WE HAVE FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT. The answer regarding which is BEST — public school, private school or homeschool. After having our children in a cumulative 54 YEARS of school (five kids is a lot of kids, guys), we know the definitive answer, which is YES.
Question: Which is best — public, private or homeschool?
Answer: Yes. All of the above. Depending on the child, the year, the circumstances, the environments, the family, and the outside challenges, yes; each of them is the VERY BEST option.
Please understand; no one is more disappointed by this answer than I am. I was raised, after all, to believe in SYSTEMS. There are Good Systems and Bad Systems. My main job was to revere and adhere to the good ones like Evangelical Christianity, Public School, Republicanism, and Making My Bed Every Day.
Clearly, I failed.
Now, we’ve had our kids mostly in Public School over the years. We’re big fans of public schools. We’ve always voted for school bond measures and support tax increases that benefit public schools, even during the years we had kids in private school, because school bonds and paying for public education benefit all of us. In fact, we’re dismayed by reports this week that the federal government plans to gut public school funding and are wholeheartedly against Betsy DeVos’ plan which will undermine them horribly. Because blech.
So we’ve mostly had kids in Public School… and one kid in Private. But at least I didn’t do anything TOO radical like homeschool, you know? I had boundaries. LIMITS.
I mean, I wasn’t opposed to homeschooling in principle. I understand people can homeschool effectively. Especially if those people have things like a background in education and, well, patience.
I, on the other hand, LOVE sending my kids to school-school where school = Anywhere But My House.
I am the parent who NEVER CRIED on the first days of preschool.
I am the parent who ONLY LAMENTED PRESCHOOL DAYS WEREN’T LONGER.
I especially love school-school for the teachers. The TEACHERS, friends — real, not make-believe, who dedicate their WHOLE LIVES to educating our kids, preparing them for a future the teachers often don’t get to see. Yes; teachers are real but also MAGICAL. Teacher-fairies, if you will. And teacher-fairies put up with a LOT. Ever-changing rules, administrations, and markers for student success. They put up with PARENTS. They work weeknights and weekends and spend money from their own pockets to subsidize what kids don’t receive from the school budget. They receive lower rates of pay than jobs that require the same amount of education. And most of them are GOOD AT IT. Like, really great. Showing up day after day as a holy calling.
I, on the other hand, am not a teacher. Not by education. Not by calling. Not by talent. There are no teacher-fairies in this house. Which is why I decided to never, ever, EVER pull my kids from school-school and homeschool them.
^^^That’s what I said for YEARS.^^^
And I was RIGHT.
Except I just pulled my kid from school and I’m homeschooling him.
In retrospect, I’ve identified how this happened and will disclose it so you can avoid the same mistake: When our kids started school 100,000 years ago, we made a commitment to evaluate on an ongoing basis what each child needs from her or his education. <– That’s our problem, right there. Treating kids like individuals who may have different needs at different times.
And this kid? He needs to be home for a while.
We tried to get around it. We tried to delay and avoid going to HOMESCHOOL EXTREMES. But he asked on repeat that we reconsider. He wants freedom to fly through a higher math curriculum. He wants a break from the anxiety of attempting scholastic perfection. He wants to conduct computer and science experiments and to build a fort in the backyard. He wants more time to read for pleasure. It became more and more challenging to look this kid in the eye — this kid who adores learning, and is motivated, and already performs in the 99th percentile in his grade in every subject — and give him a reasonable answer as to why he couldn’t try. HE WORE US DOWN is what I’m saying.
So even though he had a teacher-fairy who was working her fairy magic…
And even though his twin brother is still going to the school-school…
And even though the school year is almost over…
And even though he has a mother who is not a teacher-fairy AT ALL…
Here we go. Homeschool is upon us.
It’s been just over a week now.
On morning one, I woke up with tiny thoughts of dread, like “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” And, “I CANNOT DO THIS.” And, “THERE IS A REASON TEACHERS ARE TEACHERS. It’s because they have an AFFINITY FOR TEACHING, and TALENT, and EDUCATION TO BACK THOSE UP. On the other hand, Beth, YOU ARE A FOOL AND A PRETENDER and YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN YOUR CHILD.”
And then Cai, the 4th grader, walked into my room and said, “OK, Mom, I have the schedule all figured out. I’ll be reading a time travel series for Free Reading time, and working on dividing fractions as a refresher for math in preparation for the more extensive curriculum you’ve ordered, but then I need you to take me to the library so I can study 19th Century French Architecture. Unless we already have a curriculum on 19th Century French Architecture somewhere around the house? No? Then definitely the library, Mom.”
And I thought, like I often do with parenting, “Hm. OK, then. Maybe I won’t screw this up quite so bad if I just get out of his way.”
So that’s the new plan. We’re homeschooling — the Thing I Said I’d Never Do. And maybe I can get far enough out of my kid’s way so he can fly.
So far, he’s studying exponents, chemistry via bread baking, touch typing, magnets, hard drives, and, of course, 19th Century French Architecture.
He’s happier than I’ve seen him for months. More confident. More engaged. More interested in learning.
And that — definitively — is the RIGHT school choice. At least for that kid. For now.
With love, friends,