Ever since I posted on Facebook that my husband and I had made a decision to remove our daughter from public school and begin homeschooling her, I have received overwhelming support and, of course, questions as to why. I hope this blog post will answer some of those questions.
One thing I truly appreciate about the United States (at the present time) is freedom of educational choice. Unlike countries such as Germany, parents in the US have the freedom to educate their children in public school, private school, or homeschool. When it came time to enroll our daughter Elizabeth in school five years ago, we had to make a choice about who we would partner with to educate her. My husband Chris and I live in a rural area where private school is not available, and with our work schedules at the time, homeschooling was not an option either, so we chose public school. I say chose because there were extreme measures we could have taken to make private school or homeschool an option, but after much prayer and discussion we felt that public school was the best choice for us at that time.
And, for five years, public school was the best choice. Elizabeth learned a lot and excelled. Her school was more traditional, and she learned cursive writing, multiplication tables, spelling, and all the other things I remember learning during my years of public school education. In addition, our school system is very small, and the majority of the teachers are either Christian or at least respectful of Christianity, so she did not face the prejudice or harassment that Christians do in more liberal schools. However, we knew that once Elizabeth got to be junior high age (which is 6th grade in her school) we would evaluate whether to continue with public school. For us, it was not so much what she was being taught from an educational standpoint (because we could see that and correct it as needed), but our concern was more the social influences from her peers.
As Elizabeth started 5th grade a few months ago, we quickly realized a major problem. The previous year, students had been given tablets that were used as a supplemental tool in many of their subjects (e.g., virtual walkthroughs of Ellis Island for social studies). I was excited that such a small, rural school would have this type of technology available and would be teaching and encouraging students to use it. However, in 5th grade I started to notice that she was bringing home very few papers. In addition, she had little to no homework. When I questioned her about it, she said that all the assignments were done on the tablets (she’s not permitted to bring the tablet home). I learned that I had to go to a website to see her grades, but when I did I discovered I was unable to see the actual assignment. I was sure I was missing something. When I went to the parent-teacher conference a couple months later and asked her teacher about accessing the assignments, she said I couldn’t and that she couldn’t either! I was in shock.
The teacher said that once the assignment is submitted and graded (by the textbook publisher) there is no access. Obviously this severely limits learning since the teacher and/or parent can’t view the assignment and help the student correct it so they know what they did wrong. The teacher was frustrated by this too but said to me, “Elizabeth will survive.” I thought to myself, I don’t want my child to just survive school; I want her to thrive in school. I don’t want her to hate learning; I want her to love learning. Also, if I’m unable to see what she is learning, I can’t correct any wrong teaching she is receiving (e.g., origins, social issues, and so on). It was at that point that I knew her school was no longer partnering with parents to educate children. Instead, the school and the textbook publisher wanted to have total and unaccountable control. As Chris and I discussed this new revelation and added it to our list of growing concerns about public school, we made the decision to homeschool Elizabeth.
While the change to a very “one-sided” educational process was a major factor, it was not the only one we took into consideration. Elizabeth has a lot of friends that are homeschooled and has wanted to be homeschooled for a couple years. We have a great support base through our church (including a homeschool co-op) and through Answers in Genesis. Elizabeth is a very independent and motivated learner. I needed her to mature to the point that she was capable of self-directed study for both Chris and I to continue working full time (which we believe God desires us to do) and her to be homeschooled. Elizabeth is very tenderhearted (unlike her tough-skinned mother!), and she needs to be protected a bit more from the harshness of the world outside our home. In addition, several friends have stepped forward to assist us in multiple ways as we begin this new journey of homeschooling. I praise God for His direction and leading in their lives as well (you know who you are!).
We are all excited about this new adventure. It will mean a lot of adjustments and patience, but I believe it will be well worth the effort. Elizabeth and I are already planning field trips and thinking about ways that even everyday things can be learning experiences. I’m learning that homeschooling is more a way of life than something you do for part of the day. I’ll try to post an update in a couple months, but in the meantime I’m sure I’ll be posting about our new adventures on Facebook. Be praying for us.
Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!