Last August, one week before school started, we took a big plunge; we un-enrolled our to-be first grader from the neighborhood public school and dropped $800 for a homeschool curriculum. Having gone ’round and ’round about school options for almost 6 months and still not having arrived at an answer, I figured, “If I just do this, we can move on, and I’ll feel at peace.” But peace I did not feel. Not even a little bit.
Now, I had all the typical reasons for disliking public school. Standarized testing. Too much time sitting around bored. Not enough time learning and reading. Too much time learning really dumb sayings at the lunch table. (Don’t get me started on public school lunch time.) Negative peer influence. Outdated learning environments and a fear that my kid would do really well in school but graduate college with no useful skills. The expectation that we needed to bend and orient our lives around school. A subtle feeling that all of the sudden I was giving away my parental authority to random teachers and administrators. In addition to this, sending my oldest off to school shifted the dynamic of our family during the day, and I just really wasn’t ready for it.
Yes, this public school “con” list was magnified in our first year of Kindergarten. In private school, we were more likely to find other friends with our values, but to me it posed the same negatives as public school.
The minute I un-enrolled my kiddo from school in August began the week of Hades; we became so torn that I didn’t eat or sleep for a week. By Friday at 12PM, the Friday before school started, we were up at the school re-enrolling him and meeting his teacher. We got the clarity we needed around Friday at 10AM. I’ll spare you the messy details of the back and forth.
Here are some things that became clear to us as we walked, prayed, drove all around Austin trying to figure out what to do. This is why why we chose public school:
We had only been looking at the negatives. When we thought about public school, we had tunnel vision to see only the negative aspects. Even as we looked back on our OWN public school experiences, instead of considering the whole picture, we were only recalling the things we would have changed. Take peer influence for example. Many don’t want their impressionable kids around other kids. I get this. But could it be possible that other kids influence your kids for good? Could it be possible that teachers and school counselors and the general community surrounding the school provides a positive impact on your child?
We are still the main influence in our children’s lives. I had a strong fear that we would lose our influence on our kids if they were in school away from us for seven hours a day. I had read all kinds of “studies” comparing home-schooled kids to public school kids. According to these studies, home-schooled kids do better on tests and in life. What NEVER dawned on me is that these studies produce those results because on a whole, home-schooled kids have involved parents. If you compared public school kids with involved parents to home-schooled kids, the margin would likely disappear. I’m not here to argue statistics. The reality is home life and family shapes us more than the school we attend.
We love the community. Public school is a foundation for built-in community. The kids on your soccer team are the kids in your neighborhood are the kids in your class. I cannot understate this; schools build up communities. We realized that choosing public school meant we would have to work harder for different things, like making sure our kids learn our values, prioritizing family time, and filling any gaps in their learning. But one thing we would not have to work really hard to find would be community. And for me, this was a driving force in our decision.
We needed the structure. It took some self-awareness to finally admit that I totally suck at creating structure. Did I hate having my kid out the door at 7:25 AM? Yes. But you know what I hate more? Directing the circus. Honest self-assessment? I am not good at that. Time to be thankful for start times and structure.
If you are struggling with your school decision, my advice is to begin to look for things to be thankful about. Somehow, noticing and giving thanks for specific circumstances related to the subject truly opened up my eyes to the right decision for us. Good luck!