by Alan Graustein, EdD

Choosing the best school for your child can be a difficult task. The choice is important, and it sometimes involves separating the excellent from the good. Today there are a growing number of choices available: Christian schools, charter schools, traditional public schools. How are these schools similar? How do they differ?

Charter schools are public schools. They fulfill a public purpose; they serve a public interest. In addition, charter schools are government run, and therefore limitations are imposed on students and staff in the area of religious expression. They cannot do certain things.

In American government schools, use of the Bible is restricted. It can be studied as literature, but it cannot have a direct role in teaching values. Bible study and religious instructions cannot take place within the curriculum of government schools.

Teachers in government schools are limited in their ability to share their faith. They are not allowed to lead students in prayer or worship. In the court case Santa Fe v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal in government schools for a teacher, staff member, or coach to allow a student to lead a class or team in worship or prayer. The courts have determined that government schools cannot allow voluntary prayer during voluntary extracurricular activities.

For the most part, Christian schools are also "public schools" in the sense that they too fulfill the public purpose and serve the public interest. They strive to produce graduates who become good citizens and contribute to the public good.

Principals and teachers in these ministries join hands with parents and leaders of the local church in the process. Together they embrace common goals for boys and girls. Faculty and staff seek to provide a wide variety of educational opportunities designed to build character and promote virtue in the life of each student.

Christian schools are "public schools," but they are not government run. They are not bound by most of the restrictions imposed on government-controlled programs.The Bible serves as the foundation for the Christian school curriculum, and prayer is a common practice throughout the day. Teachers and staff in Christian schools strive to incorporate biblical truth within every planned learning experience. Faith and learning are cornerstones of Christian school education.

Included in the mission of the Christian school is the goal of helping every student realize his or her full potential in Christ. Each child is viewed as unique, formed in the image of God and designed by the Creator for a purpose. A biblically based curriculum in the hands of teachers yielded to an guided by the Holy Spirit and in partnership with parents serves as the pathway to this vital goal.

Christian schools promote a lifestyle of service. A focus of instruction is to develop a heart that is concerned for the well-being of others. Students are taught to look beyond their own needs and to use their abilities and resources to provide for those who are less fortunate.

The goal of Christian school education is to enable every student to view all of life through the lens of the Bible. The unique partnership with parents affords an opportunity to impart a consistent message to their sons and daughters. When the home, the church, and the school purpose to teach the same set of character traits and values, the outcomes are predictable. Students come to a better understanding of truth, they grow in spiritual maturity, and they are prepared to make positive contribution to their world.

In describing why he enrolled his children in a Christian school, a dad once made this comment: "Every time there is a teachable moment, I want a believer there."

Which school would work best for your child?

The answer depends on a number of considerations:

  1. What do you want most for your child?
  2. What are the educational and spiritual goals that you have in mind?
  3. How does the life of the teacher have an impact on the life of your child?
  4. Is the message of the school the message of your home?

The decision is yours to make. When you consider the education options available to you, what do you conclude is the best choice for your family