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Ask Jani: “Choosing the Best Educational Option for my Child”

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi look at a complex question from a listener—“How do I choose the best schooling situation for my children?” What does the Bible have to say to us?

Audio Transcript

Hi, everyone. We’re glad to be back with you today. Thanks for listening in. I’m Jani Ortlund here with my co host,

Heidi: Heidi Howerton. Hello everyone.

Jani: And we’re sitting around her beautiful farm table at a good distance apart. But we decided to record out here.

Heidi: Yep out on the Christmas tree farm. We were just talking about the Christmas trees that my husband and I are planning to grow and sell this year.

Jani: Yes. It’s a beautiful setting. A beautiful, beautiful sunny day. So we’re glad you’re tuning in. We’re going to do an “Ask Jani” today.

Our Question for Today

Heidi: So here’s our Ask Jani question? “Can you share your thoughts on working through school options, homes School, private, public? We have two young children, one with special needs. And this has been one topic we continue to struggle with. I would love to hear how you have walked this path before me. Thank you for your joyful service.”

Jani: Oh, that was a sweet comment. Oh, my goodness.

Heidi: And a good question. I don’t think there’s a mom or dad in the world that doesn’t stop and have to think about school.

Jani: Yes, we have so many choices now, don’t we? And the COVID virus has complicated those choices, because some of our options will not be open to us. It’s very complex, and it’s confusing, but it’s not to the Lord. So let’s focus in on him because God has a way forward for our kids and for us. I find great comfort Heidi in the fact that God is not surprised by the choices we have to make, which are even more complicated these days. He has a plan and it’s a good plan for every child represented in our listening audience today.

So I thought how we’d handle this is each of us, Heidi you and I, would share what we are doing, in your case, what I have done, in my case with our own children. And then I’d like to add some scriptural guidelines that we could think through together when we need to make this decision. I’d also like to let our listeners know that we’re going to have some guests on in the future who can really speak to this. They’re experts in this field, and it will help our listeners as they continue to make choices about educating their children.

How the Howertons are doing It

But Heidi, could I just ask you, tell our listeners about your kids what ages they are and how you are choosing to school them right now.

Heidi: Uh huh, that’s a good question, Jani. So as most of you know, I have three wonderful children: Hannah, who’s eight and is in second grade, James who is six and starting kindergarten this year, and Gideon who’s about to turn five, and we are a homeschool family.

Now I don’t know if you know this Jani but I never dreamed of being a homeschool mom. Did you know that? I went to public school growing up and had a very strong educational foundation laid for me by those my teachers and my professors. I really enjoyed public school. Now Mike, on the other hand, was homeschooled all the way growing up except his last two years. And so I always thought we would send our kids to public school.

But after we had Hannah, I started feeling this yearning in my heart that I didn’t want to send her off to school. I wasn’t ready yet. Something in my heart began to change within me and it was so odd because Mike never pressured me to homeschool. We really didn’t talk about it that much when we first started having kids. He was okay with us sending them to public school. So he didn’t bring it up. It wasn’t like he was starting to change my opinion. But the Lord changed my heart. And when I look back in the big picture, the top reasons why we are choosing to homeschool right now is because we want to disciple our children. And I think that people that spend the most amount of time with them have a very large influence in their life. And so for what we feel the Lord is calling us to now that’s for us to have that influence in their lives and disciple them within the home.

But I will also say that we carry it open handedly before the Lord. I have a wonderful older woman in my life named Jennifer Cortez, who’s so smart, and they’ve homeschooled and they’ve public schooled and they’ve private schooled. And she really taught me, “Heidi, there is no one perfect fit. It’s, ‘Who is this child and what does this child need to succeed? What is the Lord calling us to do for this child?’” and you take it case by case with open hands and ask the Lord to lead you.

And so we are homeschooling now we use a tutorial. So they go to school two days a week and then they’re home with me three, which is a really nice fit for my heart, because it’s not all on my shoulders. But every year we hold open hands before the Lord and say, “Okay, God, is this what you want us to keep doing? Is this working for mom, for Hannah, for James, for Gideon, for Mike?” And seek His wisdom.

Jani: That’s so good. Heidi, thank you for sharing that. I really agree with you that we need to be very open-handed, not just with each child, but with each year. Some years call for different decisions, depending on a variety of circumstances: moving, COVID…

Heidi: Yes, I was gonna say COVID. So many of my friends that public school this year are pulling their children home. You just have to take it year by year.

Jani: Yes, yes. And for some people that can be frustrating. You’d like to have a decision made but let’s enjoy the fact that the Lord allows us to do that. We live in a country where we have the freedom to do that. We live in a country where we as women have been educated and have the ability to educate our children, and the resources as well.

How the Ortlunds Did It

Heidi: Jani, tell me about you. I know a little bit about how you raised your children. But how did you handle that question growing up about how to school your four ones?

Jani: Well, as Heidi said, we had four and also my educational degree is in teaching. I have my Master’s in teaching. I taught second grade for 13 years: 12 in public schools, and one in a private, Christian school. So I’ve seen a lot of different educational systems.

We entered our children into public education when they first began because we just moved to Scotland when Eric was starting kindergarten, and it was important for him to enter into school. Actually, it was at a stage where Krista was very soon right after him. She’s just a year behind. And when we came back to the States, they went to public schools as well. The three older children went to public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. And Gavin began in public school, and he went kindergarten through eighth grade. When he was going to become a freshman, Ray took a pastoral position at a large church that had a wonderful Christian school, and it was encouraged that we allow Gavin to go to that school. It was a great school and in fact, one year they needed a second grade teacher and I taught there. So Gavin finished his under college education at a private Christian school, and they all received good education. I will say they all love the Lord, too. So I’m so grateful for that.

Heidi: Isn’t that comforting? I saw I have a girlfriend the other day and I saw one of her posts on social media. And she just said, “I was homeschooled my whole life. And my husband went to public school and his three friends, two of them went to public school and one went to, and one was homeschooled, and they all love the Lord.” And just so I encourage you, moms, whatever you’re doing this year, know that the Lord can still be active and move in that.

Jani: Yes, yes.

4 Guidelines for Making a Decision

Well, maybe we should talk about some guidelines that we as moms can think through. When we’re confronted with this decision. What am I going to do? Schools are not open or I have to put my child through education online, or I’ve got to go to work. I’ve got to get them in a private school.

Heidi: It’s such a heavy decision. And I think this year especially so many parents are feeling the heaviness of that.

Jani: Yes. Let me offer four guidelines that have helped me through the years as we’ve moved and had to make these kind of decisions.

1. Let Faith, Not Fear, Rule

The first one is ”Let faith, not fear, rule.” Don’t be a woman who lets your decisions be made based on fears. Oh, what if this happens? What if that happens? You see, the opposite of fear, I believe is not courage is you know, it’s not just drumming up enough courage to go through situation. I believe for the Christian, the opposite of fear is faith.

So think of those “what ifs”—it helps me in my life of faith when I’m facing a fear to put all the what ifs out in front of me. What if I send my child to school and he gets COVID? What is I keep him home and he doesn’t get a good education because he’s so bored with computer learning? What if I mean you just follow it through. Okay, is the Lord still sovereign over that? Is he still sovereign over that? Where do you end up? At the last “What if…?” And when you get to that final what if, God assures us that he is there. Always, the Bible teaches us. God says about himself, that underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 puts it this way:

“The eternal God is your dwelling place.”

Deuteronomy 33:27

That’s where we live, dear sister, the eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms. You will never fall through the cracks underneath are God’s good, strong, everlasting arms, you can trust him. So don’t worry, don’t let fear rule in your heart. Let your faith rule. And your faith tells you that God has a good plan for your child. And that he will help you find that plan and he’ll help you follow it.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that that doesn’t mean that it will be easy. It may involve hard work and prayer we’re going to talk about in a minute and getting good counsel and visits to different schools and good reading on the trending in the statistics with the virus. But don’t, please don’t be a weak-willed woman who caves in emotionally because something is hard. Oh my goodness, God chose for you and for your children to serve him during this pandemic. He’s not surprised that he’s asking you to walk through this hard time in history. He’s not shocked with the cultural chaos that you’re surrounded with. Before you were born, he planned these days for you, these weeks for you—these weeks that are now turning into months for you. And he planned them for your children.

I love that passage in Proverbs 31 that talks about the excellent woman. Oh, we all want to be like her, don’t we? Well, Proverbs 31:25 says that the excellent woman is clothed with strength and with dignity. Now think with me for a minute what is clothing for anyhow? Well, it protects you against the elements outside and it also provides a shield from how other people might look at you. So close yourself with strength and dignity.

And then that verse says not only does she clothe herself with strength and dignity, but she “…laughs at the time to come.” That means we can kind of have a light-hearted faith because we know who’s directing our future. And He’s calling into existence, all his good plans. That means, dear sister, we aren’t paralyzed by the future. We get to walk into it. It’s God’s future for us.

Heidi knows that I’ve been meditating and memorizing the book of Colossians these days, and it has really helped me during this pandemic.

The Bible says in Colossians 1:10, that we’re to

“…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Colossians 1:10

We want to do that is we’re trying to decide how to educate our children. We want to walk in a manner that’s worthy of being called by Christ’s name, something that will be fully pleasing to Him that will bring a smile to his face, and that will bear good fruit in our kids’ lives and our family’s life, in our community.

Well, how do we do that? How do we walk in that manner? Well, Paul says in the very next verse, he prays that they would be strengthened—there’s that word again; to be strong—he prays they would be “…strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.”

You see, God is the one who will strengthen us with His power, according to His glorious might. I mean, how powerful is God, He will give you what you need to endure patiently this hard time. He will give you the endurance to work hard to figure out the best way to educate your children. Because you want to present your children “mature” in Christ. That’s another phrase from Colossians 1:28. You want your kids to grow up to love the Lord and you realize that how you educate them is part of that.

Listen to how Paul says it all works, how we can present our children mature in Christ. He says, as he talks about presenting us mature in Christ. “For this I toil”—there’s that word again, working hard; don’t be afraid of hard work…

“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Colossians 1:29

Isn’t that a beautiful mystery? God calls us to work hard. And what we struggle by, through, and with is his energy that he is powerfully working within us. You are not alone in this. Ask God to increase your faith and not to let you cower in fear as you make this decision.

So let fear go away. Do not let it rule. Let faith rule instead of fear.

2. Consider your Limited Resources

Secondly, consider your resources which are limited. Ray and I have done this when we’ve had a big decision to make. Think of your resources. By that I mean: your financial resources, your energy, physical resources, your time resources, your talent resources (how has God gifted you?). Ask yourself, “What can my family afford this year?” Do you as a mother need to work outside your home that will influence your educational choices? How much time can you realistically devote to your child’s education? What is your own physical bandwidth these days? How many children do you have? How many different grades would you be teaching?

The Lord understands that I love what he says in Psalm 103:14,

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:14

You see, he will give you all you need to follow His will. 2 Peter 1:3 says,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

2 Peter 1:3

So in that granting of all things that pertain to life and godliness, if you don’t have the resources, that may be God’s way of showing you his plan for your children.

I will add here, in my years teaching at public school, I rejoiced in the resources available to me, for children with special needs: speech, learning disabilities, behavioral challenges. I had a whole lot of teachers that I could call on to help with children with special needs. If you have a child with special needs, I would really strongly encourage you to check into your public school and see what they have to offer you.

So let faith and not fear rule in your decision, consider your resources which are limited, just lay them out and consider them.

3. Pray for Wisdom

Thirdly, pray for wisdom beyond what you can see today. Oh, we need great wisdom with our kids. And how we’re going to educate them is a huge decision. We need wisdom. Again, Colossians 2:3 says, that in Christ

“…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Colossians 2:3

Go to Christ. That’s where you’ll find wisdom. Proverbs 2:6, Heidi, Will you read Proverbs 2:6 for us?

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Proverbs 2:6

Jani: Yes, wisdom is a gift from the Lord, from his mouth. That’s his Word. Be in his Word. You’ll find wisdom there. Again, James 1:5 talks about wisdom and how we get it. It says, “If any of you lacks wisdom,”—who of us doesn’t?—“let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Dear listener, if you’re scared, if you have limited resources and you don’t have wisdom, I want you to go to James 1:5, and write it out on index cards and tape it all over your home. By your kitchen sink on your bathroom, mirror over your bed, bring one in your car, wherever! If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. God will give you wisdom. Don’t panic. Don’t listen to Satan’s lies that you can’t make a good decision.

4. What do I want to do?

Now I want to end and Heidi, you need to interrupt me and tell me if this is a bad idea. But I want to end with a fourth way that Ray and I have made these kind of decisions in the past. If I feel that I’m not operating out of fear, I’m trying to go deep in my faith. And I’ve considered my resources and I’ve asked God for wisdom. Then, my fourth guiding principle is to just follow my heart. What do I want to do? What makes me salivate? What brings joy to me?

Heidi: Jani, I so often feel like that’s the Holy Spirit inside of us. You know, sometimes the Holy Spirit gives us that gut feel like we have peace from the Lord. And yeah, there’s something in our souls that says, “I wonder if this is what we should do.”

Jani: Yes, I think you’re right, Heidi. Sometimes we’re so scared to follow our hearts but the Bible says our body is his temple, we have the Holy Spirit within us. So ask yourself, “What do I really want? What would make me happy? What would make my child happy? What would most benefit my child and the rest of the family? What would be a blessing to our family, to our church, to our community?”

God put you all together for a reason. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Maybe I make a mistake this year. Well, that’s okay. We just have to change course. God is with us in our mistakes just as much as he is in our successes. He doesn’t say, “I will be with you always, except when you make a mistake.” He doesn’t withdraw his presence from us. When we make a mistake, he’s just as near then. He won’t show His holy fingers at you and say, “Shame on you. You made a mistake.” So follow your heart. Heidi, do you think that that’s unwise? Maybe a little.

Heidi: No, I think if it’s a gut inclination, I think sometimes I wrestle with it in my heart because I know Bible verses that talk about the heart is deceitful. But I think that the Holy Spirit does live inside of us. And he does give us gut inclinations and heart inclinations. So I think it’s balancing it. What you’re not saying is, “Just do what you want,” which I think would be unwise, what you’re saying is, “Take it before the Lord and have faith in God and look at your resources.” So I think all of that wisdom before that seeking the Lord makes it then there’s freedom to go with your heart because you’ve been asking the Holy Spirit inside of you to lead you.

Jani: Yes. Well, good. I’m glad we haven’t had our first podcast disagreement.

BONUS: The 6-month RUle

Heidi: I wanted to add, listener, too that one of the things that has helped me over the years, as we’ve had to make different educational decisions or different decisions for our family in general, is we call it the “Six Month Rule”. Sometimes when you sign up for something, you think, “Oh, we have to do this all year, and what if it’s not not a good fit?” And so in the Howerton family, we go by the six month rule, when we make a decision to go with it, we say, “We’re going to try this out for six months. And at Christmas time, we’re going to reevaluate.” Is this working? Is this not working? Do things need to change? And it frees me up a lot more than thinking I’m committing to this for a year.

Jani: Yes, that’s good, Heidi. Yeah.

A Prayer for Us all

Well, I think it’d be good for us to close and pray for our listeners in the children represented in our listening audience. Heidi, why don’t you pray and then I’ll pray. Okay?

Heidi: “Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us today. God, thank you for speaking to Jani so that she can then speak to us and teach us. Thank you that you are sovereign over every decision, and that the truth is there’s not a decision that we can make that’s outside of your will, especially as we seek you. And so Lord, I pray for myself and all the moms who are gearing up for this school year. Dad, would you please help us? Would you give us wisdom? Would you give us strength and courage for the days ahead? And would you give us joy. Joy with our children, joy in our hearts, joy and peace with the decisions that you’ve led us to?”

Jani: “Oh, yes, Father, I agree with those requests. I thank you for every mother represented here in our audience and every child. Oh, Father, thank you for creating these little people that you’ve asked us to raise for you and to send out into your kingdom. Lord, I pray for wisdom for those moms and dads who are having to decide what to do, how best to educate their children this year. Lord, I pray that you would guide them, that you would lead them. that you would say. ‘This is the way walk in it,’ and that they would follow you. Lord, I pray you would increase their faith and give them wisdom with the resources you’ve given them. And, Lord, I pray that this would be a matter of unity between a husband and a wife, and that the children would see how their parents turn to you for these kinds of decisions. Lord, we pray, you would raise up a strong generation of children who love you, who know you, and who want to serve you, and then you will send them out into this needy world. Lord, we give you our children, we give you our own needy, fearful hearts. And we thank you for speaking to us. In Jesus name, amen.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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About The Podcast

He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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