Whatever option you choose, make your child’s school their “home” school!

The question came up this week, in an online parenting group, about whether or not to homeschool? I am always happy to share my parenting successes and failures with this group of intelligent awesome moms! So, feeling like I couldn’t fit all this into a little box on the wall of our Facebook group, here we are!

I have a lot of experience with various schools in the area! Not only did I have four kids of my own in school, but I also worked for almost ten years for Bangor Adult Education. I worked with high school dropouts, laid off workers, Job Corps students and home-schooled students, from all over the state. I have seen both the successes and the failures of public and private education first hand!

I respect every family’s choices! However, homeschooling wasn’t one I felt comfortable making. I was never convinced that I could cover everything my children needed to learn. I mean that’s why teachers go to school for all those years, right? That doesn’t mean that other parents aren’t qualified, I just knew this was important and didn’t want to screw it up. So in the same way I wouldn’t be my children’s dentist, I decided not to be my children’s teacher.

Working in Adult Ed, I ran into a lot of homeschool kids. In order to go on to college, many had to come take their GED. The students I worked with who had been homeschooled had varying abilities, just like any other students. The  students whose parents had done an excellent job usually belonged to homeschooling groups, where parents shared resources. Some parents sent their kids to public school for music, art and gym. Other parents had their high school age children take adult education classes in order to earn prerequisites for college. Unfortunately, there were also kids whose parents have failed them terribly and they were lacking essential skills. Thankfully, those were usually the exceptions!

What I did see often, unfortunately, were homeschooled kids who had difficulty with social skills. They had trouble interacting with kids their own age and no idea how to handle conflict or peer pressure. Ask any college administrator what happens to a large portion of homeschooled kids their freshman year! You’ll find out that many of these kids have a hard time handling their first taste of freedom. This is why I believe that freedom is best handed out in small doses, while we are still there to supervise and step in when necessary!

All of my children graduated from the Bangor School System, and while there are lots of things I would improve upon, overall, I believe it is a great system and we were fortunate to be a part of it. Briefly, before moving to the City, my oldest children went to an elementary school in a small, rural Maine town. I was very active in the school and served for several years as our parent-teacher organization president. During one particularly heated meeting it came to my attention that several parents were unhappy with the public school and were planning to transfer their kids to private school. They were some of my most passionate, involved parents! All I could think of was how on earth we could get along without them. I set about trying to talk them out of it! This school, I said, belongs to all of us. If you don’t like how things are going, stay and fight to make them better. This was our town, and our tax dollars, and all of our children! Not all of the children had parents who were involved, who cared, who worked and advocated for the things they needed. What would happen to them if the rest of us all left!

Our city or town’s children belong to all of us! The child that is not getting the services they need in elementary school becomes the child who drops out of high school. If you want a community full of well educated, employed, and involved citizens, it starts with supporting all of them when they are children, which starts with supporting your local school system! Trying to figure out what to do with them when they are jobless, and spending their days hanging out downtown smoking cigarettes and getting into trouble is too late. The entire community should be involved whether its voting on what’s needed, fundraising when necessary, or donating time and energy! It really does take a village!  

School also has another aspect that is just as important as reading and math. In the same way that we all do better when we have peers to support us, when we feel invested in a community, so do our children. Part of their education, part of them growing into healthy adults, involves learning to interact with other people. Its about learning to make friends and learning to be part of a group outside their family. It involves learning to accept what’s best for the whole group, even if its not what we might want at the moment! Its involves learning to resolve conflict and how to get along with people we just don’t like, because ultimately, no matter how long our parents try to protect us, we all have to learn those things! All of these skills are vital and much harder to acquire if they aren’t learned early!

So whether you choose homeschooling, or private school, or public school, remember that parenting isn’t about protecting your children from everything and then pushing them out of the nest when they hit a certain age. It’s a much more gradual process of short flights. Its about teaching them to accept both the successes and the disappointments in life while you are still there to fly home to. In this way, when the time comes for them to really leave the nest, they have ALL the skills they need!

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Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.