One of the hardest decisions that many PWs face is how to educate their children while on the field. There are a variety of choices, but usually even the best choice has a “down” side.
From the different sources I was able to find, the consensus was that what is right for one family may not be right for the next. I would go even further and say, “What is right for one child at one time, may not be right for that child at another time.” Or what is right for one child in a family may not be right for another child in the same family.” Each family must think about the options and pray for God’s direction each year.
An article from Worldwide Challenge reminded me of some statistics I had read previously. According to a recent study of adult children of PWs, 15-20% return to the field to serve as their parents did. Those who don’t return tend to find success in other areas of life. In a study listed in Who’s Who in Who’s Who, it took 5,000 lawyers to produce one child listed in Who’s Who. Among dentists 2,500 had one child in Who’s who. But for every seven PW families from the United States, one of their children would be listed in Who’s Who. So don’t lose heart. The odds are in your favor that your children will turn out well.
National Public Schools
In a letter to Peter’s Wife from Oct., 1986, Judy wrote about their difficult time home schooling and then their decision to put their girls in the local public school. “Since we have a permanent visa in Argentina, even though we are not planning on being here permanently, we finally decided to enroll the girls in the local (Spanish speaking) public school. Although the first few days were difficult and brought tears to both parents and children, it has proved to be a wise choice as they are now both speaking fluent Spanish.”
Her letter emphasized the advantages of national schools: they provide a cultural bridge helping the children become bilingual and bicultural, and the children can live at home.
One thing Lynn Westberg mentions in her article is, “When a child goes to national schools, especially through the teen years, parents must consider that the child may choose higher education in the host country and perhaps marry a national.” I’d like to know how things turned out for Judy and her girls. But local public school was the best choice for them at the time she wrote.
Homeschooling is a boon to those who want to keep their children at home. It allows the family to be more flexible geographically and usually the cost is less than boarding schools or international schools. But homeschooling is not for the fainthearted. The time investment and responsibility are not to be taken lightly.
I found it hard to be both teacher and mom. My son quit hearing my voice. The responsibility of teaching every subject can be awesome. Also socialization can be a challenge with homeschooling. Friends who homeschooled had difficulty getting their books and returning the tests on time.
Pat had a good experience with Calvert School out of Baltimore, Maryland. Since it is set up for parents who have to teach their children, the teacher’s manual tells what to do from day to day. It is academically accredited in all States and many students in the program test above grade level. There are many other good curricula out there.
Crosswalk.com has a great homeschooling section. They list an incredible array of helps and resources for homeschoolers. Be sure to take a look.
Church sponsored boarding schools have been the standard of education for kids of PWs. Some boards still require their members to send their kids to boarding schools associated with their own denomination. But that is changing. Bad press, fear that the children won’t be adequately prepared for higher education, and parents thinking that being an absentee parent violates their God-given duty to their children have conspired to change the norm.
But boarding schools can offer many advantages, too. They provide a safe environment while parents may be working in unstable conditions. These schools usually provide quality education, good extracurricular activities, and the opportunity for children to socialize with others their own age. Students in boarding schools can develop independence in a controlled environment.
During our years in Malaysia, Dalat School offered quality education for our children. We had the advantage of living near the school, so our kids were off-campus students. Most of the boarding students, however, seemed well-adjusted. Although they missed their parents, they were happy to be able to be schooling with other kids. A high percentage went on to higher education.
The major drawbacks to international schools are the high cost and that they are not available everywhere. Since many use the British system, transfer to U.S. schools may be more difficult. The social climate in many international schools is quite secular and humanistic. Because these schools are often quite self-contained, the students may not have much opportunity to relate to the host culture.
But because they run on a higher budget they are able to provide quality education, excellent facilities and varied extracurricular activities. The opportunity to meet students and teachers from so many different backgrounds and cultures is an advantage of international schools.
Lynn Westberg lists, “Some points to consider when choosing a school:
- Be open before the Lord. He knows what’s best for each family member.
- Keep an open mind. Jim Reapsome says, “Don’t land on the field with your mind made up.”
- Know your children. They may profit from different kinds of education.
- Consider options in light of your family’s values and goals.
- Think long-range. Consider your choice as it relates to furloughs, fundraising, and college preparations.
- Consider your child’s desires.
- Be creative. A combination of options may work best.There’s no such thing as a perfect decision. Whatever your choice, it will not meet all your child’s needs. Consider how you can fill the gaps.
When we were in west Africa, our boys were needing a school. Homeschooling was not working for us and the only boarding school was 500 miles away. We just didn’t feel that was appropriate for our six and ten year olds. We talked to Dean Gilliland from Fuller Seminary. We asked him if we should consider our children’s school needs in our decision concerning which field to serve in. He assured us that we should indeed consider their needs. He said that for two of his children boarding school had been a wonderful choice. But if he had it to do over, he would not have sent his other two children there.
After much prayer, some very direct guidance, and consulting our board, we made a major change of field to southeast Asia.
Lea said,” We would all do well to remember that if we win the world and lose our children, we’ve really won nothing at all. A hard lesson to learn would be sacrificing our children and families for ministry. Our first responsibility before God is our family and that doesn’t change with geography! Our kids are our first disciples.
“Bearing the above in mind, we are overseas and have a job to get done. We can’t go to the other extreme and cloister ourselves ‘for the sake of the children’ from the rest of the world around us. This is a disservice to ourselves and our children.
“New PWs would do well to talk with several families about their experiences with schooling overseas and go to the field with an open mind and heart. It’s amazing what God pulls together when you least expect it!! God loves our children and in sending us overseas, He is faithful to remember the needs of the children as well. Be prepared for BIG CHANGES but along with those big changes, God give us BIG GRACE!”
Bev wrote, “In our concern for our children’s academic training, it’s easy to overlook their character development.”
She is offering her book, “Developing Godly Character in Children- A Handbook and Resource Guide” to all PWs. The retail price is $23.95. She is willing into send it to U.S. addresses for $18.00. For overseas addresses she must charge $3.00 for surface mail. You can see more about the book at Godly Character Be sure to note “PW Order” to get the discounted price.