We have a little public elementary school right around the corner from our house. We take our daughters there to the playground on warm summer evenings. My husband and oldest daughter fly kites on the athletic field. Sometimes we head over to hunt for bargains when the PTA has a rummage sale in the gymnasium. And when our oldest daughter starts kindergarten in another year, she will likely attend this school.
My husband and I have considered all our options. I experienced a little bit of everything as a child, beginning in public schools, spending a few years at a small evangelical Christian school, home schooling, and then graduating from a small Catholic high school. My husband attended an evangelical Christian school for a few years and graduated from a public high school. My husband is a public high school teacher, although that doesn’t mean we are staunch advocates of public schools.
For our own children, a private, faith-based grade school is appealing, but we can’t afford for me to stay home with our younger daughter and send our older daughter to private school. Home schooling is more affordable, and it’s a popular choice among Christian families like ours.
Home schooling’s real appeal is that it offers an academic program tailored to an individual child’s strengths and weaknesses. It also gives parents some control over children’s social experiences during their early formative years. I’ve walked through the neighborhood as school lets out and heard the language some kids use; it was one factor that led me to consider home schooling.
Yet, we’ve opted to go the public school route. We may change our minds at some point in the future, but for now, the following are some of our reasons for choosing public schools:
1. The local public school has a good reputation. We live in a decent district. The students at my daughters’ future school score decently on standardized tests and the staff are competent with discipline issues. We met the parents of a soon-to-be first-grader on the playground the other evening. Both are teachers in other school districts and spoke highly of our local school, emphasizing how involved many of the parents are. I’m also confident, at this point, that we can instill our own values and faith in our daughters at home and through our church involvement.
2. Home schooling requires a high level of commitment. I’m sure my daughters would be worth it if we ever chose to home school, but it is a full-time job and not a task to be undertaken lightly. It involves hours of lesson preparation, teaching, grading, and planning. Home schooling requires a level of commitment I’m not sure I want to give. I might be more compelled to put in the work if the quality of our local schools was unacceptable.
3. Home schooling requires long-term discipline. I’m an organized person, but a full-time home schooling load is daunting to me. I felt better when a stay-at-home mom friend who used to be an elementary teacher confided to me that she’d never get any schooling done if she home schooled her children. “I’d always be saying, ‘Oh, we can do that later,’” she said.
4. I do not feel called or drawn to teaching. I am, however, called to write, and I look forward to pursuing some of those dreams once my daughters are in school and I have more time. I will leave the teaching to those who have been formally trained, who are more skilled than I am at both understanding the big picture and handling the more nuanced aspects of educating children.
5. I cannot easily school an older child while minding an active baby. If I spend 30 minutes playing a board game at the dining room table with my preschooler, my 9-month-old is left to crawl around the room and chew on whatever she can get her hands on. I can hardly imagine attempting formal education in this setting. Many home schoolers have impressively large families and make it work, but for me, it seems something would have to give. Either my older child’s education will suffer or my younger child will be neglected, or both.
6. My daughter wants to go to school. My husband and I have explained the concept of homeschooling to her, and she has repeatedly declared she wants to go to school. She already attends a community preschool two days a week and enjoys the environment and the interaction with other kids. If she expressed interest in home schooling, I’d give it more consideration.
No one type of schooling is perfect for all children. It’s not a one-size-fits-all deal; every child has unique needs, and every parent has unique abilities. For our daughters, we will take things one year at a time, watching and evaluating, and providing support however we can.
Next fall, we’ll start making that daily walk to the little school around the corner. We can always change our minds if we decide we don’t like where that walk leads.
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Tags: Back to school