An Unintended Homeschool Journey Has Reaped Tremendous Benefits
Our first child was always a bright girl. We read to her often and she quickly picked up word patterns. During her toddler years, we taught her the alphabet and phonics. By the time she was 4 years old, she was reading. When it was time to register for kindergarten, my daughter was reading 2nd-grade level chapter books and grasping advanced math concepts. Despite her abilities, the school administrators were unwilling to allow her to test into first grade. They simply wanted to group her by age.
This experience left a bad taste in our mouths. We decided to take control of our daughter’s education and began our unintended journey into homeschooling. Since then, we’ve learned many lessons (fortunately, so have our kids) during our seven year homeschooling journey.
With homeschooling, we are able to teach to the level of the student. For example, our daughter Mika is a gifted writer, and our son, Sam, is great at math. Both test at an 11th grade level. We have the flexibility to teach in a manner that is challenging and appropriate for each child’s skill level.
We are also able to teach more comprehensively than a standard classroom can. We often plan field trips around scheduled lessons (or vice versa) so that the kids can learn through experience. Just recently they took a trip to Mt. St. Helens, and got to see the devastation of the eruption and experience the renewal of the area, and how and why certain things have flourished. We’ve even taken a toddler and an infant to the symphony.
It is also important to us to teach different and varied perspectives on subjects. For example, one of the facets of the Civil War they researched last year (from first-source documentation even) was the other reasons (beyond slavery) for the division between the South and the North that led to the war. And later this year, in Washington State history, they’ll learn some of it from the perspective of Native Americans.
Finally, we are able to break free of the mentality that learning is done at a certain time, a certain place, a certain way, for a certain number of years. Instead, we want to teach that learning is a life-long process that neither starts nor ends with “school”.
Although we didn’t intend to go down the homeschooling path, I’m glad that we did. Not only are our children receiving a great education, but we’ve also grown closer as a family.
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Good Teachers and Parental Involvement Are the Keys to a Good Public School Education
I grew up in the public school system and I continue to have faith in it. I received a good education that prepared me for life because I put in the work and took advantage of opportunities to learn. I also had a concerned mother who made sure I got the most out of the system. In addition, I was blessed with incredible teachers who helped mold and shape me into the man I am today.
Mrs. Day, my 9th grade English teacher, always implored us to tuck in our shirts and speak properly because people would judge us on how we looked and sounded. Ms. Day, my physics teacher, taught me how to persevere when things got difficult. Mrs. Anandam, my geometry teacher, taught me the importance of being diligent and helping others. Ms. Johnson, my art teacher, helped me to develop my creativity. And Mr. Pace, my high school principal encouraged me to set high standards for myself and strive towards excellence.
Good teachers make a difference and despite the rhetoric to the contrary, there are still good teachers in our public school system. Fortunately, my kids have had some great teachers who have impacted their lives.
The first teacher to connect with my daughter was Mrs. Madison-Scott. Although my daughter was bright and eager to learn, her spirit had been dampened by a poor private school experience. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that it left me with a bad impression of private school culture. It wasn’t until my daughter started going to public school that she fully blossomed. Mrs. Madison-Scott, realizing my daughter was a shy girl with a lot of potential, helped her to build her confidence. As a consequence, my daughter managed to complete elementary school with all As.
My 9-year old son has also had teachers who have motivated him. He loves science and his teachers have managed to harness his passion by creating science experiments that not only pique his interest in the classroom, but also make him want to study on his own. I love my son’s elementary school because the administration is strong, the teachers care about delivering a quality education, and the parents are actively involved.
I’m fully aware that our public school system is flawed and could use several improvements. In fact, I often disagree with the curriculum and emphasis on testing. However, I am willing to do my part to make improvements from the inside. I understand that my children’s education is my responsibly, not the school system’s. And I take that responsibility seriously. I read to my kids’ classes, visit them for lunch, and attend their assemblies. It is important for me to let the teachers and administrators know that I’m an involved father. But more importantly, I want my kids know that I’ll always be available to support their education.
Please share your comments, opinions, and thoughts on public school and homeschooling in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you.