I know, I know. After dealing with vaccinations recently, I probably should have left things alone for awhile. But as the school year is wrapping up, I have been thinking more and more about the issues involved in school choice. I wanted to talk back in September about why we made the choice we did for our little Kindergartener, but it seemed wise to wait until we saw how this first year went. So now it’s over (WHAT?! How did this happen?) and I’ve got thoughts. Lots of thoughts. So next week we will have a series of posts about homeschooling and public school.
What this won’t be:
I am not doing a series of pros and cons. I will not be doing lengthy interviews with people about how they make their school choices. We won’t be talking about curriculum or statistics or graduation rates. I will not be implying that there is one right way that everybody should choose.
What this will be:
I want to talk about unity. I want to talk about why we make the choices we do. I want to talk about how we explain our choices to our kids and how we expect them to handle that information. I want to talk about supporting each other even if our choices are different.
Where I’m coming from:
I attended public school from the time I was still wetting my pants in school on a weekly basis until I was old enough to drive myself to after-school musical rehearsals (translation: K-12). While there were difficult and challenging moments about being a Christian kid in a public school, it was a mostly positive experience for me. My parents were very involved in my education both by being (informal) teachers at home and by having good communication with my teachers at school. This meant they occasionally fought battles for me about the appropriateness of what was happening in my classroom, but they always did it in a respectful way. I know this because as an adult I got in contact with one of my teachers and she expressed to me how she had appreciated the way my mom was kind to teachers and also respectfully voiced her opinions when she perceived a problem. This meant that sometimes I read different books than my peers or left class during certain topics or presented material of my own that I had worked on with my parents. I could have felt odd about those things, but instead I just felt brave. And because of how my parents paved the way and had good relationships with my teachers, they weren’t defensive about the modifications.
After high school I attended a Christian college and felt such a sense of relief about being in an educational environment where everybody believed the same thing. It allowed me to develop a bunch of great relationships with students and teachers with whom I had much common ground. During this time I got a degree in Psychology with a minor in Teacher Education. My passion was kids with issues and I wanted to help them wherever I could find them.
My first avenue was as a para educator (teacher’s aid) in a public elementary resource classroom while I was still finishing my senior year in college. I loved my time there and was so blessed to work under a talented teacher who loved her students and loved Jesus with just about equal passion. She was an inspirational woman and showed me that some public school teachers are on a mission to see kids grow in ways beyond academics.
I spent the next five years as a housemom in a group home where we were “home schooling” our students. It wasn’t exactly your traditional home school environment because we had a functioning school on campus that handled our curriculum needs and taught classes in areas where a houseparent wasn’t qualified (Spanish, upper level math and science). It was an accredited school where we were the teachers and a co-op type option was available. We loved that experience and saw kids achieve great gains they hadn’t been able to make in the public school system. I credit that to the way we were able to tailor our educational process to the child’s unique needs and interests, but I’m sure it was also in large part due to these kids living in a safe and stable situation where they were getting their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs met in more healthy ways.
When we adopted Josh at 10 months-old, I had no idea what school choice we would eventually make for him. I was open to whatever seemed right for him. By the time he was ready to start school we had considered a number of factors (the subject of a future post) and decided that public school was the right option for our family. I’ll admit that I found myself apologizing for this decision for quite awhile until one big conversation.
There is an important person in my life. He was my youth pastor when I was in junior high and has been a close friend of my family in all the years since. He is somebody I trust immensely especially in matters of parenting. He has three great (adult) children and has spent decades working with youth and families. When I told him Josh would be going to public school and that I was feeling like apologizing, he had some insightful words. This is my paraphrase:
In my years of working with kids I’ve seen great kids come from public schools. I’ve seen great kids that have been homeschooled. We did both with our kids. I think the primary factor influencing the character of children isn’t what kind of school they go to, but what their relationship with their parents is like. If you want your children to have your beliefs you need to be living them authentically and spending time connecting with them.
So that’s where I’m coming from. I haven’t abdicated my role in my child’s life by sending him to public school. I am happy with my choice and I’m supportive of yours IF you’re emphasizing authentically connecting with your kids in the time you spend together. My concerns don’t have to do with my child’s education or your child’s education, but with how we are relating to each other when our choices are different. So let’s talk about it!
(School Choice posts will begin on Monday)