Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homeschool vs. Private School vs. Public School

Homeschooling IS amazing for those who HAVE THE ENERGY and creativity. Not all of us do, and I spent way too long convincing myself I do. I followed the relaxed homeschooling method and convinced myself I was doing enough by taking them to feed the ducks, taking them to the Chinese New Years celebration at the Asian Cultural Center (an absolute blast by the way), taking them to Dragon Boat Races on the lake, Hot Air Balloon lift offs at the local dam. While those were all amazing and an absolute blast, and may've even been an amazing learning experience for someone who was creative enough to make it into one, I wasn't. My kids watched, and it was a neat experience, but they didn't learn a darn thing about ducks, Chinese New Years, Dragon Boats, or Hot Air Balloons, except to know those things exist. Fast forward a few years, and I'm sick of coming up with things to teach them and always feeling like I'm not doing enough. He didn't know some of the most basic information. Again, had I been more creative and energetic with some of my methods I'm sure he would've had those things down pat. I wasn't.

I found a half home-school, half private school school and thought "Ah, here is the perfect fit." Especially because the brochure said I could put him in second grade math (that part is his gift, and remains today), and first grade reading. Only when we enrolled him first grade was full. So into second grade math he went. Halfway thru the year he wanted to go to school time because HEY consistent friends are FUN. I don't blame him. I feel the same way. Into full-time second grade he went. Only he was still missing first. He did okay in second thanks mostly to his AH-mazing teacher who we still stay in touch with.

The next year, we sent him to third grade and our younger one to to kindergarten. Kindergarten was an AMAZING year for the younger one and I realized HOW much my older one had missed. Teamwork, group activities, consistency, a teacher who had years of experience behind her and an even more extensive never-ending supply of creative ideas (we lucked out on that one, I realize that doesn't always happen in a school setting). Our older one, on the other hand, got the short hand of the stick this year. He's had speech difficulties since the beginning. Between making it to weekly speech appts, staying up on the overload of work at home from school, and things being taught SO fast in a two day environment, things started to come crashing down. On top of having two wonderful, but relatively inexperienced teachers in that they probably hadn't come across a kid quite as wonderful as him and pretty much had nothing to offer besides pat answers that didn't work on how to support him at home. When the school recommended we send him to a specific tutoring place that cost the same amount as the school for the year, that was the last straw. A friend of mine encouraged me to deal with his speech difficulties COMPLETELY before puberty when things start to set. He had been going to private speech therapy for years, but hardly on a consistent basis with her and my ever-changing schedules. This got me started with testing thru the public school for regular once a week speech testing, which, along with the difficulties at his current school and my complete and utter burn-out and non-desire to ever homeschool my children again drove us to enroll him in public school. With LOTS of meetings with the vice principal, registrar, and on-line information, mind you, before I felt like I could send him off to public school without worrying on my part.

What were my hang-ups on public school you ask? Fear. Mostly fear. Fear that the peer pressure would cause him to be different than something he was. Fear that the teachers would teach him something I absolutely did not want him to learn. Fear that he would prescribe to a different belief system than what we hold. Fear the education wasn't good enough for my child. I got over those fears by talking with LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of people who I admire and respect, in my church and in my life, about their views on schooling in general. So many of the ones I respect the most had sent their children to public school and spoke highly of it, also speaking of the importance of the community at home. How we as parents still have the ultimate responsibility to shape their lives, and how we are at home will do that. I have learned through my oldest going to public school that he now has two AMAZING women in his life who give their all to him 40 hours a week, happily. Not stressed out like I was. Not running dry of ideas and money, like I was. Fully loaded, ready to go. On top of that, I have gained two AMAZING women in my life who are helping me to become a successful parent by accepting and loving my child for who HE IS, not who I think he should be, or who somebody else thinks he should be. I have learned in the public school system you can make or break the experience as a parent of your child. You can either use the opportunities that come along to teach your child about life, or you can use the opportunities to bash the largest educational system in our country that is put there to give EVERYone a chance. He is receiving free speech services and his speech has improved dramatically. He is in the upper level math just like we wanted in the beginning. He is getting remediational first grade material through his teacher grading and sending his homework home with the corrections marked that I have him redo (again, I realize we are extremely lucky in that aspect and not all teachers send graded with marked corrections homework home, or even homework home at all). He has had an AMAZING year. To top it off he got to go to a winery with my husband and I, our younger, his two teachers and another teacher in his grade. How special is that?! Another fear I neglected to mention because I totally got over it, was not being a part of his education enough. That was easily solved by showing up on open house night and signing up for every volunteer opportunity I could possibly give myself to between working and homeschooling my little one. It has allowed me weekly opportunities in the classroom where I see how much he is flourishing and also get to know his teacher. On top of it all, his teachers both live in our apartment complex and his regular substitute teacher lives above us. This has all been a huge encouragement to know we are exactly in the right place at exactly the right time.

All this to say, my view is this. There is a reason you are where you are at. Don't bash where other people at. There is a reason they are there as well. Don't hold them up as gods either. They may not be in the creative, patient, wonderful loving place you think they are. Don't bash them for being non-involved or giving their kids to the system. They may be in a much more loving, creative, patient wonderful place than you think they are. Do keep an open mind to all possibilities every year as your family, life, and views evolve, and so does your childrens. Do think ahead a few years to how your decision today will affect them down the road. Do realize the system we live in and how affective you want your children to be as citizens of that system.

If you're homeschooling and are thinking of other options, think about the opportunities regular friendships create. My oldest gained a best friend from his half school and half homeschool experience. Do think of the learning opportunities gained from learning from other adults. My child is learning there is other ways to deal with anger than his mother's sometimes frustrated, stressed out responses. Do think of the consistency he MAY be missing because sometimes it's just nice to sleep in when you're homeschooling, or skip that subject because he KNOWS it already (but is it ingrained?). Do think of the accountability he will be held to for his grades, for his teamwork, for his initiative.

If you're in private school and are thinking about other options, do think about the low cost of home-schooling or public school versus private school. Do think about the benefits of home-schooling and being able to give your children those higher education opportunities without the pressures to be perfect with all your t's crossed and i's dotted literally that they require in private schools. Do think about the benefits of being able to teach your kid at his own pace. Do think about the time you will have with your child, versus the hours and hours of homework he will likely spend doing in private school. On the other side, do think of the free benefits of public school. Do think of the amazing teachers they have there. Do realize you can go in and talk to the principal of one schools, two schools, or many schools until you find one you like. If you are willing to make the drive for private school, how different is it to make the drive for public school? Do talk to the principal or vice principal and make sure they know your child personally as they will be personally responsible for choosing the teacher that best fits your child. Do realize that you can volunteer and be as much a part of your child's education as when he is in private school, only with less pressure of this project or this project, and less time spent on homework to fill in the blanks of what they missed in private school by not having the resources that public schools do.

If you are in public school and considering other options, do consider the quality one-on-one time homeschooling provides. Do consider the opportunity to get to know exactly WHO your child is before sending him off and believing what everybody else says he is. Do consider the opportunity to tailor his education directly to him, and not at one other person in his class. Do consider the lack of group following and self-initiative YOU will give him in homeschooling. With private school, do consider the amount of control you have over his schooling. You are footing the bill as much as you are in public school, but in a much more direct after tax way. You can go in and put your foot down and say this is what I want to happen. Unfortunately you have less control over the hiring of the teachers, experienced or inexperienced, and you may not have as many options as you might in a public school. All the same, do consider his friends will be more selected, because these parents are willing to work their arses off to have their kids in private school. Granted, some of them are loaded and can afford it AND their Lexus without a seconds thought, but a good majority of them break their backs to send their kids to private school because they believe it is the right thing for their child. Those children and those parents are GOOD people to be around.

Do you see how I can see both light and dark in each situation? It's because it's there. Don't fool yourselves into believing you have seen the light and only the light because you are choosing one of the options. Experience each one before you form an opinion about it. Don't really on stats. Stats don't tell you about YOUR child and YOUR experience. The most trusted advisors are those who speak from personal experience, hence why I love, whose video "Homeschool vs. Public School" inspired this post. Do tell others what you have experienced in your life, and why are you personally grateful you have made certain decisions. Do share with them the fears that are lurking in your closet as to why or why not you haven't made other decisions. Who knows? Their thoughts may change your views.



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