Lately I've been reading a lot of posts about homeschooling and the benefits of doing so, the evils of common core, and sex education in today's public school system. I thought maybe I'd blog about the school options we're mulling over and my/our thoughts.
In a bit of background, I went to public school for elementary school, was homeschooled throughout middle school, and went back to public school for high school. My experience being homeschooled was unusual in that we were very isolated (I literally had no friends). I was very depressed and hated those awful days.
My husband went to private Catholic school from kindergarden until 8th grade. He then went to a public school for high school. Despite the fact that he wasn't homeschooled, he was surrounded by
people who were. His sister choose to be homeschooled in high school, a majority of his closest friends were homeschooled, and both his married brothers married girls who were homeschooled.
I recognize that there is a "good" and "bad" way to homeschool one's children, and so I don't use my experience up to condemn all homeschoolers. When I married Matt, I married into a very pro-homeschool support group, so I imagined that I would homeschool my kids, at least until high school. I was scared of the risks of public school and felt that homeschooling our kids was the only way to ensure they stayed safe.
And then we had Abigail and our education decisions became directly tied to our therapy decisions. And I blogged endlessly with all my anxious insecurities about whether or not public preschool was the right decision. Spoiler alert: it was.
Abigail is flourishing in the special education program in a way that I could not replicate at home. And I'm okay with that. In fact, now that we are into year 2, Matt and I realized that we're okay with Abigail remaining in the public school system throughout her entire education. It will always have teachers with experience, aides, tutors, coaches, and counselors who can give Abigail opportunities that I can't if I were to homeschool.
The reason that we prefer public school to private school for Abigail is because of government oversight. I realize that sounds pretty crazy to most religious conservatives, but it's the truth. The government sets standards that all public schools must follow - so no matter what school I send Abigail to, I know what we're getting. Private schools are allowed to do whatever they'd like with regard to special ed programs, including having none. So if we wanted to send Abigail to a private Catholic school, I would have to do all of the leg work myself. And I'd need to stay on top of the program should it change.
As I gained a year of public school experience under my belt, I realized that I make a much better super-involved public school mom than I would a homeschooling mom. The patience, stamina, energy, and creativity needed to provide my children with a good education? Yeah, so not my strong suit. But I'm really good at the "involved soccer mom" lifestyle. I read over every newsletters the teacher sends home, I'm eager to have the teacher over for dinner, I'm the first one to respond when the teacher asks for more classroom supplies, I go to the "parenting tips" seminars the school hosts. I look forward to the days when I can chaperon field trips and volunteer as an aide.
So while we still have lots of time to change our mind, Matt and I would both like to send all of our kids to public school. He understands my hesitation to homeschool and he is a big fan of community involvement. There are certainly risks. Right now I can identify two things we can do to combat those risks. The first: stay away from the hysteria. Yes, California may be doing crazy things and there may be a gay high school teacher in Massachusetts with a nasty agenda, but I live in Michigan and those states do not concern my girls. I need to stay focused on the curriculum at our school in our childrens' grades. The second: provide a strong family support system. I believe one-on-one time, regular family activities, and two involved parents will give them the most powerful tools possible to combat bad influences: self-confidence and loving support.
Public school means the some benefits of homeschool are out, but I can supplement my kids' schooling in other ways:
-I like the benefits of year-round schooling, so I plan to homeschool my kids during the summer. They'll get a religion class, a literature class (I promise that no matter how fabulous the books they're reading in schools, I will find gaps. I'm an English major, I can't help it.), a class in a subject they love, and a class in a subject they struggled with that year.
-I don't think we'll start the rest of our kids in school till kindergarten or first grade. I'll look more critically at it when we reach that age, but I definitely agree that kids learn through play and shutting them up in a classroom setting can be detrimental to learning.
So that's where I stand right now. The best part of school decisions is that you can change your mind every year, so maybe one day we will send our kids to private school or homeschool them. But right now I just wanted to explain the position of one politically conservative, practicing Catholic whose plan is public school.