It has come to my attention that my perspective on homeschool vs. public school seems a little “biting” and some of my teacher friends, as well as loved ones who are deeply immersed in the public school systems, and those who simply prefer to send their children to school are starting to feel disrespected by my opinions. Interestingly, I haven’t actually stated my *exact* opinions at all, so that in itself is telling. Either I’m not great at being unbiased (probably true), or there are some overly sensitive individuals taking what I say out of context then internalizing it (probably true, also).
Either way, let me clear the air for everyone who might read anything I write on this subject from now on by finally sharing the whole truth, what I truly believe and what my intentions are with my children.
Let’s start this off by saying – While I’m not a fan of the public school system, I’m planning to put my children in TK, a transitions kindergarten program at the local public school. It’s a play-based, preschool setting where they can interact with other children, play games, sing songs, reenforce what I’ve already taught them in numbers, letters and following directions. I’ve reviewed the curriculum and I’m on board with their timelines. I have spoken to the administrators about the process of discipline and how they proactively encourage children to avoid conflict in the first place by engaging them in things they will want to do next. It’s very pro-positive while minimizing negative to encourage more positive, which is exactly how we parent in our home. I still have some concerns, but far less than I did when I first started my research. From what I can tell, TK will only back up what I am already doing at home and should not cause any confusion or contradictory ideals and should not cause undo stress. If it were not for these facts, we wouldn’t do it. This is why I am willing to allow them to go forward with it and only if they thrive. If they do not, we can easily pull them. After that however, we will be homeschooling K-12. That is the decision.
So then, let’s get into the rest….
Teachers are awesome.
I have a tremendous respect for our educators. The work they do, the passion they display, the role they willingly take on for our children is largely of the heart and spirit because we KNOW they are not compensated equally for the work they are willing to put into their careers. It’s such a selfless job, sometimes a thankless one, one filled with heartache, frustration, and even regret but also of love, kindness, inspiration, compassion and power. Every educator I know personally gives of themselves freely to their students to provide them the best possible experience they can. I’ve never met a teacher who said “I’m not being paid to do extra work, so I refuse to do it even though it is better for my students.” I have heard, “I know I’m not being paid for this, but what am I supposed to do? NOT give them the education they deserve?” That speaks volumes to me about the type of person who walks into a teaching career and I have nothing but respect for that. I know a substantial amount of teachers personally. As in, more than 10. Maybe even more than 20, I’ve never sat down and taken a head count. The ones I know fight that system daily to give to their students what they know they deserve even when they don’t get anything in return. They are using the processes and protocols they are instructed to use, while doing everything they can to do MORE.
When we (the general public, not me and mine specifically) discuss the benefits of homeschool over public school and we compare the “system” to an individual’s needs, we must not rope these incredible men and women who give SO MUCH to our children under the same umbrella of distrust and frustration that we often feel toward the system that they must work within.
It’s not the educators (well, in most cases) I don’t trust. It’s not them I feel I need to keep my children away from when I consider the choice to homeschool above allowing them into the public system. It’s the SYSTEM itself.
The “SYSTEM” is not awesome.
When I’m talking about school and I say things like “the indoctrination of our children into a government system of compliance”, I realize how tin foil hat that sounds, but honestly, I’m not being a crazy conspiracy lady. I know our school system does not has it out for my children, just waiting to break their spirits, turning them into Cybermen only good for compliance and order… but it certainly does not inspire personal freedom, creativity or the spontaneity that often comes with great discovery, either. The system must protect the herd. That herd is being monitored by only a small number of big individuals per the very large number of little individuals. They don’t have a choice but to rope them all together and do their best with one learning style and hope for the best knowing that, at least the majority will succeed. It’s not their fault, it’s simply a matter of numbers. They NEED children to be compliant and follow in line and do what they are told and not make a fuss or get out of hand in order to find any success at all. They NEED children to silently follow directions because they do not have the time for children to really be children. To say that our children are being molded to be compliant, silent and part of a cooperative herd is not meant to be a “crazy” statement, it’s simply pointing out the reality in a way the majority of people don’t want to hear. Some might say “well, being cooperative isn’t so bad”, – of COURSE it isn’t. But one can teach a child to be cooperative AND provide the freedom to allow for creativity and spontaneous invention a the same time, given the proper resources, the largest of these is TIME. Homeschool provides that time.
When I say these things, I’m also speaking about the system that provides the educational material and standards an educator must use to manage their classroom – EVERY classroom, across the board throughout a state. A teacher is required to use a specific set of rules and tools, even if they, or ALL educators disagree with it. When I say “system”, I’m speaking about the “one size fits all” process of education, testing, break time, exercise, discipline and recreational activities. I’m speaking about the lack of funding given for an educator to truly do the job they know they are capable of doing. I’m speaking about the lack of respect the system seems to have, not only for educators as employees, but for our country’s future, as they toy with and manipulate our schools through curriculum changes, funding changes, inter-district transfers, lack of pay for overtime, ignoring the thousands of hours worth of work taken home and time away from their own families (not to mention the out of pocket expenses) to ensure the best education possible for someone else’s child.
I believe if we are required to pay into the public education system, we should have complete transparency and say in what our children are learning, as well as access to our children at any time. I should not have to make an appointment to come and watch my child learn. If a daycare facility told me I was unable to show up at anytime to check in or come in to shadow to get a good idea of what my child does from day to day, if they told me “you have to just trust that we’re doing our jobs and don’t interfere”… I would never go there and I highly doubt many other parents would either. Most modern daycare facilities these days even have webcams that allow parents to view their child at all times from their work computers and cell phones! Why then – is it acceptable for a school to deny access, even so much as full disclosure of curriculum, then blame parents for “hovering”, making them feel like they are terrible, indulgent and overprotective simply because they want to be involved and have access to their own child? – Yes, yes, I know not every school or teacher does this, but I’ve seen it- personally, more than a few times, so you cannot tell me it NEVER happens.
It’s the system itself- Outside of a few exceptions of extraordinary educators and administrations nationwide, is an old, broken, splinted and bandaged up system that aught to be scrapped altogether and rebuilt entirely. I have yet to hear from an educator who does not encourage homeschool above dealing with the SYSTEM (and/or bureaucracy of teacher’s unions) of public education. Even if they begin the conversation in defense of public school and believe a child is better off there, when I bring up my specific concerns regarding the processes and policies of the SYSTEM, they each are sure to let me know they know exactly what I’m talking about and can understand my hesitation.
So while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about those hesitations.
The truth is I’ve been passively disapproving of public school but I have never explained why. Well, here you go. Now, its not every reason and if you really want to know the rest, you can ask and I will be happy to tell you, but it is mostly regarding sex, drugs, molestation, bullying, sexism, agism and abuse. All you need to do is read the news to see exactly what those concerns are. As for the rest, here they are, in no particular order;
I do not believe education is a one size fits all process. I do not believe all children should be taught the same way, at the same age or the same rate of speed and I most certainly do not believe all children should be disciplined the same way.
I do not believe in omitting history to make people feel better about themselves while ignoring what actually happened. I do not believe in making assignments easier or waving poor scores to ensure a child reaches the next grade or graduates even if they’re not ready, just to prevent a lawsuit from entitled parents. I do not believe in catering to the entitlement generation by lowering standards to not offend or hurt anyone’s feelings.
I do not believe the process of standardized testing for all children works across the board and I do not believe those tests to be a clear indicator of a child’s or a teen’s true level of understanding.
I do not believe that forcing a child who needs to run and has too much energy into a situation where they must “sit and attend” for 15 minutes or longer with punishment of write up’s, detention, checks on a board or classroom shaming will teach them anything but blind compliance and that they cannot trust anyone. It does not teach them about the real world, it teaches them to abandon who they are in exchange for being convenient for others.
I believe discipline/compliance tactics like red, yellow, green cards, behavior charts where you make a child “clip down” in front of their friends when they’ve done something wrong, the benched without recess in the corner, the checkmark or stars on the board forms of discipline/reward for positive and negative behavior are all forms of public shaming. I believe punishment through restraint, fear, shame or removal of time outside is exactly the opposite of what those kids need and the system needs to wake up and read a modern developmental psych book, get with today’s reality and focus on proactive methods to prevent those situations rather than attempting to cram these children into boxes they will never fit into. Shaming a child does not create an intrinsic desire to do well. It creates a fear-based reaction to acting a certain way. It’s just a kinder form of spanking.
I believe a child should learn in whatever way makes sense for his or her personal development and that every parent should have the right to make that choice with the confidence of knowing there are THOUSANDS of resources available for them to create the best possible educational experience they can for their children without feeling looked down upon by the system for choosing another way.
-Again, this is not taking a swing at teachers- this is the understanding that, in a public school environment, those options simply do not exist. I’m not shaming or bashing or looking down on anyone for this, it simply is what it is.
The industry of education has the reputation and procedures of a failing corporation.
Now, to be fair- I understand that the system is overburdened with too many children and not enough money or educators. I do realize this and that’s unfortunate but if this were some other industry, a company that manufactured elevators or airplanes, for example… would we be equally forgiving of a poorly constructed product? Would we be second guessing ourselves and forcing our families to fly in aircrafts known to be made of cheap materials, barely making it through inspection with a low or even “average” percentage of success because we don’t want the employees to feel badly about themselves or because we don’t want to be seen as some kind of upstart hippy demanding a safer product? Would we forgive them if they manufactured car seats at such a low quality that every other nation in the Western World said things like “Let’s never make our product like that company” and then put our children in those seats? NO. Okay, the answer is no. We wouldn’t and that company would have been out of business a long, long time ago.
I believe our educators are severely under-appreciated, underpaid and overworked. I know the ones I know personally know how to reach their students but sometimes cannot because of rules that prevent them from being truly effective at their job. When a push is made to request those rules be changed, or that they be given the tools they need, the push back knocks them down making them seem like spoiled children asking for more than they deserve. Would we demand an office manager just deal with the lack of a computer or a working telephone? Would we laugh at a stoneworker who was told there was no budget for a saw any less than 40 years old so they better go buy one themselves? Would we deny a customer service rep an ergonomic keyboard or chair, telling them that’s just unnecessary frills? The answer to all of those questions is “no”, or lawsuits abound. Why then, why do we take such advantage of our teachers?
I think it is appalling how educators are expected to perform at A++++ standards 100% of the time with such minimal compensation that ANY corporate agency would go out of business in a week due to lawsuits of they tried to operate that way. If a retail company took advantage of their employees the way our government takes advantage of teachers, it would go out of business in less than a year. NO other company is allowed to operate this way. Everyone in the nation would protest and boycott them to take a stand against those who allow the system to continue operating.
If we can boycott a company who takes advantage of their employees and creates faulty product without it looking like we hate the workers, shouldn’t we also be able to boycott the system of public education without looking like we hate teachers?
So just to sum up…
Homeschooling (at least for our family) is not a protest against educators.
It is a protest against a broken system made up of processes and procedures are largely outdated and cruel to their employees. It is a protest against a system that takes advantage of its employees’ compassion. It’s a protest against the dumbing down of our nation. It’s a protest against the omission of truth in exchange for political and social fads. It’s a protest against a system which bears down upon a parent’s rights to care for their children and their justified desire to be part of the education process by shutting them out in ways no other industry would be legally allowed to do.
Oh, and also- Homeschooling is not a protest against other parent’s choices.
Many families homeschool in this nation for literally thousands of reasons but not one of them has to do with what their friend’s/neighbor’s/uncle’s kids are doing correctly OR incorrectly. No one says, “well my brother’s kid is a jerk so we’re doing homeschool with ours to prove we are better than they are”. There is no “one size fits all” reason to homeschool and, while many have core similarities, I have never met any two homeschooling parents who chose to do it for exactly the same reasons.
Maybe it’s not the best option for your family. Maybe you would love to homeschool, but for whatever reason that is none of my business, it’s impossible. Maybe you have to have two working parents in your home or maybe your’e a single parent, working a full time job. Maybe you don’t have the patience or maybe you have a special needs child who needs more help than you can provide alone or maybe you are a special needs adult who cannot do that for a whole host of reasons.
Whatever your reasons are they are YOUR REASONS just as my reasons are MY REASONS. I do not factor your feelings into my reasons and I highly doubt you factor mine into yours, so to consider my choice is throwing judgment upon you because you chose another way is just plain silly.
My choices for MY family do not reflect on YOUR parenting skills. What you have chosen is best for YOUR household and it is not my place to judge. Maybe public school is amazing for your kids- maybe they love it and thrive within it! You might have found a district who listens, teachers who foster that needed creative development. I applaud you and all that you do to keep your younglings in school, happy, clothed and ready on time each day, homework done, extra activities completed, balanced and fed and off to bed in time to do it all again the next day. If you are one of those amazing parent/child teams who can rock that system and make it work for you- that is brilliant!
So, one last time…
I adore teachers (well, except for the bad ones) and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work they do. I am not making this choice to make other parents feel badly, in fact, I actually envy them a little. Overall, I pray for a day when we can each do what we think is best as parents without judgement, roadblocks and red tape keeping us from our choices. A day when our education system is thriving and focuses on enrichment more than compliance, on learning more than appearances and a day when our educators are seen for what they truly are; the gateway to our nation’s successful future. Until then, here in our house, we will be learning from our kitchen table, our computer, our car window and in our living room.
And one last thing;
Please don’t try to convince me I’m doing things wrong and I’ll do my best not to do that to you, either. I’ve done and will continue to do my research and I can promise you in true “Cautious Mom” fashion, if I find a better way, we will change our processes and do better.
You’re welcome to share ideas, new information and provide me with facts if you don’t think I have all of them, just like I’d hope you would appreciate it if I had info you could use.
I hope this helps clear things up once and for all.