When kids began to sprout up in our home, I just assumed that Glendon & I would be the kind of parents who drafted an educational plan for them and THAT WOULD BE IT. I viewed our decision sort of like a tragically arranged marriage. We would determine their future education before their first words and sign a legally binding contract to seal the deal. No matter how terribly incompatible said choice might be, there would be no turning back. We would simply endure the horrors of our decision.
How foolish of me for being so staunch, so strangely committed to one way of educating. I’ve become the parent I didn’t expect: open to whatever schooling best meets the current needs of our family.
Last year, we made the decision to move from homeschool to public school. And we’ve hit the repeat button for this year.
There are lessons The Big Kids can learn in school that we cannot orchestrate at home.
There are opportunities for them to grow as students that we cannot provide right now.
And The Little Kids at home need me more engaged and ready to meet their demanding stages without the added time and pressure that it takes for me to plan lessons and teach. I recognize the privilege of this choice, especially when I consider the many families who feel stuck and discouraged with their only option.
Could the public (and private) school curriculum be stronger? Sure.
Are there things I’d change about the system? Yaaaassss.
Am I concerned about bullying (especially toward my kiddo with developmental delays)? Yep.
And don’t even get me started on the funding issues, particularly as it relates to race and poverty and life skill programs. That’s another post for another time.
There are plenty of things I’d change about the homeschool culture, too. It’s not all waking up when the Spirit leads and adventurous field trips on the daily.
With our decision–and the decision that many of you face each year–I have grown weary of the negative stereotypes that accompany our varied educational paths.
If your children are homeschooled, you must be sheltered and culturally ignorant and hate public schools.
If your children attend a public school, you must be godless and lazy and surrendered to the state’s ideals.
If your children attend a private/Christian school, you must be rich and exclusive and elitist.
I’ve lived each stereotype, where wrong assumptions were made about me, my family, and now my own kids.
I spent 11 years as a student in a private Christian school. Certain public school kids used the term “preppy snobs” to label me and others who attended. Their words stung, especially since my dad was a teacher at that school. I knew how deeply committed he was to the students and faculty, the tiny paycheck he brought home, and how hard he and my mom worked to keep the five of us enrolled.
We lived simply, without the latest styles or gadgets. Unlike most homes at the time, ours didn’t have cable TV—we had a pair of rabbit ears with foil, though. (All the praise hands!)
We wore hand-me-downs and on a rare occasion went to the dollar theater to see movies that most teens had seen months before at the regular price.
We didn’t take fancy vacations to exotic beaches or snow-covered ski resorts.
We were the slowest people in the checkout line at the grocery store–not only because we had 2 full carts but also because my mom had a wheelbarrow of *double* coupons to present. And this was before couponing was a ‘thing.’
In a school parking lot where new Mustangs, Volvos, and Jeeps rolled in, my siblings and I drove some seriously used cars, like our 1983 station wagon, whose hood flew off en route to school one morning. By the time I was a high school junior, I was lucky enough to drive our 1994 Ford Aerostar minivan to prom. Although, we didn’t call it ‘prom.’ We called it the ‘Jr./Sr. Banquet.’ (Because if Christian school kids danced, they may as well dance themselves right outside those pearly gates and straight to hell.)
When we homeschooled, I noticed the furrowed brows and heard these comments, “Homeschool is terrible because you never make any friends. It’s not really school, is it? Are they getting enough socialization?” Thank you for your concern about our kids’ socialization–is that your kid there picking his scab and wiping it on the person behind him?
Now that our kids attend public school, I see the pursed lips and hear the pompous remarks, “The quality of education isn’t great…As a Christian parent, you are called to homeschool and Christian education…I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it raising my child.” Well, goshdangit. You’re just a boatload of good news, aren’t you? Thank you for reminding me that our job as followers of Jesus is to create Christian subcultures in order to avoid a dark world in need of our Light.
I think we can all agree that no educational system is perfect. Right?
Can we also agree to speak with kindness toward one another?
Can we refuse to burden each other with guilt and shame over the choices we’ve made for our families?
Can we find ways to encourage each other in our educational endeavors?
Instead of [silently] criticizing, let’s support one another. Instead of deeming our choice best, let’s connect with those who educate differently and discover what works for them. Instead of making assumptions, let’s ask questions and learn from each other. And let’s remember that many families around our country and in our world do not have the luxury of choice.
So, here we are—bidding good-bye to homeschool. Again. At least for now.
In a couple of weeks, the Big Kids will walk out the front door, away from me and into a setting where their wonderful teachers will instruct them. They will be welcomed into a more formal classroom rather than scooching their chairs up to our weathered dining room table.
This transition still tastes bittersweet. I’ll miss The Big Kids each day but we are at peace with how God has led us. As a family, we’re learning how to walk by faith, to let go of our need for control, while trusting God to use this season—as He has every season—for His glory and our good.
What educational path has worked well for your kiddos? And how did you decide what was best for them? I’d love to hear from you!