The First Steps to Kindergarten

It always amazes me how quickly time seems to go. It doesn’t seem like it has been over a year since we were getting paperwork ready to enroll Ryan in preschool. Yet, yesterday I took him in to do his Kindergarten screening and we’re fully into the preparing for Kindergarten phase of life. It’s just kind of strange feeling.

Ryan’s year of preschool felt like it went so fast. Regardless of those feelings we’re now in the last month of preschool and preparing for the summer before he goes to the elementary school. It won’t surprise me to find that the summer flies by either, considering weekends are filling up fast with family events and other random activities.

In some ways maybe Kindergarten is coming a bit quicker for us than for others. Ryan doesn’t turn 5 until less than a month before the school year starts, but it’s clear that he’s ready for school. He’s already bored at times with the work in preschool. So while some might wait another year before putting him into school proper, that doesn’t really feel like the best option for us. So no matter how quick it may be coming, it seems the best path.

As of right now the transition to Kindergarten doesn’t seem too daunting. It’s going to be a little more involved than preschool since he’ll be gone every day, but at the same time it feels like a rather natural progression. Time will tell if I still feel this way come fall.

There is part of me actually looking forward to it because it seems like it will be a bit more congruent than preschool was. There were kids from our preschool from at least three different school districts, if not more, and after this year who knows if they’ll really see each other or interact again? Going to kindergarten will be the start of schooling that largely keeps the same group of kids together, barring moves and such things as that.

I’m sure time will continue to move fast. In a little over a year Anastasia will be able to go to preschool. They will keep growing and meeting new milestones. Time won’t get any slower. I guess the only thing we can do is enjoy the time while we have it. Right now we’re involved in the first steps towards kindergarten, but soon it will be the first steps to something else.

The Battlefield of Schooling Options: Home Schooling

I was hoping to get this post out much week, but the last couple weeks wound up being fairly busy and I just didn’t have the time to get this finished. Better late than never right?

Here is my last schooling option that I’m going to take a look at. It is the home schooling option. It seems to me that this option has become an increasingly popular option as more and more people become dissatisfied with public schools for a variety of reasons. Maybe it has always been popular and I just wasn’t exposed to it when I was younger, but today I hear about it fairly often.

So naturally as we think about schooling options for Ryan this is one we’ve considered and thought through. As with all of the other options there are a host of pros and cons I’ve thought of. I by no means claim to know all of the nuances or if we’d really fall into the pros or cons mentioned, but they are out there and need to be considered.

Flexibility

Homeschooling is definitely the option that allows the most flexibility. Want to teach all through the year instead of three fourths of the  year? Go for it. Want to be able to take family trips to museums, libraries, historical sites, or other cities during the school year, and even incorporate that into your teaching? No problem. Want to additionally teach about your faith and connect it into certain subjects? You can do that.

Now there are constraints on this flexibility. Looking up info for my state (Pennsylvania) about homeschooling, parents are to have a portfolio of a students work for a year sent to the school district they’re currently living in to be reviewed. They’re also required to do standardized testing in grades 3, 5, and 8. There are also requirements for the education as well, here is an example from PA, but most of the subjects are fairly general and allow for some amount of freedom.

Homeschooling definitely allows for a flexible schedule that can be beneficial for some families wanting to pursue it as an option. There are a couple negatives that I could see spinning off of this positive, but I’ll come to those later, as I think they’re significant enough to have their own mention.

Hand Crafted Education

When you go to public or even private school there will be a classroom that contains more than just your child. This means that you’ll go the pace of the classroom and depending on the child that may be too slow, too fast, or just right. By going the home schooling route it allows for  you to cater to the needs of your child or children by having them be able to follow a path that matches where they are.

Need a bit more time on a certain subject? You can take that a bit slower or focus on it a bit more for a spell. Finding that the lessons are a bit too easy? Feel free to speed up and go a little further in that particular subject. These are both option if you’re taking a home school option. This point definitely ties in with the idea that home schooling is flexible, but I think is maybe looking at it from the child’s perspective more than the parent’s.

The drawback here is that your child may get too used to everything revolving around him or her. This won’t be the case forever. College, the workplace, and many aspects of life won’t speed up or slow down to their whims, so I could see where this could potentially also do harm once they’re done with the home schooling process.

With Your Kids All Day Long

This is an aspect that can either be positive or negative. To home school it requires being with your kids every day. Not only does that mean you have to be with your kids everyday, but homeschooling requires teaching your children.

Now, this could be a great thing. You love your kids and want to spend every moment with them and you never get tired of being around them or having to meet their every need or desire. Typing that out though, I wonder if there are any parents like that… but anyhow you have a good relationship and the thought of having them stay at home all the time doesn’t phase you. Maybe it’s even a bit exciting.

However, maybe you love your kids and need breaks from being around them. Maybe you kind of look forward to time alone when they’re napping or sleeping at night. The idea of teaching them every day and not having many breaks from them may seem quite daunting. I certainly think that’s understandable, but it will be a con to the idea of homeschooling.

Teaching is Harder Than You Think

I’ve taught in a number of settings before. I’ve led Sunday school classes, small groups, and prepared sermons, but I can tell you that these things aren’t necessarily easy to prepare for. Now I realize that these things aren’t necessarily equivalent, but I do think the general action of teaching is a difficult one no matter the venue, age, or subject.

Both Kristen and I are fairly well educated, but even we feel a bit inadequate to teach both our children the entirety of K-12. Admittedly, we’d probably be able to make it through elementary school fairly decent, but getting to high school I’m worried we wouldn’t do so well. I mean a positive would be that we’d be learning stuff that we’ve long forgotten, or maybe never learned in the past. The negative is that I’m not sure that’s the best for trying to turn around and teach it.

Not only does it require intelligence to teach and pass on information, but it also requires time and diligence. You’ll have to prepare lessons, set up trips, drive to trips, teach, and all of these things on a regular basis. So not only are you having to spend all the time with your kids, you’ll also be spending a good amount of time figuring out what you’ll be teaching, how you’ll want to teach it, and actually teaching. This will take quite a bit of time, I’m sure you could ask any professional teacher about such things and may or may not like what you hear.

Bottom line it seems that a lot of home schooling proponents think that teaching is easy. That teachers are just bozos that they picked up off the street to teach their kids. That’s why the school system is so bad right? I’m not sure it’s as easy as that, and if you think it is than I somewhat worry about the quality of education you’re really going to provide as a replacement.

Requires Flexible Parents

As I said above, flexibility is a positive of home schooling. However, it really requires a situation where one parent has to be available at all times. This could be that one parent stays at home, or that both parents have flexible jobs that they can arrange their hours in such a way to have one parent who is always able to be teaching the kids.

This won’t be a possibility for a lot of families out there. Many families have both parents working to pay bills and make ends meet. So there is a bit of a financial security aspect to home schooling. It maybe isn’t quite the same as private schooling where you have to pay tuition, but it could result in less income in general, which may be better or worse depending on the situation.

I’m already the one staying at home with the kids, so this wouldn’t necessarily be an issue with us, but I know that it could be with others. Of course I’m not sure if that’s my plan for the course of the next twenty or so years that it would require to school both of our kids either. So it’s worth noting as a potential negative.

One Voice to Rule Them All

Another potential negative from the positive of flexibility is that it can result in too much control on the parent’s part. Now this could look a number of different ways in my mind. Here’s a few that come to mind.

One of my personal fears of homeschooling is that homeschooling can simply become an echo chamber for what we believe. Homeschooling certainly can limit the number of voices that speak into our kids lives. While I understand the appeal to this, I worry that I could begin to believe that Kristen and I have the right opinion on everything, or that this is the message that will be picked up by our kids. I’m sure that many are able to overcome this hurdle easily, but it is a worry that I have about homeschooling.

Related to this is the fact that control can go to a parent’s head. When we’ve taken on quite a bit of control on what our child learns and how they learn it, I could see it difficult to give up control on other decisions and begin micromanaging our kids lives. Again am I saying that every homeschooling parent does this? No, I’m just saying a worry that I’ve had about it.

Some parents want to home school so they can control what their kid learns, that can lead to a lot of control in other areas too. I mean public education isn’t the only way to learn wrong things. It just makes me worry about how I or other home school parents would deal with that control. Especially as kids become teenagers and young adults and want and almost need to be able to have at least some responsibility and decision making power.

Potential Isolationist Policy

Another aspect where I worry about with homeschooling is that it seems like a lot of people do it as a form of separation, with overtones of being superior. I guess I worry about that tone a bit, particularly when it comes from Christian circles and treating anyone outside the acceptable lines and somehow inferior either explicitly or implicitly. Add in that your voices wind up being one of the potential few teaching voices in your kids life and you could very well pass those ideas along even if you don’t mean to.

I think that if we were to home school we would need to be very very intentional about getting invovled in our community with other programs and people. Something that right now we’re not very connected in, since we’ve been here for about five months, with about three of four of them being a nasty winter. So I worry that we could be unintentionally isolationist if we were to go the route of home schooling.

Wrapping It All Up

I’m getting long here so let me wrap up. As I’ve said with all three options there are potential positives and negatives for each option out there. I don’t agree with people who try to tout one option as completely superior or more godly or whatever than the other. In my opinion in probably depends on the parents, the kids, and the area that you’re in.

So this is true of homeschooling as well. I think that homeschooling has the potential to be amazing. I also think that it has the potential to be damaging and can even be abusive in some cases. People can use it to truly seek a better way to educate their children and others can use it to control every aspect of their child’s life to dangerous degrees. I’m also not sure of those who just want to home school to spite the government or whatever.

You may wonder after all this where my preference lies. Well to be honest I think that for us, public school would be my top choice. It is an easy way for us to engage with the community, you have trained professionals involved in the acts, and we currently live in a good school district. Do I think it is perfect or the only way? No, but it is probably my preferred way.

After that I’d probably choose homeschooling. As I’ve said we don’t have the best private schools around where we are, and I’d probably feel better teaching our kids ourselves than sending them to the ones locally. This would probably only be an option that we’d follow if we have severe problems with our local school district. It’s not something I’m planning on having to act on, but it would be what I’d probably turn to if something ever did come up.

Private schools, well they’d be my last choice. They’re the most expensive option and in looking at what we have locally, I wasn’t too impressed or they’re just further than what I think we should have to go for a private school. So that’s where I stand on these issues.

What do you think? Any pros and cons that you’ve dealt with? Some you’d add? Remove? Feel free to let me know.

 

 

The Battlefield of Schooling Options: Private Schools

Last post I focused on the option of public schools and gave my thoughts on some of the pros, cons, and realities of public school. This was the only option I’ve had personal experience with. So as I start to look at the option of private school, understand that I may not have as much knowledge as others.

So with that in mind let’s move into some of my thoughts on private schools. We’ll start with the aspects I find to be positive first and move from there.

Education Shaped By Faith

One of the big positives for many Christians who are thinking of schooling options is that many private schools have a religious component to them. This means that in addition to other subjects there will typically be instruction on Christianity and the Bible. Now, I know that not all private schools are religious, but there are a number that are and for many Christians that is a significant positive.

In addition to having the Bible and Christianity actively taught, Christian schools also typically hire people who are Christians and believe the faith. This could also be a positive in that it could lead to a safer environment for younger Christians to strengthen and wrestle with their faith. This potential positive has a negative flip side though that I’ll hit a little later.

Professional Teachers

I mentioned this as a positive for public schools, but I think it is also a positive for private schools as well. There is a bit of a caveat to this though, because these schools are private they don’t have to require the same standards for their teachers that public schools do. Now this could lead to teachers that are not quite as good, but just like public school teachers are not always good, neither do I think that this reality means that private school teachers are superior or inferior.

Another thing to note is that private school teachers make significantly less. I’m sure this could have different effects depending on the teacher. You may wind up with super committed teachers who teach simply because they love it and maybe have a spouse who makes enough that they don’t have to worry about income very much. The other is that you wind up with a lot of turnover because if you do have a teacher that is needing this as a main income, it is possible that teaching at a private school may not be enough income. I’m sure this depends on the size of the school and how much tuition is and everything, but  it is something to be aware of.

At the end of the day though these teachers are still showing up day in and day out to teach kids. This doesn’t guarantee anything one way or another, but I’d still say that having a group of dedicated teachers is still a positive in general. If you find out they are not so dedicated in actual interaction that’s a different story, but that’s true of any teacher.

A Smaller Social Element

Just like public schools, going to a private school will result in being able to socialize and mingle with other kids of a similar age group. Typically though it seems that private schools are much smaller than private schools. I know that Kristen had 13 kids in her graduating class. This could be a positive which leads to closer relationships and better education due to small class sizes.

However, it is also possible due to the small class size that if you don’t connect with the main “popular” group then you have a hard time making friends, because there may not be many people left after that. Just because it is a religious school doesn’t mean that the kids are necessarily nicer.

A Privilege to Attend

So let’s move to some of the things I view as negative aspects of private schools. Private schools all require tuition to go to. This can make going to a school like this an option only for those who have the spare money to afford a tuition or who can earn some kind of scholarship (if available) to attend.  Those who don’t have extra money around will likely be unable to afford a private school, especially if said family has more than one child.

Throw in the fact that we already pay a school tax for the public school and it makes me wonder about paying again for a private school. I’m sure some people may find it worth it, but I’m just not sure. It seems like this would greatly limit who could attend a private school and would be quite expensive to keep the kids enrolled especially when both would be attending school. Although I’m sure that prices can vary greatly considering where you are and the quality of school.

Still Doesn’t Mean You’ll Agree

This is the negative side of the idea that many public schools teach matters of the faith. In case you haven’t noticed there are many different expressions of Christianity out there. When tying a school to Christianity it seems like the impulse is to go down moralistic and legalistic paths very quickly. I know with Kristen’s school that a number of things weren’t allowed like dancing, movies, and I think even playing cards.

These things may be very silly in long term, but I worry about that kind of trajectory. Is morality and ethics a part of Christianity? Yes it is, but the heart is more that we are unable to reach God through our morality and “goodness” and must rely on God and particularly on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So this focus on morality can chafe against grace and reliance on what God has done for us. Also, often times our morality can go beyond what the Bible lays out and travel into man-made realms awfully fast.

There also may be more significant beliefs that the school may have different than you. For example, the closest private school that we know of to us is a Roman Catholic school. While I don’t question the faith and legitimacy of Roman Catholic believers, there are aspects of the Roman Catholic faith that I don’t really agree with. So their teaching of faith would be different than what our church and Kristen and I would teach on some matters.

So really there is still no guarantee that what your kids will be taught is what you actually believe, unless you happen to get lucky and find a school that is of your denomination and they believe everything the same as you. There isn’t always a guarantee that going onward despite your differences would be viewed as a positive thing either. Again I’m sure this depends on the school or even the teachers within a school, but I also could totally see push back over differences happening.

My Kingdom for a School

Depending on where you are, you may not even have many good options for schools. Besides Roman Catholic schools the nearest private schools we’ve been able to dig up are a half hour away. That’s a bit of a travel compared to the fact that we could walk to the local public school in less time than it would take to drive to a “local” private school.

I’m sure that the options vary quite a bit depending on where you are, but at our current location there aren’t many viable options for the taking. This is also assuming that the ones that are local are ones you can afford, you wouldn’t mind going to, and that they wouldn’t mind having you there. It may not always be very easy to find a private school around you for these reasons or others.

Two Down

So here are my thoughts on the private school option. As we’ve looked into it, it doesn’t seem like it is going to be an option that really works for us where we are. I still think it is a decent option, but I’m not sure it is any panacea for education. It, like any of the other options, has positives and negatives. Again I doubt I’m comprehensive here so I’d be glad to hear other thoughts.

Any other positives or negatives that you can think of for private schools? Anyone with positive or negative private school experiences? Anything else related to the topic? Feel free to comment.

 

The Battlefield of Schooling Options: Public Schools

So with my last post I waded into a topic that seems to be pretty contentious with some people, that of how to educate your children. I decided that I wouldn’t try to stuff everything in one post. So with this post I’ll begin to look at one of the main options out there and give some of the pros and cons of that option, at least in my mind.

So let’s start with the one arena of schooling that I am most familiar with, public schools. As I said in my first post on this topic, I attended public schools from Kindergarten all the way to my senior year of high school. I also understand that I’m thirteen years removed from my last year in high school and that some things have changed. However, considering all this, let’s look at some pros, cons, and any other observations that I can think of regarding public schools.

Trained Professionals

Public school is one of the options that requires trained educators, private schools being the other. Teachers have been committed to years of education, as well as additional tests and state certifications in order to become a teacher. Does this mean that every person that goes to school for education will be a good teacher? No, but honestly you could say that about any major and any profession.

Teachers seem to get the brunt of a lot of suspicion today. I’m not sure really what the cause is. A distrust of professionals? Belief that we can do things better? Bad experiences with teachers in the past? Viewing them simply as cogs in a government system rather than humans? I’m honestly not really sure. I’m not sure I like it though.

I think back to my time in school and I liked my teachers with a few exceptions. I thought they taught me well enough to succeed in both undergraduate and graduate school. These are people who put a lot of time and effort into becoming, remaining, and doing the work it takes to be a teacher. This doesn’t mean that every teacher is a good teacher or that a good teacher equals a perfect teacher, but it doesn’t mean that we need to collectively throw the teaching profession out the window either.

The Social Element

Being exposed to other kids your age is a tricky thing. It is a reason that a lot of people send their children to public or even private school over home-schooling. This would also be a positive in our minds, but it is not necessarily something that is impossible with home-schooling either.

Having just moved into a new area about a year and a half ago, we don’t know many people. Our church that we are attending right now doesn’t have many young families, in fact I’d say only one young family attends regularly at the moment. Due to this our son hasn’t really been around many kids his own age. He’s mostly interacted with people older than him.

So this is why we would view schooling out of the house as a positive for interacting with kids his own age. It may not be for everyone if interacting with other children isn’t that important to you, or if you have a great network of kids to interact with through church or some other venue.

We do think that interacting with your own age group is needed in addition to being involved with other ages as well. We also don’t have a good network at this time for children the same age as ours. Yes, we know that not every kid is a good influence, but that’s true no matter if the kid goes to your church or goes to a public school.

Part of the Community

I think part of being a Christian is being involved in the community that you are in. Personally, I think that engaging in the public school system is a way to do that. Some tend to view this in such a way that paints our children as missionaries. That they are the agents of light to combat the darkness at public school. I think that’s a lot of pressure to stick on kids.

Personally, there is a lot that goes on in my mind when I think of community involvement. I think about being engaged as parents in the life of the school. This may be simply supporting local teachers or it could be volunteering to help with activities at the school. It may even mean being constructively critical of the school when need be.

It also looks like wanting to be a part of the community. Where there are other kids there are other parents. These are parents we could get to know, connect with, and maybe even become friends with.This could lead to finding people with common interests or even to deep conversations about life and faith. I think pursuing this option could lead us to be more connected to and involved in our community than some of the other options.

Testing, Testing

So far, my reasons have been largely positive. All of them aren’t completely positive as some have down sides, but this is my first primarily negative thought regarding public schooling. As I was graduating high school a new trend was on the rise. This trend would be how education, schools, and teachers would be measured. This trend was the use of standardized testing.

I don’t see how this is a good thing. Standardized testing may be okay as one component of measuring education and how good a school is doing, but I’m not sure that having it be the only component is helpful in the least. I could actually see where it could be harmful. It could force teachers into focusing much of their time trying to teach kids how to answer these questions and turning learning into simply knowing the right answer rather than understanding and enjoying the journey to that answer.

Since this came about after my time in school, I’m not sure how much of a negative this is or even if it has to be a negative. It certainly seems a controversial issue of our day, so I imagine some negative has come out of it. It is certainly possible that if done well this could be a positive too, but I’m just not sure.

Just Another Brick in the Wall

Considering the three options I’m looking at, public schools are the ones that will typically have the most kids in a class room. This could make it difficult to find ways to teach a varied group of kids who may learn in varied ways. To be honest I didn’t really have any problems with this as a kid, but then again I tend to learn pretty good from sitting and listening to teachers which tends to be the most common model found in schools. So I may not be the best example on this.

This could be even more difficult now with the inclusion of standardized tests. I could see how that would exacerbate the problem rather than helping. Granted I’m sure that this doesn’t have to be a negative, but I imagine it is a challenge for all involved.

Location, Location, Location

This point isn’t really a positive or negative, but more an acknowledgement that different schools and school districts are different. There are those that are better and those that are worse. There are probably those that are very open to parent involvement and there may be some that dislike that idea. Schools that have better teachers, reputations, etc.

What I’m trying to say is that all public schools are not created equal. Looking into the one near you may be needed. When we bought our house, the rating of the school district was something we took into account. We are near a school district that seems to have a pretty good reputation. Maybe you don’t and other options are better. Take that into account if you need to.

It’s a Wild, Harsh, and Beautiful World Out There

Let’s face it, public school is a maelstrom of ideas. There will be kids from a variety of upbringings. You will run into kids, and parents, who have different beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors than your family has. This could be a good thing or maybe not so much depending on what those are.

Our kids may run into bullying or harassment, they may meet new ideas that challenge the faith or other beliefs that are presented in the home. They may meet best friends and have great memories. They may meet mortal enemies and have times that are terrible. Public school probably has the most unknowns in this regard. It’s up to us as parents to decide how we want to play things knowing that.

One Option Down

So this is my take on public schooling. It’s not comprehensive, it’s simply one dad’s view as they’re preparing to look at various schooling options for the future. I probably missed things that could be viewed as positives or negatives. I may not know or have gone into detail about some of the positives or negatives I presented. Overall, though I’d say that public school is a mix of good and bad and that everyone’s experience may be a bit different. Of course I believe the same is true of the other options too.

What about your thoughts? Anything you would add to either positives or negatives? Let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

The Battlefield of Schooling Options

I’ve always known that there are options of where to send your kids for school. Between Kristen and I we’ve pretty much hit all of the options. Kristen has been home-schooled and went to a private Christian school and well, I’m not so interesting as I only did the whole public education thing. I’ve also met and been friends with other Christians who have run the gamut either in their own education backgrounds or in the options that they are pursuing for their kids.

What I haven’t been prepared for is how heated some people get in their opinion about what the “right” way to educate your children is. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since any opinion, no matter how minor, can get heated pretty easily, and I think most of us agree that the education of our children isn’t a very minor detail. Not that everyone takes this kind of defensive or offensive posture with their decisions on this matter, but some certainly do.

Maybe it’s just that I don’t understand what all the fighting is over. I don’t like how some positions are the “Christian” position and others are the “worldly” position. I don’t think things are that simple at all. For those of us like me who are trying to weigh their options and figure out what they want to do with it all, it is very discouraging to find someone questioning your faith simply because you chose a path they don’t agree with. Sadly, it also reflects poorly on the choice you’re presenting like it or not.

To me there are positives and negatives to each path you may want to take. That’s certainly how I view it as Kristen and I have tried to figure out how best to proceed. There is no perfect way, and I’m a bit suspect of anyone selling a particular way as such. I’m even more suspect when people decide to toss others to the lions simply because they didn’t make the same choice they’ve made.

We’re wandering into this battlefield mainly because Ryan is not that far away from school age and we have to start thinking about it. This isn’t the only reason it’s been on my mind though. Another reason is that last weekend a couple of people posted a blog post about homeschooling on Facebook and it made me think about it even more. So between the two things I’ve been mulling over the various schooling options.

I originally thought to just stuff all three of the main options (public school, private school, and home-schooling) in this post and talk about it, but I don’t think that I’m going to do that. I’d either have a gigantic post or I’d try to cut off my thoughts too quick just to make it not go on forever.Instead I’m planning to make a little “series” out of it.

My thought is to give each of the options an entire post. Present the pros and cons (in my opinion), thoughts based on experiences, and other more general thoughts on each choice. It definitely won’t be comprehensive, it’s more just to get my thoughts out and try to find my way around the battlefield that this issue has become, at least for some people.