Marvelous Money: Our mortgage plan update

10 April 2024

One of the most frequent requests I get, on all platforms, is for a mortgage plan update. This is funny to me (the requests are usually random and out of the blue!), but I welcome it, and I understand it: there are not many people willing to talk about finances in a personal and detailed way. But here I am! Willing to talk! So let’s get into it, because we have made a shift since our last conversation…

A brief overview of where we’ve been:

Spring 2013: We buy our house! We pull together a 13% down payment, because that’s the most we could afford.

Fall 2014: After paying off our car loans, we use about half of what we had been paying to make an extra mortgage payment each month (directly to the bank), and the other half to build up a fund for our next car purchase.

Fall 2015: Car fund complete, we shift that amount we’d been paying toward our mortgage, too. Instead of paying down our mortgage directly, though, we begin transferring the extra monthly amount into a specific home brokerage account and invest it, with the goal of paying off the mortgage balance in one lump sum once we reach the amount we need. I talked about that here.

2018: We shift our strategy. Instead of paying off our mortgage as soon as our home brokerage account reaches the right amount, we plan to keep saving a little longer, until we’ve reached a large-enough amount of money that, if carefully invested, the returns themselves would be large enough to cover our monthly mortgage payment (meaning our mortgage would no longer need to be a part of our household budget). I talked about that here.

2022: With June in (public) kindergarten, we shift most of the money we had been paying for preschool each month towards an increased monthly transfer to our home brokerage account.

2023: Our home brokerage account reached the amount where we could begin taking withdrawals for the monthly mortgage payment… but we didn’t begin taking withdrawals.

Wait, what?!

Yes, indeed. In yet another change to the plan, after much discussion, we agreed that we wanted to keep rolling with our current situation indefinitely: paying the monthly mortgage payment to the bank out of our salaries, and contributing to the home brokerage account each month while letting it grow.


To put it simply, our standard of living was (and is) perfectly comfortable. We don’t see a compelling need in our budget for our mortgage payment right now. Our current plan is to do this for the foreseeable future, or until our needs change, or until it no longer makes sense. Just as I shared in my last post, the hope is that this account will eventually pay for college tuitions, weddings, a rental property, some really extravagant generosity, or – most likely – all of the above.

Suffice it to say, this gives us an incredible amount of flexibility, and peace of mind. We knew that, I think, but we recently had an experience that drove home just how much we value living below our means. Story time? :)

Recently, a house came on the market that we were very interested in. Though we had a few alerts set up, we didn’t consider ourselves actively looking, and so scrambled to get in touch with a realtor and get prequalified for a loan. We went to see it on a Friday, the day it went on the market, and then debated whether we should put in an offer almost constantly for the next 36-ish hours.

We ultimately decided not to. As we were debriefing on Monday (when, naturally, the house went pending), John asked me how I felt. Relief was my overwhelming feeling. The weekend had been incredibly stressful: not only because we were thrust into making a fast decision (when we are two of the slowest decision makers on the planet!) but, had we gone forward, we would have taken on a much larger mortgage with a much higher interest payment. Our monthly discretionary payment to our home brokerage account would have been essentially redirected towards paying our new mortgage.

Could we have done it without much change to our lifestyle? Yes, because we were already used to forgoing that money.

Would it have potentially made us feel more stressed? Almost certainly. When we’re paying ourselves each month, we know we can always skip a transfer if something comes up – but you can’t skip a mortgage payment. At work, John doesn’t have to hustle harder than he wants, or feel pressure to take the extra appointment at the expense of our time together as a family. We feel the peace of knowing we can release my salary if something were to change with our circumstances.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t like our current plan. It’s so open-ended! We don’t have a specific goal we’re trying to reach! The larger part of me, though, is extremely grateful. This margin that we’ve fought for — keeping our standard of living stable while our income has risen and costs, like daycare/preschool, have gone away — has given us an incredible peace of mind. It has helped us to be more present, joyful parents. It has helped keep our marriage happy and stress-free. It has allowed us to give generously and freely to the people and causes we love. All of this is of almost incalculable value to me.

As I was writing this post, chapter 10 from Morgan Housel’s exceptional book came to mind. “You don’t need a specific reason to save,” he writes. “You can save just for saving’s sake. And indeed you should. Everyone should.”

Does this mean we will never move to a more expensive home? It does not. Our run-in with the market last month actually gave us a lot of clarity on what we’re looking for in a next home, and what we would and would not be willing to move for. With a narrowed scope, we feel ready to go if the right home comes on the market, but also perfectly content to wait several years should it not. And while we wait, that brokerage account will (hopefully) continue to grow – making action even easier when the time comes.

And now, to one more practical question before we close:

Over the years, readers have asked whether our feelings about this strategy have changed since we shared it, especially given the market volatility during the pandemic. Did the market drop in March 2020 make us wish we’d made payments directly on our mortgage? What has been the emotional impact of this plan, now that we’ve been at it for a bit?

This is an excellent question, and one of the most important ones to get clear on before embarking on a plan like this yourself. In a way, I’m grateful that the pandemic drop proved what we thought all along: that we both have a high tolerance for market volatility and risk. We set out on this plan knowing what we had set aside could decrease in value – and we were okay with that, considering our time horizon and the purpose of these savings. Also, not all of the money is invested in stocks, and most of it is managed in a defensive style which is more protected from volatility. We also have a fully-funded emergency fund, which helped assure us that even if something really unfortunate were to have happened (like, both of us losing our jobs WHILE the market plummeted), we still would have had options.

Key to our plan? We practice dollar cost averaging, or investing on a regular schedule, whether the market is up or down. No trying to time the market over here! Some months it will be up, which is great, and some months it will be down, which is also great – we can get in at a discount :) Over the long-term, though, we believe the market will continue to go up.

I’ll end this post the same way I’ve ended previous ones: if you like the idea of trying something like this, I would highly recommend working with a financial advisor. Of course, it’s possible to make investment decisions on your own, but I don’t want to give you the impression that it’s just me over here knowing all the things and that you should be able to do the same — John IS a financial advisor, and if he weren’t, we would definitely be seeking expertise on decisions of such magnitude.

And finally, I know this is a bit more of a niche Marvelous Money topic than we usually cover, and perhaps it feels wildly out of reach for you right now. I get that. I share this not to brag (!!!) or make you feel defeated (hopefully you know that!), but to perhaps stretch your imagination of what’s possible. At the very least, I hope it encourages you to value the peace of mind that comes from living below your means, whatever that looks like for you.

A few past posts that might be of interest:
Investing 101
Our Net Worth Meetings
Managing Money Together
Making Trade-Offs

A final reminder: I am not a financial professional, and nothing I say here should be construed as investment advice! I’m just one gal sharing her story :)

Let’s discuss! What questions does this post bring up for you? Anything we could discuss in a future Marvelous Money post?

read more

Marvelous Money: 3 Ways We’re Living Generously This Christmas

7 December 2023

Writing about your own generosity is a tricky thing, isn’t it?

On the one hand, there’s the very real fear that you’ll come across as prideful, a show-off. Or that you’ll needlessly make others feel bad about their efforts – which might represent a real sacrifice – or feel shame about the gap between your generosity and theirs.

So why risk it?

Of course, there’s also this, just one chapter later – also from the mouth of Jesus:

Giving in public = bad? Giving in secret = good? If only it were so easy :) The Christian faith is not interested in being simple; it’s interested in being true. In the end, the motivation of the heart is what categorizes the same act as either a treasure or a disgrace in the eyes of God, which can make it confusing to know when to share. However – as long as I can feel reasonably confident that I’m sharing to reflect the light and love of God and not to be praised by men blog readers, I want to do so.

Also, we hear a lot about Christians behaving badly. But there are many, many, many more stories of light that go untold – stories of quiet, unsung acts of selflessness, compassion, and generosity. We need those stories, too, to remind us about the beauty, grace, and truth of a life spent imitating Jesus (imperfectly, always, but earnestly, too).

Finally, on a practical note, I like hearing about the positive things others are doing! It inspires me to be better, to do more, to stretch my conception of what I think I’m capable of and comfortable with – and it gives me ideas for how to do so! It reminds me that people everywhere are doing their best to make people feel loved and the world a better place. It buoys my hope and optimism about my fellow man and the world we inhabit together.

So — with that lengthy introduction, I submit to you three ways we’re trying to live generously this Christmas season – written with humility and love!

We’re giving generously to our kids’ teachers.

Currently, Annie and Shep each have two preschool teachers, while June has her second-grade teacher, her math teacher, and a student teacher. In past years, we have given physical gifts to preschool teachers, like fresh wreaths, snap totes, and Cultivate goodies. I love all of these ideas and may return to them!

This year and last, however, we’ve moved to giving gift cards (accompanied by handwritten notes). Last year we gave each preschool teacher a $15 gift card to a local ice cream shop. This year, we’re giving them $50 gift cards to a local gift shop I love, and the director (who is also a teacher in Shep’s classroom) a $100 gift card to our favorite local restaurant. It’s been a challenging year in their school, and we want her and her husband to enjoy a fun dinner out.

For June’s main teacher, we’ll do a $75* gift card to either a local garden store or the same local restaurant – I haven’t decided yet! (I always try to choose based on their hobbies – last year, we gave her first-grade teacher, an avid runner, a gift card to Fleet Feet.)

*I had planned to do $100, the same as our preschool director, but our district put a $75 cap on gifts this year.

For her math teacher, we chose a 3-month subscription to the Book of the Month Club, and her student teacher will get a Cultivate tumbler stuffed with crinkle paper and a $50 coffee shop gift card.

Again: I include the dollar amounts not to show off (blerg), but to gently encourage. Last year, $15 for five preschool teachers felt like a stretch. My understanding is that even the smallest gift card is appreciated, and if $5 per teacher is what’s possible, it will be gratefully received.

This year, we can do more, so we are. When I think about what it would cost to send our three children to private school (I did the math right here), $100 per teacher feels like a drop in the bucket. Excellent teachers are the lifeblood of our schools and I’ll do almost anything to help them feel appreciated.

We’re giving generously to our pastor.

Moving on to our next category of challenging jobs :) Full-time ministry – whew! It is not for the faint of heart, for the pastor or for his or her family. They (joyfully!) sacrifice so much for the people in their care, and last year, John and I felt compelled to share one of our very favorite traditions with our pastor and his wife.

We wrote them a note explaining our end-of-year celebration dinner – what it is and what it has meant to our relationship over the last many years – and included a $100 gift card to a local restaurant in the envelope. We wanted to make it easy for them to start their own tradition, if they wanted to. We’ll do the same thing this year. Sowing into their marriage feels like sowing directly into God’s Kingdom, and we’re grateful to do it.

We’re giving generously to our garbage and recycling guys.

This is one I come by honestly – it’s straight from the brain of my mom :) Growing up, she’d always leave a Subway gift card and bag of peanut butter balls on top of our trash and recycling cans in December, and honestly, I thought it was weird – ha!

But I also just thought it was normal, and sure enough, when we moved into our own home a decade ago, I taped a colorful (eye-catching!) thank you note, a Jersey Mike’s gift card (we usually do $20 – enough for two guys in each truck), and a bag of peanut butter balls to the top of each can one Wednesday in December. I can only hope my children will think this is weird and then grow up to do the same thing, too.

Of course, I’d love to hear: big or small, how are you being generous this season? This group always has the best ideas.

read more

Christians in Public School: Em

17 October 2023

Thank you for coming along for this ride, friends! In this series, I hoped to give voice to committed Christian families who have made the decision to attend public school and who have had a largely-positive experience. I wanted to encourage other Christian public school families, and offer greater understanding to those who’ve chosen a different path. With the help of five generous friends, I believe we’ve done that, and I’m grateful.

Though it feels like there’s little to add at this point, you’ve got me today :) Let’s do it!

Tell us about yourself and your family. 

You know me :) But for those who are new, I work part-time as a writer for a goal-setting company. My husband, John, is a financial planner, and we have three kids – June (7, in second grade), John Shepherd (5, in a Montessori preschool), and Annie (2, in the same preschool). We live in a suburb of Raleigh, NC.

Why are you choosing public school for your family? 

John and I both grew up attending public schools and had positive – even great – experiences. I remember arriving at college and being surprised by the subpar writing skills of some of my classmates who had graduated from prestigious private schools. Our K-12 school experiences weren’t perfect, but the laughably-strange teachers along the way were more than balanced out by the incredible, life-changing teachers we were lucky to spend time with. We made great friends, had wonderful (albeit not particularly glamorous) opportunities, and were well-prepared to succeed academically in college, which in turn set us up for careers we love.

Structurally, school is very different here than it was growing up in Connecticut. We grew up with town-based schools, so pretty much everyone in our town went to one of three elementary schools, then the one middle school and the one high school. There was one magnet school and one Catholic school I can think of, and that was it.

Where we live now, the options are seemingly endless. We’re in a county system, so everyone has the option of a traditional or a year-round school (and rezoning feels like a looming threat). Next, there are tons of themed magnet options that are within the public school system. Beyond that, there are yet more charter, private secular, and private Christian schools to choose from. It is truly dizzying to consider, especially for this Enneagram 5 researcher. Each comes with pros and cons, from cost to technology use to commutes to school population to ideology.

Still, with all of those options (or perhaps because of them), we considered our neighborhood public school our default choice. Something relatively dramatic would have needed to happen to push us to another option, and it didn’t, so we didn’t.

We also believe strongly in the importance of a vibrant and healthy public school system. It’s scary for me to think what our schools – and, ultimately, our society – would look like if all the Christian parents, or all the engaged parents, or all the wealthy parents, or all the parents with social capital, pulled out of public schools.

Speaking of cost, though we theoretically could afford private school, it is mind-numbing to think of the money we are saving by not paying tuition 36 times over. If I consider the actual most likely private schools we’d consider (because you know I’ve done research!), we are realizing a savings of between $242,700 and $461,250 in today’s dollars by sending our kids to public school over their schooling lifetime. That is an INCREDIBLE amount of money that could – and does and/or will – go to improving their current schools, giving generously to our church and other organizations we believe in, starting our own non-profit, funding scholarships at our alma maters, traveling the world with our kids, and helping them launch families or businesses one day, if they should so choose.

Finally – and I have been trying for weeks to figure out exactly how to word this, so bear with me – we believe our children are infinitely precious, but not fragile. We don’t believe we need to coddle them, and in fact believe that they will have a better chance of growing into the people we hope they’ll be, and leading the lives we hope they’ll live, if they do not have every lesson handpicked and fine-tuned for them and their interests, every opportunity presented to them on a silver platter, every environment perfectly suited to their liking, and every obstacle mown from their path. We believe they’ll grow from having to navigate less-than-ideal learning conditions (within reason, of course) as well as different personalities and opinions along the way. In the long term, we don’t think the absolute best is, actually, always the best.

What has been your experience with public school so far? Give us an overview.

Our experience thus far has been pretty much uniformly positive! Our teachers have been fantastic – communicative, capable, warm, and ready to see our daughter as an individual and meet her where she is, with lots of creative ways to make sure she’s being challenged. Our feedback has been warmly received. June truly loves going to school, loves her teachers, and loves to learn. She has also made wonderful friends.

As parents, we are hands-on, and this feels like a calling and (mostly) a pleasure, too. I read every email and handout that’s sent home. I read policies and meeting notes. We go to as many events as we can. I peruse the library books she brings home. I connect with and talk to other parents. We vote in every local election. Her school makes it easy to be involved, and we take them up on it.

What has been one of your favorite parts about your school experience so far? Has anything been challenging?

Let’s do two of each!

First, we love going to a neighborhood school. Especially since the majority of students walk or bike to school, there is such a sense of community as everyone streams toward the campus in the morning. We love sharing a common experience with our neighbors, where it’s easy to ask for and give advice about school activities, teachers, etc. As Claire noted, this makes it much easier to love our neighbors in tangible ways. And, as I’ve mentioned many times before, biking to school is our favorite. It’s a delightful way to bookend the day, and because our commute is so short, we get more time back to be together as a family and spend in ways that are valuable to us.

Second, it is a great delight to love on the teachers, staff, and administration. While we could do this in any school we attend, my sense is that it’s more needed and valued where we are. Our goal is to make the school noticeably better by our presence. We want our kids’ classmates to be better off than if we had not been there, and to leave teachers grateful that our kids were in their class. None of this is to make our name great, but because it’s what we believe glorifies God.

(There are a lot of specific ways we do this, and I’m happy to share them. However, this post is exceptionally long already, so if there’s interest, I’ll add this topic to the queue for the future!)

Now for the challenges…

First, what has been most challenging personally is dealing with comparison and jealousy. For as confident of a person and parent as I am, school choice is easily the area where I feel the most doubt and experience the most jealousy. Private Christian school, classical school, homeschooling, Acton Academy, Montessori – you name it, I’ve probably researched it and can see the good in it. We love our kids and know that schooling is a huge part of their lives, and so it’s easy to feel a lot of pressure to “get it right” and to want the absolute best (whatever that is!).

Second, I know this is a series particularly about the place where our faith and our kids’ education meet, but the thing I most wish I could change three years in has been technology. In second grade, phones are not a thing, but every kid has a school-issued laptop and they spend time on them within lessons each day, and I just wish they didn’t. This is probably not surprising :) They’re certainly not on them all day, and I trust the balance the teachers are striking, but still, I’d change it if I could, and I’d also give the kids more time outside. We balance these school-day downsides by maintaining our low-tech environment at home and pushing them outside as often as possible!

What does faith formation look like for your family outside of or alongside school? How are you helping your kids to know and love God and their neighbors?

How much time do you have?! Ha! Knowing that our kids are not being formed in the Christian faith in public school, and in fact may be counter-formed in some ways, we spend an incredible amount of time and energy thinking about this and acting on it.

We worship and serve at church on Sundays. We invest deeply in our small group. We encourage their friendships, and our family’s friendships, with other believers. We continually point to our faith daily in conversation. We pray together. We play worship music on the go and in the house. We talk about the many forms of generosity, and invite our kids to live a generous, abundant life alongside us – and to share that life with others.

What are your hopes for your kids and their education? What’s the best-case scenario?

Honestly, my answer is a mash-up of Ginna’s and Krystal’s – they summed things up so beautifully!

We care deeply about education, but it is not ultimate in our family: loving God and loving their neighbor is. My hope for their education is that they learn from teachers who inspire them and alongside peers who bring them joy. I hope they grow to love reading and learning itself. As parents, I hope we can be involved in connecting what they are learning in school to the amazing God of the universe.

It’s also hard for me to tease out my hopes for their more formal schooling from their upbringing in our home. I could say much more about my hopes for who they are as one-day grown-ups, but that is not something I expect school to accomplish.

Do you plan to continue with public school indefinitely, do you plan to change course in the future, or do you hold it with open hands?

We will take it year by year. We have had a great experience so far with elementary and hope and plan to continue with it for all of our kids. We’ll consider our options anew when it comes to middle and high school.

Anything else to add?

For me, it’s been incredibly important to have close Christian friends who are walking the same public school path as us. Both of the other families in our small group who have elementary-aged kids have chosen public school, and that is an invaluable support, especially when the doubt or jealousy or fear creeps in.

Friends, please feel free to respond to anything I mentioned in your usual kind and thoughtful way. I’m sure this will not be the last time we touch on this subject, but I’m grateful that we could cover as much ground as we did over the last few weeks. Thank you, as always, for being a part!

Series introduction

read more

Christians in Public Schools: Claire

19 September 2023

Out of the seven ladies I asked to participate in this series, there was only one I had never met in person – and that’s Claire.

This was not an accident. If I’m going to share this space with someone and ask you to listen to them – whether in this series, Marvelous Mamas, or any other – then I want to be as sure as I possibly can that they’ll respect what we’ve built and value the same things we do: kindness, honesty, thoughtfulness, freedom of thought and inquiry, and generosity of spirit, to start. I want them to be a kindred spirit.

Though I have not met her in person, I feel confident that that’s exactly what Claire is. I’ve read her honest and incisive writing for years (I’m a paid subscriber to her Substack!) and was a podcast listener before that, and we also had the chance to work together briefly when she did some freelancing for Cultivate. She’s honest, she’s passionate, she’s principled, and she’s a little spicy in the best way.

And, though she might not know it, she was yet another inspiration for this series. When she wrote months ago about choosing public school for her kids with boldness and grace, it made me think that maybe I could, too.

I’m honored to have you here, Claire – take it away!

Tell us about yourself and your family.

My name is Claire and I live in a teensy-tiny town in southeast Wisconsin. I have three kids, ages 7 (2nd grade), 5 (kindergarten), and 2 (part-time daycare and a prayer).

Why are you choosing public school for your family? 

We arrived at our schooling decision after a lot of prayer, research, and touring. We knew right away that homeschooling wasn’t a good fit for us as parents or for our kids, although I do have many happy, intelligent homeschooling friends! (I even tried to convince one of them to just homeschool my kids along hers, but she didn’t quite go for it – maybe because she has six of her own, ha!) 

In our area, there are many school choices available. The main ones within a reasonable distance are our public school; our Catholic school attached to our parish; a free classical, secular, charter school you need to apply for and cross your fingers; and a classical Catholic school that isn’t attached to any particular parish. We toured all of them. 

We had many priorities: budget! Ease of transportation! Extracurriculars! Academics! Cultural fit! We combined all of those in an alchemy of prayer and chose our local public school. 

Although we as a family are very Catholic, we also believe passionately in public schools. Every kid has a right to an education, and Catholic school is very pricey – especially the classical ones that aren’t attached to, and partly subsidized by, parishes. Our parish school actually had some aspects to it that we didn’t feel were aligned with the Catholic faith (we emailed the pastor to let him know, as I’m sure that wasn’t the parish’s intention), and the classical Catholic school felt too small and insulated. We want to be a light in our community and teach our kids to have conversations with all different kinds of people with differing values in order to best love others and spread the truth of the Gospel in a way that honors the dignity of the human person.

We also felt that they weren’t necessarily following modern science when it came to curriculum choices; there’s always new research being done about how kids learn and while there are some traditional values that go out of style, some of this new information can really affect things like phonics and math strategies. The classical charter school simply felt off – it was a gut feeling after much prayer. (And let me just say that a woman’s intuition is often correct; we learned quite a bit of information about the school’s values in the year since we toured it that made us confident in our decision.)

It’s also worth saying that many typical concerns about public schools for Christians aren’t a huge issue in our area. To be frank, we live in a politically conservative town; there aren’t agendas being pushed in picture books or social studies class that worry us. If anything, we’ve had to push back against some very fringe beliefs in our school that aren’t common in most public schools (for example, people wanting to avoid teaching about Plessy vs. Ferguson or the Holocaust because they’re too “controversial”.).

What has been your experience with public school so far? Give us an overview.

Our public school experience has been positive so far. We committed to being involved in school board meetings to make sure we know what’s going on in terms of curriculum and policies, and I’ve faithfully attended every month! While there will always be interpersonal challenges with any school you choose, our kids have been learning and thriving. 

What has been one of your favorite parts about your school experience so far? Has anything been challenging?

Our favorite part has just been feeling like part of a community. All of our neighbors go to our public school; two of them were even in my son’s first grade class. It’s such a blessing to be able to help each other out (“Is the math test tomorrow or the next day?” “Can my son get off the bus at your house tomorrow so I can take my daughter to the dentist?”) and simply to be rooted in a local neighborhood. It makes loving our neighbors much simpler! 

The challenge has probably been having our kids interact with families that have values that differ from ours. Again, this is how the real world is, and we believe we’re all called to be evangelists and Christ’s hands and feet. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to have difficult conversations at such a young age. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she said, aghast, “Some people don’t think God is REAL?!” Part of me wishes I could have protected that innocence a bit longer. But a larger part of me knows that it’s my job as a mother to disciple her in a broken world. 

What do you wish other Christians knew about your life as a faithful family in public school? What might surprise people about your journey in public school so far?

I think people would be surprised that our public school is not actively trying to brainwash our kids. I say this with love – I know that there are schools (of all kinds!) that are attempting to do that very thing. But that doesn’t mean every school is the same! You really need to tour your individual school and ask specific questions. Painting all public schools with a broad brush is a display of ignorance. Small town Wisconsin is not the same as Austin or Boise or Temecula or New York City. All of these places will have unique challenges.

Furthermore, just because a school is Christian doesn’t mean it’s living up to the faith. We asked pointed questions about things within elementary schools that matter to us, and found the public school answers more Christian than the Christian school ones. You can’t see the name of a school and instantly assume its strengths or difficulties. You need to really get in there, see the hallways, meet the teachers, and investigate the curriculum. It’s a lot of work – but so is discipleship! :) 

What does faith formation look like for your family outside of or alongside school? How are you helping your kids to know and love God and their neighbors?

As Catholics, our children start a formal religious education at a young age. Our oldest two currently go to a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class at our parish every other week, which is basically a Catholic Montessori program (multiple kids from their public school go there, which is great)! We also drench our lives in prayer, read scripture together every night, and pore over beautiful children’s books about Jesus. We’ve always believed that the best way to pass on the faith is to pray, model, and trust in the Lord, so that’s what we’re doing.

This year, I’m going to have them start listening to the Saint Stories for Kids podcast every morning while they eat breakfast, as well. I know in Catholic school they would have different things like a saint of the week or a history of church leaders, so I’d love to incorporate that at home somehow. 

What are your hopes for your kids and their education? What’s the best-case scenario?

Sainthood! I want my kids to discern God’s plan for their lives. That might mean a traditional university. It also might mean the seminary, a vocational school, an apprenticeship program… we’re not at all married to the idea of the Ivy League (although that’s great, too!) I have many issues with our American university system and hope that by the time my kids are eighteen, there are more options available in terms of workforce preparation. 

Mainly, I want my kids to be readers, love their neighbors, have interests, be good citizens, and follow Christ. No pressure – ha!

Do you plan to continue with public school indefinitely, do you plan to change course in the future, or do you hold it with open hands?

We are keeping things very, very loose. Our motto is “year by year”! There are so many new schools being created in our area; who knows when we’ll find one we like better than our public school? We’re also a little nervous about high school, but as my spiritual director says, don’t borrow worry from the future. We have quite a while to discern that. 

Anything else to add?

I would ask people of goodwill to remember that cost is a real factor in these decisions for many families. Could my family have technically afforded a Christian school? Yes. But many, many families can’t. It makes my skin crawl to hear people asking why any Christian would ever choose public school, when many families don’t have a choice. (Even if a school is “free” or partly subsidized, do they have things like a free lunch program? Or a school bus? Or uniforms? All of these can be barriers to families living in poverty.) Also, many Christian schools aren’t properly equipped to educate and honor kids with special needs. There are many reasons a family might choose public school; we all need to cool it on the judging just a tad. 

Claire, you are a gift to me and to many! Thank you for taking the time to share your family and your thoughts with us – it truly means so much.

Friends, you can read Claire’s writing on The Catholic Feminist Substack, follow her on Instagram, or pick up one of her books! (I’ve already preordered her newest, The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County – it looks so good!) And please feel free to respond to anything she mentioned in your usual kind and thoughtful way. Grateful for you!

Series introduction

read more