety. "He is fine with the academics. Our goal for Joshua right now is for him to learn that he is loved. We want him to trust that we have a plan for him each moment of school, even if he doesn't know the plan. If sucking on his shirt helps him right now, we'll change his shirt when it gets too wet." Joshua doesn't know that his teacher has a deep impact on the person he will become, that her care for him matters in his academic work. He feels safe. And he doesn't know that in Jersey City, the quality of the education he receives is a privilege denied to the majority of children.
I did not set out to put Joshua and his brother, Isaiah, in an independent Christian school. I value public education and as a Christian, I want my family to be the presence of Christ in our neighborhood. School is a natural place to do that. But while the national conversation flounders around test scores, public school choice, bullying, leaving children behind and who is to blame, Joshua and Isaiah need an education. My husband and I chose Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, New Jersey, because the school lives out the gospel dynamic of putting the "last first" and "caring for the least" among us. Some 50 percent of students receive need-based financial aid. And students are not handpicked to be the highest performers. The school intentionally seeks to mirror the diversity of the kingdom of God in all its beauty and messiness.
And it can be messy. This week is my week to provide "community snack" for the kindergarten. Through eating a common snack with the guidance of teachers, Joshua learns to serve his classmates, take only what he needs from the bowl, ask for what he needs, and think about the needs of others. I am learning to let go of control of snack for the sake of community. On one end of the spectrum is the parent who wants to serve only organic food. On another end of the spectrum is the parent who provides their week of community snack from stretching food stamps. Over the years, the parent community has wrestled a lot over the simple act of eating from the common bowl. It is important work. Lessons learned at the snack table apply to life in the classroom. Kindergarten snack is part of a well-planned, school-wide social curriculum that teaches serving one another, enacting reconciliation, and forgiveness.