Thursday, May 30, 2013

How Do You Learn?

Oh, the great debate of schooling.  There are so many thoughts, theories, choices, and schools that parents can choose from for their child's education.  It can be quite mind-boggling.  Not to mention, each avenue has outstanding reasons as to why one should choose that route or method.  I have been a classroom teacher for almost ten years, minus this year that I have spent working in the law firm.  I have spent time in various schools and settings.  I have been a part of public education, private Christian education, Orthodox Jewish education, and rural community school education.  I have seen so many different ways and methods of teaching children.  I think I am the better for all of my experiences.  But, it can leave me a bit bewildered about what method I would like to use for my own children.  I can find so many pros and cons of each that I find myself twirling my hair and thinking...hmmmm.  What should we choose?

I was educated in the public school system of East Tennessee.  It was a very pleasant experience.  I cannot say very much negative at all about my schooling years.  It taught me a deep sense of community.  It helped me to know my neighbors and my fellow citizens.  I felt I had outstanding teachers and programs.  In my school system, I learned to be a vocalist, play instruments, be on a team, and  to excel academically.  I was taught a love of writing and creativity.  I sculpted clay, saw major US Cities, and had many great friends.  I enjoyed the social aspect, the culture aspect, and being with my peers.  I dissected animals, learned trigonometry, and studied AP European History. I was a part of major school productions and developed a love for theatre.  Sure, there were days when things weren't perfect.  I had some teachers that had different world-views or religious beliefs.  I had friends that took different moral paths than I did.  I had heart breaks and times when I felt sure I was at the very bottom of the social status list.  Sometimes, I didn't fit in.  Sometimes I could not participate in certain events.  Sometimes, I wanted to skip class.  And, there were moments where I had to dig deep to make good choices.  It taught me to work hard on my moral compass and not to be intemdiated by others choices.  Overall, I am quite proud of the education I received.  It was a well-rounded experience that taught me both academics and life skills. 

However, my hometown was unique.  There were not, nor is there still, a plethora of private schools.  There were not any home school co-ops or large church affiliated schools.  Everybody was a part of the same school system.  There were various elementary schools, but we all came together in grade 6 at a combined middle school.  We then proceeded to high school in grade nine.  From grade six on, the entire area was schooled together.  We knew everybody from the age of 12.  It was not a small school, but it was also not a mega-sized student body either.  It was a community.  Everybody rooted for the home team, because all of the town graduated from the same high school.  Everybody had a place and a niche. It truly was a unique experience. 

Where we live now, it is much different.  The public school system is struggling.  There are pockets of success stories, but overall it is not as encouraging.  There are multiple private education sources to choose from.  There are religious affiliated schools, Montessori schools, and even online schools available.  There are co-ops to choose, programs to join, and educational outlets galore.  It leaves me feeling overwhelmed.  If I could hand pick my children to have a similar public education experience as I did, that would be my obvious choice.  However, that same option is not available. 

We are still a family in transition.   We could easily be moving again by Feburary.  When my oldest starts first grade next year, he will be in a different school than he is currently attending for kindergarten.  There is a great possibility that by second grade, he will be at yet another different school.  I do not like shuffling him around.  

There is home school.  I am lingering on that thought.  I think I would enjoy the experience immensely.  I know my children would enjoy it for a season.  My mind starts turning a million miles a minute when I think of all the great things we could experience by schooling at home.  It is certainly a good option.

But, I like the community building skills that public education promotes.  I like having that as an outlet to know our neighbors, our teachers, and our local leaders.  I think it is a great way to be involved and make a difference.  I like the social lessons that are learned when children come together and discover their world.  I like the idea of what public school should be and can be.  I think it is perhaps the greatest opportunity to bring something good to our community by being a part of our local school.

Still, I am baffled.  I want to do the best thing for our family.  There is a huge part of me that thinks a year together at home would be perfect.  To have a year of calm and no pressing need to be away from home all day every day sounds like something we all would benefit from greatly.   Not putting my son through the chore of changing schools for the second time seems reason enough.  I like the thought of being able to really focus on the things that would ignite a passion to learn in both of my children.  I think we would all enjoy it greatly.

 But, I am not ready to pull away from the public.  I think we are all meant to find a way to be a part of our communities.  I think that is Biblical and for our greater good.  I think that there are numerous ways to school at home and still be very active in the community, but public schooling is a lovely way to do it quite easily.  It says something to your fellow citizens about your willingness to be a part of their lives.  It would take a very concerted effort to home school and still provide various community-building outlets for the kids.  I am not sure that I am disciplined enough to do that well. 

Would you like to weigh-in?  I welcome your experiences.  I know many of you home school.  Share with me your joys and drudgery.  Tell me why you keep doing it, or why you quit doing it.  I would like to hear from those of you that send your little ones to public school.  Is is working well for you?  Do you feel that it works well for your family and your community involvement?  I would sincerely like to hear your stories. 
How do you learn??
B Charmer

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