I had a conversation with my sister-in-law today that sparked this post. She's pregnant with her seventh child, and I couldn't be happier...partly because I love big families, and also because she and my brother produce amazing children. The world needs more little Kopps running around.
So today we were discussing schooling options. Lori and my brother have chosen to send some of their kids to school, and they homeschool the others. They make their decisions based on each child's needs, and also how they feel their school is doing when it comes to educating each child. Their oldest child achieved a perfect score on the math section of his SATs and was accepted into the Air Force Academy this year...he is brilliant. They have a host of children coming up in the ranks who are equally brilliant, and they want them to remain so. Thus their decision to homeschool.
Because contrary to the belief of some, homeschooling is many times a better choice than public schooling. And I say that with a profound respect for teachers- my mom was a teacher for many, many years, and I have dozens of friends who have chosen that noble profession. But the sad fact is, not every teacher is a great teacher, and even when some are, not every school is a wonderful place to teach.
We have done everything when it comes to schooling our kids. We've had them in public school, we've homeschooled, we've done public school online, and we've gone the private school route. This has all been done in an effort to find the best fit for our family. Honestly, I did not want to homeschool my kids. The reasons against it are endless.
I'm not a naturally organized person.
I like having my time to myself.
I don't feel qualified.
I have a lot on my plate already.
It takes so much work.
I love a quiet house.
I enjoy school Christmas programs and field trips and parent nights.
I loved school myself. LOVED it.
Having said that, we faced so many disappointments and problems in the public school system where we live, and private school became so expensive the more children we had, that homeschooling became our only option.
I'm going to give you a little glimpse into that last year of public school that sealed the deal for me...because I hope to make some people investigate what is going on in their children's schools. Perhaps you're one of the lucky ones who have an awesome school and some equally awesome teachers. I know they're out there. I really do. We had those in the town we lived in before we moved here, and I couldn't have been more delighted.... and then we moved here.
Side note : I don't want to disparage all the schools in my town, and I am willing to admit that I may have a bad taste in my mouth because of the particular grade school my children attended. So if you live here, please know that I don't think you're a terrible parent if you send your kids to public school. This was just my experience.
My oldest son was in fourth grade when we moved here, and we had him go to one month of school to meet new friends before the next school year began. He was always well liked, and he fit right in immediately. The problems began the next year, in fifth grade.
We spent the good part of that year staying up late talking to Jason and praying with him, because he could not get images out of his mind, or conversations he had with other boys at school. Every day he came home telling us about things that were told to him that he could not stop thinking about. He was 10 years old and still sleeping with a teddy bear, and yet the kids at his school were constantly talking about one thing : sex.
For instance, there was a boy at school who was being raised by his single mother. I'm not sure where the teacher was - and neither was Jason - but this little boy took advantage of his absence in the classroom by unzipping his pants and opening and closing his book on his private parts. And calling to Jason to look at him, while he laughed. I often wondered how different that little boy would have been if he had a father figure in his life, but that's a whole different topic. *Edited to add: this sentence apparently hurt some single moms. When I wrote it I was thinking about his deadbeat dad...and the fact that this little boy often told my son how he wished his dad came to his baseball games like Jason's dad did. What was written as a statement about dads who miss their chance to impact their kids' lives for good was taken by some as a slam against single moms. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding :(
Another boy pulled up pornography on the class computer, and Jason walked by while he was looking at it. When I asked the teacher how this could possibly happen, he assured me it couldn't - the school computers had filters on them, and you couldn't even get to a website that had the word sex on it. When I told him what Jason saw on his friend's computer, the teacher then told me that he was sure they "both" knew they should not have been looking at that. (???)
The last six weeks of school were used to allow student teachers to come in and teach. And apparently they were used by the regular teachers to go have a smoke or hang out in the teacher's lounge... because according to my kids, they were rarely in the classroom during those six weeks of school.
One day Jason came home to tell us what had happened while the student teacher from our local college was teaching...a boy in his class read (out loud) a story he wrote about his father. His dad was obviously a very sick man, who strapped him to the table and did ...things... to him to punish him. Sam marched down to the school to talk to the principal, who put him in touch with the student teacher. She explained to my husband that this particular boy would not do math or reading assignments, but he WAS very good about writing. So she allowed him to write about whatever he wanted, and to encourage him, she had him read his paper aloud to the classroom. When Sam asked her if she thought it was appropriate to read that kind of disturbing behavior to a group of ten and eleven year olds, she responded that she didn't know ahead of time what he had written. When Sam asked her why she didn't stop him when he started reading the sordid details of his troubled home out loud, she said she "didn't want to embarrass him."
That was Jason's first and last year at that school. We made the decision to pull him out of school, and Josiah asked to be homeschooled as well. We decided to leave Mackenzie in the school, as she was only in second grade...how much could happen at that age ? We were so wrong.
Just after the school year began, the school counselor called Mackenzie into her office at lunch time (without notifying me) because another little boy said she told him to f*** off. I guarantee you Mackenzie did not even know the f-word at that age, and we knew this little boy from her softball team...his parents regularly hauled him off the field when he threw himself on the grass refusing to play. His father would carry him screaming to their van while he cursed him all the way...so I have no doubt he had heard those words before.
Kenzie told the counselor she didn't know what word she said, and later on the counselor called to tell me the story. When Mackenzie came home and I asked her about the incident she said this little boy had been yelling at HER on the playground and got in trouble - he obviously lied to the teacher to get himself off the hook. When I asked Kenzie if she said anything like "you sucker" (thinking maybe there was a name she did know that rhymed with the f-word ???) she BURST into tears and said she would never ever use the word "sucker". (Whew. Because we all know that is the worst you could call someone ;)) I called the counselor and told her about our conversation, and she said she believed my daughter and was dropping the matter. But the next day she called Mackenzie into her office and asked her "why she lied to her mommy ? Was she afraid of her mommy ??"
A few weeks later Mackenzie's teacher sent home a letter explaining that for two weeks (??) they would be talking about good touch/bad touch in the classroom. When I called the teacher to ask what kind of things would take place, she said they would talk about many things, including how corporal punishment was bad touch, and if children had experienced this at home they were encouraged to talk to their teachers about it. They would also be discussing inappropriate touches (with second graders) and using role play to demonstrate how a child should react to inappropriate touching. There would be a video detailing what inappropriate touches were, which did not include the act of inappropriate touching, but left the children to surmise what it was because of the drama that led up to it.
So yes, we had problems. And what I described was the worst of them, but there were dozens upon dozens of smaller problems, all adding up with the big ones and resulting in our decision to pull our kids out of that school.
I prayed long and hard about that decision - and believe me, there have been days when I have wanted to quit. Lots of days.
But I'll tell you what - I am not going to sacrifice my kids' innocence and expose them every day to that kind of crud because I like having my time to myself. I'm not going to subject them to that kind of environment day in and day out because I don't feel qualified. Because in my opinion, my kids' character and innocence - in the long run - matters to me so much more than their education. Period.
So I pray, and I take the time to look for good curriculum, and I ask lots of questions, and I try to become better educated myself so that I can help my kids learn. I employ help when needed - I go to people who understand math better than I do, and I ask for help teaching my kids algebra. I call people who are smarter that I am when I don't know how to teach something else. I make sure my children are reading and reading and reading, and then I make sure they read some more. And then I pray and pray and pray again for God's wisdom and help in doing this job of homeschooling.
Do I make mistakes ? I'm quite sure I do. But I know one thing - I have my kids' best interests at heart. And those teachers did not. I have no idea what their motivation for teaching was, and I'm sure it wasn't evil. Perhaps it was just to earn a paycheck. Perhaps they really did believe that a ten year old glancing over and seeing pornography on another student's computer was no big deal. Because - as that teacher informed me - it was nothing worse than what kids see every night on tv.
My point exactly.
Which is why we don't have a tv either, thank you very much.
I'm not raising my kids to live in a cave. They will be inundated with all of the garbage the world has to offer soon enough. It's on billboards and in magazines and on iPhones and just about everywhere you look.
But while my kids are little I want them to be just that - KIDS.
And kids shouldn't have to be subjected to an "adult" culture every day.
Children should have a chance to enjoy things like sleeping with their teddy bear at night - instead of being asked every day by the boy in the lunch line which one of the Spice Girls he'd like to have sex with.
I'll get off my soapbox now. If you have any questions or thoughts about the subject of homeschooling, I'd love to hear them.
I'll end with reason number 4,753 why I'm glad we chose homeschooling for our family :
...I get to go on mid-morning coffee dates with my kids. And I don't even have to ask permission to do it.