It doesn’t take a research expert, only a single parent, to tell you that last spring’s online education program was a disaster within a global disaster.
Now, heading back into the school year, you are faced with a tough choice. Where should you send your child? There are many options: public school, charter school, online school, private school, homeschool … which one should you choose?
I’ll answer the question that has been on many people’s minds right away. They all have their merits. If you keep reading, I’ll explain why.
I’m an educator. I’ve worked in education for fifteen years, teaching mostly high school and middle school but have dipped in the lower grades a tad. I’m also a mom of a three, five, and six-year-old. Add to my repertoire of experiences that I attended five different schools during k-12 (plus four years of college), and I have collected a bit of knowledge. This certainly does not make me an expert. But it DOES give me a strong opinion.
I was just talking with an educator who works at a school district in an affluent demographic. She said the public schools in her area were like private, only publicly funded. Eighth grade work she received had been performed at a college level. It was thrilling to hear.
Yet some schools on the other side of the river were far from that. In those schools, the biggest concern for the teacher was getting physically assaulted, and some of the students’ highest aspirations were to work at the strip club down the street. It’s these kinds of schools where I feel a strong aversion to send my child. What is another option?
Only recently has this little nugget come to my attention. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that function autonomously but that produce excellent results often using innovative thinking. For example, the charter school that my friend’s daughter attends touts twelve field trips a year. They also employ project-based learning which has shown to be a superior model because of its hands-on and all-encompassing method.
Another awesome thing about charter schools is that they are highly selective in their enrollment. While students are always selected for entrance by lottery, to remain there, one must… well, how do I say this. Your kid can’t be “that” kid. Otherwise, they will be relocated… back to public school. My friend said that the first two weeks of kindergarten were spent discussing behavior- how to share, how to communicate, how to get along. That sounds amazing. Because while we always have reading, writing, and arithmetic, in order to learn anything, we must know how to behave.
I only have one thing to say about online schools. They work best for the highly motivated. If your student does not fall into that category, I don’t believe that online school would be your best choice. In these times though, it is the only choice. So what can you, as a parent do? PLEASE GET INVOLVED. Please. As an educator, I beg you. You say you don’t know your commas from your quotation marks. That’s okay! Learn with your child. Set a schedule. (“School will happen between 9-2. We break for snack and lunch at 10 and 12. Have all your homework completed by 3:00, and then enjoy doing whatever you want for the rest of the day.”) Create barriers (i.e. “Jimmy, you may not have any screen time until you finish your school work.). Enforce this. You CAN. You’re the parent.
Create goals. Plan rewards. Work alongside them. Even if you’re busy, there’s always time to sit down next to your child and be there to answer questions. Maybe you have a deadline to meet at work and need to finish a report. Great. Sit down at the table with little Jimmy by your side. Together, you can each tackle your work. Model what hard work looks like, and show them how amazing it feels when you succeed. And if you aren’t sure how to do this, read a fantastic little parenting book called Love and Logic. It will change your life.
It’s private schools where my heart lay. Not only do they offer superior education, small class sizes, and a family-quality environment, but they can change the course of one’s life.
Here’s my personal story. I attended a small country public school during kindergarten and first grade. I remember dirty jokes, language, bullying, and fear even at this innocuous country school. And I didn’t even know it. I was raised in a Christian home where we went to church every Sunday, and my mom read us the Bible around our egg and pancake breakfast table. But even as a little six-year-old, I could see the trend of my life, though I didn’t know it.
When I was six, my brother, who was in eighth grade, was a bit of a hellion. He was the guy who sped down the halls popping out ceiling tiles and creating general mayhem. One day, he broke into a chemical closet and tried to swallow what he though was poison. Thankfully, it was just iodine.
As the summer after the incident drew to a close, I think my dad panicked about the course of his son’s life. It was only days before school began, and he called my mom from work and demanded that she enroll us at a private school. And so my parents ripped us out of the public school system and plunked three of us into a small school called Faith Bible. I’d like to think of this as a major junction station in my life because my life literally jumped tracks. I’m not sure where I’d be today if it hadn’t been for my father’s rash decision, but I know it wouldn’t be where I am now. And I’m VERY grateful where my life is now.
And my brother who was suicidal? Yeah, he became a missionary pilot serving remote villages in the jungles of Indonesia for nearly fifteen years.
Only our stories can attest to the wonders of private education.
Last, but certainly not least, is homeschool. And here’s where most parents might balk. “I could NEVER homeschool my kid.” These aren’t just your words. They were my words three short months ago.
And then I began my investigation. A good friend of mine was homeschooled her entire life and is now beginning the same journey with her four-year-old. When I was talking about this option and what a disaster Covid teaching was last spring, she said something that resonated so loudly that I can’t get it unstuck from my mind. “What you were doing wasn’t homeschooling. It was crisis teaching.” And she was absolutely right. What we were doing was taking real-live classroom education and forcing it into a home-school/online mold that was a perversion of whatever the heck was supposed to be going on. And it shouldn’t surprise any one of us that it was an utter failure.
Our schools’ mantra was, “If learning is taking place, pass the students.” As for the affluent public school I mentioned earlier, their mantra was “If they have a pulse, pass them.” This wasn’t homeschool/online school/any-kind-of school. It was failure.
In Oregon, Kate Brown passed a mandate that shut down most counties’ schools. I feel the chances of success for online schools are better since that’s how we are starting the year. We won’t be forcing a classroom mold into everyone’s home. But, like I said earlier, you have to be a motivated learner to succeed. Not to mention that it’s taxing for a student of any age to stare at a screen all morning. And then when they are finished, they’re exhausted. And all they want to do is stare at a tv screen for the rest of the day.
So what can you do? If you’ve got young kids like me, it’s an easy choice. Right now, I’m addressing a very small audience. If you have a child that is pre-k through second or is unsuccessful with online learning, your best choice this year might be to homeschool. Again, you argue that you yourself barely know your “b” from “d.” (Okay, that’s a total exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.) The great thing is that you don’t have to be a genius to do it. All you have to do is get a good curriculum (I’m using Abeka) and set up a schedule. That’s it. Really.
I have a friend in Alaska who’s been homeschooling for six years. Her schedule is drool-worthy. She rolls out of bed whenever her heart desires, then bakes some sort of breakfast delight every morning (bread, cookie, muffin). When that’s done, she gathers her four little chickies into the living room, sits down, reads a story, and school time begins. A few hours later, they are completely finished, and it’s time to play with friends, go to swim lessons, martial arts, or whatever else they are involved in. Sounds magical to me.
If you’re worried about social interaction, remember, your child wasn’t going to get it from online school anyway. But now, instead of being balled-and-chained to zoom meetings, your child has the ability to finish his/her work in about 2-3 hours (that is the average time for younger grades) and then have the rest of the day to do playdates, join Soccer Shots, have a homeschool group outing, etc.
All over the country, people are turning to homeschool this year, and most of them are looking for others to join them. All it takes is a little poking and prodding.
My first choice will always be private education. But with Covid changing life on an hourly basis and because of my husband’s and my work schedule, it was easier for me to take over schooling and keep all three boys at home. I’m eager to see things return to normal next year and get them back with their friends at their private school. But as for this year, I’m going to sit this one out.
What will you do? I’d love to hear about your personal experiences.