Q: Can you help us decide on a strategy for giving our child the best possible education? Our daughter is ready to start school, and we want to get her moving in the right direction.
Jim: No one can tell you exactly how you should proceed, and I don't believe that any one option will provide the optimal environment for every child. It's possible your daughter may thrive in the public school system. On the other hand, she may do her best learning in a private school setting or a homeschool program. For some children, the best plan involves a mix-and-match approach with varying amounts of time in different educational settings. For these reasons, I'd suggest you carefully investigate and evaluate all types of schooling: public, private, charter and homeschooling.
In each case, there are positive and negative considerations to be weighed. For instance, although homeschooling has a great deal in its favor, including security, stability and flexibility, the load of responsibility usually falls to the mother. A warm and nurturing environment is often found in private schools, but one may not be close by or the cost may be an obstacle. Similarly, charter schools aren't available in every community, and when they are, their particular curricular emphases are not always suited to everyone's educational tastes or needs. Finally, although many public schools have maintained excellent standards, they vary considerably in the quality of education and environment they provide.
In the end, I'd encourage you to base your decision on several considerations, including the abilities and temperament of your child, the quality of the schools in your area and the degree to which they will respect and support your family's values and worldview, the stability of your home, your financial situation, and ultimately what works best for your child and your entire family.
Q: While searching for a movie review, your pluggedin.com website came up third on Google's list options. I checked it out and noticed that you also review music, TV & video games. These days there are a lot of websites that review entertainment. Why should I use yours?
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged In: You're quite right in your assessment of the entertainment-review landscape. The proliferation of the Internet has made it possible for just about anyone who's purchased a movie ticket, listened to a song, watched a TV program or played a video game to blog, tweet or post their thoughts and opinions on the Web.
Not to minimize the contributions of other film critics, but almost all of them review motion pictures from an entertainment point of view. Following a long established pattern introduced by a London newspaper 102 years ago, the opinions of these critics are focused almost solely on and limited to the acting, dialogue, plot and special effects of a particular film.
Plugged In, however, takes a very different approach. While not discounting the importance of a film's art value, we review entertainment from a "messaging" point of view. What concepts and values are being conveyed in the film? Does the film uplift, encourage or inspire? Does the movie glamorize behaviors and/or attitudes that run contrary to a Judeo-Christian worldview?
While there are a few other review sites that evaluate media with "family friendliness" in mind, I believe PluggedIn.com is the only one that reviews not just movies, but TV programs, video games and top-charting music. Plus, we're donor-supported, meaning there's no membership fee to access any of our reviews, articles or blogs. Our goal is simply to serve families by helping them navigate the often murky world of today's entertainment.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
Focus on the Family counselors are available Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). Focus on the Family's website is at www.focusonthefamily.com.