Friday, June 06, 2008

The great school debate

This is the book I'm reading right now. It is excellent. I find myself saying "amen!" to just about every chapter. My head swims with thoughts of our little family doing school together, reading the classics, learning piano, studying history.

And this is the book I'm going to read next. :)

Wait, huh?

I used to want to homeschool. Then our family grew from one to four kids in a very short time and I thought, what was I thinking?! I am a product of the public school system (thanks Atascadero Unified School District), my dad is a public school teacher. I am a huge believer in the concept of public school, I don't think vouchers are the answer, and I will never pay to send my kids to private school.

My reasons for wanting to homeschool have very little to do, in fact, with public school. Having a bigger-than-average family I DO see the value in having more time together. I've seen the benefits first-hand of having my kids home and seeing them building relationships with each other, and with their baby sister. I don't send them to preschool, partly for this reason.

I also love the idea of customizing their education...I'd love to give them more of a global perspective...and also learn Ethiopian history, and African American history. Neither of those things get much attention in the public schools. (Though the latter really should.)

So it's a slam dunk, right?


We live less than a half-mile from our neighborhood school. It's ranked one of the highest in the DPS system. It's got super high test scores, it's racially mixed, it has great art and music programs. My head swims with the thought of walking the kids to school, of joining the PTA, of the kids being exposed to all different types of kids and people. (Yes, I do see that as a benefit even though of course it has its drawbacks.) I love the thought of going to back to school night, and of my kids having their very own space away from mom and dad to excel and thrive. I want them to experience being under other adults' authority, and to learn that other people matter. I also want to be the best mom I can be, and I don't know that homeschooling them would really work toward that end.

We're huge believers in the idea that God doesn't want all Christians leaving the education arena. I also have so many kids that making the time to ensure they have social time with friends seems daunting. They'd at least have some of that built in at public school.

ALL of that to say, I have some decisions to make before August '09. :) This upcoming school year I'm going to visit our neighborhood school and also the school that is one day of class instruction, and homeschool the rest of the week (it's through DPS, so we'd still be supporting the public schools, which we really want to. So if we homeschooled, that is probably what we'd do.) Either way I think our kids will all do half-day kindergarten at our neighborhood school. (I guess that buys us even more time to make our decision!)

Anyway, that is my thought-process so far. Once I read that other book I'll let you know how it was! (And thanks to Shelley, as always, for the recommendation!) Most of my friends from California either homeschool part- or full-time, or are planning to, and their kids are getting a great education. If you are a larger than average family, and have had a good experience in the PUBLIC school system, I'd love to hear about it!


Type (little) a said...

If you decide to send your kids to public school, it's not like you can't "fill in the blanks" with the things they aren't covering. Just because homeschool isn't their only school, you and Kevin are still your children's first and best teachers.

scarymelon said...

I was too planning on homeschooling my two boys based on The Well Trained Mind - then we adopted our two girls from Ethiopia, and I realized I absolutely could not handle homeschooling all four (I work part time, too) we sent them to our neighborhood public school for 1st grade and K and it has worked great! I still add a lot of history and piano lessons and reading from WTM, but I am really sold on public school for now. The kids really like going. I think the teachers are doing a great job teaching them the basics better than I could at home. With four kids seven and under, I just can't quite see how I could handle homeschooling until they are a little more independent. I am open to all options, thouhg.

Kristen Borland said...

i've been battling with this one too. i have to say, zeb starting speech therapy at public school was the first thing that got me to rethink things, and the second was when a homeschooling mom friend of mine started feeling led by God to put her kids in public school. and a huge aspect of that is wanting to be the best mom for my kids, and like you said, i don't know if that would be the case if i was homeschooling. the real thing that hangs me up is some of the stuff that has to be taught in public schools, especially in california. it will be interesting to see what you decide, and definitely keep us posted with your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post Brianna. This is an issue that I am really wrestling with right now.

Before I had my babies I never had any desire to homeschool. Public school was the plan. However, after reading some different books and blogs, praying and doing some "soul-searching," so to speak, I'm don't think I am 100% sold on it any more.

I do believe in supporting public schools and public school programs, but find myself increasingly concerned with what is going on within California's educational system (and what has been deemed important (or unimportant) to a well rounded education). A lot of it has to do with how my Biblical role as a parent and the state's educational "goals" fit (or don't fit) together.

There are defintely pros and cons to both.

I don't want to insulate my children totally, but there are things that I think they shouldn't be exposed to until they are ready to understand and process them.

I could go on and on, but I think I have hogged the comment section long enough! ;)

Thanks for the post. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the subject!


Jeannett Gibson said...

I love how Monica laid it all out. We don't exactly know what we are going to do when the time comes. I too, have no desire to pay for private school (nor do I necessarily even want to do private school), but the values taught in public school are more and more disconcerting as time goes on. It seems as though it's getting worse and worse every year...especially in CA. It'll be interesting to see what you end up choosing. Add to our mix that SM schools are not very, i'm not so sure about that too. Andy and I went to public, we feel like we got a good education...but honestly, it's not the same as we went, you know? Big decisions.

Brianna Heldt said...

I'm LOVING all of your thoughts and comments! Please keep them coming! I'm glad I'm not alone in trying to process all this stuff.

Monica, is that you from "Keith and Monica?" :) Hi!!!

For me personally, I'm really NOT too concerned about the "values" taught in schools. (In spite of fellow Coloradoan James Dobson and his scare tactics, which are in the news regularly here. :) )

I think that ultimately our kids will get their values from us, and if they are exposed to things we disagree with, I think it's a great learning opportunity. Pretty much everything can be explained in age-appropriate ways, even mature things. Kids will only understand them to a certain point, which is good. But obviously different people differ on these things.

I just worry about so much time away from my kids, and how that will affect the family dynamic. I also don't want my young kids spending way too much time on homework after being in school all day, because down-time and family time are important. Those are my main reasons I suppose for wanting to homeschool...

Anonymous said...

LOL! Yes it's me. ;)

Yeah, I am not a big fan of scare-tactics either! It really does a disservice to the Christian witness. It so easily lends itself to forgetting who TRULY saves and redeems. But, that's a separate rant.

Time away is definitely a BIG concern. Most K programs here are full-day PLUS homework. That doesn't allow for much family time or down time or time to pursue outside interests! Seriously, a kindergartner is five, how much educational reinforcement, or busy-work do they need?!

Another concern for me is that my children won't know HOW to learn, or will end up hating school because they're bored, unchallenged, left behind, etc. I was reading a Newsweek article recently which stated that most classrooms are concerned with getting all kids to a sort of middle-ground-mediocrity (maybe due to No Child Left Behind?). There is a big push for good performance on standardized tests vs. actually acquiring knowledge.

I don't want my children to lose the sense of awe and wonder they have for the world God has created.

Sorry for the ramble. Just some of the things I'm processing through!

Gald you're enjoying your new home!


Meg said...

I agree- that you can fill in the blanks at home- and also- whatever you decide to do CAN be changed later- that is the good news! You can always start down one path and if it isn't working- switch! We are not a "large" family- only 3 kids (for now) but public school works for us at the moment- my oldest is really doing well- we chose a good school with diversity and lots of artsy stuff- my second son begins Kindergarten (all day) next year and he can not wait- the good news is this school welcomes parents and siblings at all of the functions and in the classroom to help as long as the siblings sit at the brother/sister table and the teacher always has age appropriate things for them to do! good luck!

Tracy Regusci said...

I am with all of you on this debate. When Serafina was born I read the Well Trained Mind and loved everything about it. I was sold on homeschooling and the SLO Classical Academy. Then we adopted (at age 4) our now 6yr and had a third baby and the thought of homeschooling seems overwhelming. My son did kindergarten privately this yr and next year will start in the public school system in first grade. Because of his early years we are struggling with speech/ social/and motor development. We believe for now public school is the best answer for us but Matt and I are still not sold on it. I am excited to read the book "going public". Hopefully it will make me more at ease with sending Sam public next year. As always great post and good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

I've been following your blog sporadically for a little while through Owlhaven, and I was excited to see you had moved here to Colorado!! I'm a first time commenter here.

I love, love, love your honesty and transparency in this post. I also love your thinking on Christians in the public school system. I live across town from you (Littleton), and although my kids are a bit older and fewer (only 3) our public school experience has been 95% positive - plus my kids have had chances to share Jesus with friends at school - with great results.

As my friend says, "Sending my kids into a public school isn't nearly as scary as sending my kids into a public raised without Christians in their schools!"

You are clearly seeking the best for your children, so whatever you end up choosing, they are already blessed. God will honor your genuinely seeking heart!


darci said... a homeschooler i get a LOT of criticism from Christians about our family's choice. My advice, my ONLY advice, is pray pray pray. I really asked God to show me clearly what His will for OUR family was, and He very specifically had three things happen within a one week time period that made our decision for us. I still pray, year by year, day by day, that we will follow only His leading. we LOVE homeschooling. my kids are truly best friends. you can email me if you want more 'honesty' than that, but i am very careful to be too opinionated, since i have been on the recieving end of many opinions. :)
God knows exactly the best for your family. just keep asking Him. praying for you. darci

darci said...

oops, i meant i'm careful to NOT be too opinionated, lol. :)

The MSILF said...

Like the first commenter said, even if they go to school, learning at home is crucial and more significant. It's not like you can't send them to school and make sure they learn about Ethiopia and your values and everything else.

Laundry & Children said...

We haven't gone the public school route, but we have done Catholic school and homeschool. We have 4 kids like you and I am loving homeschooling.

My daughter has 2 days left of traditional school and I am counting the days until she is done. She attended for K and 1st grade. Last year she had homework 3 nights a week and this year she had 1 to 2 hours of homework a night. There was not time for family, sports, friends or anything that was not school related, unless we chose to blow off school stuff for something else (which we did so she could play t-ball which she loves). She was exhausted and we were not as well connected as the year before.

I have been homeschooling my son this year and will be homeschooling both my son and daughter next year. I find that it gives me time with them and it actually gives them more time to be with other children. Plus, watching your child read for the very first time is on par with their first words and their first steps. Sooooo exciting.

We are also going to be placing more emphasis on black and African history than is taught in our public or private schools. I feel this is very important for our children since they are adopted transracially. My daughter loves the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. is her hero. I just love that.

Obviously, every family must make their own choices and not everyone will have the same experience we did. However, I just wanted to give you the perspective of someone with a larger than average family who has found the benefits of homeschool so very rewarding and managable.

joy said...

wow-brianna, a lot of great responses to your question. we decided to send eli to sloca next year for a few reasons. firstly, he's on the young side--he makes the cut by 2 weeks. with that in mind, should we continue at sloca, i think that being the "youngest" in the class won't be such an issue (size and ability) because their classes beyond kindergarten are mixed grade. i also think since we'll be working with him at home, we can help fill in the gaps, so to speak. the main reason we decided to send him was because of sloca itself. we love their philosophy of teaching kids to become life-long learners. they use history as a base and all other subjects come from that--there is connection between all the subjects instead of such segmentation found elsewhere. it's a sensitive topic for us because as you know, cade is a public school teacher. we have nothing against public schools and i believe they do the best they can. let's face it, with 12 kids in a class, you can do a lot more than with 18 or 33 (like cade has sometimes.) personally, one of the things i like about sloca is that it isn't a christian school because i do believe we need to teach our kids how to live in this world and how to be salt and light. as much as we love sloca, we may not be able to stick with it for very practical reasons, like money. sending three kids sends my mind spinning! but, the family time and the no homework of homeschooling is a big seller. anyway, public schools don't really frighten me yet, it's just that there was this other option. so, we plan on taking it year-by-year, kid-by-kid. wow, that was long, hopefully not too long.

joy said...

and hi to monica! this is joy from newly marrieds!

Anonymous said...

hi joy! I totally stalk your blog too!

I love the varied responses from everyone.

Homeschooling is a taboo subject in our families. There are a couple of teachers and some sort of judgemental people. So it's nice to hear an honest dialogue!


PS sorry for the anonymous posting. I have an account, but it's not letting me sign in!

Mike and Rachel said...

Hey! Lots of good comments. I heard one mom say that it is best to start them in regular school so that when you pull them out they will appreciate how abreviated their day is. I thought that was really wise. I also think that split is pretty cool where they still attend school 1-2 days a week.

Brianna Heldt said...

Again, I am really loving all of this discussion! I was a little scared when I posted this because I know it is a controversial topic. BUT I am now so glad I did because I'm learning so much from everyone!

It's funny how things work...Monica mentioned that talking about homeschooling is taboo in her family, and yet for me I feel like PUBLIC school is such a taboo topic in so many circles. I feel like if you make the decision to do public then people assume you:
--must not care about your child's education
--are lazy
--aren't following the Bible when it says to train up your child
ALL of which I HIGHLY disagree with!!! :)

I think it is safe to say that if you homeschooled, your child would have the opportunity to learn more, faster. (Like Joy said with a small class size you can do so much more.) Yet there are so many intangibles that are independent of the actual academics that I want my kids to get out of their school years. Then I think about the "big picture" and what am I wanting to impress upon my kids...part of my excitement over our neighborhood school is that not only is it racially diverse, it is also socio-economically diverse. I WANT my kids in relationships with all types of people from all types of backgrounds. When we were choosing a neighborhood/town to live in, that's part of why we chose Denver over a neighboring suburb.

A tough choice to be sure. But so many of you made the fantastic point that you CAN always change what you're doing if it's not working. I think half-day kindergarten at our neighborhood school will be a great place to get our feet wet and see how it goes.

I'm anxious to hear more thoughts if anyone has them! No comment is too long! (See how long mine is????)

Anonymous said...

I don't really know you, but just wanted to say I found your blog and LOVE it! I have 5 children........going on 7 and we have done both. Both have worked great and I feel that either way our children will be fine. We just go on a year by year basis and pray about it and do what "feels" right for that year. You are right, you are not tied in to a choice. You can do whatever works for that "season." Your children will not be scarred if you homeschool or don't homeschool. As long as we as parents are involved, they will be fine. Once again, I love your blog and you have an awesome family. Good luck in whatever you decide!

darci said...

i have to add..i think either/both has merits. the most important thing is being an intentional parent. maybe it's a little harder to have the time with your kids when they are gone most of the day, BUT i also find even with my kids at home, i have to be so intentional in teaching them, leading them, raising them up. the best thing about homeschooling to me is probably just the very close relationships i see between my siblings, my kids b/n me and their daddy, etc. I think you can have that in a public schooled family evidenced by how close my hubby is with his folks and three siblings. :) i agree with previous poster,,it's definitely a year by year thing. you have the right to change mid-year if you want. :)

dawn said...

As a public school teacher--I am very anit-public school for my own children. I feel very strongly that the system is too mired in bureaucracy to function well--to much emphasis on high-stakes testing and not enough on learning.

That said, I wouldn't for a split second consider homeschooling my kids. The reasons for this are personal and in opinion. I truly believe kids learn a lot more in school than just academics and that it is important for them to learn from others.

I am will send my kids to private school as it is the best option--at least in my eyes.

Kelly said...

We have 5 children ages 1-12, homeschooled our oldest in pre-k and K, but have sent them to PS since. I have to say that I think about everything you just said every single day! I have gone back and forth for 7 years! My oldest is entering 7th grade and I would still absolutely LOVE to just pull them all out of PS and homeschool them, but like you said, there are so many wonderful positive things about PS as well (we also have a wonderful PS). My children have directed so many children to Christ through PS we would have never met otherwise. I think about this when I think about pulling them out. They have so many friends - very very GOOD friends who are GOOD kids who display wonderful Christian character through PS. Then when we're rushed after school to make it to soccer, ballet, and church and it's bedtime before I know it, I wish I could just keep them home during the day for more time. It's a tough choice, one I'm still waiting for God to give me peace or direction regarding. GOOD LUCK!

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to beat a "dead horse" here, but I am curious..

As I am pondering my calling as a parent, as it relates to schooling, and the direction that I feel California is taking in the realm of education (financially, socially, politically, etc), I was trying to decide what my "threshold" is.

At what point would I no longer consider public school a sound option for my children because it conflicts/interferes with how I am called to raise them as a parent?

IS there a direction that the government (or whomever) might take that would cause me to not consider public school a viable option? Honestly, there are some schools I wouldn't send my kids to because I don't feel they would be physically safe. But what about mentally, spiritually..

Do I sound totally crazy?! I promise I am not an alarmist- jumping at the chance to totally dismiss, or run from, anything that rubs me the wrong way!

Has anyone else considered this?

Monica (whose still deeply conflicted about how to educate her kids!) ;)

Brianna Heldt said...

Not a dead horse at all! Those are good questions. I'll chime in and say that I think all parents must have different thresholds or lines that would be the final limit.

For me personally, I don't see that line being crossed by the government anytime soon. I know one of the biggies that conservative Christian parents are concerned about is homosexuality being taught as an alternative lifestyle. I think our kids will take their cues from us, if we're doing our job right. If anything I think it's a good opportunity to have an age-appropriate conversation with your child about whatever your views on this are. I see homosexual people out and about all the time, including some on a regular basis. My kids haven't noticed or asked yet or anything, but I'm sure they will, and I will do my best to answer.

Not trying to open a can of worms on that issue, but that's the main thing I think of.

I know not everyone will agree with this, and that's okay. As a follower of Jesus I am attempting to be in and not of the world, and that is maybe most difficult when it comes to parenting.

I don't know where my own line would be. Probably if the schools were teaching hatred towards certain groups of people or something? (Random, I know!) Where is yours do you think?

Anonymous said...

Similar to yours!

There is so much opportunity to do good in the p.s. system! I would have to prayerfully do an asset/liability list, and it would probably depend a lot on the child.

I totally agree about having opportunities to have discussions! Although it would depend how heavily things are pushed. One concern I have is that the laws passed here are so vague that kids that identify (for lack of a better word) with a particular gender would have to be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room of their "identifying" gender (vs. biological gender). Although it may be a stretch (of the law) I don't like the idea that biologically mixed kids are allowed in private areas. Does that sound closed minded? It's not intended to. Rather a concern I have as a parent.

I think the line, for me, depends more on whether I feel there is adequate time for pursuing other interests. I would also like them to have time to study and understand their faith. I don't want them to catagorize Christianity as somehting done on Sunday, or after homework, or when they have a spare moment. That can be hard to do if they are in class from 8-3 and then have several hours of homework. Bascially, I don't want them to have the impression that faith is an extra-curricular activity.

Sorry for the long, rambling thoughts.

It is important to me that my kids learn to be in, but not of the world. As their mommy, I just want to make sure that the world isn't having more of an influence on them than they are having within their own "world."

Brianna Heldt said...

i am SO WITH you on the whole "time to pursue other things." that is one of my biggest reasons for wanting to homeschool. the typical school day is a long day for anyone, much less a young child. and homework..seriously that is a huge factor for us too.

here in colorado things are GENERALLY better in that the budget is typically not stretched as much. for example our neighborhood elementary school has a full-time art teacher, they do music, etc. i know that in california, sadly, a lot of that has been cut. we have the no child left behind act to thank for a lot of it.

i agree that the bathroom situation is strange...though i wonder how many young kids are going to do that? i'd like to know more about that law. it was in the denver post recently because dobson was speaking out against it.

definitely you don't want your kid influenced in more negative ways than good. for me i worry much more about how my child might be influenced/treated by peers, than what the school is handing down. when does kyle start kindergarten??? anna would start in the fall of '09, so would he be fall of '10???

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to know that there are other mommies struggleing with the same things!

Kyle would start in '10. He is a January b-day, so he'll be an older kid.

That's so awesome that there is a full-time art teacher. I think it's those sorts of things that keep kids interested in school.

I tried reading through the text of the law, which is long and boring. It is pretty vague- which to me means that there is a lot of room for interpretation. It's intended to promote tolerance, but it has the potential to be taken to extremes, IMO.

I know that sometimes it's easy to get all riled up. But, it's important to me to not jump to conclusions too quickly with out reading things for myself (maybe it's my more cynical side). ;) I tend to be wary of Christian political organizations. Sometimes they can give the wrong impressions by forgetting to speak the truth in love (not that they are bad per-se, just not my thing)

Thanks for discussing with me! Who knew parenthood could be so complicated?!

Sorry again for the novel!


Beth said...

Ok, I'm a long time blog stalker who's coming at the issue from the opposite side (so thanks for the book ideas, I'll be checking the library).

I've always said P.S. is for us. We based housing decisions on it ect. Mainly because (very bluntly) my oldest is not the worlds easiest child to parent. And secondarily because I belive he has some learing issues school therapies "should" address.

Now after 1st grade we are seriously considering homeschooling him next year (my other one will still go to K - as I LOVE the teacher he will probably get). It was a hard year of 45 min a night homework leaving us feeling over schedualed with Tae Kwon Do classes and church chior as his only activities. Plus a teacher who doesn't understand communication, and him "testing" normal on all the screenings, but loseing ground in reading and math. Oh not to mention the kid that LOVED school started fighting me about going around the middle of the year.

All the "experts" told me his learning and way of relating to the world are diffrent, but they don't know why, and can't do anything about it because he's "normal" (duh, I could have told the that lol) His speech therapist (who I also loved) gave him 3 diffrent test to try to get him to score below normal as it's obvious he needs something, but he didn't so he won't even recieve that next year. Which to me means he won't get more then I can do, and I at least understand him a little better then at least this years teacher did.

We are giving next year 2 months with a new teacher and if it's not drastically better we feel we will need to pull him and homeschool.

Also we are planning to adopt an older child (hopefully soon, our homestudy took forever, and everything else seems to be going slow as well)and I feel the need to play it by ear as to if the child we adopt wil need to be homeschooled for a while....and it might be easier if I have a practice round with a difficult child that I have somewhat figured out ;-)


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