There are a few topics that get moms all riled up and bent out of shape. Some of which are breastfeeding, birthing options, and educational choices. If you're at playgroup and you're feeling like things are a little too "chummy", bring up one of these topics, and even if things remain civil they will, at best, get awkward. Why is this? Because we all want the best for our kids, and if someone dare imply that what we do isn't the best choice for us or our kids, watch out!!! Mother Bears protect their cubs and will fight to prove it!
So it is with great hesitation that I bring up this topic. Before I go here, let me put a disclaimer on this entire post: I recognize that every child is different and has different needs. Let me also say that every mom is different and has different needs and goals for their children. We are all trying to do what's best and what's best for one, may not be best for all. You should also know that I am a former public educator, so yeah, I'm a little biased.
My oldest child goes to first grade on Monday. I used to teach kids her exact age, and while I am slightly nervous (new school, new teacher), I am also really excited for her. I LOVE the first grade. I love how old the kids think they are, and the funny things they say, and how much they learn at this age, and how they still want to give their teacher gifts and hugs, and how excited they are for school (well, most of them), and how they walk in little kids and leave "not-so" little kids, and how they all want to lose teeth REALLY BADLY. All these things just bring a smile to my heart, so when I hear that someone is going to be homeschooling, my natural instinct is to feel that they may be missing out on something. So, here is a list of reasons I choose to send my daughter to public school.
1. For learning. Do I think that a teacher knows more than I do about how to teach my 6 year- old how to read and write and do math? No. I don't. I am confident that if I had 4 to 5 hours/day of educational time to sit down with my daughter and work with her one on one, she'd probably be just fine educationally. But guess what, I don't. There are meals to prepare, a house to clean, laundry to do, trips to the store to make, a baby to care for, a calling to handle, etc.,etc. (I do, however, know that teachers are more trained in current teaching methods, and if we get to high school then yeah, a calculus teacher knows a whole heck of a lot more than I do. Even a 3rd or 4th grade teacher knows a whole lot more about teaching 3rd or 4th grade than I do.) I am not wonder woman. As a teacher I worked hard and put in a lot of hours. Those are hours that when I am home, I don't have. I am also a bit concerned when kids just start learning out of workbooks, which a lot of home-schooled kids do. Not only that, but on a number of occasions, I could not get my daughter to do things that she would do for her teacher. Teachers can often stretch kids further than parents can.
2. For social reasons. Last year when I went to pick up my daughter from Kindergarten, she'd walk out the front door, see me, and immediately she'd say a hearty good-bye to classmates, her teacher, aides, other teachers, etc. Heck, even the lady that helped all the kids get out of cars and into the school safely knew her by name. It never hurts for a child to have more than one adult who cares about them. I also love the fact that she was involved in a community of people. This is where she learned about appropriate behavior in certain situations, and how to handle herself around people who were different than she was (none of her classmates were Mormon, and it was a very diverse population of kids). All skills that I think are invaluable to kids. Did she learn some questionable things from kids on the playground? Yes. But guess what, I'm confident in the whole "in the world and not of the world" thing. We can still teach kids what is right.
3. For responsibility. School teaches a lot more than ABC's. Life skills lessons like: how to wake up and get to a place on time, how to follow a schedule, how to be responsible by taking something home and finishing it, how to bring something back to the teacher, how to follow directions, how to ask questions, how to study something you don't easily understand and work to understand it, how to meet a deadline. I don't know about you guys, but it is one diligent mom who can set up a time schedule and hold to it rain or shine, sick or not sick, on days when she's tired or pregnant, or when a kid gets sick, with babies and all. Just look at me and summer...it's pj's 'til at least 9:30 around here these days.
4. For my own sanity. I'll admit it. I love my children dearly, but at times (especially in the summer months), I wish I were Dad. Dad walks in the door an hour or so before bedtime, eats dinner with them, plays hide and seek, reads a few stories, gives hugs and sends them to bed. They IDOLIZE him. You'd think that Justin Bieber walked through the front door every day by their reaction. Not so with Mom. I'm the heavy. But when school is in, not only can I hear myself think at the grocery store (I only have one child there with me), but I get to give hugs and after school snacks, and say yes to a quick show (because they need a little down time). This all changes when I demand that homework get done, but for that glorious first hour after school, I AM JUSTIN BIEBER!! Absence makes the heart grow fonder for everyone.
It's true that there is a lot wrong with education, and I understand that not every teacher is fantastic, not every adult there cares, and not every school is cutting it. We can all point to times in our educational experience that were less than stellar, but even with all this I can confidently say that I, for one, still believe in school.