Emily did such a great job on Monday of pinpointing some of the reasons that I love homeschooling. I love the flexibility of it–the chance for my kids to explore the things they’re interested in. I love the fact that I know exactly how they’re doing in their subjects, and what they struggle with. (If I’m being honest, it’s the control freak at work here.) And I love being with my kids during their best hours of the day. It is exhausting, gruelling work, and I have emotional breakdowns far more often than I’d care to admit, but I still wouldn’t trade it.
Since Emily said all those things so eloquently, I wanted to focus today on some of the negative aspects of the public school system that have convinced us that our kids should not be there.
Recently, I’ve talked to several moms with younger children who have been thinking about homeschooling. They feel that it is the best decision for their family, but they’re having a hard time wrapping their heads around the ‘how-to’s’ of homeschooling. What I’ve been saying to them is, “Even if all you do this first year is read books to your kids, they will be better off than if you had put them in public school.” I know that’s a little bit of an extreme stance to take, but let me explain myself.
I have not always been that hard-core about it, and you may remember in my post last year I mentioned that we try to take it on a year-to-year basis. This year, however, I became convinced that the public school environment is a harmful one for small children in a few important areas.
First, the bullying. I do not subscribe to the idea that kids need to learn how to take their knocks at young ages, and bullying is becoming more of a problem for younger and younger children. Google “bullying,” and you will get tons of hits on statistics, stories, action committees, and government websites dedicated to prevention. I do agree that young people need to learn to deal with bullies at some point in life, but an elementary school child is too young to take away any kind of constructive lesson from an encounter with a bully. And truthfully, the thought that special needs kids are more frequently victims of bullying makes me tremble. For the sake of all of our kids, including our special needs daughter, I won’t subject them to that yet.
Second, the area of sexual instruction and exposure. Whether or not you live in a state with mandatory sexual education (and here’s an interesting article about which direction Canadian schools are heading), your child is going to get all kinds of exposure from the other kids in the class. When small children snicker about the new words they’re learning, or point to others and tease, how is that teaching our children a healthy view of sexuality? Unfortunately, my son is already getting exposure to some of this after his soccer practices, when all the boys pull out their iPhones as they wait for mom or dad. Because this is an area of temptation he will have to deal with, I would rather have in the ‘small’ doses of a few times a week, rather than the constant barrage that would happen at school. With the more infrequent occurrences, my husband and I have a better chance at dealing with the issue with him, helping him think through what’s going on and what the Bible calls us to do in these situations.
And third, the sexual abuse that happens in public schools. This is something that no parent wants to think about, but for the safety of our kids, we’ve got to. A school setting is the perfect setting for abuse. The teachers are known to the kids. They spend time with the kids. They are convincing authority figures in the children’s lives. It’s the dream set-up for a pedophile, and sadly, the victims are there to prove it. But it’s not just teachers abusing children; it’s older (or bigger) children abusing the younger ones. The thought of this makes me sick to my stomach, and I am unwilling to put my kids in a position where this could happen at such a vulnerable age.
I know that in real life, there is no way to shield my kids completely from these things. But the reality is that the public schools are breeding grounds for all of these, and I can no longer look at the rate of pornography viewing during school hours (for instance) and pretend it wouldn’t affect my kids. I have become convinced that public schools are not safe for small children.
What about private schools? I do not put private Christian schools quite in this same category. It would depend a lot on the school, but Christian schools have much more of an interest in making sure that kids aren’t bullied or looking at pornography on their way through the halls. Private schools also tend to have parents who are far more involved, which cuts down on possibilities for errant behavior. For us, though, the financial burden alone of a private school makes it impossible. Two years ago we did enroll our son in a private school, but it was a rough year for all of us, and we decided at the end to bring him back home. Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story.
However, we think the high school years could be different. Public schools have a lot of opportunities for high schoolers, and we don’t want to completely close our minds to that possibility. It will depend on each kid: their preference, their maturity, their academic abilities, and their ability to roll with the punches. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, we’re home.