Schooling is not an easy topic of conversation. It’s right up there with politics and religion. When people find out we send our kids to a UMS school two days a week and homeschool the other three, it is always interesting to see how the dialogue will continue. These are examples of actual responses I hear regularly:
“So, you’re afraid of public schools, huh?” Um…no, we aren’t.
“Oh, that is so wonderful. You really value your children’s education, don’t you?” So, if I didn’t homeschool and put them in public school would that mean I didn’t value their education??
“We’re going to put ours in public school. Public school was good enough for me!” It was good enough for me, too, but so was a lack of all leafy green vegetables, no car seats, and massive exposure to carcinogens. We may need to think through this a little bit more given the changing climate of education.
Most parents want to make great choices for their children. Most parents value their children’s education. After countless conversations with parents who have made many different decisions about educating their children, here are ten thoughts we work through as we navigate the choices we will make about how our children are educated.
10. Wherever your children attend school, send them in faith. I consider it a great privilege and luxury to be given education choices for all of my children. There are plenty of places in the world that parents are not given so many options. There are also plenty of people in America who, for various reasons, have no choice but to hope the public school their children must attend will educate them well. With the blessing of choice comes a great responsibility to choose well, and I only know one way to make big decisions well: loads and loads of prayer. We pray every year about each child to try to make the best decision we can. God has always been faithful to answer those prayers. He cares even more about our children than we do, and He will lead us in what is best for them.
9. We all need public schools to succeed. Whether we have children attending them or not, the public schools in America are greatly impacting America’s children, and therefore our future. Education has been proven to reduce crime and clearly it produces leaders. My kids currently do not not attend public school, but my husband is a mentor at the public school they would attend because we value children and we want to help the teachers and administrators succeed. We pay tuition at our children’s schools in addition to the taxes we pay that go towards state education. We don’t lament those taxes. We hope and pray the government uses them wisely and effectively. Without good education, our nation will fail.
8. Most likely, the school you send your child to is vastly different from the one you attended. Unless you live in a very rural area and not much has changed in twenty years, or you were homeschooled and are using the same curricula you learned from, or you attended an elite private school that still does everything the same way they did fifty years ago, your child’s school will be very different from the one you attended. Ask any teacher who has taught for over twenty years and you will find out how much education evolves and changes over time, and how much the changes in culture have affected the culture in schools. Before you walk in and drop off your children, you may want to do some research. Before you buy a house in a great school district, you may want to talk to some families. We were looking for a house that was in the district of an acclaimed high school until we found out that parents were moving out of those neighborhoods because the academic environment was extremely competitive and their children were miserable. The bottom line is: you will need to know your kids and know their schools.
7. Take it year by year, child by child. I know many families that have their children in different schooling structures. All children are different, with different needs and abilities. Age changes things, too. You don’t have to decide when your eldest enters kindergarten what type of schooling all of your children will engage in for the rest of their lives. Breathe deeply, consider your options and decide what is best for this year. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, so we best just focus on today’s troubles.
6. It is possible to fail at homeschooling. Teaching your own children is hard work. I cringe sometimes when people casually say they are homeschooling without a producing a plan or investigating their options. Education is important and should not be treated as if it weren’t. This fantastic post I read a while ago by a long-time homeschooling mom may help you figure out if you’re up to the challenge.
5. This is not about you. Often, when I have the conversation with people about educating their children, I hear a lot more about the parent’s dreams for their child and less about the child’s giftedness and aptitude. We must remember that our children are being educated for a future we know very little about. The economy is changing. Education must change to prepare children for a diverse marketplace where a college degree means less than it used to. I once shocked a parent by telling them that if my children chose not to go to college, but to go to some sort of trade school, I would be okay with that. By placing the focus on our children’s character development we can prepare them to make wise choices in a fast-paced, changing world. A great book on developing character in children is this one.
4. There is no guaranteed method for success. Wouldn’t it be lovely if a pamphlet existed that told you if you do everything a certain way your children would meet their full potential, be whole and healthy, and always succeed? There isn’t, unfortunately. We will have to discern and pray and try to make the right choices, and trust in God’s providential will.
3. Your child (like you) is not perfect, will mess up, and no form of schooling will change that. I think sometimes private school and homeschooling look so attractive from a faith standpoint that we mistake them for ideal places where we can control everything, and where teachers and administrators will guarantee perfection. For a great post on this from an education standpoint, check out this post by my friend and educator Ellen Schuknecht: Expectations.
2. Every parent “homeschools”. All the kids I know in public or private school are bombarded with homework and projects. Moms and dads spend hours with their children tackling these responsibilities. From year to year, depending on a child’s giftedness, strengths, and weaknesses, a parent’s awareness and involvement in their child’s academic progress is essential. Whether you teach them yourself all day or enroll them in a school full- or part-time, your concern for their progress will most greatly shape the path they take in life. Teachers come and go from year to year, you are the constant in the equation.
1. You will be your child’s greatest influence- good or bad. Excepting extreme cases of abuse, kids don’t generally end up in counseling because of a teacher. But we are all marked deeply by the level of love, concern, involvement, and influence our parents exert in our lives. A lot of homeschooling families claim the desire to influence their children as their greatest reason for schooling at home. While it is probably simpler to be their greatest influence if you are generally their only influence, there are plenty of examples of people who have successfully raised great kids in secular schools. Good parenting is essential no matter where your children learn.