How Do I Handle My Guilt Over Choosing Public Schools?

Historic Strawberry SchoolhouseBy Mary Abrahamson

“Dear Sisters of Katie Luther, We have made the difficult choice of having our children in public school rather than the local Lutheran school. Though we catechize regularly in our home, we feel inundated with warnings not to trust our children to secular teaching. Despite all the time, energy, and prayer we put into this decision, I am still wracked with incredible guilt. Help?”

Dear sister, my most basic answer for almost any maternal guilt is this: think long term.

Your primary vocation is to educate your children unto Salvation. This does not happen overnight, nor is there any one way that is more sanctified than others. There are tools — tools to help parents.Lutheran parochial school is one such tool and a great gift when it is a available. And when it works.

The blessing of homeschooling, too, is wonderful when it can be done.

I did not have the option of parochial school, but I did homeschool for many years. I felt much pressure from some of my homeschool friends when I put my kids into public school. For some, the religious education delivered at home far outweighed any academic training they might have been behind on. And for others, simply the fear of exposure to undesirable aspects of public school made our choice seem neglectful or even sinful.

But me? I was so fried by that time that I had to consider all the angles of my vocations: wife, mother, catechizer, teacher, cook, house cleaner, etc. I was no longer doing any of them well. I had to let something go. We chose to let the academic training fall into the hands of others. In so doing, I lost much time with my kids, but the time I had been spending with them had deteriorated to the point I was barely functional.

It was a choice we made. In a sinful world, there will always be those forks in the road that seem bad or wrong no matter which way we turn.

Because our kids were in public school, we’ve had to counter many things we didn’t have to address while they were in the home. But we’d eventually have had to deal with these anyway.

The simple fact is there will always be things in a school — private or public — that we don’t like or that we wish were different. There will be kids exposing yours to things you’d prefer they not know. While this may be less so in a parochial school, it will still be there.

There is no place safe in this world. It is broken. Your kids, therefore, will grow up in a broken world. Whether they primarily see that brokenness in you at home, or in a parochial school, or in a public school, each different place affords different ways of teaching Law and Gospel, sin and grace.

No matter what you choose, there will be regrets. There will be sin. There will be things you simply cannot do. There will be things you do wrong. Each of these sins offers the chance to model repentance and forgiveness.

Of course, even something as basic and seemingly obvious, you won’t even be able to do this right all the time. Nonetheless, God’s grace is there for you: pure and rich and free and all-encompassing.

God’s providential care for His children will provide you means to teach your children, to provide for them, to contribute to their upbringing.

God can provide those things that are necessary, even if you don’t “get it done”. There are also things you deem important that God considers less important. And so He does not allow you to accomplish them.

You feel guilty, and yet God knows better than you (and me). He knows what is truly important. And He knows when it’s important for us to fail so we again may cling to Him more strongly.

It’s all so amazing really. God’s goodness, His grace, His wisdom, His care for His children. It always seems a little flippant when I say it, but it is all good. We cannot go wrong, and yet of course we do. Over and over again — but it’s covered. Jesus’ righteousness is ours — over and over again.

I know where you are, because I’ve been there. Your guilt was my guilt. I was so burdened all the time our kids were young. I compared myself to other moms, to my mom, to my grandma, to my own ideals. We all have those idols we create in our minds of how things are supposed to be. I praise God that He gave me some wonderful mentors and a great, strong husband to help me know and appreciate God’s grace and mercy toward us sinners.

Learn from the faithful mentors He provides you and the neighbors He gives to help you along the way.

Blessings and God’s Peace to you,

Mary Abrahamson

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