Monday, August 15, 2011

Ring Ring...Back to School! What is the RIGHT Schooling Choice for my Child?

“It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.”
~ Claude Bernard

As a student, did you ever wake up in a cold sweat—worried that you had forgotten an important assignment or failed to study for, say, a geometry test? <shudder> Nothing compares to the feeling of being ill-prepared. I have never been a good procrastinator. But whether you thrive on procrastination or whether you like to get all your ducks in a row like me, if you have kids, sooner or later you will have to make an important decision about school. And it's daunting.

If you have never been overwhelmed by the parenting choices you face, if you have only just begun, (Huggies or Pampers, Similac or Enfamil, Gerber or Beech Nut...) then your day is coming. Some pivotal decisions we face as parents are: where to school, how to school, why to school, when to school? Some may think it is an obvious choice, but perhaps it isn't so cut and dry.

From a quick bit of google searchy-searching, I discovered that about 11% of kids (6.1 million) are enrolled in private, including parochial, schools as of 2006. I also found that approximately 1.5 million children are home schooled, and that number is growing. In the span of eight years, home schooling has grown nationally by almost 75%. This leaves about 49.4 million students who attended public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2010.

As far as I know, these are our 3 options, and I'm going to attempt to explore them with you this week—mostly to keep my thoughts occupied since my baby is heading off to the big school this year! And since Kylee and I are just getting started in the school biz, I have enlisted a few amazing experts who have several kids in a variety of school settings to share their knowledge with us.

Before we really delve into our mommy testimonials, today I'm going to throw out a quick overview of PRE-school thoughts. We would love to get feedback from you, too!

Have answers.
First of all, if you don't know why you are choosing (or leaning toward) your preferred method of schooling for your child, then you should probably think about it now. When someone asks you “Why did you choose to send your child to ___ school?” it should not be followed by an awkward silence with crickets chirping. I understand that you may never be wholly confident that what you are choosing is the absolute best, you may even have doubts, but year by year and child by child you should have a reflective, intelligent answer for your choice.

In my opinion, it is never OK to send your child to any school, or homeschool, simply by default. For example, choosing to do something because your parents did it and because “I turned out OK!” is probably not a valid reason. My mom-expert-friends were all able to give me wonderfully thoughtful and valid reasons for each of their school choices even though they had placed their kids in 3 different school settings! If you have never really thought about it, or if your kids are still too young for school, it's time to think about it because trust me, it will be here before you know it.

Assume Nothing. Get Educated!
Do you think it is valid to send your child to a certain school or home school out of fear or lethargy? Is it wise to homeschool simply because I am frightened of what they might encounter in a large school setting? The answer from my expert panel revealed that this was not their answer. In another way is it fine to send my child off to school so that I can do what I want without having to create lesson plans at home or worry about grading my own child's schoolwork? None of my mom friends made the decision to send their children to school simply because they didn't want to be stuck with their kids all day or because they worried about scarring them for life.
Don't assume that your friends are homeschooling because they are scared, and don't assume your friends are sending their kids off to school because they are lazy. If you get down to it, that is most likely not the case!
I love what my friend Sue (mommy of 5!) told me here: “We decided to home school a few years ago for some of the earlier years of our kids' schooling. But I just want to make it clear that I don't put God in a box and we don't think He calls all Christian families to home school. Just so that my reasoning doesn't come across as judgmental towards those who have chosen a different path I want to make that absolutely clear!”

Listening to my friends passionately express their reasons behind their schooling decisions has been wonderfully eye-opening, but it also makes our decision to choose that much harder!

Rising above stereotypes.
I want to devote this week to appreciating, respecting and learning from each other.
Kylee and her husband have chosen to homeschool her oldest son. My husband and I have chosen to send our oldest son to our local public school. I respect Kylee's decision, I know that it was made purposely, and I know that her son is receiving a great education and amazing experiences through having Kylee as his primary teacher in their home. In the same way, Kylee respects our decision to send our son to public school. We prayerfully and purposely made our decision as well, after many discussions with family members and mentors.  We will dig deeper into our own decision-making process later this week!

In the end, our response should be that each family is making a decision based on prayer and research, and we should respect their decision. We don't know what next week holds, let alone five to ten years from now. Hopefully none of us says, “I'll never choose THAT route for schooling!” because kids change, circumstances change, and I certainly don't hold a crystal ball to predict what the future holds; I'm assuming you don't either.

As Joe Fox said, "The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self." Hopefully in the next few days we will be able to talk through many of the options: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino--to present the 3 choices, perhaps to clarify your decision, or perhaps to open your perspective to the other moms like you!

**Follow up links to posts:
To Skip Straight to our post on Homeschooling, go HERE
To learn more about Public Schooling, go HERE.
For our discussion on Private (Christian) Schooling, go HERE.
And for some final conclusions, go HERE.

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