As a freshman in Psych 101, I had the "nature vs. nurture" argument all figured out. The winner was nurture, hands down. In my mind, there was no way a little person who stood less than two feet tall could withstand the powerful will of an adult.

Then I had children.

The Lord blessed us with two boys and two girls, and I’m now convinced we should have named them North, South, East and West. I never could have imagined one home producing four children who were more different from one another. In my 20-year home study of child development, I have learned that a one-size-fits-all approach works only when we’re ordering Big Gulps at 7-Eleven. Otherwise, each child needs individualized care and attention. In no area is this more evident than in education.

Today, families have more school options than ever before. Our family has taken advantage of those options to tailor our kids’ education to their individual needs: The oldest son graduated from a public high school, my two girls attend a private school and my youngest son is home-schooled.

As educational choices proliferate, however, so do the voices of those willing to offer advice. How can parents determine what’s best for their one-of-a-kind child? Consider three questions as you weigh your options:

What is God’s will for your home?

Doug and Mary felt God calling their family to stay engaged in the public school system. They taught their children that it takes courage to be a Christian in a secular environment and that God does not intend for them to avoid everything that is painful.

Some days, the oldest came home from high school crying, but the children’s lives continued to shine as a Christian example to their classmates. They defended creationism in classes skewed by Darwinism and spoke up for morality when teachers taught otherwise. Though they received academic and athletic awards, their greatest legacy is the godly young adults in the community who were influenced by a family with a mission.

What is feasible?

Not every family can handle the unique pressures of home-schooling. Similarly, not every budget can afford a private school education, nor can every student thrive in a public school. Prayer and a little research may be necessary to determine which options are realistic for your family.

In a western suburb of Chicago, Jenny, a single mom, drops off her children every morning at Medinah Christian School. Because of Jenny’s job, the public school schedule doesn’t fit and home-schooling is not an option. She needs before- and after-school care, even though she can hardly afford it on her meagre income.

When she contacted the principal of Medinah Christian School, she was delighted to learn that not only were the hours for the extended-care program compatible with her needs, but her family also fit the criteria for a full scholarship. With her children in a safe and loving environment, she has learned that where God guides, He provides.

What does your heart yearn to do?

Eighteen years ago, Paul and Colleen began preparing for their first child’s education. Because Paul was an international lawyer, the family had many opportunities. Yet a Focus on the Family radio broadcast about home-schooling changed their lives.

Colleen was captivated by the ideas presented on the program, but she was also terrified. She said, "I’d think and pray, I just can’t do this, Lord! This is too important, and I’m just not good enough." Despite Colleen’s doubts, the Lord continued to nudge her and awakened her desire to home-school her children.

Today, after being home-schooled through 12th grade, their oldest is thriving at the Coast Guard Academy and their second is beginning college. In retrospect, Paul and Colleen believe home-schooling was the best choice for their family. It provided much-needed stability for their kids as they moved to different countries and various states through the years.

The bottom line is not what others think but what the Lord has planned and provided for you and your child. Choose your course carefully, stay with it faithfully and change directions cautiously. Godly, loving and thoughtful parents can hardly go wrong.

Phil Wood was the pastor of Fellowship Church of Carol Stream, Illinois at the time of publication.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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