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Monday, May 20, 2013

Why We Aren't Homeschooling

Before I start... this is NOT a slam on homeschooling! Not at all! Some families I love and respect have chosen to homeschool. It is a good fit for some families. I firmly believe there is not just one right way to raise children!

But I've been in a lot of conversations lately about homeschooling vs. private schooling vs. public schooling. Sadly, some folks seem to imply that those who don't choose to homeschool must not be very good Christians and those who don't choose private school only do so because they can't afford it. Actually, I've been in quite a few of those conversations about those things over the past several years. sigh.

We are a proud public school family. And here's why it works for us:

1. I want my kids to encounter children from all walks of life. I want them to sit in classrooms next to children with single parents, two mommies/daddies, foster children, and those who have a mom and a dad at home. I want them to share paintbrushes in art class with kids who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and kids who are Christian.  I want them to pass the basketball in PE to kids who look just like them and kids who look completely different from them.  I want them to see difference and know the beauty of it. I want them to see the value in ALL of those kids. Jesus shows us very clearly that there is no specific group of folks that he loves most. For me, there is less value in keeping my children in an environment where everyone looks like us, thinks like us, and believes like us when they could have the rich experience of difference.

2. I value the potential for conflict that comes from #1! Education, to me, is a lot more than what the teachers teach. My kids will learn from their peers, from their friends' parents. I hope they will come home with some struggles, some conflicts that they've encountered from being around people who aren't just like us. Working through those moments, learning to celebrate the value in others, seeing the beauty God has placed in each family - that's what I love about my kids' school experience. Does sending them to public school mean they may come home questioning what we've taught them? Probably. I welcome that. Their questioning can lead to some wonderful conversations at home.

3. Although I think education is more than just academics, I certainly don't know how to teach! For me, it is important that my kids' teachers have an education in teaching. I'm a social worker. Their dad is a pastor. We don't know how to teach. I do not consider myself qualified to teach them fourth grade math (um, actually, I'm quite certain I can no longer do fourth grade math!) or second grade social studies and, right now, I'm not motivated to learn to be their teacher when I see some great ones in our schools!

4. Our parenting style doesn't include sheltering our children. Some families don't want their kids to know about the tough stuff out there in the world. I understand that and I respect that. I feel the opposite. I want my children to know there are kids who can't afford new shoes, who don't have loving families, kids who are struggling. I want them to have a chance to befriend those children. I know my kids can be the best example of Jesus to others by loving those around them. I want them to learn early how to love those who need it.

5. I want the chance to meet people who are different, too! I love meeting the parents of my kids' school-friends. I've developed a few very sweet friendships this year with parents of kids in Riley's class. Some of those moms are a lot like me, some aren't. I really find joy in connecting with people who are different (and finding the ways we are the same) and in the chance to be a blessing to those who cross my path. At least I hope to be!

6. I believe the best place for kids to learn to love Jesus is right at home. I'm very comfortable with my children's school teachers not having much of a role in their religion. We try our best to show our kids what a life filled with the love of Jesus looks like. I pray they fall in love with him on their own, not because I haven't given them any other choices. For our family, the best teachers of those kinds of things are me and my husband. I think too often parents turn to other places for that - they rely wholly on church or on a Christian school. Those supports can be wonderful! But in the end, we are responsible for teaching our kids about God.

We go to a charter school (which is public school but run separately from our county schools). I have to admit I still struggle with the fact that we chose it over our county school. It is not as diverse racially as I would like, but it is wonderfully diverse in a lot of other ways.

Why do I struggle with having chosen a charter school? Because I fear if all the stable families leave our county public schools, where does that leave the kids who come from really hard places? While our charter school is public, it is still a step removed from the regular public school so part of me feels a little guilty for having chosen it, honestly. I am not 100% sure how long we'll stay there, although for now, I think it's where we're supposed to be.

And at the end of the day, I applaud all families who make a heartfelt choice regarding their kids' education. We all have valid reasons for why we choose the path for our children. I'd rather spend my time enjoying my choices and validating yours than comparing and judging.

4 comments:

  1. "For me, there is less value in keeping my children in an environment where everyone looks like us, thinks like us, and believes like us when they could have the rich experience of difference."
    I LOVE that!!! As always, great post!

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  2. Kirstin, you have a depth of understanding for the need in our society that prompted public schools to come into existence. Public education is the foundation of our democracy because of those reasons you describe. That being said, I think there are going to be many changes in the future based on our leaps in technology and by the exodus of families who are choosing alternate situations.
    Our decision to homeschool was so tough. I cried myself to sleep the night before we pulled our first grader out. I cried because I had an awesome education in my public school and loved what it built inside of me. But I watched my son falling down every day, farther and farther below what I knew he was capable of achieving. He needed so much more support than what was going to be available in the system. That leap of faith came about from Elliot's particular educational needs than from any attempting to shelter him. He loves people and engages with everyone, wherever we go! He was popular in school and WELL loved. Maybe one day, he will want to go back, and we will celebrate it! For now, we just keep reaching out in our community and the learning just arrives, like an abundant banquet.

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  3. Great post! Population diversity is a seriously underrated asset in this country. I feel like a lot of worldly problems would cease to exist if people just took the time to "know their neighbors". Are the public schools in your area really that much more diverse then the private schools? In my part of the "South" all of the children enrolled in public school are either black or white and all of them are American (The public schools are pretty racially and ethically homogenous). Calling it bland would be an understatement.

    However most of the private schools are a hot-bed of ethnic, cultural,and religious diversity. I don't know why that is, but it could be because most of the professional jobs where I am are the only source of diversity and it cost money to send your kids to private school. I guess if you have ethnically diverse money makers, then whatever they do will be ethically diverse too, assuming people stick together according socioeconomic status and not culture/religion/race.

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  4. Kirstin! I LOVE this post! It's exactly how my husband and I feel about sending Berkley to public school (next year) with confidence. I'm glad to have stumbled upon your blog, and thankful you are sharing your heart.
    -Courtney

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