Monday, March 24, 2008
WHY ARE OUR KIDS IN THE
SCHOOL SETTING THEY'RE IN?
Why do we choose to place our children in the school of our choice (those of us who have the privilege to choose)? Is it because we love public school and all that it offers, you know, more diversity (it's hard for me not to smile if not laugh out loud just imagining the look on some of the faces right now, that are reading this:)), usually more competitive sports, in most cases a wider variety of subjects offered (mainly in high school), all of the planned and unplanned activities, and the "freedom" with some things that the "strict" Christian or private schools frown upon? Do we like private schools (not Christian per se; there can be a big difference between the two) because, we can afford them, we can pay for our kids to be away from the "non well-bred," we can pay for a better environment for our kids, we can insulate them (and sometimes isolate them), we can protect them, it offers higher educational standards, the curriculum is better, the kids are nicer (I'm having to stop typing to laugh out loud now), etc.? Do we put them in Christian schools because they're getting a Christian education versus a "heathen" education, they're in a Christian environment most of the hours they're away from us ("just like home," right?), the kids AND the teachers are nicer in this case (because they're all Christian, right?), and we would surely be isolating (oops insulating may sound nicer) them from the "worldly" kids wouldn't we? Do we homeschool for the same reasons we send them to Christian school, or because we can't afford Christian or private school and this is the alternative? Or is it (I know you're not supposed to start a sentence with 'or') because we're in control of what goes on in our kids' lives (for the most part), and we believe in educating our own kids and/or providing them with a Biblical worldview? Are we homeschooling because our children are the problem in "regular" (that's public) school or they, for special reasons, can't function in a "normal" school environment? Why do we do what we do? Do we know, and did we make educated and conscious decisions about our children's education, or is this just the way it SHOULD be, or "did everybody in my family do it this way?" Is our decision based on what's expected of us based on someone else's expectations, or did we "buck the system" and do the total opposite of what was expected because we didn't want to do what was expected?
I ask these questions because I've heard (from others) ALL of the reasons, excuses, etc. listed above. Some of them are currently my own beliefs and some have been my beliefs, at least in part (like my parents have always said, "When you learn better, you do better--or you should). I'd like for us to think about the questions posed and answer them within ourselves honestly. Are we sure and confident in our decisions and are they good decisions ("sure they're good decisions; they're MINE--for MY kid/kids!")? What are we basing that confidence and goodness on? In whom do we trust for those decisions, or are they really OUR OWN decisions? Are we deciding based on the individual child and their needs, or there is no question or decision to make, they're definitely going where we say they go regardless?
Let me let you in on my world. BTW, I pose these questions not only because I've heard all of the reasons and excuses before, but because I ask things that I know sometimes people won't or perhaps just simply haven't put much thought into at all. Educating our children the way we do, for the right reasons though, is vitally important. Knowing why we do what we do and being able to wrap our fingers of assurance around that will not only please God (whom these children really belong to), but will bring us off our knees with the confidence every parent needs to move forward. Back to my world--I now have one child who is being educated in his aunt's home by homebound tutors, one in public school, and two being homeschooled in my home. I have 10 1/2 years of homeschool experience, although not 10 1/2 years straight. I have experience with my children going to public schools, and I've paid for Christian school for several years. I have a son who went back and forth between public, Christian, and homeschool all of his school career but was mostly homeschooled or placed in private. My other son was in public school every year until middle school came around, he skipped those years in public and went private (it was a Christian school) and was homeschooled 1 of those years. One of my daughters had gone to public school all of her elementary school career (except for 5th grade) and experienced Christian school for the first time in her life year last year. The youngest daughter has never seen the inside of a public school except when visiting one of her friends for their school play. She has always been homeschooled or gone to Christian school. What did I tell you all of this stuff for? Apparently we've experienced quite a few 'different' school environments with our kids, but how did we get to those decisions? Why so many changes? Trust me, it would have been nice had we had kids that could fit in some neat little category where we could always put them in the same kind of school until they grew out of it. With our many different needs and personalities, along with budget-conscious decisions, prayer, digging for information at each school venue, seeing and hearing things we liked, hearing and seeing things we didn't like, we had to not only stay flexible, but we had to make decisions literally year to year, and twice had to change our decisions in mid year. That was tough, but necessary.
I tell and ask you all of this because I'm afraid, in all honesty (which is always good, but sometimes will hurt, or at least cause us to pause and think), that we may not be putting the best decision-making tools in place when it comes to WHY we educate our kids the way we do. Now, of course, some of you have this done right and have had it right for your particular needs and children. We need your prayers and advice. I have sometimes gotten the decisions right for the kids' education (maybe mostly), and sometimes I have not, evidenced by the consequences we all suffered by making the wrong decision (and you'd be surprised to know that it wasn't necessarily the "public school" years that did it either). Putting our kids in the "wrong" (even if we want it to be right, because it's right for US) education setting can be hazardous to our kids' mental, emotional, and academic health. Know why your kid is in public, private, or home school. Know with confidence if this is what's right for them or not. I've had to pray over one particular choice later, that I had mistakenly not prayed over beforehand. I put one of my children in a school that all of my other ones were going to (because it was convenient for the first time in their school careers--finally!!), and it was not right for him. It wasn't a good fit. No matter how hard he and I tried to make it fit (after all, it was just going to be for one little year), it didn't. We both suffered the consequences. How does it feel as a parent to know you made a wrong choice for your kid, well at least one that you could have avoided had you paid closer attention to the matter beforehand? We'll all make them inevitably, I know, but the goals are to try and make them as less as possible, and to have the tools to making them as less as possible.
I have found no better way to make eduation decisions than to pray literally every year, BEFORE school starts, all summer long even, before we sign the next contract, etc. It's so easy to just blindly do that (sign the contract or fill out the paperwork). It is possible though, and such a blessing to be able to keep them (one or however many children you have) at the same school, year after year, until they grow out of it and into another. It's also a blessing when you have children that can go to any kind of school, leaving you with not much thought to have to put into it. Is this the norm though? Can it sometimes be the case of convenience or inconvenience? I know it was really really really tough on us (sometimes just me alone) to have so many different needs (when we looked closely) and have to cater to each one. Although I love homeschooling, I'm not trying to promote homeschool when I say this or insinuate that it is the best choice for all children (because I know for a fact it's NOT), but it has allowed me the most freedom, flexibility, and enabled me to individualize the most. This option MIGHT work out for a lot of us who have children that we're not quite sure what to do with. Other ways to investigate your children's education needs is to ask around, and don't just ask people who are going to agree with you or do what you do for the same reasons you do, if you have a reason at all. You'd be surprised at some of the various answers (pros and cons) you might find.
I also check into everything going on. How will the environment impact my children, will my children leave an impact on their school environment (among the children and are they equipped to do that), what are my child's strengths and weaknesses, how will their environment affect me, etc.? What can I find that I like about public school and what they offer (if anything), do I know the difference between Christian and private school, am I getting my money's worth from paying for their education, whether I pay for a homeschool curriculum and supplies or private/Christian? What are my real feelings about Christian, private, and public school, and are they legitimate? Are they based on hard evidence or the news media, newspaper, statistics, the children I see in public on a particular day and how they seem "to be?" What success stories have I seen come from each venue? ARE their any success stories? Are there any drawbacks to what I'm doing currently? What changes can I make? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that my child gets the best education possible anyway (that's a whole other post on a whole other day for sure!!)?
I know this post is long, but definitely worth reading. I've heard it all you guys, and I've wondered how some of us came to the conclusions we have. I've wondered if, while we're downing or wondering about others' decisions, have we put that much thought into our own. I heard a lady just the other day say that no thought whatsoever was put into the decision of where or how she would educate her children. They just simply weren't going to ever step foot off into a public school. I started to ask why, giving her the benefit of the doubt, because she may have had really good, solid reasons (or maybe not "good" reasons, but at least A REASON). I mean a good discussion can only come from people talking about why they did something based on some reasoning right? I didn't have to ask this lady after all, because she finally gave her reason and it was, "They're just not going because we think there is no other school option for our kids but private. We don't have another reason. We don't need another one. We can afford private." I just blankly stared in disbelief. I couldn't speak. My husband and I, if we both worked again, could also afford private school for all of ours. We can (if I budgeted really tightly) afford private school for a couple of them now without me working. Should I blindly send them to private then, because we can afford it? Why would I do that? What would I be proving and to whom? You guys, I can see doing what you need to do, but I can't see doing something "just because" when it comes to important things like my children's education. Another mom told me that the reasons she doesn't homeschool are because she couldn't stand her children being at home all day and she needs daily "me" time. If those are her only reasons, maybe her children don't need to be home all day with her, for their own sanity and safety.
I pray that we all find a good method and tools to good or solid reasoning behind doing what we do. What you do for yours should be what's right for you, and not be based on my or anyone else's opinions and decisions. Your children, the ones on topic here, and their needs should be the determining factor, and of course, what you can or cannot afford, if that even comes into play for your situation. It may have nothing to do with money at all. There are so many options and our kids and their needs are so diverse. I always speak and/or write with honesty and probing questions because usually I've made mistakes with mine and I don't want to see someone else do the same (you don't have to; just wait on people like me to mess up and be transparent about it:)), and I care about our kids. I care about why we do what we do and what that's based on. I guess I'm interested in where our thoughts are coming from sometimes. It could be that at some point in time, I've thought things that I would never think again (about my children's education and otherwise), but I know that if I thought them, someone else did or does too. We're here to help each other, ask the tough questions, hold each other accountable, and in the end, make the Lord pleased with our decisions. If you're reading this and are not saved, or are not sure that you are, you can still use or do some of the things mentioned herein. I want you in particular to know though, that you can only wrap your fingers of assurance around a decision if it came from the Lord. And you CAN know that it did. There is no greater confidence; it's better than wondering if you alone did it right or are simply left with taking a CHANCE.
If you read this post to the end, thank you for hanging in there (you deserve a reward--how about a Mommy or Woman's devotional from LifeWay--comment at the bottom if you made it to this point). I didn't know, starting off, that it would be so long. I hope and pray that you were able to look inward and then look out, either knowing you're doing just fine with your choices, or you're going to start scratching deeper than the surface, praying, asking, looking, and then making the right decision for EACH one of your children's educational needs.
Have a more than marvelous Monday, mommies and mentors!!