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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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Why I'm not planning to send my kids to public school

by Sierra on December 1, 2008 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

As a follow up to my last post, and a response to some of the comments there. :)

The most basic answer to why I’m homeschooling my kids for the forseeable future is that they like homeschooling. I believe that kids with involved, educated parents will get a decent education no matter where they go to school, and that the real question for parents is “What do you want your child doing during the day?” Sitting in a classroom memorizing stuff is not my answer to that question.

A more complex and personal answer to the public school stuff behind the cut.

I went to public school for my whole primary and secondary education, from preschool through high school. My experience of public school was sometimes dreadful and sometimes wonderful. I had teachers who mentored me and nourished my creativity and guided me toward great things. I had teachers who accused me of cheating because they refused to believe I was as smart as I was, who disqualified me from classroom spelling games because if I played the girls always won and that wasn’t fair to the boys, and who confiscated my library books because they deemed the subject matter inappropriate for a girl my age.

I was, from kindergarten onward, pulled out of my regular classes for both accelerated and remedial teaching on almost a daily basis, because I was a bright clumsy kid. I was also medicated for ADHD from the age of 4. For most of elementary school I was socially ostracized and bullied. In high school I made friends and got involved in theater, activism and student journalism. I also started using drugs and having unhealthy sex.

In other words, it was a very mixed bag. So, to revisit my earlier post:

1. Academic subjects – I arrived at college vastly behind my private-schooled peers in terms of academic skill and base knowledge. I hadn’t been taught critical reading skills and I had not read as many books from what is generally considered the literary canon. I had never been assigned to read a single work written by a woman. My public schools also failed to teach me a foreign language or any advanced math, despite my sitting through many classes on those subjects. I don’t think I can do better for my kids single-handedly, but I think a combination of homeschooling and outside coursework is likely to be an improvement.

2. American citizenship – I want my kids to grow up to be concerned, informed citizens of the world, not American patriots. I am, basically, allergic to nationalism. I don’t want my kids taught to say the pledge of allegience, to revere the flag, to celebrate military holidays or sing the national anthem. I don’t want them to grow up thinking, for ex, Columbus “discovered America”.

3. participating in the economy – Pretty much everything I was told I had to suffer through in public school for the sake of making it in the real world – bullies, school bells, detention, required courses, grades, popularity contests – has been totally irrelevant to my adult life. In fact, the coping skills that I used to survive those things I’ve had to spend the past decade unlearning so that I can function well as an adult.

4. Socialization – I didn’t put this forward, but several commenters on my last post did. I don’t find arguments about socialization in public schools the least bit compelling. I realize there’s a bright dream of classrooms as these melting pots where kids from diverse backgrounds come together to play and learn, but that’s never been my experience. I truly believe that being treated with respect and held accountable for treating others with respect is a better preparation for adulthood than being thrown into a large, competitive group of peers at a very young age.

I’m grateful to everyone who posted with their thoughts about the awesomeness of public schools. Your arguments were interesting and sometimes compelling. I hear and even largely accept the argument that the school system would be better off if I put myself and my kids into it. I think I understand that as an act of social justice in a way I did not before. But I also feel OK saying that’s just not my fight. I can applaud the effort in others and still do my own thing.

And if the day comes where my daughters can go to a public school and get an education that is based on child-led learning, that fosters creativity, a relationship to the natural world and a sense of connection to others, that does not rely on grades or standardized tests to measure progress, and that does not carry an agenda of nationalism, I might well enroll them.

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Related posts:

  1. Sell me on public school
  2. school choices
  3. more thoughts about school
  4. School Blues
  5. School Days

  • christa

    Re: #4, Socialization;
    Last year our local school district sent their annual newsletter. In it there was some concern expressed that within the (99% white) high school there might be some “gang activity” and therefore, the 15 minutes of free time between lunch and the next class (and the ONLY time for actual socializing, because you can't do that IN class and 5 minutes between other classes gives you only time to get your books and walk to class) was being canceled. Of course, as a home educator myself, I just laughed and said, “Well, there ya go! That answers the question– How will your kids be socialized?–” But what irks me most is that people even think they have a right to ask me that question. Or quiz my kids about what they've been learning. People don't go around asking public school kids these questions, but maybe they should!

    [Reply]

  • christa

    Re: #4, Socialization;
    Last year our local school district sent their annual newsletter. In it there was some concern expressed that within the (99% white) high school there might be some “gang activity” and therefore, the 15 minutes of free time between lunch and the next class (and the ONLY time for actual socializing, because you can't do that IN class and 5 minutes between other classes gives you only time to get your books and walk to class) was being canceled. Of course, as a home educator myself, I just laughed and said, “Well, there ya go! That answers the question– How will your kids be socialized?–” But what irks me most is that people even think they have a right to ask me that question. Or quiz my kids about what they've been learning. People don't go around asking public school kids these questions, but maybe they should!

    [Reply]

  • christa

    Re: #4, Socialization;
    Last year our local school district sent their annual newsletter. In it there was some concern expressed that within the (99% white) high school there might be some “gang activity” and therefore, the 15 minutes of free time between lunch and the next class (and the ONLY time for actual socializing, because you can't do that IN class and 5 minutes between other classes gives you only time to get your books and walk to class) was being canceled. Of course, as a home educator myself, I just laughed and said, “Well, there ya go! That answers the question– How will your kids be socialized?–” But what irks me most is that people even think they have a right to ask me that question. Or quiz my kids about what they've been learning. People don't go around asking public school kids these questions, but maybe they should!

    [Reply]

  • illyria bennett

    As a former Jehovah’s Witnesses (they are pacifist, neutral in all politics) I am so with you on the patriotism issue!
    Also, these are all excellent reasons.  (But you already know that…)
    High school was hell and I think “socialization” boiled down to learning the tough way about how nasty people could be. I would possibly enroll my children in public elementary school (although I went to a rough school where kids were having sex by grade 4 — I’m all for sex-ed, but that still seems rather… young) and junior high, but I’d be on their side completely if they opted out of public school early on.

    [Reply]

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