Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why my heart says "NO!": the spiritual promptings I felt while I pondered home schooling

As I tried to write down all the reasons I am against home schooling, my post just dragged on and on.  Imagine that! In an effort to make it more "reader friendly" I broke my post into two topics:  why my heart says no and why my brain says no. Feel free to read which ever appeals to you most, or both, or neither.

I know the spirit guides each of us in different ways. I think it is totally possible for two moms to pray about home schooling and come away with totally different answers. I'll share my answers with you, but I don't expect anyone to have the same promptings.

As I kept thinking about all the advantages of having a more active role in my children's schooling, this voice shouted at me "that is what summer is for!" Okay, maybe it didn't shout.  But it was one of those moments where I knew I wasn't just prompted, I was told. For me the voice of the Spirit was clear. "You can teach your children strong values and all the gospel principles in your home without having to home school them." I look forward to conducting fun science experiments and craft projects during the summer months. I even hope to out line gospel study units and practice math and literacy skills (as best I can, cause I am in no way qualified to be the primary teacher in those subjects). Kids need structure all year round, and summer is my time to give my kids my version of home school structure. During the other 9 months of the year, I feel impressed to leave that up to qualified professionals.

The other prompting I felt was to avoid being a helicopter parent. Of course I want to shield my child from that preschool girl who will unknowingly hurt her feelings when she makes fun of her baby pig tails. But I would be a totally different person had my parents protected me from those moments. I still adore the girl who teased me. As we grew up together we made many lasting memories. I learned much more by having to get over my hurt feelings than by having my hurt feelings coddled and future hurt feelings avoided.

A quip from a recent Ensign article kept coming to my mind as I thought about the benefit of protecting my children from the inevitable exposure of bullying and bad teachers. Before I introduce the quote I have to address this "bad teacher" I keep referring to. Though it is inevitable that your child will have a teacher you are less than thrilled about, your child will have AMAZING teachers. I believe the later out number the former 1 to 20 (or even greater). But since bad teachers can't be avoided, here is a thought from the Ensign on how to handle them:  If children can learn how to handle less-than-ideal situations when they are young, they will be more resilient and resourceful as adults. Help your children to see that they can develop creative solutions for their problems instead of ignoring or avoiding them. For example, if a teenage son or daughter doesn’t like a certain school class, find out the real reasons why. Then consider discussing with your child ways to improve the circumstances before using the last resort of transferring out of the class. In this way you help your child resolve concerns and find solutions that will magnify his or her knowledge and abilities. (emphasis added) -- Dr Mark Olgetree, Marriage and Family Therapist. This also applies to us as adults. When our young children are given a teacher that we don't like, we need to think of ways to improve the circumstance before using the last resort of transferring them out of the class or out of the school. My parents have always been an example of this for me. They never sided with a teacher, even if the whole town knew that teacher wasn't the school districts highest quality.  I remember complaining about how "easy" a certain class was, and my mom quickly told me some students needed easy -- for some students that teacher was a favorite. If I wanted to learn more than he was teaching me I had amble ways of doing so. She was absolutely correct.

This leads me to the number one reason I'm against home schooling. When good parents pull their kids out of the public school system (whether it is for private, charter, or home school) they are giving up on their community. That may sound harsh, but I firmly believe this is true. Our country is unique in that it was the first, and still one of only a few nations, to offer free education to all citizens. That education hasn't always been offered equally to all social classes and races, and I don't believe it ever will be fully equal. Some schools in our system are failing, and the quickest way to assure that they all start failing is to have parents rushing out to find alternative options to public school.

Local neighborhood schools are one of the few structures left that unite communities in a common goal. And what an amazing goal it is: to give our children a bright future. Unlike other public arenas there is no debate over the end goal. Our public schools need to provide rigorous education that prepares students for a global world. When a parent has concerns about their local school, their first obligation is to get involved. Their gut reaction needs to be "how can I fix this problem, and make our school a better place for all the kids in my community?" The last resort is to pull our children out of this country's greatest learning environment and the community's strongest asset: your neighborhood school. 


Polly Blevins said...

My Mom home schooled us during the summer. I hated it! But now, I think I will be doing the same thing. I agree with pulling your children but then part of me says, I am not sacrificing my child for the bigger picture. (Really it doesn't matter because we do not have the means for private and it is not a priority.) I battle with the home school thing all the time (again it doesn't matter because Will is a definite "no way" on that) but I just hate that my kids are going to be learning such horrible things from their class mates. I am not so worried about the education because, like you said, there are other means to achieve that. Man, it is hard to throw your babies out to the wolves! But then I have to remind myself that "the wolves" are other sweet children their own age. Some may have horrible home lives but it is important for them to see that bad does not have to be their destiny. Does that even make sense? You create your own reality and it is good to have different perspectives of reality. I could go on and on but I guess I should just update my own blog on the subject. :)

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your musings about homeschool. Let me share with you what I've learned through the years. Most Millard School District homeschoolers are fanatics from the religious and political right. They are non-conformists who think the government is conspiring against them -- unfortunately I think that is a bunch of BS and I think they are the conspirators. At least 80% of those who are home schooled in our district do an inadequate job. There children never graduate from any type of school. Some indicate on their affidavits that they are going to sign up for our online courses and then never do a thing after they register. I am aware of at least two families who signed up for online courses and did not even have a computer or access to the Internet.
Of course you know me -- I think public education is what has made our nation great. Unfortunately many Utah legislators are hellbent on doing away with public education as we know it. They tout vouchers for all students so parents can have choice. Eventually they would grant vouchers to not only private and charter schools, but to parents of home schooled children as well.
Quite frankly I do not understand the intent of the Republican right, other than that they do not believe that all men are created equally. They do not like to support public programs that put all citizens more on the same playing field. They prefer the more stratified society of our founding fathers. How far they have strayed from the society their founder Abraham Lincoln envisioned!!!!! Of course, I am quite convinced Honest Abe would distance himself from today's GOP.

Scott and Claudia said...

Love your post and certainly do agree. Did get quite a chuckle out of you not wanting to be a helicopter parent! Honey, you already do hover! I think the 'mama bear' syndrome is in all of us as to wanting to protect our cubs, but we must remember the good mama bear teaches her cub skills so he can defend himself. We can not put them in a bubble and protect them from the world. They have to learn to live and co-exist in it. Yes, I am anti home schooling!

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