Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Homeschool vs. Public School

Every week I receive a free newsletter, “The Homeschool Minute,” from The Old Schoolhouse magazine. It’s a nice little email, and I recommend it, despite all the promotional emails they send you after you subscribe. (You can subscribe here.)

This week’s topic is “Comparing Yourself to the Public School—As In Don’t.” Great topic, and there are several interesting takes on it by the assorted columnists of THM.

However, I have to admit that I’ve compared our homeschool to public school many times. One of the reasons I’ve remained so committed to homeschooling, even when it gets tough, is that I remember my own years in public school, and never, not even on my worst homeschooling day, have I wanted to send my kids there.

To me, public school meant boredom, long hours watching a clock whose minute hand moved in super slow-motion. I remember staring out the window as the teacher droned on, feeling jealous of the birds that could fly freely.

Sometimes, public school meant fear. In grammar school, I was afraid of the boy who punched me in the stomach for no reason. In junior high, I dreaded the annual gymnastics unit in P.E., where I was forced to display, in front of the entire class, my inability to turn a cartwheel or do a backflip.

Later on, in high school, public school meant anger…my anger at the injustice of the situation. It wasn’t fair to be cooped up in classrooms when there were so many interesting things going on in the world. It was demeaning to be 16 and have to ask for a pass to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. It made me mad that the school staff insisted good grades were important yet gave all the attention and perks to the varsity football team.

Homeschooling meant my kids didn’t have to go through the boredom and the fear and the anger. It meant they had far more freedom as children than I ever had. Once we had completed our daily work, they could do what they wanted.

I remember watching my son lying on the foyer floor and thinking how happy he looked, deep in thought as he drew a very detailed picture of space creatures on a huge piece of drafting paper my husband had given him. Or my daughter, inhaling books as soon as she got them home from the public library and begging for more by that evening. And even today, my younger daughter, now a teen, sits knitting while I read her Economics book aloud. She says she can think more clearly when her hands are busy; she’s an auditory learner. I doubt most high school teachers would let her knit in class.

Then there’s my youngest, the one with Down syndrome. Unlike the disabled kids who went to school with me, my son has never been pushed or tripped in the hallway. He’s never been called the “R” word. He trusts people to love him, because he’s surrounded by love every day.

So yes, I’m afraid I’m guilty of comparing our homeschool to public school many times over the past twenty years. And every single time, homeschooling comes up smelling like a rose.


Melissa Markham said...

Well written post, Barbara. I do the same thing myself.

BarbaraLee said...

There are times when I feel like sending the kids to school when the curl their noses at school time. Maybe I am afraid that they would like it. But I am not ready to give up my job. I try to keep things simple for school because like you I don't believe everything is in a book. I also enjoy having my kids around. I was wondering what you do for cir.?
We are doing
Mysteries of History & the science book that goes with it.
Easy Grammar book series
Saxon math & Progress in Mathematics
Art is in the projects we do and books that I took from a list in Cathy Duffy.
I add movies when I can and internet resources.
They don't like the formal writing stuff but I feel things still need to be done. It doesn't take long but they sure act like it. We have been doing this for 8 yrs. now. But you know what they would be crying if they went to school. So I blow it off because I know I am doing better then the schools. I know they are learning because of the way the play and things they talk about. I wish they would have more joy.
I wanted to ask what your hubby did that he lost his business?

Janet said...

Oh, I HATE that "R" word!

I agreed with so much in that post that I don't know where to I'll just say.... "Ditto". :-)

Barbara Frank said...

Thanks, Melissa. I think many of us do it.

BarbaraLee, mine don't always want to do school either. Fortunately we used to have neighbors who told them how lucky they were to be homeschooled.

Janet, it's an awful word, isn't it? When I hear adults use it to describe something they don't like, I just want to lecture them!

Sunniemom said...

I recently read an article online where in the reader comments a man was ranting about how homeschoolers were missing out on the best experiences of their childhoods by not being in school. His school days were idyllic, and every child should have that.

One question- on what planet did he attend school?

Barbara Frank said...

Well, Sunniemom, maybe he was one of those few people who got voted class president, prom king and football captain :) I'm assuming some people liked school, but I'm certainly not one of them, and it sounds like you aren't, either!

A Dusty Frame said...

I enjoyed your post.

I agree with you and loved your post.
But when you got to the part about your Down's syndrome child never being hurt or called names, I got chills.

He's so blessed to be home with you.

HopewellMomSchool said...

Your experience in school was mine to a "T".
About the Mom who's afraid her kids would "like" public school. Mine, back in school, have a love/hate relationship with it. They hate anything to do with learning and love being with friends. Pretty typical these days.Still, homeschool planted seeds and I get occasional glimpses of those seeds sprouting.
I am not able to change the fact that they are in public school right now, but I do LOVE to sneak in some "Charlotte" time--my own name for home learning.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I am so glad I read this.

Since my son did go to public school and is now homeschooled, he also compares them. Homeschooling comes out favorably. He also has a disability, and he was often punished for it by teachers who did not bother to learn about it, and then called him "lazy."
He likes the way we can tailor the schedule to fit his needs. For example, this afternoon he has a belt-advancement test for Taekwondo. He asked if we could do math tomorrow, so he could read and practice today. And we can do it--we can take that into account for him.
Homeschooling compares favorably to public school in his estimation as well as mine.

Barbara Frank said...

Thanks, Lizzie. We're blessed to have him home with us, too :)

Hopewellmomschool, your kids are lucky you have "Charlotte" time with them. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

EHL, one of my big concerns was that teachers would be impatient with my disabled son. I'm so glad yours is home with you. Bet he's doing great!

Momto4 said...

I had my daughter in public school, she is 6 in kindergarten and has down syndrome. They haven't a CLUE what they are doing. I was very disappointed in their lack of teaching. I will be homeschooling her and it will be interesting as I have never done such a feat. Is there anywhere one could go to help start off in kindergarten for my little girl? Is the curriculum the same? So many many questions. I do know this, anything is better than what we have now.

Barbara Frank said...

Mom to 4,

I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's bad experience. Thanks for stopping by. You're asking an important question, and I can't answer it off the top of my head. Give me a bit to think and I will post a response to you soon, probably as a new post.

Hang in there :)

Babette said...

I found your blog as I was researching homeschooling for a graduate class I am taking. I am a 5th grade teacher in a public school. You really sound like a motivated, dedicated and thoughtful mother and teacher. However, I'd like to invite you to think about avoiding generalizations. I work hard to create an environment in my classroom that is respectful, nurturing, flexible and engaging for every child. The school I teach in is filled with teachers that do the same. We are a small k-12 school and work hard to educate the whole child and I actually feel a bit hurt as I read many of your posts that speak so poorly of public schools. You are a smart woman - generalizations aren't smart, nor are they accurate. Please be mindful that there are dedicated educators working in our public schools to provide an education for all kids - especially kids that may have challenges or who don't have parents that care for and about them as much as you obviously do for your kids. I really feel that a benefit of public school is the opportunity to meet, learn and grow with a diverse group of children. There's good in everyone and by making blanket statements such as the ones on your blog, and by citing outrageous examples of poor decisions and bad behavior in public schools, you are perpetuating ignorance. You seem like a God loving woman - would God be happy that you are being so negative? Go ahead, homeschool. It's your choice, it's great if it works for you. I am not judging you. You should be so kind and do the same.

Barbara Frank said...

Babette, I'm sorry that this post and others have offended you. In rereading this one (it's been a while since I wrote it), I'm surprised you can't see how my childhood school experiences would affect my views.

Many of my posts make it clear that my complaint is with public education in general. The system is broken. It is not helping most kids.

Sadly, there will always be kids from disadvantaged backgrounds for whom almost anything is better than what they would get at home. But all you have to do is look around you to see that our society is getting worse, not better. The public schools are certainly not helping the matter.

That said, I understand that there are good teachers working within a flawed system. If we could get tax credits or vouchers (I prefer the former), private schools could grow, and parents would have more choice by directing their hard-earned tax dollars. New schools started by good teachers like Marva Collins would pop up, and many more good teachers would have the opportunity to really make a difference.

I don't think I'm being negative so much as realistic. The articles I link to about scary things going on in the public schools are what they are. I just report them.

As for judging, discerning between good and bad is part of wisdom. It's also part of my God-given responsibility as a parent.