Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Very Long Post in which we Seek Your Advice about a Very Important Decision

During the next few months we have to make a MAJOR decision. This decision will significantly impact our children and the course of our ministry in France.

Some find decision-making daunting. Others find it thrilling. I am of the "thrilling" mind-set. When we are at a crossroads we seek the Lord with great tenacity. Our family conversations seem to be electrically charged. Our spiritual ears perk up; our spiritual eyes are peeled. We pour over scriptures; we pray without ceasing. We know that God will lead. We wait expectantly.

The first thing we did before diving in to the decision-making process was revisit our priorities. As a family, we have prayerfully reaffirmed a commitment to these three things:
  1. We are called to nurture, encourage, and care for each other as a family.
  2. We are called to the people of France.
  3. We are called to the task of church-planting.
In the context of fulfilling our call to the aforementioned priorities, there is a great deal of what intellectuals and professionals might refer to as "wriggle-room." And there-in lies the rub; for with "wriggle-room" comes a need for direction.

I wonder if you would join us in seeking the Lord's direction. Will you pray with us? Will you share your wisdom and experiences with us? We believe that God can use your prayers and wisdom to help guide us into His good, pleasing, and perfect will. To that end, we invite your input.

The decision that we have to make pertains to the education of our children. While many options are available, they are not all available in the same location. Thus, in choosing a mode of education we may also be choosing our place of ministry. And while our focus will be on church planting, how and with whom we engage in that work will depend on where exactly we are living. Do you see the rippling effect one decision can have on another?

Given our priorities, we are convinced that priorities 2 and 3 can be honored anywhere in France, while priority 1 demands that we live in a place that has a schooling option that contributes to the care and nurture of our boys. Therefore, with the blessing of our field directors, we are exploring a variety of educational opportunities in various French cities. I will share with you the options that are on the table and what we see as the pros and cons of each option. Keep in mind that we have not fully researched all of these options, which means that there may be pros and cons of which we are not aware. Please share your thoughts/ideas/impressions with us. Most of you know us and our boys, and your perspective will be very helpful to us!

Option #1 Home-school/Correspondence Classes
Pros: We could choose the curriculum, it would be fairly inexpensive, we would get to engage in the learning process as a family, we could live anywhere, we could travel at will, and we could set our own schedule.
Cons: We would be less engaged in our community, it would be harder for the boys to further their French language skills, and it would be more challenging for them to to make friends. The French do not home school their children, so there would be no local support for this endeavor.

Option #2 French Public School
Pros: The boys would continue to improve their French, they would be around kids their own age who need Jesus, it would be free, and we could live anywhere in France. Also, if the boys complete high school in France and receive European diplomas they could attend any university in Europe for free. (European diplomas are accepted by American universities as well.)
Cons: There could be a dark spiritual atmosphere, teachers would use shame as a tactic, and the boys would not be progressing in their English, which could create some challenges should they choose to go to a university in the States. The boys do not feel like their skills, gifts, and abilities are well represented in an all French environment.

Option #3 French Public School with Supplementary English Classes
Pros: The boys could continue to progress in French while also having some classes where English is used, such as history and literature. They would have social opportunities and they would have the possibility of earning a European diploma. The only school that we know of with this option is in the village that we have been intending to move to after language school, and where our team feels that we can have great impact.
Cons: The majority of the classes would still be in French, and the supplementary classes may just feel like "extra work" to our kids. The French system of shame would still be exercised. There would also be some costs associated with the supplementary English program.

Option #4 Private Bilingual School
Pros: These schools are geared towards kids who speak two languages, which means our boys would be able to continue to progress in French, while also gaining ground in English studies. They would still be eligible for European diplomas. Because most of these schools are Catholic, there is a chance that the spiritual climate would be a little better than that of the French public schools. Our boys would be around other kids who speak both French and English, which may make it easier to make friends. One of these schools is located in a village that has some ministry opportunities that absolutely thrill all four of us.
Cons: There is a tuition, and while it is reasonable, it would require us to raise some additional funds, which is hard to do from the field. Teaching methods may be just the same as in French schools.

Option #5 American Schools
Pros: The boys would be educated by Americans using American teaching methods. They would be in an environment where it is very easy to relate to the other students and to make friends. The boys would be able to preform to their full academic potential in the absence of all language barriers.
Cons: As with homeschooling, we would be less connected to the French community, and the boys' French language skills would probably stagnate. Also, tuition at these schools is cost 25,000 € per child per year.

Option #6 Christian Missionary School
Pros: Black Forest Academy has an environment exactly like the Christian School that the boys attended in the States. Making friends would be very easy. The teachers are all believers and the kids are all children of missionaries. Everything is in English, and the boys would be on an American college-preparatory track.
Cons: This is a very unique school, and it is actually located in Germany. As it is in a border town, we could technically live in France, but it is not in a part of France that is very strategic, and our field directors feel like we would be too isolated. Also, it would make engaging the French community VERY challenging. The boys would not progress in French. There is a tuition at this school that would require some fund raising on our part, but it is not too much.

So there they are, all of our options. We have already visited some of these schools and we have plans to visit others in the coming weeks. The visits will shed more light on the decision. No matter what we decide, we will have to move this summer, so the sooner we know where we are going the better. Please, oh please pray with us. And please, oh please, share your wisdom! We appreciate your companionship on this journey!


  1. The kids and I will continue to pray for you and your family...

  2. Knowing your family that a) you want to care for each other (eg make sure your children have good education) and b) that you want to minister to the French people, I would probably choose option 3. This way you and your boys will be part of the community but you will also make sure that they have the best education possible for the (unknown) future. If finances is a problem for the supplementary English classes, perhaps you can find a way to do it as homeschool. I know you are facing a big decision but I also know that God will direct you and lead you as He does in ALL areas. We will definitely join you in prayers. Love, Karin

  3. I don't have anything to add to your well researched comments, but I would love to pray for God's wisdom for you and David!
    Love, Carole

  4. I have been praying for you and I feel an overwhelming push from God that option #1 is what is best for you. I think the time you and David will spend teaching your boys you will treasure for the rest of your lives. And your boys will all the better for it.

    And you know you will still find ways to be part of the community. You are a highly social family. There will be no hiding in the apartment for you! :)

    And the increased opportunity for travel is of course an increased opportunity for knowledge... for all four of you.

    Home schooling and virtual schools are the wave of the future and your boys will be better prepared to teach their own children if they get a few years being taught by you.

  5. I think either 3 or 4 options would secure the boys in their cultural adaptation and the mission for which the family has been called. Keeping the family together through this process is one way your testimony will harmonize with your calling, because the French folks won't see you 'prefering' something else!

  6. Hi Jenn!
    Looking at your blog tonight thinking about you guys because Jeff is in your neck of the woods and has not seen you... no wonder anymore, it's your Spring Break! Jeff is doing a week intensive French study there on your familiar grounds.
    Because I have been actively researching schooling options in France as well on my end for a couple of years now, I just wanted to suggest to you that there ARE some people homeschooling in France, and actually their number has increased significantly over the past 10 years, as more and more people are disappointed with the National Education and seeking alternatives. I have been in contact with several such families and know of several associations in France who exist to support and encourage and put in network homeschooling families. If you are interested, I can e-mail you the links...
    I know God will show you very soon what looks best for your family, as you are trusting Him to...

  7. Wow, Jen, we understand your problem. Our call to BFA comes out of hearts which cry out for very difficult decisions that missionary parents have to make concerning their children and the call of God on their lives. I have no advice, but I do have lots of pray for the four of you. And, as you do, I have faith that He who calls is faithful and will give wisdom as you need it. Blessings,