My wife and I have been sending our kids to Christian school for 10 years and I've been serving on the school's board for nine. Often it's been difficult to keep going. The apostle Paul says to run the race to win. Win? Sometimes it's just hard to keep my feet moving! So I was happy to feel the breeze at my back for a few moments this week.
Of the many organized competitive sports I was involved in as a kid, swimming was by far the most difficult: Imagine running cross country or doing dozens of sprints with your head in a bucket of water---that's competitive swimming. Christian education has been like a 10-year swim practice for me. And I've got nine more years to go until I pull myself out of the pool, exhausted. Actually, I'm planning on jumping back in when my youngest is finished to help the next generation.
There are myriad ways Christian education challenges families to the breaking point: helping kids through rigorous curricula (my son read Herodotus, Livy's Early History of Rome, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and several other challenging works by age 12), paying tuition, struggling to keep the family budget afloat, putting off retirement savings, feeling like an alien in your own community, and knowing that others sometimes feel judged by your choice of Christian school over public school.
Serving on a Christian school board can test one's endurance as well. Monthly meeting agenda items include searching for highly qualified teachers who will work for less than half of public school wages, crafting curriculum, creating discipline policies and dress codes, dealing with sticky parental matters, fund-raising, sagging tuition in a deteriorating economy, recruiting talented board members, finding volunteers at a time when both parents and single parents work to make ends meet, and educating parents on the difference between public schooling and Christian education.
Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills, just keep swimming!
I got a glimpse of the finish line this week. As my oldest son was beginning ninth grade as a homeschooler on Monday (our local Christian school goes through eighth grade), I spoke with my friend Jeff Mincey, who runs the admissions office at Grove City College where I work. Like other fine Christian colleges, Grove City has very high admissions standards (e.g., 1280 SAT and 28 ACT averages). Thirty-one percent of our incoming freshman class graduated from Christian high schools or homeschools. And that 31 percent doesn't count the young men and women who had some Christian schooling (e.g., through eighth grade) or homeschooling prior to graduation. Will those students sink or swim at a place like Grove City College? I wondered. Will my kids make it at a place like Grove City?
With a few taps of his keyboard, Jeff showed me his freshman class database. There before my eyes were the SAT scores, most in the 1200 to 1500 range, of the Christian school and homeschool graduates in the class of 2013.
Dude, I felt like I was catching a ride in the East Australian Current! Of course, my wife and I didn't choose Christian education for SAT scores, but it sure was nice to feel like I was swimming with the current for a few minutes. Take heart dudes and dudettes. Just keep swimming!