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Discipling the Public Schooled Kid

Today is the first installment in a series of blog posts on discipling your child with their schooling context in mind. Last week I made the point that where you send your kids to school doesn’t matter that much — as long as you maximize the benefits, and make up for the weaknesses inherent in each schooling method. And practically speaking, that’s what I hope these blog posts will help you do.

So today and next week, we will tackle the topic of discipling the public schooled child. Statistically, it’s the context of most families, so we might as well start there. 

Many of these wise words are from my friend, Amanda Berner (and where I added, she agreed). Amanda is a mom of 5, who sends her kids to their local public school. She’s a good mama, her kids are great, and her ideas are helpful (in many ways for all parents, not just those utilizing public school)! I hope you enjoy!

When I (Amanda) was a kid, I remember my parents working really hard to keep me and my siblings in private school. They believed it was the best way to educate us at the time. The same was true for my husband. Therefore when it came time for us to make the schooling decision for our own kids, we did not bring a range of experience to the table. 

Surprisingly, public school was the decision we landed on after praying and seeking wisdom from godly counselors. However, I must say, I was a bit fearful when we first made this choice. In fact, I am ashamed to admit this, but I was convinced my first back-to-school night would take the form of some 90’s Disney movie nightmare scene with riotous laughter from oversized teachers, parents, and administrators who rained judgment and hatred down on any hint of Bible-based morality. 

But God is gracious and patient with me, and through Scripture, I continue to be reminded that our battle is not against people, curriculum, or school policies. The battle is a spiritual one, and though our adversary is very real, subtle, and conniving, we are not left vulnerable and powerless, and neither are our kids. Even in public school. 

Here are some great tips I’ve learned from Scripture, and through the examples of others, in order to best disciple our kids through their public school years and equip them for the spiritual battle.

#1 Help your kids develop a biblical filter. 

This is one that encompasses all the rest. Everything you talk about should come back to what the Bible says. Teach your kids to take what their teacher says, what their textbook says, what their friend says, and ask the question, “What does the Bible say about this?”

The Bible will always be a solid and consistent foundation to point to when discussing any conversation or lesson that they bring home from school. By listening carefully and responding with clear Scriptural direction (instead of panic or opinion), you’re developing a profitable pattern of biblical conversation that will help your kids develop a biblical worldview.

#2 Front-load your kids. 

Not only do you want to help your kids think biblically, but you want to be ahead of the game. Meaning, if kids on the play ground (or teachers in the classroom) are going to be talking about certain issues, it would be better if you had already explained the issue from a biblical angle. 

This allows your child to not only process this information more biblically right off the bat, but it allows them to know they can come to you for trusted information.

#3 Prioritize church.

More important than any sport or skill is the study of God’s Word. This one can’t get any simpler than to be at church and require church attendance for your kids. 

Honestly, if you expect them to be at school, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t expect them to be at church.

Church is not only where they learn biblical truth, but it’s setting the stage for becoming a life-long part of the body of Christ. The church is important to God, and you should undeniably demonstrate its importance to your family. 

So don’t let the busyness of school and sports and tutoring and family time get in the way of making church the priority it should be.

#4 Encourage good friendships. 

Without a doubt, some kids are going to be better influences on your children than others. Do what you can to foster good friendships. When best friends can be church friends that’s usually a win! But even when that’s not possible, help your child think through the good influences and the bad influences around them. 

Talk about the temptation to choose less-than-great friendships, and help them navigate the wisdom in sacrificing coolness, popularity, fun, etc. for the sake of good company (1 Corinthians 15:33). 

#5 Know your kid’s friends. 

Take advantage of any opportunity to meet your kid’s friends at the park after school or at school events. Encourage your child to invite friends to church events and be the one who volunteers to drive! 

Whenever you are around their friends, be engaged and get to know them. When you are not around their friends, ask good questions to learn about them. Who your kids hang out with will impact them, so be in the know — that way you can help them navigate both the good friendships and the not-so-good friendships. 

#6 Learn to ask good questions. 

If your kids are like mine, the routine can easily sound like this: 

Mom: “How was school?” 

Kid: “Fine” 

(conversation done)

Which means, we have to work hard to draw out the stories, the emotions, and the relationships. 

Instead ask questions such as these: 

Did you learn anything new today?

Have you ever heard someone say…?

Have you ever seen…?

Who did you sit with at lunch? What did they do over the weekend? 

What did you play at recess? Did you meet anyone new? 

Did anything weird happen today? Did anything funny happen today? 

Did anything happen that made you uncomfortable? 

What do you think the Bible says about that? 

By asking good questions you are continuing the pattern of conversation that may seem trivial at first (when discussing who cut in line at the swings), but it will prove invaluable when they’re confronted with big issues…especially as they get older!

….  And there is plenty more to say! But I know you have little time before your kids get home from school! So go tackle that massive to-do list before your after-school to-do list begins. And when you are ready, you can read part 2 here.

If you missed the first blog post: Where You Send Your Kids To School Doesn’t Matter That Much, you can find it here.

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