Christians in Public Schools: Shelby

12 September 2023

It’s appropriate that you should hear from Shelby first in this series, because part of my inspiration for hosting it was born out of conversations we had in the spring.

Shelby is my teammate on the Content team at Daily Grace – she’s actually my manager! – and I’ve gotten to know her well in the year since Cultivate’s acquisition. We met in person for the first time in April at DG’s team summit, and while we were there, our conversation naturally turned to kids, and eventually school. As a mom a little farther ahead than me, I was delighted to hear that her kids went to public school, that they’d always had a great experience, and that she felt confident and matter-of-fact in her choice. This felt like a real breath of fresh air to me, and made me want to seek out more stories like hers.

And so here we are! I’m delighted to share Shelby with you today. She is kind, generous, level-headed, an excellent manager, refreshingly direct, and, of course, a wholehearted follower of Jesus. I hope you enjoy this peek into her family’s life!

Tell us about yourself and your family.

My husband, Kent, and I have been married 12 years. He’s calm, cool, and collected and I am… not that. It was his quiet and confident demeanor that attracted me to him all those years ago, and what a gift it has been to have his steadiness to settle my chaos. I somehow talked him into a big family: he said only two kids at first, but we ended up with three sons and a daughter. Our boys are 9, 7, and 5. Our daughter is 3, and yes, that does mean that she is doubly spoiled as both the only girl and the baby of the family :)

After years of wondering what occupation fit him best, Kent has settled into a career as a mortgage loan officer and talks numbers and logistics all day (which he loves!). I chose a polar opposite path, running as far as I could from numbers and details and toward the world of words. I work full-time as the Content Director for a faith-based publishing company called The Daily Grace Co. and it is a dream!

We recently relocated from Kansas City, where we our marriage grew Midwest roots for over a decade, to the Woodlands, Texas. We’ve both always wanted to adventure away from “home,” and while moving a young family has many challenges, we are enjoying the process of putting down new roots in our new home.

Why are you choosing public school for your family?

I often say that if I didn’t work full-time, I would homeschool. But, I do work full-time, so I don’t. I think our situation might be a bit unique in that for the last seven years I’ve been able to choose whether or not I work. My income isn’t a financial necessity for us, but it sure is nice. So, when I chose to work, I knew that I was also choosing public school for our kids. Public school is not something we were forced into, but rather it’s something we carefully considered and prayerfully chose. Knowing that we had made this choice, we paid a lot of attention to the school district we moved into when we relocated to Texas, and said no to many houses that were perfect for us in every way except for the public school they were assigned to.

Public school is the best choice for our family for many reasons: it’s affordable, it’s accessible, it’s a way to connect with our neighborhood and community, it’s meeting the needs of our children, the Monday through Friday schedule fits well with our work schedules, and it provides our children with many extracurricular options. 

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

Honestly, our experience has been great so far! We’ve had nine elementary teachers across three school districts and two states. Every teacher we’ve had has been deeply invested in the flourishing of her students. They’ve communicated well and given us numerous opportunities to be involved in our child’s education. In addition, we’ve experienced excellent communication and leadership from the school administrators we’ve interacted with.

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

My favorite part has been the diverse subjects, teaching styles, and friendships my kids have been able to experience. As one example, my oldest son’s third grade teacher lives on a farm with all of the animals you’d hope for. She gave regular updates on her cows and goats, and my son got an inside look at her unique life. Additionally, he had a peer whose family had immigrated from India. He loved learning about Indian culture from her. 

For us, the most difficult part of public school to navigate has nothing at all to do with the adults, but with the kids. Our kids definitely hear their peers talk about topics, games, movies, and words that are too mature for their ages. More on how we’ve handled that in a moment! 

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 wish they knew that the caricatures of hyper-progressive teachers and administrators who have an agenda to undermine parental authority isn’t always reality. I don’t doubt that some have experienced this in public school, but I never have. I once heard someone say that they chose homeschool because they want to be in control of their child’s education. While I understand the sentiment, parents who choose public school also have much control over what their child learns. We can ask questions, engage with teachers, request to see curriculum, and have open and honest conversations with administrators. We need not fear public educators. I’ve found them to be on my side and supportive of my wishes 10 out of 10 times. 

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?

Faith formation is both organic and intentional in our home. For example, we’ve done 15 minutes of family discipleship time before bed for many years. We also take every organic opportunity we can to connect everyday conversations back to our faith and what it looks like to live a biblical worldview.

Our family discipleship time includes Bible reading, discussion, and prayer. It’s pretty simple! But we’ve found that simple works for us – it fits our schedule and it’s been effective in teaching Scripture to our kids.

A lot of the organic faith formation happens when a child tells us something they heard a classmate say or saw a classmate do that was confusing or concerning. We do a lot of listening and asking questions. And then we do a lot of explaining what the classmate was talking about and how we can respond in truth and love as Christians. We’ve worked really hard to keep lines of communication open with our kids, and we’re so thankful to have several of these conversations a week with our oldest kids! One key to these conversations is to not just give them answers, but go to Scripture with them to find out what the Bible says about what they’re experiencing. We also allow them to ask as many questions as they want rather than asking them to accept biblical concepts as truth when they don’t yet understand them. 

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

My hope is that all of my children will be academically prepared for their next step after college, will have built a foundation for a biblical worldview, and will have genuine and enjoyable friendships. 

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 hold it with open hands! If our experience of public school changes or if it’s no longer meeting the needs of our kids, we will evaluate other options. 

Anything else to add?

It’s hard for Christian public school parents to hear we’re setting our kids up for failure by not choosing homeschool or private school. I fully support people who choose a different option than me for their kids, and I hope that one day public school parents will be more supported by those who choose other options. 

Shelby, 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 follow along with Shelby on Instagram or listen in to the Daily Grace podcast, where she’s the co-host! And please feel free to respond to anything she mentioned in your usual kind and thoughtful way. Grateful for you!

Series introduction

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September 12, 2023 12:11 pm

LOVED Shelby’s answer about faith formation and how her family handles questions from their kids about different perspectives. What a gift, honestly, to get the natural opportunity to talk through such things with your kids! Already thinking this will be my favorite EFM series ever …

September 15, 2023 9:22 am

Thank you for sharing your perspective, Shelby! I agree with everything you shared and have found the administration to also be supportive of our wishes.

Kelly H
September 16, 2023 10:56 am

As newlyweds without children but thoughtfully preparing for that season, I loved this conversation! Both my husband and I attended public schools and had good experiences. It’s so refreshing to hear someone else with a positive perspective.