Public, private, or home school…how do you know?

Public, private, or home school…how do you know?

Public, private, or home school…how do you know?

Your child’s education is one of the most valuable gifts you’ll give them; how do you choose what’s best? As an educational consultant, I help families wrestle with this question as much as any other. Just a generation ago, most families didn’t ask this question.  But, today – public, private, or home school – how do you know?

Doug says I sometimes answer a question with a question; I’m going to answer “how do you know?” with five questions.

This blog post will put the questions out there; my desire is to open important doors and invite your thoughts to sit down and chew on significant considerations. Look for future posts that provide more detailed information and additional questions for idea wrestling.

Please COMMENT on this post with your thoughts – and ask your questions, too. I look forward to you joining the conversation.

Five Challenging Questions About Your Child’s Education –

  • What do you want your child to love?

Putting this question first in the list is risky … I’m ok with that.

In a typical scenario, children spend more than 16,380 hours in a school setting; pretend your child is living at boarding school 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for two years! These hours will have a profound impact on what your child will love.

Do you want your child to love ideas, truth, data, risk, struggle, comfort, cliques, art, popularity, God, real books for the love of language and ideas, choosing library books for the purpose of earning AR points, winning, learning, busy work, being in GT or AP classes, sports, videos for entertainment on rainy days, cafeteria food, music, stickers, trophies, dance, helping others, asking for help, manipulating the system…the list could be endless.

Try this: make a list of the most important things you want your child to love – and what you don’t want them to love. Then be honest about whether their educational environment is helping them develop these affections – or not.

  • What is your primary motive in choosing a school?

Another way to consider this thought is to finish this sentence: “My child’s education will have been a success in my mind if, in the end, they ______________________________.”

This question has some obvious answers (make a great score on the SAT, get into the college of their choice, get a good job…) but it has some other possibilities, too (have good friendships, can resolve struggles with integrity, love learning, enjoy life with a wide variety of abilities and relationships, love reading, love people, can serve our country, can lead a company – or city, state, or nation…)

The path you choose for your child’s education may or may not eliminate some of these possible outcomes, but prioritizing your outcomes is an important consideration.

  • What is your definition of education?

Most education systems aim at a performance target, and use behavior modification and compliance tools to move students toward this goal. One definition of performance is “using knowledge, talent, and skills to gain points, entrance, applause, or prizes for personal benefit.” Struggling students in performance-based systems are often labeled in order to receive additional help moving toward the performance goal.

Another educational option is to aim at a maturity target, trusting mature persons will also “perform well” on assigned tasks. Education that aims at maturity requires obedience instead of compliance, and expects struggles as part of real learning. Learning is defined as “submission to truth” so trusting relationships are vital; manipulation destroys trust, therefore behavior modification is not an option.  Read more about these ideas at

  • How will you know if your educational choice is effective?

Closely related to the previous questions, it may help to answer this question if you draw a picture in your mind of your child at the end of their years of formal schooling.

What kind of adult will they be? What kind of husband, wife, mother, or father? What kind of friend, employee or employer? One educational philosopher reminds us, “The child is father to the man.” (Charlotte Mason)

Picture this: As an adult, your child will be a bigger version of who they are now – unless there’s a significant influence supporting maturity, not just performance.image

Are they now…will they be as an adult…internally or externally motivated, driven by deeply satisfying pursuits or cheap thrills, a resolver of hard issues – or an avoider of struggle, a redeemer of defeats – or one who quits when the challenge is significant, a restorer of relationships – or a judge and a critic, one who knows how to heal – or one who is satisfied with temporary pain relief, one who keeps score – or one who loves well… Who will teach your child these lessons? ”The child is father to the man.”

  • If you’re considering private school or home school, who’s on board with you – and who’s going to help you?

The motives for private or home school education are often very different than traditional public school; does your spouse share your motives? Do you agree about the definition of education?

If you’re choosing home school, do you have a mentor or a support group? Home school can be a beautiful option, but most home school parents will tell you it’s also very difficult. It’s helpful to know what you’re pursuing for your family as well as why you’re not choosing public or private school. Having available resources to help answers your questions and to support you when you struggle is vital.
These questions are foundational, but they’re not a complete list. I have other helpful questions and I’m sure you do, too.  Please comment on this post and join the conversation.

  • Rachel

    Sometimes I think of the public school experiences of myself and my peers and I can’t help but want to avoid it at all costs! But that’s not an option for everyone, nor may it be an option for my family if/when the Lord decides I might be married and have little ones. So how would you suggest “supplementing” the “nutritional deficit” of a typical public school as far as developing maturity and right affections and dependencies goes?