Opting for the Traditional Model of Education

As a teacher, I knew everything about educating children . . . before I became I parent.

BigBrother at his co-op party. Note the upsidedown poster.

When we had BigBrother, Engineer Husband {“EH”} and I had his educational career mapped out. He would attend the parish preschool, the same preschool EH went to as a child. He would start at three, of course, and when he was five, he would attend the local public schools. Maybe we would send him to the parish school, but it was very expensive and the public schools were excellent. Why even consider it?

Then BigBrother took his first breath, and reality set in.

As the years passed, I became more familiar with homeschooling. As a teenager, I had had many friends who were homeschooled, and I often baby sat for children had been or were being homeschooled. I was pretty familiar with the ideas and the reasons why some people liked homeschooling, but it wasn’t until it was time to seriously consider preschools that I dug in my heels.

“Hon, I don’t think he’s ready for preschool,” I told my husband. BigBrother was just three and going through a . . . rough stage. That is, his main greeting was to slug someone, tackle them or just plain beat up on anyone he saw. “I honestly think he’s going to be the kid in the corner the whole time. I don’t want him to begin his educational career constantly in trouble.

Engineer Husband listened. We toured the open house at the parish preschool and I was less than impressed with the teacher. Finally, EH turned to me and said, “Keep him home for a year.”

So I did. I joined a homeschooling co-op. While I taught the older girls literature, the other mothers took BigBrother and taught preschool activities with him and the other “littles.” He also ran around outside with the other kids, rode bikes, played in the dirt and cuddled the kittens. It was a wonderful, blissful year for both of us.

Then he turned four and the co-op ended.

I want to keep him home again. EH pointed out how much BigBrother had grown and matured. “Laura, I want him to try preschool,” he insisted. “I think it would be good for him and would let you rest with the Princess.” I whined. I gnashed my teeth. And in the end, I relented. EH was right. BigBrother loved being around kids his age and now thrived in highly structured environments. Plus, I was pregnant with my third and exhausted.

Still, I was sad. We were doing well at home together and I wanted to give homeschooling a shot. “It’s only one year,” I told myself. “We can always pull him out if it doesn’t work out.”

One year turned into two and we enrolled BigBrother in our public school.

***

In some ways, it was a very easy choice to put him in public school. He thrived in preschool, thanks to a small class size and a lovely, patient and understanding teacher. He no longer greeted people by tackling them and was well liked by his classmates. He still had the same personality – he didn’t like standing in lines or waiting his turn, and he was a very active little boy. His teacher assured us that he would do well in kindergarten, if we chose to send him.

In other ways, it wasn’t an easy choice. While most of my school experience was “okay,” I had some really bad years. I wasn’t challenged and I didn’t have the opportunity to take some of the advanced classes I needed. I was often teased about things I couldn’t control. I didn’t want that for him.

My husband, however, had a decent school experience. He felt challenged by the teachers and was able to take advantage of higher level classes as he needed them. He was fond of telling me that just because my school experience was simply “okay,” that didn’t mean the same thing would happen to our child. I was equally as fond of telling him that his good school experience didn’t mean BigBrother’s experience would be the same.

“But we agreed,” he said. “We agreed long ago that he would go to the public schools!” Full of post-partum hormones, I cried and we came to a stand still.

So we stopped talking about it and started musing and praying about it. We toured our public school and spoke to the kindergarten teachers and principals. We took BigBrother with us and, well, he was in love.

He loved the desks, the centers, the books, the library, the playground. He skipped down the halls and raced around the gym.

I watched him. For a moment, I cleared my mind of my school experience and stopped thinking about the next 12 years. I savored the here, the now, and what was right for BigBrother. Not for the little girl I used to be, but for my son. What did he need?

He needed an active, involved mother who would advocate for him . . . when he was in public school.

We enrolled him in half-day kindergarten.

Was it an easy year for him? No. In eight short months, he had gained a new baby brother who spent time in the NICU, went through the house selling process, moved, and started school. The changes caught up with him and he acted out in school. Together with his teacher, principal and consular, we helped him work through his feelings. By Christmas, he had calmed down and his frequency of acting out had decreased. In first grade, he thrived and grew. My husband and I were thrilled with the glowing reports we received from friends and teachers.

Although my children will attend a traditional public school, I remain an attached and loving parent. I ask him about his day and really listen to his answers. I communicate with his teacher via e-mail and am not above stopping her at school pick up to ask how the day went. We attend school fundraisers and family nights and get to know the other children in his class. The staff know me and my children by sight and often stop to say hello.

In the end, we had to make the right choice, not for the younger me or the younger Engineer Husband, but for the children we have now. Yes, that choice can, and may, change over time, but right now the best place for our child is in our public school.

About The Author: Laura

Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door My NPN Posts

Laura is the mother to a herd of four small children, wife to her Engineer Husband, and owner of a pesky dog. She blogs about her life in the Midwest at Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door.

2 Responses to Opting for the Traditional Model of Education

  1. Kristy

    Thanks for sharing this. I have read a lot on homeschooling, and much like you had an ‘okay’ school experience. However the more I debate it the more I find myself saying to myself that homeschooling might not fit my child, and have now come to the conclusion I will do what is right for him when the time for school comes.
    You have demonstrated a very balanced approach here, and have shown that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to schooling.

  2. Amy  

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful experience. We have experimented with various forms of schooling: homeschool, public Montessori, unschool, and public.

    Now we go year by year, offering the choice of whatever works for each child. I do ask them to make a year commitment so they’re not in and out of school. In some cases we have also done home schooling for half of the year and public for the other half.

    What I have noticed is that since the children have a choice they actually want to go to school when they choose that and are willing to learn how to work through difficulties. The element of force is not present.

    There are so many ways to learn, so many settings, each child is unique, and different stages may call for certain types of schooling. Remaining open and supportive helps us help them make the choices they need to make for their lives. :)

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