Your School-Aged Child – Let the Judgements Begin

The question is inevitable. When the question comes might depend on your child’s abilities, your socioeconomic status, or the educational facilities available to you nearby. It might depend on your lifestyle, whether you’re a traveling military family, or the type of family whose anscestors came One Education Fits Allover on the Mayflower, and have lived in one spot for the last couple hundred years. No matter who you are, what your economic situation is, or whether your child is a certified genius, the question will come.

“Where are you sending him to school?”

Ah, a loaded question indeed. Unfortunately, no matter how you answer this one, someone somewhere will not be pleased.

Possible Answers for The Inquisition

Scenario #1

Answer #1: “Well, I think we’re going to homeschool little Jimmy.”

Response #1: “Homeschool?” Throws a doubtful look at you and then your poor son, destined to be socially inept forever. “But aren’t you worried he won’t get enough social interaction with his peers?”

Translation #1: “How will he ever learn his social skills if you keep him alone with his sisters? You’re not possibly adept enough to teach him social skills yourself.”

Scenario #2

Answer #2: “We’ve decided to send Amy to a small Christian private school across town.”

Response #2: “Oh, that’s nice. She’ll probably be safe there. But…but what if they don’t teach her tolerance? She’ll be missing important information about our culture if they teach her only Bible stuff there.”

Translation #2: “Bible schools are filled with closeminded, intolerant people. Amy will probably learn conservative values, which means she’ll have conservative convictions when she leaves! You’re telling her what’s right and wrong! How dare you?!”

Scenario #3

Answer #3: “My husband and I are planning to send Jessie to the local public school when she starts kindergarten.”

Response #3: “Kindergarten, huh? But aren’t they teaching the Common Core Curriculum in public schools now?”

Translation #3: “You really don’t care about your child’s education or morality. She’s going to be around all those undisciplined children. And the Common Core! Evil Common Core! Your child will qualify for community college, at best! She’s going to go downhill with the rest of the country!”

Okay, hold your horses, People. I know I’m stepping on a few toes when I say this, but believe it or not, there is no one education that fits all. There are pros and cons to every system of education. The idea is to find out what best suits your child.

Why I’m so Skeptical About the One-Education-Fits-All Policy

Diverse Education ExperiencesI had quite an ecclectic education (and a certified teacher), so I think I’m at least a bit familiar with a few of the education options out there, especially since I’ve tried so many of them.

From our infancies, my parents read to my brothers and me. Without a formal, planned system of teaching, they simply read to us constantly, and talked to us about everything.

“Look at the red flower! How many petals do you see? Let’s count!” or “What’s your full name? Let’s practice it. Let’s see how pretty we can write your name,” or “Brittany, I have four Hershey’s Kisses here. How should we split this up between you and your brothers?”

Little 3By the time I was old enough to attend kindergarten, my mother (a licensed teacher) was running a home daycare center. Since I was the oldest at home, she enrolled me in the local half-day kindergarten program.  Since Dad had to drive the family’s only car to work across town, however, they had to pull me out of school after two months, simply because my mom couldn’t keep walking the mile and a half four times a day with five kids in tow, let alone get anything done around the house. While I was slightly disappointed, I was honestly fine with being back at home.

My brothers and I were homeschooled until I was in fifth grade, and we couldn’t afford for my mother to stay at home anymore. So my parents found a tiny Christian school that was just starting up. It had two multiage classrooms, so my brothers and I would still be attending class together, much to our joy. I was the only fifth grader in the school, and by the time I graduated in eighth grade, there were a whopping four eighth graders.

From the private school, I moved to a magnet high school, where I focused my magnet classes (classes where you study a special skill outside the usual high school curricula) on law. The classes were rigorous, but I felt at home with other students like me, who really cared about their education.

In eleventh grade, I switched to a dual credit high school-college program, where I took classes at the local community college, and attended a few required high school classes with public school teachers who were brought int to teach us on the college campus.

After graduating from high school as salutatorian with 38 college credits under my belt, I began classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (UNLV), where I graduated three and a half years later with my degree in elementary education.

It was quite a ride, to say the least.

The Pros and Cons of My Education

Every education organization or system is flawed in some way. The public school boards may not want to hear it; the private school parents may not want to hear it; the homeschoolers don’t want to hear it either, but it’s true. No matter where our children are educated, they’re taught by humans, and humans make bad decisions from time to time, whether they’re on purpose or by accident. Humans can’t do everything.

Rather than trying to find the perfect education, my parents looked for the education that would best fit me. Instead of saying, “Education System X is ALWAYS best for every child,” they looked at my needs as I grew and changed and did their best to place me where I would most thrive. They did the same for my brothers, which meant we ended up receiving different enducation paths along the way.

My education was far from perfect, and yet, it was perfect for me:

  • The half-day kindergarten content wasn’t challenging to me because my mother was teaching me to read, write, and do math at home. Still I was able to make some friends and see what kind of expectations were held in regular classrooms.
  • Being homeschooled was really what I needed, however, as I moved through my kindergarten year and into first grade. My OCD obsessions were really starting to cause me a lot of anxiety, as well as to lose sleep. My compulsions were slowing my life down quite a bit in areas like eating (like when I had to chew each bite 100 times). My tics were also becoming noticeable. Being around my family lowered my anxiety, and gave me a place of acceptance even with my (then) tic disorder.
  • The little Christian school was the perfect place to start school again, since my brothers and I could be together. The teachers were wonderful Christians, and the curriculum was impressive. Unfortunately, due to the small class size in eighth grade, I endured a lot of bullying. (My parents offered to pull me out, but I insisted on finishing the year.)
  • My magnet high school was the first educational institution where I really fit in. I mean, we were all nerds, and happy ones at that. (There were only two fights my first year, and one was over a caculator.) Unfortunately, my anxiety began to grow again, and the pressure to do well from the school, combined with my own perfectionistic tendencies, began to take a toll on my health. So my parents looked for a school with less stress.
  • The dual high school-college program I entered in eleventh grade was even more difficult to get into than the magnet school, but the school was incredibly small, and we were allowed more personal freedom, so that brought some much needed anxiety relief socially. Once again, I had a setting in which I fit in, and I also graduated with 38 college credits done.

As you can see, each point in my education had benefits and drawbacks. The important thing was that there were more benefits for me than drawbacks at each stage. When I outgrew one, my parents sought to find what would best fit me from there.

Why We Shouldn’t Jump to Conclusions

Here are some examples of reasons why different educational settings work for different children. I’m going to post some blanket statements about education, a little bit of background information, and an example that breaks “the rules.”

“Homeschooling will stunt children’s social growth.”

While we’ve all heard through the grapevine of that family that turned out like Wednesday and Pugsley from the “Adams Family,” the kind that never leaves the house to socialize, I can assure you that the majority of homeschool families don’t fit that mold. If done well, homeschooling can actually help children develop the social skills teachers are trying desperately to teach them at school. Why? Because they’re with parents who can guide them more closely than an adult with twenty or thirty-plus other children to take care of.

Children with high energy often struggle in school, ADHD or no ADHD. In their defense, with less and less recess, and more and more seatwork, these kids are getting burned out. Their bodies are telling them to do the exact opposite of what the teacher wants. Also, kids with sensory struggles often find school overwhelming. There’s simply too much stimulation, or if the child is understimulated, he’s not allowed to create his own stimulation (without an IEP) because it bothers the other children.

Finally, some families would rather keep their children at home, particularly when they’re young, and teach them about God the way they believe is right. And as much as many people might disagree with me, this isn’t illegal. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I want my child to learn about Jesus before he goes to school. That way, he knows what he believes when he gets older and goes into the world.” In America, we have the right to do this, and it’s a wonderful right called religious freedom.

Example: David is in first grade, and he has ADHD. He absolutely loves learning about the solar system, and he’s highly intelligent. Unfortunately, his ADHD makes it nearly impossible for him to sit still for more than four minutes at a time. His parents can see that he already hates school. He resents the stories he has to read, and he’s always getting in trouble for being out of his seat.

His parents decide to homeschool him. Because of his love of space, his mother uses books from the library to urge him to read. And while his short attention span made it impossible to sit still at school, he doesn’t have to use his precious ability to focus on sitting still at home because his mother allows him to work in smaller increments of time. Instead of working on math for forty-five minutes, he works on math in three segments at fifteen minutes a piece, taking five minute breaks in the middle to run off energy in the backyard.

Is it a normal education? No. But David is learning, and that’s the ultimate goal of education.

“Going to public school means your child won’t be taken care of, and his education through the Common Core will fail him.”

While I’m a huge fan of homeschooling, sometimes, it’s just not a viable option for families. When Dad and Mom can barely afford to keep food on the table and a roof over the children’s heads, it’s not fair to judge them for sending their children to the local elementary school. It’s wrong, actually.

As someone who works in the public school system, I can assure you that most of the teachers actually really care about their students, particularly the smaller classes of elementary school, where the kids don’t switch classes all the time. I can assure you that the children I work with are very dear to me.

Believe me, I can see the pitfalls of working with so many children at once. Teachers would love nothing more than smaller class sizes. But we work with what we’re given, and what we’re given is children who need adults to care about them.

There are also instances in which it is truly more beneficial for students to receive a public school education than a homeschool education, particularly in the instances of children with special needs. I’ve seen multiple children on the Autistic Spectrum who have benefited greatly from practiced social interaction with peers. Children who don’t automatically have the ability to pick up social skills naturally need more exposure to it so they understand what others expect of them, and can make the practice part of their much desired schedule.

There are also lots of therapies available to children at schools that they’re legally required to get if they have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan – a government requirement that the child receive all he/she needs to get a fair, equal opportunity to an education). These extra resources can include

  • Occupational Therapy (OT)
  • Physical Therapy (PT)
  • Speech Therapy
  • ESL assistance (extra help for students learning English as a second language)
  • Time with the Resource Teacher – Time with the special education teacher to work on a variety of skills, such as handwriting, math, reading skills, or even social skills

Many parents, as much as they want to, aren’t sure how to help their children develop these skills. Sometimes, the schools are really the most equipped to give the children the assistance they need.

And sometimes, kids just like school, and they want to be there. And if the public school education fits the child, that’s not a crime. As controversial at the Common Core Curriculum is, the newest curriculum adopted by most of the country’s public school systems, it follows the pattern of curriculums before it. Some of it’s good, and some of it’s not so good. I trained to use it in college, and I use parts of it in everyday work at my school.

Example: Kathy has Down Syndrome. Her parents can’t afford the high costs of all the therapy she needs, particularly Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech Therapy. If they send her to the local public school, she’ll receive these therapies for free. She’ll also have a chance to see how other children interact daily, allowing her to witness appropriate responses to life and social situations, follow a schedule, and receive specialized modifications specifically designed to meet her needs.

It’s not fair to judge other parents for allowing their children to be taught with this curriculum, however.

What’s Best for Your Child?

As we’ve seen, there are benefits and risks with each type of education. One of the ways that my husband and I knew we were meant for each other was that before we even started dating, we both agreed that there should be no set mould for children’s education. We’ve decided that when we have children we’re going to wait and see what each child needs individually.

Education Litmus TestMaybe our daughter will be ready for school when she’s in second grade. Maybe our son will need to wait until he’s a little older. Maybe we’ll be living in an area with a great private school, but then again, the military might station us somewhere out in the middle of nowhere with a public school that’s less than desirable. There’s no way to know until they reach that age.

My point is that it’s not fair to judge the choices of others on their children’s educations based on a “one-education-fits-all” policy. Sure, the children might not be learning in the way you might teach your children, but the biggest question to ask about any child’s education is, “Is she learning?” That is the greatest litmus test of all.

I’d love to hear about your experience with educating your children, or perhaps it was your own education you’d like to talk about. If so, please share in the Comment Box below! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter list for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and encouragement.

And just for the heck of it, I had to add this Tim Hawkins homeschooling parody. As my husband and I were both homeschooled, we can laugh at these stereotypes just as much as anyone.

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2 comments

  • Angel The Alien on March 12, 2014 at 3:11 am said:

    I totally agree that there is no one style of education that fits everyone. You really do have to think about your individual child, and your family, and do what you think is best.
    As for the “homeschooling children are unsocialized” thing, it is a huge stereotype. There are some families who do homeschool because they don’t want to let their children be around other people. But the majority of homeschooling families are constantly out and about, exposing their children to new experiences and people. There are field trip groups and social groups for homeschooling families.
    Plus, consider this. In a typical kindergarten class today, children have very little time for socializing… they are busy doing worksheets and other lessons. Play time is a thing of the past.
    So, this is a great post! Do what you feel is right for your child. Nobody has a right to criticize you.

    • brittanyfichterwrites@gmail.com on March 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm said:

      I agree. I was homeschooled until 5th grade, and my parents involved us in quite a variety of activities, such as Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, various homeschool groups, and playdates with our friends from church, as well as physical activities such as dance, soccer, and basketball. I think with kinder, it can totally depend on the class. The class I currently work in gets a lot of time to socialize. Unfortunately, it’s not always productive socialization time. I know that as a child, a half-day was definitely enough for me. 7 hours would have been much harder to handle. Thanks! I always enjoy input. Out of curiosity, what kind of education did you have in elementary school?

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