When we purchased this house over ten years ago, it realistically was the only thing we could afford. As a one income family of a teacher, it was ridiculous that we could not afford to live in the district my husband taught in. We still can’t. We picked this house because of the old trees in the yard. I always wanted old trees in my yard. It’s history. Nostalgia. And we love the character of the one hundred year old house.
The first Sunday we were in our house we came home from church to a SWAT team on our front lawn. First home. First Sunday. First time ever seeing a SWAT team, guns drawn and on my front lawn. We wondered if we could call our realtor and un-sign the dotted line.
But we stayed. Ten years later, we are still here. We made a conscious decision as Christians that this is the kind of place where Jesus would be.
We live in the most diverse neighborhood in our city. It is filled with culture and creativity. With choices and character. And, at times, it is also filled with police cars and depravity. But this is where we live. This is where we are more of who Christ calls us to be.
There is a movement of Christians doing “intentional” living or community–meaning, among other things, that they are moving their families to “rougher” neighborhoods, integrating their families to
Yet some of them are not sending their children to the public schools. In some cases, they are pulling kids from the schools to start homeschool groups or even sponsor private schools.
But if we are going to move into or stay in the challenging areas of our cities, why leave the school community out of it? If we are not in the public schools advocating for children who have no voice, then how will communities ever change? How will neighborhoods become healthy if children are not given a chance to thrive? How can we effect change if we remove ourselves from it? How do we really know what the least of these need if we are too afraid to be where they are?
Change happens with education. And education is a team effort. We as Christians play a vital role on the team.
What are we teaching our children when we pull them out? To pull them away from things and people that are different than them?
Are we protecting them or teaching them privilege?
When my oldest was in second grade the teacher had a knife pulled on him. Being a first time mom in a first time low income school, I panicked. I pulled my kids and ran to a parochial school. We stayed there for a year and half. We soon discovered that just because we were paying tuition did not mean that the kid’s educational needs were being met.
So we went back. To classrooms that were vibrant, noisy, full of life and overfilled with kids. The first three months back my youngest daughter at the time learned to read three levels ahead of where she had been. Coming from a school that told us something was wrong with her and she would never be at grade level, she was showing them who was boss. Or more like an amazing teacher saw more in her.
A couple years passed and more issues surfaced. They had nothing to do with the school or the staff. They had everything to do with parental involvement. My daughter was being bullied. We tried intervention, but things kept getting worse. There is only so much a school can do when the parents are bullies themselves.
I felt very strongly at that time that I had to protect my daughter. We pulled her out of school. And once the rest of our kids learned this plan, they all decided this would be a great idea for them as well. So we became a homeschool family. It was perfect for us at that time. And by perfect I mean we learned how to love each other more. I learned that I am good at homeschooling when I don’t have to deal with the rest of life. Yet my husband and I knew that if we were going to serve Christ in the city, then all of us would serve. So back to the public schools we went.
If you ask my eldest, now a senior, if she likes her school she will tell you she loves it. She loves the diversity. She loves the opportunities for conversations she would not have if everyone looked like her. She would not have the empathy and compassion that she does if all the parental checkbooks looked the same. She would not have the drive to make a difference in the world and in her community if she did not know the community that she was in.
We go to one of the lowest performing schools in the state. So no, we do not have the field trips or the technology. We do not have the central air or the beautiful playgrounds. We do not have the unlimited funds or all the bells and whistles that some children and parents think they are entitled to.
But we do have character. We have hard working parents, many who work multiple jobs just to put food on the table. We have children who are eager to walk in the door for the day know that they will be loved and cherished. We have a staff who are brilliant and the most dedicated group of teachers I have ever met. They are committed to see their children succeed even with all the obstacles before them. We have a community that is fluent in the language of listening. We have people coming to the table saying, I want to hear you. I want the best for your family as well as my own.
For years I was afraid. I still am. I still jump every time there is a police chase or another shooting. I still try to control what I can and pretend that will make it all go away. Except it doesn’t.
I don’t know what the answer is.
I have many friends and family that have chosen another path for educating their children. I am not saying it is wrong.
I am just wondering, if we as Christians are supposed to be like Jesus, did Jesus only surround himself with those like himself?
And if we are raising children to be more like him, why are we keeping our children away from those we are called to serve?
If Christians all leave, then how will change ever happen? Do we really want change to happen? Do we really care for the least of these?
Or is it just safer to keep others at a safe distance from the kingdoms of entitlement we are building?