If you’re new to my blog, you might not know that since 2007, we’ve been a homeschooling family. Prior to that, our older boys were in private school. For reasons long enough make up another blog post, we decided to enroll our eldest son into public high school this year. It was not a decision we made lightly — it came only after much thought and prayer.
That said, delving for the first time into public education as a parent has been an eye-opening experience. After attending curriculum night last week, I posted on Facebook that I was “simultaneously impressed and totally underwhelmed” by what I experienced. I promised a blog post explaining what I meant, and this is it. I apologize for its length.
Let’s start with the good.
All that said, I was really underwhelmed by what I heard and saw, curriculum-wise. And just shocked, really, over how much things have changed since 1986, when I graduated from high school (my last exposure to the public school system).
I should probably mention first that my son is taking regular classes — no AP courses, nothing remedial. This is the standard high school carte du jour. Also, they are on a block schedule, which means that each 7-hour day consists of four, 1.5-hour long classes. There are “A” days and “B” days, with different classes taken on each day. The only class that’s taught daily is math, and that is because our school failed to meet the math standards last year.
There’s more, but I really need to start wrapping this up.
I liked all his teachers. A few, I wish I could call up and invite out for coffee. They were that cool. A couple welcomed me to become more involved, and much to my son’s chagrin, I will take them up on that invitation. I can’t even tell you how much I admire their dedication to these kids, how they were there that night even though they must’ve known few parents would come. I love that five of his teachers are men — I think men are sorely underrepresented in public schools, and boys need those kind of mentors in their life. I witnessed lots of good rapport between the teachers and that was also nice to see. The one teacher Zach told me was his most-strict was the one I liked the most. Go figure, huh? (Remember, I’m a meeeeeeeeeeeean mama!)
I’ve had teacher friends say that if you aren’t a professional in the field, you don’t have a right to comment about their work, because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Fair enough. I’m not exactly going to go tell my doctor how to do HIS job. Or my septic tank repairman. Or even begin to understand the mountains of bureaucracy any of them have to climb to do their jobs. (I do understand more than some in that regard, as a former military wife, spouse of a government employee and someone who worked in military family support for several years. Red tape sucks.)
However, whether most classroom teachers want to acknowledge it or not, homeschooling (and the co-op classroom teaching opportunities it provides us from time to time) DOES provide us at-home teachers with a closer insight into what kids are learning (and when), how kids learn, and a strong discernment over curricula quality. I wish I felt better about what I saw and heard last week, viewing it all through homeschooling eyes. Maybe over time, I will.
Zach is happy there, thus far. He likes the structure of his days, the overall environment, making new friends. Several of his teachers told me that he is respectful, polite, and a good worker. One said that she loves the way he participates in discussions, that he’s not afraid to express his opinions like most kids are (high-five to his previous homeschooling!) and another teacher said he wants to recruit Zach and a couple other of his top-performing kids to serve as mentors to the ones who are struggling. All that is very cool, as is the vocational film production program that was one of the big decision-makers in sending Zach there to begin with.
So it all still comes down to what I originally said on Facebook — I’m simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed. Won’t you join me in praying for our public schools, for the students, for the teachers who so selflessly serve every day, and the administrators who make the decisions that impact us all? Because for the majority of our nation’s children, there isn’t really another educational choice. I’m still homeschooling my other kids and will continue to as long as it’s good for all of us. But if I didn’t know that was an option for us — and still an option for Zach — I think I’d have a much harder time accepting some of the negative things I’ve learned these first few weeks back-to-school.
Kari Apted is a writer and speaker residing in Georgia with her husband, three sons, and an ever-changing menagerie of pets. She writes a humorous weekly parenting column for The Covington News and freelances for various publications.more»