Are there issues that need addressing in public education? Of course. No system is perfect and no doubt, in every system out there, there will be a child who slips through the cracks. Even with home schooling, there are definite issues that should be examined when making that choice. And I'm not against home schooling or parents having a choice on how to educate their children. But I do not like all the negativity I see and read when it comes to public school as a choice.
As a former public school teacher and now the parent of five children in public school, I have seen both sides of this issue. I have worked with fabulous teachers who dedicate their life work to the children in their classrooms. They toil over lesson plans and worry about their students' home lives and stew over ways they can help them with their limited resources and all the rules and regulations that restrict them. And while I have not loved all of the teachers my kids have had, my kids have still thrived in their public school classrooms, even during the years they had teachers I didn't feel were fabulous.
So I want to set the record straight. Public school teachers are up against some difficult challenges. They are given a set of standards they have to teach. They are expected to have all students, no matter their background, at the same level by the end of the year. They are graded on how well the students do on standardized tests, nevermind that students' scores can vary depending on what is going on in their individual life at that time and some may just be so nervous about taking tests that they do poorly no matter how well they know the subject material or how well they've prepared for the test. The testing method is not conducive to all styles of student learning, yet teachers are graded on student performance on said tests. Yes, there are changes that probably should be made but until they are, this is what teachers are facing.
And I'm getting really tired of feeling like a bad parent because I choose to put my kids in public school. I spent the last few evenings and days walking with my three older kids around their schools and meeting their teachers for this year. They are going to have some fantastic teachers and I'm excited for them! They ran into lots of their friends while walking the halls and compared schedules to see they have classes together and lunches together and lockers near each other.
I'm excited that my 5th grader gets to try art and choir and band and that he gets to have several different teachers and interact with a lot of different students throughout the day. Is there a chance he'll be bullied? Of course. But we have had trouble with our own children bullying each other in the past, so it's not like public school is the only venue for bullying. Is there a chance that he'll encounter situations that are opposite to what we teach religiously in our home? Of course. But hopefully he'll talk to us about it like he's done in the past, and we'll have some teaching moments. Hopefully he'll remember what we've taught him and stand up for his beliefs or ignore whatever it is, if it calls for just being ignored.
I know for a fact that if my kids were home schooled, they would have limited opportunities to go out and meet people (due to the fact that I'm an introvert and don't like going out and meeting people, even when I know them really well, it's hard for me to leave the comfort of my home) and limited opportunity to try new things, due to a very limited budget--public schools offer these things for free or very cheap comparatively. It doesn't cost me anything for my son to have a choral music elective once a week for the entire school year, for example. If he were home schooled, he'd have to join a children's choir group, which around here are not cheap in the slightest, and I would have to drive him to and from all the rehearsals. But he gets to do it at school during the school day for free. Why is that a bad thing?
My high school student gets to take architecture! I have no idea how I would even give him that resource if I were home schooling. I could give examples of this in almost every subject area for which I have a limited knowledge base. So while home schooling definitely works for some people, I just know it wouldn't work for me.
Am I throwing them to the wolves, from a Christian standpoint, by sending them to public school? I don't think so. They are part of this world and they have to learn to get along with society, even with people who don't believe the same way they do. I realize that this might create a situation where they might stray from my teachings and follow the teachings of someone else that differs. I don't like that idea at all. However, I am intelligent enough to know that they could do that anyway as adults, or young adults, if I were to home school them to keep them protected from the world. If my kids were home schooled, they probably wouldn't be around very many people who are different than them. The home schooling groups I am aware of in my area consist of many likeminded families (same religion, same social class, even same skin color). My kids wouldn't have their Latino and Indian friends who practice other religions if they were home schooled. It would all be white middle class Mormons.
My high school student's principal posted this on his Facebook page earlier this week:
"It is one of the most important things for me to do as we get close to starting school. This will be my 41st year and I am excited. Today I walk the campus in prayer for our kids and our school. I pray that God would bless this place with greatness and more especially with kindness and service. I pray for our staff to be relational and to love kids. I pray for the safety of our place. I pray for guidance and I pray to be able to give my best with kids and staff always at the forefront of my mind. I pray for the energy and enthusiasm it takes to do this job and to be able to listen and respond with vision. I pray for humor and I pray for the incredible support it takes from family, ESC, staff, parents, community and the kids. I praise God for the opportunity to do this calling and to be the best I can be. We have a great place and i send incredible praise to our Lord for this. I pray.....ceaselessly for our WHS campus and Pirates. Thank you Lord! Thank you Lord!"
I feel pretty confident right now that my kids are right where they are supposed to be. Will they have problems? Yes. Will they come across people who are mean? Most definitely. But public school will not ruin them the way so many in this country seem to think it will. They will be just fine. And I'm excited for another school year for them.