Deladis turning four this week means that I have less than a year to make one of the most important decisions I will ever have to make as a mother. What will be the future of her education? It is a very difficult choice for me and I have spent a great deal of time considering my options already, but now, I have to get serious. Will Deladis attend public school? Will we choose to teach her at home? If so, what curriculum? What about unschool? Needless to say, I’m praying and weighing all the pros and cons. The majority of my daughter’s next fourteen or so years will be spent laying the educational foundations for the rest of her adult life. I want her to have a joyful experience and come away capable of achieving any dreams she may have for any path she wants to take in life.
The first consideration is public school. It is the obvious choice for most people. It is something we are all already paying for as taxpayers and will pay for despite whether or not we choose a public institution for our children’s education or not. Our children are taught by trained professionals a curriculum that is designed by our respective states to prepare them to be competitive in the job market and to be productive citizens. Not only that, but our children attending public school develops social skills with their peers and can be involved in friendships and activities outside of the scope that family life can offer. One plus to public school in the mountains is that everyone knows everyone. It won’t be hard to be fully informed. It sounds lovely.
However, being a student in public school was greatly a miserable experience for me. Sure, I had some awesome teachers, wonderful experiences, and lots of fun times, but I thoroughly believed then and still do that so many of those years were wasted time. I went through school not having to study to pass tests, not being challenged, and I graduated somehow barely being able to balance a checkbook let alone do any kind of problems dealing in fractions or decimals. Forget advanced arithmetic or mathematics. I passed most of my math classes with As and Bs despite this. I was endlessly with my nose in books and watching educational television trying to fill in the gaps on my own in the subjects I had an interest in – English Literature and Writing, World History, Geography and Culture, and Life Sciences.
High school was the worst, and my senior year frustrated me immensely. For the biggest part of the year, we sat on the football field rain or shine because of endless bomb threats being called. I took a current events class that was basically sitting and reading the newspaper while the teacher, the baseball coach, talked sports with the jocks in the class. My advanced placement English class was assembling the yearbook. We never took the AP test for college credit as we were supposed to. One of my best friends quit school and started attending the community college in town. I begged my dad to let me do the same. He didn’t. I often wonder what I could have done had that time not been wasted and filled with disappointment.
As far as peer interaction goes, it left a lot to be desired. Yes, I had lots of great friends. I’m so glad I was able to meet them and be with them throughout my days. However, I was often made fun of in school by kids who thought they were better than me for whatever reason and I had to develop a thick skin and found myself taking up for myself and other friends more than I should have had to. I believe those skills have helped me as an adult, but they also linger as a nagging self consciousness that would benefit me more if it would disappear. I know I shouldn’t aim to shield my children from adversity, but they will get plenty of that just living life without the abundance of it so many of us meet in public schools.
Having taught in the public schools for four years helped me develop a perspective from the other end – the teacher. My school system where I taught was very supportive, friendly, and caring in atmosphere, but we all faced our hands being tied. I found myself trying to teach with limited resources, over crowded classrooms, and a looming state standardized test at the end of every year which dictated what I taught like a tyrant and measured nothing (in my opinion) about what the children were capable of. I saw more state funding going to schools in wealthier areas while the rural systems received minuscule dollars and were expected to achieve the same results. Then, the issue of discipline was tremendous. I loved my students and thought highly of all of them. Yet, there are always those times, especially in middle grades, where children will decide to act out in frustration or plain old misbehavior, and there was not much at all that I could do about it. What I did do was futile? Respect was a word that I struggled to teach.
It is hard for me to even write this, and if you can’t tell already, my heart is leaning me toward homeschool. Living in a rural area where moms don’t network as much as in the cities worries me to some extent. We spend days at a time not leaving the holler. I want Deladis to have time amongst peers. I do value the capability of being able to socialize with all age groups though, and I think homeschool will facilitate that. I can enroll her in dance lessons, take her to events, and we do attend church where she has friends.
We are a Christian home, and I know many Christians are motivated to homeschool in hopes of shielding their children from a “vulgar” world. That isn’t what is motivating me. In fact, it would be one reason to send Deladis to public school. I want her to be amongst all types of people with varying beliefs. I want her to know different cultures and lifestyles. I believe the right choice here lies within each family, but I believe a strong home foundation is the important thing. I think keeping children from knowing the world is laying the framework for worse rebellion, disrespect for differences, and possibly social dysfunction. I have to say that I think there are great values in beliefs different from our own as well. She needs to be able to come to her religious and spiritual beliefs on her own for them to be authentic. So, if I homeschool, I will make every effort to have Deladis be a part of multicultural acitivities.
The curriculum is another choice to make. I so worry that I won’t be able to do justice to mathematics as I can’t do it myself. But, they say the best way to learn something is to teach it. I can’t be afraid. When we spent time in Louisville, my choice was made. She would attend the local Waldorf school where we took Parent/Child classes, or if we couldn’t afford it, she would be homeschooled in Waldorf curriculum. I’m leaning toward that educational philosophy still.
Unschool is intriguing to me, and is something to consider with my lack of organization and absence of ability to stick to schedules that aren’t mandatory. With unschool, you help the child as they develop a natural interest in a subject. I fear, there, that she will miss out on too many things that she don’t naturally gravitate toward, but might need in life.
The other important thing to consider is, can I be Deladis’s teacher? That is where I am struggling the most with this decision. I’ve been trying to find more personal time. Sending the girls to public school would allow me time to do my writing. I would be refreshed and ready when they returned home to me. It could help me mother them better even. Then, I consider that that thinking is only me being selfish and skirting my responsibilities to my children. If I ignore all the cons to public school and send her anyway to buy myself some time, I’m not being a good parent at all. Yet, I can absolutely admire others making that choice and totally understand where they are coming from. I know my thinking is flawed there somewhere.
So, the clock is ticking. I’ve decided to order some Waldorf cirriculum for Deladis’s age and add some activities that would be homeschool like to our days starting mid-August. I’ll give it a try. If it is a disaster, I’ll register her for public school and be a fully involved parent. Tonight, I’m attending a meeting of a possible homeschool co-op in our county, though the numbers of homeschooled children here are low. I’m looking forward to the discussion.