Formative Education as a Spiritual Practice

by Ricci Kilmer

I grew up in a small working-class town. We had about eight elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. You went to school wherever the lines drawn on the map told you to go. You walked to school with all the other kids in your neighborhood, and those kids became your best friends with whom you spent all your free time. The only other options in our small town were the local Catholic and Protestant private schools, which were well out of the range of our family. I don’t ever remember my parents agonizing about all the choices, because there weren’t any. I am now a mother of three, a trained teacher, and the landscape has dramatically changed.

My oldest is a girl, and four years older than her brother; the youngest is two years behind him. So, most of the educational decisions we’ve made so far have related to our daughter. She is extroverted, creative, and passionate; in many ways my polar opposite, which makes being her mother fascinating and frustrating at times. Since she’s been of school-age we’ve lived in Seattle. The choices we have are vast:
* We can home-school independently, with no connection to the district.
* We can home-school with support from a district sponsored Homeschool Resource Center.
* We can go to our neighborhood elementary school.
* We can be put in a lottery for any other elementary school in the district, many of which have specialized programs.
* We can pay to attend one of many private schools based on a variety of educational philosophies, such as Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and the list goes on.

How as a parent do we weave our way through this maze of choices? What does it mean to get a ‘good’ education? Why do I care about all these different theories? And to add one more confusing element into the mix, do these choices have any intersection with living a life of faith?

These are all questions I’ve been asking since before my daughter was born. What I hold deepest in myself is the sense that the divine presence of God is meant to permeate all aspects of the life of a believer. That includes the education, or more aptly, the formation of our children.

Over the next several months, I plan to share my family’s story, and our journey (no answers because I don’t have any), where I see the divine in a variety of educational theories, and how I think we can incorporated aspects of these theories in the lives of our children no matter where they go to school, and maybe into our own lives as well.