It’s back-to-school time! Students and teachers across Oklahoma are taking to the classroom once again.

For most, this classroom is at the local public school (more than 660,000 students in Oklahoma today). For others, it’s a private/Christian school (more than 35,000 students), while still many others the classroom is located at home.

While there are other means of education (e.g. boarding school, full-time private tutoring), public, private, home are the big three. And schooling, like sports, brings out strong feelings, and some people do not always show proper respect for others who choose a different form of schooling. To those, I offer a word of encouragement.

/// Public Schooling

Most of us (myself included), are public school graduates, and most Oklahomans today will be part of public schooling, whether by choice or default. Many Christians view this as a way to support the community, even with some hope for evangelism. Many of our finest church members serve in the public school system and strive to integrate their faith into their work. To those, we say “amen” and “Godspeed”!

The public schools of yesteryear are not the same as today. Time will tell how much the arrival of same-sex marriage, for example, will affect the public school sex education curriculum. So for those involved in public schools, having a faithful presence will be more important than ever. And for Christians who are not directly tied to public schools through their children or grandchildren, find ways to have an impact, such as tutoring.

/// Home Schooling

Just as the public schools of yesteryear are not the same as today, so too has homeschooling changed, with conservative estimates indicating 20,000-plus homeschool students in Oklahoma. When the topic of homeschool comes up, some only remember the 70s or 80s when homeschooling had somewhat of a reputation of families wanting to wall themselves off from the world. That is not always the case. Homeschoolers can be some of the most active in the community when it comes to youth group, sports and extracurricular activities.

With the arrival of many teaching resources available to homeschool families, the education can be just as quality as any public or private school. With aggressive integration into society, homeschoolers can be some of the most socially-adept people, able to interact with various ages and not peers only. For homeschool families, now is the time to have a faithful presence in the community and show the utmost respect to families in other educational pursuits.

/// Private Schooling

Because of Oklahoma’s Blaine Amendment and other factors, the Sooner State does not have a massive network of Christian schools. Yet they do exist, and experts project they could become a more common sight.

For decades, many viewed private schooling families as snobbish or elitist. This is not always and probably not often the case. It is more important than ever, though, for Christian schools to resist the temptation to become a holy huddle, not outwardly focused. Properly done, Christian schools—whether in common education or higher education—can be a huge force for good, training up a generation of Christians who will be salt and light in a dark world.

In conclusion, Christians must do a better job at presuming the best, not assuming the worst, when it comes to people’s school choices. This means seeing the best in one another and assuming good intentions. Whether you are a public, private or homeschool family, look for ways to befriend and support others in their school endeavors. Look for ways to pray for one another and together. We’ll all be better together.