Saturday, August 16, 2014

Public Education is for ALL

The education of children is of utmost importance to me. We are fortunate and blessed to live in a country that provides education to ALL its children, but that also allows for choice in the path of education. Those choices are growing...there are traditional public schools, private schools, charter schools, online schools, homeschoolers, unschoolers...and you can put many of these together into a recipe of your own choosing. I firmly believe, even as a public school teacher, that every family needs to weigh all factors and make the best choice for their children when creating that path. Sometimes that even means each child in a family follows a different path to becoming educated.

Over the last couple of days, I've been commenting back and forth with a blogger who homeschools. She wrote a post about wanting to tell other parents about the joys of homeschooling, especially at this back-to-school time of year. I am not bothered by that at all. What bothered me was this statement:

“Even if teachers are good, most of their time is spent on crowd control and test prep and creating lesson plans for the entire class.”

I don't like blanket statements. (And I have to admit that I take umbrage to the language in the dependent clause and what it implies!) I'm pretty sure this author hasn't spent time in enough schools and classrooms to make such a generalization. And when I called her to task on it and she felt like her time as a student, a parent of students, and some reading were enough background to make the statement. I've been a student, parent of students, a middle school teacher, a teacher of grad students, done significant reading on education, and work with teachers across my state. My anecdotal evidence gives me a different picture. The conversation ensued with other commentors chiming in, people feeling judged and people making judgments.

I've decided to stop commenting there. It isn't worth my time to try and have an educated, civil discussion with people who think their way is the RIGHT way. The ONLY way. Homeschooling parents with this attitude (and yes, I know that is NOT all homeschooling parents...probably not even most of them!) that their way is the right and only way ARE passing judgment on other parents. They are modeling that kind of judgmental thinking for their children.

And I realized what my problem with the whole homeschool/public school debate is...

For many parents the choice to homeschool has a lot to do with the state of education today. Other commentors said things like: 

"I taught for ten years, and my husband was on the local school board. I feel like I get to do more actual teaching now as the youth services librarian." (This was a mom who has chosen homeschooling at various times.)

"If ever there was a good time to realize that teachers (much as they may love their jobs) are not getting to do the part of the job that they love due to these tests, it’s now. This is a dark time in our school systems." (From a mom currently homeschooling)

These parents should still have a vested interest in the public school system. I am not going to argue with the commentors above. I experience frustration about the state of public education daily. But I want those parents to remember that there are still LOTS of kids living in that growing culture of testing and accountability. There are still LOTS of teachers doing what they can to combat that culture. But you know what? ALL parents--heck, all ADULTS--in our communities should be doing SOMETHING about that....something more than pulling kids out of the school system. Something like writing letters to legislators. Or supporting teachers with words of positive support rather than assuming we teach for summers off (HA!).

Your homeschooled kids may not be going to school with public schooled kids, but they are all growing up in the same world. What happens in schools should make a difference to you whether your kids are there or not. Whether you have kids or not. 

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