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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Seeking an Education

During a birthday party last week, I sat with three other moms and we started discussing different options for our children’s education. Between us we have six 4-year-old boys. (One mom has triplets, which just sounds like a ton of crazy fun to me). The boys all go to preschool together and we were discussing our plans, concerns and options for what comes next.

The considerations are endless, and the questions are endless, and the fact that my stomach is starting to hurt over all of this is endless. I’m trying to solidify in my mind what will work best for our son, what our goals will be, what’s important to us as a family and what type of educational environment will be best-suited to helping him explore and deepen his potential. If I can’t define the destination, I certainly can’t plan a route. My preliminary ideas don’t fit into the tightly-woven structure of a public school environment.

I went to public schools. It simply wasn’t a choice for my family, and since my mom was only 21 when I started kindergarten, I doubt she was plagued with as many questions as my 36-year-old brain is asking. I keep finding that the older I get, the more I find to contemplate and the more I question. It seems to be symptomatic of this aging thing I find myself enduring. Quite frankly — all this questioning is a bitch.

Maybe because I attended public school, the idea of sending my son to one scares the hell out of me. I see traditional academics as stifling. Public schools are ill-equipped and under funded. The structure and curriculum is based on a lower common denominator than I think I’m willing to embrace. I’m fully aware of how much I missed, but I’m not sure a private school is going to provide what we’re looking for either. We’ve gone both public and private routes with my stepchildren who are now adults, and my reviews are mixed.

I question many of the academic and teaching philosophies of private schools that are replicas with a twist of the public school environment. PLUS, we live in the South, for God’s sake, which means the majority of private schools here have a religious doctrine to ingrain. Since we’re really a non-denominational, spiritually-mixed group of heathens, not only are our choices for private school limited, but we’d like to take our time breaking the news to our son that everyone in our family is surely going to Hell. Add the economic-doom-and-gloom, and private school may end up being an out-of-reach stretch.

If we say no to public school and we’re unsure about private school, that seems to leave home school, which I’m just really not all that excited about. I know there are lots and lots and lots of families out there embracing home schooling and having great success, and although I won’t rule it out just yet, I don’t think it’s an option for our family for a variety of reasons.

While discussing some of the above with the other moms, one mother turned and said, “You know … I don’t feel like I’m old enough or mature enough to be making these decisions.” We all laughed and reminisced about a time when diaper changes and sleeping schedules were enough to occupy most of our parenting worry allotment, and we collectively wondered how the time had elapsed so quickly from then till now.

I believe my number one priority must be my child’s education. It’s more important than anything else I’ll ever undertake; and I’ll willingly sacrifice to provide, but how do you chart an educational destination? What does it mean to get a good education and how do you define it? There are several things that are top-of-mind like opportunities for cultural exploration, the Arts, travel, foreign language requirements, community involvement, ethics, critical thinking, strong college prep courses for math, science, literature and language arts, etc. Most important to us is a child-centered learning environment, but I find myself in unfamiliar territory and unsure of which way to turn.

What does the concept of providing or attaining a good education mean to your family? If you have insights that may help my stomach stop churning, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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16 comments to Seeking an Education

  • Jan

    Neither Beloved nor I are advocates of public education, but all of our children attend or have attended public schools – mine because I simply could not afford anything else. His reasons are a little more complicated, but if I go into them here we’ll be here until the next school year starts and who wants THAT.

    At any rate, we believe that no matter what goes on at school, the children get their most important education at home. We ask them about what they learn or are studying every day and we discuss it. We have a vast collection of books on a myriad of subjects and have no qualms about dragging them out and encouraging the children to read them. Between the two of us we have extremely eclectic tastes in music, art, literature and film and they listen to us talk about it all, whether we agree or not, and they know they are always welcome to join the conversation, so they often do. They watch the news with us and we discuss current events. If they have questions to which we have no answers, we research the subject and have more discussions. More than anything, we always express our heartfelt beliefs that as individuals, we are responsible for our own education – school is just a starting point – and that we never, ever stop learning.

    You don’t have to *be* home all day with your kids to home school.

    Oh, as far as being hellbound – I’m right there with you in the handbasket, my friend.

    Jans last blog post..Butter Fried Potatoes

  • I got my love of reading from my Dad. He once read the entire ‘Wizard of Oz’ series to my me, my brother and sister when we were little. I’ll always remember that. I started reading early, and never stopped.

    The best education I got, however, was at the piano. I studied classical piano since I was nine years old, and learned more at the piano than I ever learned in school. Having that kind of outlet and training is crucial in any child’s development. I try to find my kids’ talents and find ways to help them develop them.

    I’m with Jan – that kind of development isn’t going to come from a public school. And, going to Hell too – see you there!

    goodfathers last blog post..Boo!

  • Thank you, Jan for saving me all this typing. You expressed pretty much what I was going to say.

    My kids went to public schools which were satisfactory to me. I planted myself in the school as an active volunteer which allowed me insight. I naturally made friends with many of the teachers and principals. This was a big plus when it came to being taken seriously as an involved parent. I could help direct my kids to the teachers that I believed were right for them and feedback was ongoing.

    As Jan said.. their best education is at home. Having said that, I’m not an advocate of homeschooling. I believe kids learn a lot more in a good social environment. Early life lessons are not all academic. And home time offers balance, morals, religion (if you choose) and all the little cultural extras that might not be available elsewhere.

    Whatever you decide, I have little doubt that it be right for you and your child.

    Hilarys last blog post..Gimme That Thing

  • Amy

    As a homeschooling family I think that education comes from home … I feel that children need to learn how to find answers for themselves, not spit out what someone else has told them. I believe that a home school environment allows for different levels of education depending on the child’s needs and interests.

    As for socialization … there are so many opportunities for home school children, and as you are not tied to the daily schedule of the public/private school, you have more choices in my mind. Besides the public school I attended did not teach me anything about socialization, if anything it was a brutal playing field where I had to try to fit in. These kinds of pressures are so difficult at this age … we expect children to figure out who they want to be, what they want to be, fit in with a social group and all that ’stuff’ at such a young age, when they are still just developing. I think it is too much! As a home school family my children attend playgroups and have a few very close friends that work for them.

    Tricia: you are so such a wonderful mom, exploring all your options. The good news is that there is a little time and a little flexibility … what might work this year may not work next year and you have the options to change. Just as long as you do not close you mind to all the options!

    See you in hell!

    Amys last blog post..IT ITCHES – A Poison Ivy Story!!!

  • Tricia

    Jan: you said so many things that I agree with, well actually, I agree with everything you said and I hope we’ll be able to do as good of a job creating a learning environment as you and Beloved are. My husband and I share so many differences…culture, language, generations, interests and I hope we can use those different experiences to create an environment that encourages exploration and life long learning. Oh, and since we’re both headed down under, please don’t forget the chardonnay. We may get thirsty.

    Goodfather: My husband is a musician and played guitar professionally when he was a teenager and into his early 20s. He no longer plays except for the family, but music is his refuge and last year we bought a piano (which he also plays) so that we would have another instrument in the house to expose our son to, who I hope will start lessons in a couple of years. You’ll find a very vast collection of music at Chez Sanders and my son goes around humming classical renditions as well as Rock. I think the Arts are so important for all the reasons you do, and I hope we’ll surround Aaron with all forms of it. And, it sounds like I’m going to have some good company in Hell. If you think of it, please bring a stash of chocolate.

    Hilary: Parent involvement, in my mind, is critical whatever the educational system and I so appreciate parents who are as dedicated as you obviously have been. I also agree that their best foundation comes from home. It sounds like so, so much work, but it’s probably the most important work we’ll ever do.

    Amy: Thanks for your vote of confidence. It’s humbling. I respect and admire families who are making homeschooling work and whose children are thriving as a result, but for a variety of reasons, I’m not convinced it would be a good fit for our family. Funny enough though, you would have fallen on the floor to hear my husband bring this up as a possibility the other day. I’m so glad you’re joining me in Hell. I’ve already requested Jan bring the wine and Goodfather to bring chocolate…so do you mind to pick up some coffee on your way down :o )

  • yeah, I went to public schools myself but taught in two different private schools—–if a person can do it, send your kids to a good private school!

    garys last blog post..Me and MY LADYFRIENDS Emily and Ellie, ooo lala!

  • we’re lucky to live in a time that we have so very many options. even among homeschoolers there are HUGE differences in the way things are done. one option you might look into is hybrid schooling, where you school under the umbrella of a public or private school that he would attend a couple days a week and homeschool the other days. this would give you an idea of what will work best for you. if you look into homeschool co-ops in your area you may be surprised at the huge array of activities and classes available. heck, my kids are learning bagpipes, and are planning to take a class in architectural modeling! we even have a full-time band director just for homeschoolers in our area.

    memarie lanes last blog post..Dear People in Charge of Distributing our 700Bil…

  • I’m sure I’m just here to confuse the subject further, but I feel your angst and many of us have been there.

    I doubt there is one perfect solution for everyone and there are certainly pros and cons to each.

    From the moment I knew I was pregnant, oh, some 11 years ago, I thought I would homeschool. I dreamed about learning together and stretching my kids further than where my public school took me, academically.

    But my daughter really didn’t seem to take to my direction. Better put: I can say something 10x but another trusted adult’s word is believed instantly. I think it has to do with the mother/daughter thing and I worried that our relationship would deteriorate with friction, day in and out.

    Now my son would readily take to homeschooling with me, but he is Mr. Social I LOVE SCHOOL boy, counting the days until he goes again. He loves the structure.

    If we could find a school that was less dogmatic in their religious leanings or could afford Waldorf, I would have probably chosen that route.

    Which leads me to where we are today. My kids attend public school (2nd, 5th grade) and overall, the experience has been good. I don’t agree with the testing system here in WA state, and they get virtually no time to eat, but they have had amazing teachers.

    We are trying to move and with that comes stress over a new school and making the right choice again. I try to remember I can – though it would not be ideal – choose again if I need too. What works now, may not someday.

    (Whew. Chatty much?)

    You’ll find your way.

    Lisa Miltons last blog post..hark! it’s the Great Pumpkin Patch

  • Tricia

    Gary: come baaaaccckkkk. You forgot the most important part…the WHY

    Marie: You’re right. We are lucky to live in a time with so many choices. Your suggestion of a hybrid has my attention and sounds really compelling. I have a friend who’s mentioned homeschooling coops several times. I’m definitely going to look into the hybrid model and see what I can learn. Great suggestions.

    Lisa: Thank you so much for sharing some of your experience. I’m starting to see with my son some of what you experienced with your daughter…the whole idea that mom and dad are idiots but every other adult is apparently a genius. I’ve also heard great things about Waldorf. We’re currently in a Montessori preschool part time, and we love it. I also have an issue with standardized testing (my husband strongly agrees with testing), but we really need to learn more. I wish you all the best as you work through a move and the new educational choices. I hope you’ll share your insights along the way.

  • OK. I have visited one or two of the best public schools on earth, and every kid should go to a school like that: clean, safe, small classes, intelligent teachers who love the kids. (Have I ever mentioned I worked as a graduate education researcher and also as a special ed and reading teacher for ten years?).
    BUT, I have visited many more schools where the lunatics run the asylum and the teachers are truly struggling. The smartest move on to other careers. The schools are dirty, the student body is unsafe, does anybody have a chance to learn?
    SO, if you live in a very good school district, you’re all set. Otherwise, a private school should have small classes, well cared for students AND teachers and facilities, and kids who are dangerous or troublesome are kicked out! Yes, you are listening to a former teacher: if a kid’s behavior is disruptive or dangerous or disrespectful, as a teacher, I want them kicked out so the rest can learn.
    I retired at the top of my game when I was 31–I wanted to have done a good job and left before I burned out.

    garys last blog post..Me and MY LADYFRIENDS Emily and Ellie, ooo lala!

  • Amy

    This little video was posted on a homeschool group today so I thought I would share it … I found it interesting!

    Do schools today kill creativity? (Ken Robinson, TEDTalks)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

    And let me say that my children also will believe what other adults say over me most of the time and this is a HUGE reason that I continue to homeschool. They need to learn to find answers, so I make them prove it to me or prove me wrong. Once they start looking up answers themselves they realize that there is so much more to learn and start to listen more, even to parents. Honestly, I do not want them to blindly believe what every other adult tells them … this is what causes so many problems in education and society!

    Again, just some of my thoughts! I have really enjoyed reading all the comments here!

    Oh and one more thing … I think making the decision to homeschool is hard because we think we need to know it all or need to follow the models that we were taught by … and we frequently have to defend ourselves to the general public BUT I believe that I can provide the resources my children need to learn, maybe not all from me and maybe I am learning with them BUT I can at least find the resources (I know I can do that and I am willing, probably more willing than most public school teachers have time for).

    Amys last blog post..IT ITCHES – A Poison Ivy Story!!!

  • We purchased our current home primarily based on what school district its in, because if we can avoid paying for private, we’d definitely prefer that. If we didn’t have kids, however, we’d probably live in a more in-town neighborhood where the schools aren’t great. So, unless there are future issues (i.e. one of our kids isn’t performing well or the fit isn’t working) we’ll be doing public.

    I attended both good and bad public and private schools growing up so I don’t have too many issues with public if they’re good, but wouldn’t hesitate to pay for private if the situation called for it.

    thatcoolbroads last blog post..Saving Seats: So Uncool

  • I would go insane trying to homeschool. Maybe I’m too selfish. Our public school system sucks except that the elementary school where my girls are going is rockin’. So come 6th grade, may need to look in to school choice elsewhere or private. Araugh. I hate that I have to worry about it.

    stepping over the junks last blog post..Wonderbra…oh not so wonderful

  • We’re lucky to live in an area that has really great public schools. I grew up in a tiny, one-school town and I discovered when I went to college that my education was lacking in many ways. I was so bored in school, that just killed me. Our school system here has gifted programs, which I love. I am not sure if either of my children are going to qualify as “gifted” – at this point I’m just trying to keep Logan’s pants on when he’s playing in the back yard! But I would have loved a bigger challenge than what was brought to me by my teachers, so I love that we have that in our school system. So we are going public here and I’m excited about it!

    HeatherPrides last blog post..Footsteps

  • I am completely useless here for you, so instead I will tell a nonsequitor joke.

    Two guys walk into a bar. Which is really stupid cuz you figure if the first guy smacked into it, the second guy would have seen him.

    Thanks, you’ve been a great audience. I’ll be here all week and don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

    Margaret (Nanny Goats)s last blog post..How to Attain the Elusive: Blog About It

  • Hmmm…what an interesting post!! Well, back home, we don’t have homeschooling. It’s either public or private. And yes, it seems like it’s the same in the States. The only thing lacking is the general way education is structured back home. It’s really unfair and sad cuz it left a lot of other races, like us Eurasians, out of the whole education system and most of us have had to further our education in another country. Hmmm.. I’m digressing here.

    Ok, I have no assvice and no thoughts cuz I’m not there yet. But I do know when I do get there, I’ll know who to call – YOU.!:)

    Brandygirls last blog post..Boobie Jokes Gone Wrong!

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