I Send My Kids to Public School and I’m Happy About It

When my kids were young, I enrolled them in a darling little public school up the hill from my house. At the time, private school was not a financial option, and homeschooling them seemed like a lonely way for them to go through their first few years of elementary school. I lived in a wonderful neighborhood, the school had great academic ratings, and it seemed like the best thing to do. I wanted to be a part of my local community and public school was the obvious choice.

I volunteered in the classroom, helped make cupcakes, and was as present as I knew how to be in those early years. The yellow school bus is probably my all-time favorite icon of American life. That I get to walk my kids to the bus every morning, and watch their bus arrive at the top of the driveway in the afternoon, is a delight to me.

In Chile, the academic world is very different, and my kids went to private school for a little over a year. I struggled with the educational philosophy, and the rigorous academic standards, and eventually, pulled them out of private school and homeschooled them for two years. At the time, it seemed like the right choice. We had some great days and valuable learning time, but overall I was not a good homeschool mom. I found it overwhelmingly lonely, boring, and difficult. I did it because it was the best thing for my kids at the time, but I didn’t want to homeschool forever.

Upon returning to the United States, I enrolled my kids in the public elementary school that coincided with the neighborhood where we lived, and once again, slipped into the delightful bus-stop life I mentioned above.

Currently, I have no option but to send my kids to public school. I couldn’t afford private school even if I wanted to send them, and because I’m a working mom, homeschooling isn’t on the table. Some parents homeschool and work, but I’m a part-time substitute teacher. My hours directly coincide with school hours.

All this to say, education is a challenging topic. I have friends and family spread across the entire academic spectrum. I have good friends who choose to homeschool, and dear friends who have the finances, and the desire to give their children a private school education. These are good choices.

What concerns me in the debate about public school and the Christian faith, is the reticence so many have in sending their children to public school. I am a practicing Christian. I practice my faith with rigorous intensity, and I am not sorry that my kids are enrolled in our local public school. We are a part of the community. I know their teachers. I volunteer for field trips, and I show up when they need parental help. Every year, I pray for God to provide good friends and thoughtful teachers for my children. And every year, no joke, I’m shocked at God’s creative provision.

Some of this probably has to do with the fact that I grew up going to public school, and overall it was a good experience for me. I made life-long friends. I practiced my faith, debated with my teachers, learned to advocate for myself, lived out diversity and thoughtful tolerance, and learned how to read. All those things continue to serve me to this day.

Do I think public school has its weaknesses, and much of one’s positive or negative experience depends on one’s residence? Yes, absolutely.

If I lived in a dangerous neighborhood, I’d probably be more reluctant to send to them to the neighborhood school. However, even with that, I have to admit, my go-to-gut-level belief is that wherever God calls you to be is where you’ll experience God’s grace and strength and remarkable provision.

Twenty-five years ago, homeschooling was virtually unheard of, and was almost perceived as a negative thing for society. People were suspicious of it. Now, particularly in the Christian community, it’s wholly normal and acceptable to homeschool one’s kids. For this, I am so grateful. We need options. We need the freedom to choose what is best for one’s family and children and way of life. I’m so grateful our society has grown more tolerant and fair-minded about homeschooling.

However, what I am finding in today’s Christian community is that a lot of people look down on the choice to send one’s kids to public school. Sometimes, it feels like people see it as an inferior option, something one shouldn’t choose if they really cared for their children’s well-being. I would like to quietly and thoughtfully, without judgment or condemnation, say that public school is a choice I’m happy with, for me and for my children.

Please see below to share this post. 

And scroll down to leave a comment.

I’d love to hear from you.



Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.


  1. I agree that public school is not a bad choice for Christian families – just a different choice. I sent my kids public school and do not regret it. I wanted to be able to afford to stay home with them when they were young, and I was able to volunteer in their classrooms (hopefully to the benefit of more children than just my own). I wanted them to connect with their neighborhood peers, and they did, many of whom attended our church. I wanted them to learn to live as Christians in a diverse world, and they did, though not without bumps in the road. There were, of course, drawbacks and failings with the public schools, but I also saw that happen with children in private schools. And while I have admired many homeschooling families, that can also have its drawbacks, and one afternoon of trying to get thru homework with a resistant child was enough to know that it was not the right road for us. You are right that “wherever God calls you to be is where you’ll experience God’s grace and strength and remarkable provision”. God may call some to private schools or homeschooling, but I believe that he also calls some to public schools. Thanks, Tina, for sharing.

    1. Hi Ellen,

      I’m glad you wrote. Yes, with every choice we make, there are subsequent downfalls. My hope in writing this piece, was mainly to express that it’s not second best to put your kids in public school. It’s a viable choice and for many it’s a really good one. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. Warmly, Tina

  2. “wherever God calls you to be is where you’ll experience God’s grace and strength and remarkable provision.” As a youth pastor (in my formal life), I was shocked at the assumption within my church that everyone send their kids to private school. In fact, the greater Chicago area operates out of this mindset. Once students are in junior high, the pressure mounts to receive admission into a prestigious magnet school or private school. Community students are scattered. IMO, the struggling local public school struggles as a result. I do home school my daughter, but, it is a result of learning disabilities and mental illness that affect the classroom experience. When one teacher is expected to meet the needs of 30 kids, with varying academic and personal issues, some fall through the crack. The lack of community, in general, has left unsettling implications for future generations. (Oh, I could really keep going…….). Anyway, Yes! to everything you said here.

    1. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this quandary. We desperately want our children to receive a good education and we want them to be safe and to be around good people. But how will the public school system ever improve, in the places where it needs improvement, if all the thoughtful people take their children elsewhere? I realize this is a complicated discussion and it’s personal, but I think it’s good to be right in the middle of it all, and not always feel the need to pull our children from the public system, but rather train them to be in it, with thoughtful intelligence.

  3. I have never regretted sending my now adult children to public schools. I had to overcome my own fear they might learn ideas and concepts different than my Christian beliefs and choose those over God. They did Choose God. I trusted and prayed my walk was a truth they could not deny or compare hypocritically. Not only were my kids challenged daily to live out their own faith but so was I. Over those years , both myself and my children learned to see everything and everyone as equal. Their lives are far from over, we as parents were not perfect, but they have excellent careers and have taught me about faith and acceptance. I love public schools and the brave teachers who love God but teach with truth even though they can’t say where their truth comes from. We need you there, I need you there! Thank you Tina, for being in a public school speaking truth and love in the name of Jesus, even when it’s unspoken!

    1. Over the years, in particular, when I was about to send my children into their first public school, you were such an important inspiration. Thank you. Your insights and love and consistent example have made such a difference in my life. You model faith and you live it in such a practical way. Xox

  4. To add to the complexity of school choice, our boys go to a public, alternative school. For us, the decision wasn’t private to public, but alternative/language focused school to neighborhood. We feel
    Confident in our decision, but as we get in the minivan every morning, I see the bus go by and feel a twinge of jealousy. Are we missing out in the community of a neighborhood school? But…for our community of our alternative school is amazing. I believe the path was already chosen…we just walk it. For us, 2 days into Kindergarten for Levi and Henry, 2 spots became available for the alternative school. A set of twins had moved….and we got the call. So, here we are, almost 4 years later.

    1. I’m so glad you were able to choose the language school — and that a spot opened up when it did. I remember I had a similar decision to make for Emma when she went into kindergarten, and instead of opting to drive her to the Spanish immersion school, I chose to stay local. I’m not sure it was the best decision, but it was the decision that I felt the most comfortable with at the time. I weighed everything and decided I really wanted my kids to be in school with their neighbors. I missed out on the language piece, for sure. We do the best with the information we’re given and trust it’s the right choice. I’m glad your boys are learning French!

  5. The journey of schooling, although it hasn’t been a long one compared to many, has been full of ups and downs, challenges, big achievements, great friends, and a lot of prayer. All of our kids started in the state school system. In a beautiful, small, community-focussed school. When Silas started there were 237 kids from kindergarten- 7th grade. The families pretty much helped run everything at the school. Classroom volunteers to school carnivals. We loved it. Over 6 years the school grew to over 1,500 kids from kindergarten to 6th grade. Massive growth! With that growth came a lot of relational and classroom challenges. We just felt a huge burden to pick up our kids and transfer to a private, small school, where they were known and not just a number. So we did. We moved schools and I’m so thankful. It wasn’t because our kids were over- exposed to the ‘world’ or would be challenged in their faith. It was because they got lost. I woke up one morning and decided my kids didn’t need to be the ‘light in the darkness’ at that school anymore. They needed a place they could flourish. I think that’s what we all want for our kids. And I also think, growth and flourishment doesn’t always look like we think it does.

    1. I think these kinds of stories are so very important to have in the whole mix of everything. I’m so thankful you all had the financial resources to make the decisions you’ve made, and you’re absolutely right. Long-term flourishing is what we all want. I’m absolutely thrilled you guys made the decision to move them from a huge ocean of kids, to a much smaller place where they are able to stretch out and grow. In the grand scheme of things, feeling like you’re seen and heard and have a place of your own, is what gives us strength and cultivates our courage. At the end of it all, we have to do what is best and right for our kids – even if it means driving them across town to a better place.

      PS — that is some serious growth. What kinds of state regulations go with that type of growth in a local school? Just curious, actually.

  6. No idea. I don’t understand our state school system here very well. When our school started to really grow they brought in portables and before we knew it, our whole play field was full of them. Classes were put into the library, music room, even the staff lunch room! And this was in a school that wasn’t taking any enrolments from outside the catchment. There just wasn’t enough infrastructure for the growth of students. It was very overwhelming. I know they are in the process of building another school in the area, but for about 2 years, our “little” school just continues to burst at the seam.

Leave a Reply