As some of you may be aware, about a month ago, I did something for the very first time. My nest became half empty as my husband and I waved goodbye to our daughter in the suburbs of Chicago. We had dropped our oldest daughter off at college. Be still my heart.
That far, far away goal had suddenly become a reality. A mixed bag of emotions in moments like this have a tendency to make you stop and reflect. Had we done everything we could have and should have done to ensure that she was ready for this moment? Was she poised to succeed and thrive in this next chapter of her life? Did we express our love enough, enjoy our treasured moments enough and provide the kind of discipline and discipleship that could now become her own? We were hedging a boat load of money on this bet, but even more importantly we were letting her go.
For years, my husband and I debated whether we were being good stewards of our resources by sending our children through private Christian schools. As we went through the college admissions process, my husband lamented more than once, “Why did we spend all that money on private school tuition? We should have sent her to public school and just invested in SAT prep classes — that’s all they care about anyways.” Sometimes it really did feel that way.
Most of the colleges didn’t seem to care that she was a well rounded, superb student, gifted in many unique ways. Most institutions definitely did not care about her spiritual maturity. Throughout the college application process this past year, my daughter often said to me, “Mom it doesn’t really seem like the interviews matter that much, I can tell that most of these people really don’t care about who I am or what makes me unique.” In fact at one very poignant interview at a most prestigious all girls college west of Boston, the young interviewer spent all her time explaining to our daughter how challenging it was for her to adjust to an all girls school, because all of her friends were at MIT and Harvard. “What did she want to know about you?” I inquired. “I can’t really remember because she just spent so much time talking about herself.” Now, I recognize that this is not the experience of every interview at every college, but it was such an important lesson to my high achieving daughter who graduated as the valedictorian of her class. You are about to become a small fish in a much bigger pond, sweetheart! And as David Mccullough controversially shared with students at Wellesley High School several years ago in a commencement speech, “You are not Special.” What ultimately has grounded our daughter through her transition to college, (and for this we owe a great debt to her Christian Schools), is the knowledge that She is special and she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, who she is special to, and that matters. Her self-worth has been rooted in whose she is and not what she is.
Our daughter happened to choose a Christian college. We did not require that of her, but we strongly encouraged her to think about where she wanted to finish growing up. We asked her to reflect on what influences had most significantly contributed to who she was in this moment. We asked her to think long and hard about what should continue to be the most important influences in the adult she would eventually become. We asked if she felt ready to swim against the tide. She is a very strong swimmer and we knew she could be successful anywhere she went. Her Christian School education not only prepared her to compete academically but, perhaps even more importantly, it prepared her to thrive. That deliberate decision to surround her with as many Christian mentors and role models as possible had definitely paid off.
As I was settling my daughter into her dorm room, I had an interesting conversation with her roommate’s parents in which they mentioned that their daughter had been a bit intimidated by the scriptural literacy and theological knowledge of some of her new peers. These parents went on to tell us that their daughter, along with their family, has always been very active in their local church and she was considering going into ministry studies. They wondered why their daughter felt this way having been raised in the church. After a bit more discussion, the reason became very clear to me. Their daughter was not necessarily referring to the “churched” peers she had encountered already at college, but rather, those who had attended Christian Schools. Wheaton College (IL) has a very high percentage of Christian High School graduates. A conversation ensued in which it became evident that Christian Schools did indeed have a profound impact on the Biblical knowledge and scriptural literacy acquired by their graduates. What this freshmen was observing was actually the result of many years of excellent Biblical instruction coming to fruition. I was very pleased to hear this!
I share this to encourage you during the times when the sacrifice seems unmanageable. This choice you have made, to send your children not only to a Private school, but to a Christian School that values excellence in BOTH Intellectual growth and the development of Personal Faith and Biblical knowledge is worth it. The chance for your child to grow and develop fully in the knowledge that all truth is God’s truth is a privilege! We’ve received nothing but affirmation that our investment was worth every cent! My husband and I pondered these thoughts at 30,000 feet above the ground as we were flying home. Would we do anything differently if we had to do it over again? It felt good to be able to look each other in the eye and say, “Nope!” It was definitely worth it!
By Mrs. Andrea Bergstom, Interim Head of School and Grammar School Principal