Thursday, August 30, 2012

Home School?

maria 1st day of school 001
Picture of me on my first day of kindergarten

Cordelia is about to begin preschool. I can already feel my tears building up. I know she is going to have a blast, she is very social, and her preschool is at a place she already feels comfortable. She will be doing that for the next couple of years and then Eric and I are faced with a very important decision...what do we do next?

Having been through the public education system I feel that, in many ways, it completely failed me. Eric and I worked hard the first year in college trying to make up for lost time and opportunity. Let me share a little example with you; when I was 14 I took an Algebra 1 class. A few weeks into class the teacher took a vote and asked who wanted to learn Algebra. Nobody raised their hands. I can't say that it is because nobody wanted to learn, but nobody wanted to be the nerd who raised their hand. So, the Algebra teacher decided that he wasn't going to bother with teaching anymore. Instead he let us fill up the time. I recall organizing a log rolling race, there were several heats. Another time we dyed the teacher's beard. When I was 14 I thought it was AWESOME! When I got to college and had to struggle to make up for things that I should have learned at age 14 I had a change of opinion about this teacher.

Now, to be fair, I was also touched by some absolutely amazing teachers over the course of my public education. I met my beloved Copeland as an art teacher and my whole life was changed as a result (read a bit about that here). I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of how that one art class changed the entire trajectory of my life.

Eric and I are now at a point that we need to seriously consider what we want to do for these girls of ours.

Do we want to enroll them in public school? Obviously this is the easiest and least expensive choice. I also happen to know and love some amazing teachers. I don't have any guarantee that the girls will get great teachers. Also, the vegan issue will be more pronounced in the public school system and I worry that the girls would be given a hard time.

Do we want to enroll them in private school? Many of the same issues with public school and matched with a price tag.

Do we home school? Initially we worried that the girls would be socially awkward and develop a preference for denim vests and Crystal Gale hair. However, there are some good programs in place in this town that seem to offer opportunities for socialization and outside of the home learning. There is also an online homeschooling program through the state that gets good reviews.

We just are not sure what we are going to do with regard to schooling. Do you have strong feelings on the subject?


Stacy said...

I'm the product not only of public school education but also a family of educators. I believe public education can be powerful. The biggest flaw is that No Child Left Behind made public education worse in many places because teachers are forced to teach to the test. But it also places accountability on teachers like your algebra teacher (which, by the way, horrifies me! Was no one from the school checking in om him? Really?). Most places, I would automatically choose public education (but not in Philly, where I currently leave b/c the public schools are underfunded). Just my two cents. I'm sure whatever you choose will be right for your kids. Good luck - big decisions ahead!

Maria Rose said...

I have no idea how my Algebra teacher got away with that or who was supposed to be monitoring the situation, just wasn't on my radar at age 14.

Anne Marie said...

We have done all three of the choices you mentioned: Public, private (Christian), Wyoming's online public school. While I don't like Megan being subjected to many of the things that go on in public school, the private Christian school was lacking in things like art and band. They had "crafts" and "music", but they were sorely lacking. We had heard good things about the online school, so tried it, and again, lacking in art, band, and Megan being a social kid, missed everyone at school. She started off liking it, ended up begging to be back in public school when she went for her end of year testing. So she finished the last 2 weeks of school back in public school. She's so happy with all of her art classes (3 different ones this sememster alone) and band, that even with the warts of public school, I think it is very much worth it. Plus she is able to take her accelerated classes this year, and the college credit classes will start next year. Don't be afraid to try the different schools, and change if the needs of your girls change. :o)

Victoria said...

As you know, we raised an only child. I made it my life's mission to keep him well socialized, lest he suffer from the spoiled child syndrome.So this was a huge consideration when making this decision for Sean. Public education, for all its faults does the one thing that cannot be done at home...exposes children to the real-life issues and situations they will face once they are on their own. It is natural to want to protect them, letting go is tough whether at five years old or eighteen. Trust yourself and your instincts, you know your girls. You will make the right decision.xo

Anonymous said...

My son completely changed after he went to school and not for the better. So if you have the chance to homeschool, go for it!

Kate said...

We don't homeschool, but we do supplement. A lot. SONshine was reading at three, he is now working on cursive and multiplication (he just turned 7.) We have every confidence in his teachers (not the system, mind you) because we've hand picked them (harder for us because he's our first, so we've never had an older sibling with experiences.) We're also extremely involved in his education. I have a home-schooling friend who calls us closet homeschoolers. We never miss an opportunity to teach, but that doesn't mean we're cramming our kids with worksheets and flashcards.

We've had our fights with our locals school system. We're no Christian, nor are our children. His kindergarten year, SONshine was bullied by his music teacher for not being a Christian (aka, "not being a good person", and being "destined to rot in hell") I'm still outraged that I have to fight these fights, but his teachers have been supportive of him and his education. His 1st grade teacher quickly realized he needed to be on a more advanced curriculum and she made sure he was challenged at school.

And to help clarify, my son doesn't go to the "nice" public school. It's not the "worst" either, but it's middle, average. His teachers are just superior.

I sometimes think I'd like to homeschool, but I'm not qualified. I respect the degree my son's teacher have and their experiences. You, however, already teach college aged kids. You do have experience. It could work, certainly!

I'm not a big help. For us, it's absolutely the wrong choice to homeschool, I've seen tons and tons of kids failed by it (I know I could teach calculus to a 13 year old who needed it), but I've also seen success.

I think you'll get your answer as she moves into 3rd grade. You'll either be satisfied with p.s. or you'll be ready for her to get one-on-one time with educators who not only have her best interests at heart, but also her very heart in their own.

Kate said...

P.S. Your girls look remarkably like you.

Emily said...

Well, I guess I'll give my two cents...I taught sixth grade for eight years in a public school and my two girls are in 2nd grade at a public school down the street from us, and we are very happy with it. Private school for us has always been out of the question financially (the closest one to us is $7,000 a year for pre-k...uh, not happening). So our options are homeschool or public school. Thankfully, we live in a great school district-- it's small enough, but still offers LOTS of enrichment. It's also a school that stresses the arts and uses art and music to teach other subjects. Now what does any of this mean for you? Well, I think you don't have to worry about it right this minute. I say, start investigating. Take a tour of the nearest elementary school. Ask lots of questions (I think the vegan thing will be ok really. She can pack a lunch/snack. See it as an opportunity to educate others. Young kids are usually both curious and accepting.) And no matter what your decision is, it is not set in stone. If public school doesn't work out, you can always homeschool. If homeschool just isn't the right choice, go enroll at the public school. And more than anything, pray about it! God loves to give us wisdom when we seek him. :) This concludes my public service announcement.

Anonymous said...

As a tenured teacher and product of public schools, I can tell you this: your experience with the Algebra teacher was certainly an exception, not the rule. Bad teachers are out there but with current higher standards and greater accountability, they are becoming more rare.

The biggest gifts public schools offer aren't tangible and cannot be learned in books or online. Resiliency, turn taking, compassion, empathy, flexibility, interpersonal skills, conflict management, structure, time management and heck, even an immune system are all products of public education. Should a parent supplement with additional support? Absolutely and it's expected! There is simply not enough time in the day to cover everything and provide at least 24 practice opportunities to make each skill stick. Studies show that the most successful kids are those with involved parental/adult support at home.
Can one person - even the most gifted, PhD in education - provide the same benefits as a cadre of teachers at a public school? Not in my opinion.
Will she be singled out for being a vegan? Probably. But so will my kids for being Jewish, and the kid with a hearing aid and the kid with a gluten allergy. I think it's better to face that head on and normalize it. Kids are remarkably accommodating and it won't be an issue unless the adults make it an issue.
Public school prepares children for life - dealing with snarky peers and bullies, deadlines, schedule changes and different opinions, religions and ideas. Those are all things she'll be confronted with as an adult and school is where she'll hone those skills.
Ultimately it's a decision you and E will have to make and there are a lot of great online homeschooling resources out there to help you make an informed choice.

I've obviously got a horse in this race since it's my profession but I do passionately believe that there is still hope for public education despite what "Waiting for Superman" and other pundits might say.

Anonymous said...

decisions decisions. gosh, being a parent today would be tough!

Kate said...

For the record, if it helps, SONshine's lunches are always vegan, and no other child has ever noticed. Yet.

Whitney said...

I fully support Montessori Education. I am an assistant in the Primary Classroom working with children 2.5 through 6 years old. I also went to Montessori school from 2.5 through 5. I love it and I think it's a wonderful way for a child to spend the first years of their life's being educated.

Helena said...

You look exactly like your daughters! Surprise... :-)

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