Saturday, March 26, 2011

No More Debates

It seems like many other things, people are finding more and more to debate in today's society- education notwithstanding. It seems that Homeschool vs. Public (or private) school will forever be up for debate, each family standing firmly on the side that they have chosen, not willing to budge, claiming that their way is the best- and right- way to educate our nation's children. It gets frustrating sometimes, and I often feel caught somewhere in the middle of this debate. I have many friends who homsechool and many who don't. I have friends who teach in various schools- public and private alike. I have seen public schools, private schools, and homeschools fail and triumph. When all is said and done, I don't think pointing out the flaws in the opposing schooling methods helps anyone. I've seen it all: homeschool, public school, and private school. I seen the ups and downs of both, and here is what I have learned:
Kids can be mean, not matter what kind of education you are dealing with.
If your child is encouraged to learn, he or she will excel- especially when parents and teachers pitch in at school and at home.
The world can be exciting and scary, accepting and rejecting, full of possibility and full of trials.
It is important for each family to weigh carefully their options for education before jumping into something head first. For some, homeschooling is the right choice, and for others, public school is. I don't pretend to have all the right answers, but I do know this: you aren't a bad Christian if you send your children to public school. You have not failed as a parent and your children won't hold it against you. I am sick of hearing otherwise.
We don't homeschool our children. We don't have anything against homeschooling, but we don't homeschool. I am not opposed to the idea of one day maybe homeschooling, but right now, in the season of life we are in, homeschooling is just not for us. And for us, at this point in our lives, this is the best option for my children.
This has been a tough subject for us as we often find ourselves in the midst of a culture in which many people choose to homeschool, for various reasons. Most of our friends are okay with our choice to send our daughter to public school, but often times I find myself faced with a situation where an acquaintance shares their negative opinions on public school, not realizing, perhaps, that this is our choice of education for our daughter (and soon for our son.)
So, for those of you who would cast aspersions on us for sending our children to public school, here are a few things to consider...
What is best for your family might not be best for everyone. Different does not mean wrong.
My daughter is thriving. She is doing great in school and has never been so curious about the world around her. She loves to read and write and learn.
Public school is not corrupting her. School itself is not what corrupts- people do. It is my job as a parent to give my children a strong foundation for life, instilling in them the core values that we follow as a family. She knows about the Love of God. She knows the difference between right and wrong. She knows what it means to love people and care for others. She even recites the Pledge of Allegiance with the rest of the school every morning.
She has been bullied. I have news for you: This can happen anywhere. When I was in private school, I was taken advantage of- often being the scapegoat for trouble makers in my class and not knowing how to explain what really happened. When I was homeschooled, I was actually bullied by kids in my youth group. When I was in private school, you guessed it, I was bullied there too. While it hurt to be pushed around and made fun of, I learned a few things about people. I learned what to expect from real friends and how to handle the people who were not really friends at all. I hate that my daughter has been bullied, but I have to hand it to her: She knew how to handle it. She told the appropriate adults, confronted the girl who was giving her a hard time, and is no longer being bullied. The young girl who was bullying her has since apologized and the two are friends. I'd say, life lesson learned.
Also, a few other variables as to why we do not homeschool are schedule related.
My husband works random, sporadic, and sometimes unpredictable hours. If we were to homeschool, we would both want to be in on the teaching as much as we could.
My husband and I are both full time college students, working toward fulfilling a call on our lives. We barely have enough time for own homework. I feel like if we homeschooled, I should devote full time to teaching them. Because we are in school ourselves, I feel as if we would inevitably be shortchanging them on their education.
This does not mean that in the future it is out of the question, but for now, this is what works best for my family. Let me be perfectly clear: I admire all the parents who have devoted themselves to teaching their children at home. I know many brilliant people who are currently homeschooled or who have graduated as homeschool successes. It is a great way for a family to educate their children. But, it is not the way we have chosen to handle our children's education. And that is just fine. So, to the people who believe that you can only get a good education by sending your children to public school: you are wrong, it is not the only way. And to the people who feel that the only way to teach our children is to keep them at home: you are also wrong. What works best for you, may not be what's best for us.
I know I probably have not heard the last of this debate, and sometimes I feel alone in this one. Someone once told me, " But we need our 'lights' in the public schools too." I found that immensely encouraging. So, Rylee, the bright light that she is, and soon Sammy too, will be learning in the public school system.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Science and Faith

Rylee working on her science fair project

My daughter Rylee is interested and curious about many things. For every question she asks, we find an answer. And for every answer, she asks five more questions. She is in public school, and very bright for her age. She does have some of the same troubles I used to have when I was young, and can be very easily distracted. She has been blessed with having teachers that take the time to help her stay focused and interested. When she is focused and interested she thrives. So, when the school PTA hosted a science fair last year, Rylee jumped at the chance to get in on the fun. She did her project on minerals and grew salt and sugar crystals, trying to decide which might grow faster. She learned that salt was very important mineral to life, but that too much of it can actually be harmful. She loved it! So, when the science fair came around again this year, she was excited for weeks. Try as we might, we could not talk her out of the stereotypical volcano project. The idea of an explosion was so much fun, but her interest in volcanoes themselves won out over a study of chemical reactions between vinegar and baking soda. She learned about lava and magma, and how gasses, heat, and pressure cause an eruption. She learned that ash in the atmosphere can cause changes to the climate, weather, and habitats. She learned about famous volcanoes such as Vesuvius, Helens, Pele, and Krakatoa and the destruction that can follow in the wake of an eruption. And she soaked it all up. At the science fair she kept shooing me away so she could do her presentation solo. Every time I got close to listen to her talk, she'd shoot me that look. I backed away with a smile on my face and pride for my daughter in my heart. She loves science just as much as she loves art. She always says that when she grows up she wants to save animals (think Greenpeace.) She loves the earth and is always fascinated about geology, botany, and zoology. One of her hobbies is googling different animals, plants, or places and learning all she can about them. (She once looked up spider brains.) Her favorite book is about all the different kinds of whales. And dinosaurs fascinate her so much. She believes that if God loves his creation, we should too. She believes it is our job to take care of the earth and the animals, and does not understand why so many people take it for granted. I believe she is right, and she will go far with perspective like that. She is 8 and already wants to make a difference in this world- and she already has.

Volcano in Action

Rylee proud of her ribbon and pin she got for participating

Rylee posing in front of her project. Her shirt reads, "Love your world." (sorry this one's blurry.)