Do we home school or not home school, that is the question that we have been struggling with lately. Karen and I have had some strong discussion on just what we are going to do with our child’s and future children’s education. Do we break the bank and put them in private schools, roll the dice and put them in public schools, or do you we try home schooling? The more I think about it I am leaning towards home schooling, which is very sad considering I am a public school teacher. It is not the quality of teachers but just all the things that go with public education that has me leery. In fact, I would not have any qualms of having any teacher that is on my team at the school that I work at right now teach their subject material to my child. I think they are all outstanding at what they do. It is just all the other distractions that happen in and out of the classroom that would make me worry that my child is not getting the most out of her education.
Now how did I get to this point? Well, it started during my observation hours that I had to do when I was becoming a teacher. I spent countless hours watching other teachers do their craft. I saw wonderful teachers and some that had no business being in a classroom. When you are teaching a history class and you have half your class in the back of the room watching game film for the this week’s game then obviously education is not the number one priority in that classroom. However there was a common theme that I saw in just about 90% of the schools that I went to observe in, which was not every student in the classroom was taking their education seriously. Even at the “best” schools there were students who were day dreaming, writing notes, texting, and a whole lot of extra things that distract from the learning environment. So what does the teacher do? In the age of the all important test and keeping schools accountable because of that test the class has to come to halt so the teacher can talk to that student to get them back on task. Can’t leave the child behind because that score might be the one that makes or breaks the school and having taught at a school that is “broken” the experience is not a whole lot of fun for the teachers or the students.
The next thing that has me rethinking a school setting for M is this counterculture shift to ‘school is just not that important’. It is all over television, movies, and music. It is very hard for a young person to see it constantly or hear that education is not “cool” then sit in a classroom all year and hear about just how important these tests are. It is a very conflicting view point and one that I think education is losing especially public schools. As a teacher I ran into this at one of my first parent teacher conferences that I ever had. This was many years ago and I remember having a parent of a failing student tell me that she thought her daughter was doing well enough because she herself had never made it to the eighth grade and she was just happy that her daughter had made it that far. Now this was a meeting in September, we still had the rest of the year to go through, but her daughter heard the message from her parent that she had already exceeded her parent’s expectations, why does she need to do more work. I tried several different things for the rest of the year to get her motivated about her work, but her mind was already made up. Now it was not just the fact that she was throwing away her education, but the example that she set for the rest of the class that was hard for the students around her to overcome.
Finally, the last straw that is breaking my back with regards to the American education system is these new models of “good” schools. I was watching an education special on one of the cable news networks the other day and it was showing how technology is paving the way to raising our scores. Great…sounds good, then you watch these students sit at a computer for who knows how long doing their lessons at their own pace. This allows the good students to learn faster and not be stuck waiting for the slower ones to do their work, and the slower ones can get the one-on-one attention they need via the computer. Win-win situation but what about the ability for the student to learn to properly interact with another human and is there a concern about how much time our youth today spends on a machine? If they spend all day in front of a computer why do they need to go to school, can’t they just do that at home? Oh wait… I guess they could, the big push in my state and probably in yours too is the online K-12 programs, virtual school.
I do not know about you but I am finding it hard to find a young adult who is working at a grocery store, restaurant, or a shopping center that has the personal skills to treat a customer the way they should be treated. In a country that is full of service industry jobs are personal skills not important? Well gee, does that really matter when the test scores of the computer based curriculum school are going up? We have to compete with all those countries who are beating us on those standardized tests. So the ends justify the means right? Computers are the long term answers to why those foreign schools are beating us. Heck some of those countries that are beating us barely have electricity. It is a cultural shift that needs to take place in America if we want to compete academically with those countries. Those countries are beating us because education is a valued commodity and when students do not have five hours of homework each night their parents are complaining. It starts at home and that is why if my children are to have a quality education then home schooling is looking like a more viable option.
Full-disclousure- I work at an inner city middle school with roughly 99% free or reduced meals. I teach 8th grade social studies and around 90% of my regular education students pass the state mandated test at the end of the year and roughly 80% of all my students pass. So I’m not a teacher who is trying to pass the blame, just one who is trying educate about what it is like in a pubic school.
Image via http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01249/computers_school_1249813c.jpg