In Defense of Education

Homeschooling parents…stop me if you’ve heard this one. A homeschooling parent, a public school parent and a parent with grown children are talking. The public school system where they all live has recently had some kind of bad publicity (low graduation rates, or something along those lines). The parent of children who are already grown sent her kids to public school and while she has no regrets remarks that if she still had her kids at home, she would turn to homeschooling or possibly private school. The public school parent now sets her gaze firmly on the homeschooling parent and starts in with a barrage of complaints (and sounding rather defensive) about how not everyone can homeschool or send their kids to private school…

 I’m in the unique position that one of my children will definitely be attending public school but we aren’t 100% sure about the other two we have now. For us, homeschooling them would be our first choice, with a co-op, but because I am not sure I am the greatest teacher, this may not work the way we want it to and we may be going down the charter school or public school route. But keep in mind, financially, homeschooling would be a huge sacrifice as if all the kids were in school, I would be working outside the home for sure.

When I hear arguments from parents in public school about not everyone being able to homeschool their arguments tend to be less about whether the parent is a good teacher of academic subjects and more about homeschooling being for those who can “afford it.” Meaning that a homeschooling family must be able to afford all the luxuries of the world while doing it on one salary. That, quite simply, is not true. While some homeschooling families may be independently wealthy, trust fund babies, or something else, quite a few make very big sacrifices to home school. These might mean living in less square footage for more people or eating beans and rice. Or even having to limit things like dance classes or soccer teams for their children. They become experts on how to stretch one paycheck to cover as much as possible. They may forego such luxuries as a second car, vacations or dental work. The truth is that most parents who homeschool believe so solidly in what they are doing (while not necessarily thumbing their noses—or looking down them for that matter—on public schools) that they make sacrifices others may just simply not be willing to make.

Everyone makes choices in life, either out of convenience, necessity or just pure want. Some parents may not be able to homeschool because they are not able to teach their children or have an illness or some other very important reason to them. Others may not feel they can send a child to public school because of bullying, a desire to impart religious or cultural teachings in with academics or because the particular public school their child might attend is in a woeful state. Regardless, it’s time for a lot of public school parents and homeschooling parents to face the music: your decision is only for your family. There is no need to be defensive about your decision. There is no reason to deride others for theirs.

Most recently someone with two children in public school told me (this was during a discussion of a report that less than 10% of graduating seniors in her district had above a 3rd grade reading level) made the statement to me that the public schools in her area were great. Right, but, evidently, others in the district were not so much. So, if one found him or herself, in the unenviable position of being districted to an under-performing school and decided they would rather take his or her chances on educating his or her child his or herself…well, then they may have some very important decisions to make such as not going to Disney World next year as planned, among others.

Parents need to start manning up about their choices in educating their children. Where there is a will there is a way. And if your decision is met with derision by friends, maybe it’s time to get new friends. A true friend will support you if what you are doing is truly best for your kids not force you to overstate your case for your way. Even uber-homeschooling mom Michelle Duggar has extolled public schools and a real need for them in our country right now. We can all really get along and not make each other feel like pariahs. After all, we all love our children and want what is best for them. And as their parents, we are best qualified to make those decisions for our own children.