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Thursday, September 4, 2008

3 Degrees of Education: Part 2

In my last article '3 degrees of education' I wrote about public education. In this part of my series I will talk about private education. Many parents have opted to place their kids in a private school. I know this aspect quite well as my girls have gone through the private school in our church. Jessica attended k-9th, Monica k-6th, Gina k-1st. Timmy will be my only full homeschooled student.

When we were younger in our walk with the Lord we knew we didn't not want our children to grow up in the public schools. When Jessica was just 4 years old I drove in front of a public school and promised her she would never need to attend there. Secretly in my mind and heart I was, at the same time, praying that God would help me honor such a promise.

For all those years I never knew another form of education existed, until a family in our church chose to homeschool. I watched her homeschool for a couple of years, then attempt the private school again, only to take them back home again. It was then that I began asking her questions and seeing her at home with her children. I was so impressed with their lifestyle. Yet, I would continually say, "I could never homeschool."

I was one of those moms who said, every summer, "I can't wait til these kids go back to school!" I stumbled across a blog while creating graphics for a friend's blog. The blog I found was so beautiful and I was so impressed with the designer's artwork. Then I looked a bit closer. It was a homeschool blog! I was drawn to what this mom was saying about how she educates her children.

Over the last few years my kids were in private school I began noticing increasing behavior that did not please me as a mother. I was not satisfied with the behavior of, not only my own children, but that of the others in their classes. Teachers were not always present during the day, as any normal human being does need to use the restroom. Children stop begging to have lunch with the teacher by about 5th grade and so they usually sat with their friends, without supervision over their conversations.

My oldest was bringing home straight A's, doing extremely well in her cheerleading squad, and Gina was doing very well in her 1st grade class, academically that is. Jessica and Gina both began having severe situations with the other kids. We were admonished to speak the other parents of these children, yet it isn't the parents who can stop the behavior, as they are at work all day. To no avail the behavior was not stopping, as a matter of fact it got worse.

During this time Moni was struggling with Math. When her classmates ridicule her for asking so many questions and calling her dumb, she ceased asking questions. She just wasn't getting it. She was told to work harder. We would spend several hours every night studying and catching up with corrections, while she lacked time to study for her other tests each week. Her grades in every class began plummeting.

Jess would come home from school and have to care for my little ones, cook dinner, and bathe them while I worked with Moni up until about 10 pm every night. By the time I got to bed I was too exhausted to spend time with my husband and our family was being pulled apart. I lacked the time needed to counsel Jess about the things happening in her friendships and very little time was being spent with my little ones.

Gina was struggling with reading in kindergarten and was held back. We had discovered that her sight was diminished and she had a speech difficulty due to a very high palette. Hearing this from her doctors helped tremendously as we were able to get her into a speech class and get her glasses. I pleaded with the teacher to allow her to move forward and that I would work with her all summer and my request was declined. Her classmates got to graduate without her and the night of graduation all our friends asked, "Where's your graduation gown Gina?" To which we had to field those questions for her as she silently sat with tears streaming down from behind her glasses.

For my family the private school ceased to work as nicely as it did in the beginning. The teachers taught academics, but were not able to assist my children in the social circles in school. Many will say, "Well it's not the teacher's job to raise the kids." Yes I agree. It's most certainly not their job to raise them, but what are we supposed to expect when they're with our children 5 days a week from 8am-3pm? They can't possibly be in their seats doing school work every minute. Are we to expect that we can effectively raise our children from 3pm-8pm in the midst of sports practices, studying for tests, making dinner, and getting to bed?

Many young teachers lack the understanding on how to customize their class curriculum to better suit the kids who don't get it as easily as the others. Moni was met with this question by a school official, "Are you lazy?" Moni, "No." "Then are you stupid?" Here is how my daughter understood that, "Because if you work hard you'll get it. If you aren't getting it then you're either lazy or stupid." So Moni worked as hard as she could and still couldn't get it. Her final thought was, "I must be stupid."

I was so frustrated with this spiraling turn of events, then a friend said to me, "Maybe you should homeschool Moni." I finally took it into consideration. I began reading books about homeschooling. As a matter of fact I read every book my library had on homeschooling, and bought several more from the bookstore. In addition to that I read every website I could find on the subject, looked deeply into my state's laws, and at what my options were. At that time two more families joined our church and they homeschool. I took time to ask them several questions!

I would report back to my husband and he began to ask me if I thought I could homeschool two of them. Then he asked if I could homeschool three of them and confidently told me he believed I could. We began to pray about this decision and felt that the next year we would begin to homeschool three of them. We sat down with Jess one day and gave her the option of homeschooling. Although she had straight A's and an impeccable record of hard working her cheerleading, she felt the strain on her friendships. With tears in her eyes she said she would like to try it. That day my husband withdrew them from the private school.

Do I think that kids should learn to persevere through hard times? Of course I do, but not at the expense of the family unit falling apart and individual lives being in turmoil. Bringing my children home was most certainly not 'giving up'. As a matter of fact it was 'stepping up'. Anyone who thinks homeschooling children is the easy way out, obviously don't know too much about homeschooling. Parents who say that, but at the same time say, "I couldn't stand to be at home with my kids all day!" are just speaking with a double mind. How can they say that they can't stand to be at home with your kids all day and think it's the easy way out?

When we brought our children home we did it out of necessity, yet it quickly became a conviction of the heart. My children are not perfect by any means, but their relationships with one another have been strengthened since we brought them home. Through deep studying of the Bible I can find no place where the children were sent away for someone else to educate. Am I saying that every family should homeschool? No I am not. I think there are some parents who have such low standards for their families that they SHOULD allow them to be in a private school. Some students are children to single parents that have no family support to homeschool. Each family has different needs.

We live in an imperfect world and it doesn't always work for a family to homeschool. Some children are from drug addicted parents who could care less what their children do and a church member sponsors them to the private school. I believe there are different dynamics for each family.

I was asked by another mom about homeschooling. Here was my advice:
1. Have you spoken to your pastor about it?
2. Have you tried to reconcile the relationship with teacher and student?
3. Does your husband FULLY support this decision?

Now in this day and age not every pastor supports homeschooling either. So going to your pastor for counsel may not come with the answer you had hoped for. I cannot find any scripture to support a private school specifically, yet I can find where the parents are the ultimate authority in the child's life. God does speak to parents on how to raise their children. If your decisions line up with scripture then follow where God is leading you, even if the grandparents, youth leader, etc do not agree with your decision. God will not dismiss your lack of following the Holy Spirit in this matter just because your pastor disagrees with homeschooling. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to be rude to your pastor, by all means hear his perspective and show respect for your spiritual leaders. Yet, you must do what God is telling you to do. You are the parent of these children and you will be held accountable for how YOU raise them. If your leaders do not agree with homeschooling, pray for them. Be a testimony of a homeschooling family so he has something to be confident in.

Getting an education is a good thing. Being in a private school is a better thing. To what degree do you want your children educated?

Stay tuned for part 3. You can subscribe in the box to the right.

The HomeSpun Life

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