Another year, another set of decisions about education. When my son was going into kindergarten, we thought we’d choose a school and that would be it until 6th or 8th grade. Ah, doesn’t the universe have a way of making a mockery of everything we know?
My older child has attended:
- 1 preschool
- 1 private kindergarten
- 1 charter school
- 2 private elementary schools
- 1 middle school public homeschool program
- 2 online schools
- 1 high school public homeschool program
- community college both online and in person
My younger child has attended:
- 2 preschools
- 1/3 year kindergarten at a private school
- 1/3 year kindergarten in a public homeschool program
- 4 more years in that homeschool program
- 1 online school
- 1 neighborhood public elementary school
No wonder I sometimes feel weary when people ask me about their own educational choices. What have I NOT tried?
What I’ve come to realize is that education is always a year-by-year decision. Even when parents think their child will stay in the same school forever, they probably face a coming year with some qualms. Is this the right educational choice? What if it’s not a good fit with the teacher? What if my child is more interested in after school sports than math? Would we all be happier unschooling? Is there a better school, with better teachers and perhaps better friends for my child? Am I screwing up my child’s future??
Well, I at least have decided to let go of that last one. I’m doing what I can to create the right education for each child. This year, our choices for each child are radically different:
The fifteen-year-old is just loving being a homeschooler. He loves the hours (though he’s not a late sleeper). He loves the flexibility which allows him to pursue his passion, computer science, with an almost single-minded fervor. He really likes his public homeschool program, where he has met some good friends and is reminded that it takes all kinds to make up a community. He enjoyed his community college class last spring and is going for more this year. He really, really loves not having to do PE.
The eleven-year-old, my original homeschooler, decided last year that she wanted to try school. She was in sixth grade, but it was Middle School Lite because our neighborhood elementary had two self-contained sixth grade classrooms. That meant that she was in a school with a total of less than 300 kids, in a room with the same 31 kids and the same teacher each day. This year? We looked at all sorts of options, including homeschooling, a small charter school, and our district junior high, and she has decided to go for the big guns and attend a 700+ student middle school in a neighboring district. Today, in advance of the first day of school, she spent over an hour poring over their lunch menus, their student newspaper, and anything else she could find online.
I hope that each of my children excels in the environments we’ve chosen. I think my family is a clear example of why you simply can’t say that there is one right way to educate children. Who would have believed that I would become a committed homeschooler? Who would have believed that my child who couldn’t last a full day of kindergarten simply loved public school last year? Who would have believed that my compliant “good student” would become a happy homeschooler-bordering-on-unschooler?
I read with great interest articles by people on all sides of the education debate about what works for students. But if there is one thing that turns me off, it’s someone who refuses to acknowledge that the most important thing our educational system needs is flexibility and choice. You can cite all the test scores and studies you want—what I know is what I have seen with my own kids and with every other family I know. The safe option, the easy option, and the obvious option is not always the right option. My two kids, born of the same parents and raised in the same house, are going two very different directions.
May they both thrive!
Vive la différence!