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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Homeschooling V. Public School

I had a bit of a rude awakening upon moving to England ten years ago.  Though I'd lived there before while dating my husband, and had gone back for numerous visits over the years since marrying him and settling in America, none of that really 'counted.'  My first 'living there' experience was when I was young, in love, thrilled to be experiencing the adventure of life in another country. . .and I had no kids.  Subsequent visits were far more about seeing friends and relatives than sinking into the culture as a young family.

So I was a little surprised at some of what I discovered when we actually went to live there with a 7, 5, and 2 year old in tow.  Homeschooling, for instance, is a rare and suspiciously regarded thing.

Coming from a culture where homeschooling, even by those who don't do it, is usually pretty respected and valued, this shocked me a bit.  It was uncomfortable to suddenly be viewed as a radical with potentially dubious intentions toward my children.

Even though we put them in public school there (we thought we were only going to be in the UK for one year and wanted to immerse them in the culture as much as possible), the fact that they had only been homeschooled up to that point was clearly a huge black mark against my husband and me as parents.

Our intended one year stay morphed into 8 1/2 years, during which we homeschooled all but one of our kids at various times.  By the point at which we first pulled our eldest from a school that put no effort into teaching her because, at 10 years old, they determined she was so pretty, she didn't really need an education (!!!!!!!!), I was beyond caring what the culture thought was appropriate.  I was livid.

When we finally made our way back to the US, I was kind of looking forward to that uncomfortable homeschooling issue being behind us.  However, after some careful thought, and for the same reason we initially put our kids in public school in England, we rigorously researched our tiny local mountain school (less than 100 kids across 9 grades) and decided to at least start them off there so that they would assimilate better into American culture and our new home.

After a year or so, however, we realized that one of our children, especially, would benefit far more from a homeschooling scenario and made plans to educate her at home.

And then it all started again.

This time, I was caught in the middle of two philosophies:  Homeschooling families (not all, but several) regarded me as a traitor to their cause by daring to have kids in public school at all.  Public school families, however, seemed to adopt that 'so we're not good enough for you' demeanor when they heard I was homeschooling one of my kids.

I couldn't win.  At least not with people that I probably shouldn't worry too much about.

But, you know what?  It's far more important that I 'win' with my kids and their education.

BOTH homeschooling and public schooling offer benefits in different ways and at different times.  Neither is a 'cop out:'  you must be incredibly diligent no matter which option you chose to ensure the academic, emotional, and social safety and education of your children.  Whichever route you head down (public school, home school, or a combination of the two), you'll need to be involved and attentive and engaged.

And if you are deliberate and intentional about choosing the best educational option for your particular child, and re-visit your decisions often to insure they're still appropriate as time passes, then, you know what?  I stand behind your decision.

Whatever the heck it is.

(photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)

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