The Next Generation - Guest Post!
By Laura Cooke
There is nothing more difficult than trying to figure out how to educate your first-born, smarter-than-the-others, cuter-than-most, sensitive, inquisitive, courageous, perfect baby. Who on earth will you find to put Band-aids on those scraped knees, even when they're really not injured? Who's going to explain goldfish death with the delicate care she needs? Is there anyone out there who will understand that she's easily embarrassed? After watching her learn from the world, who can still give her the world...inside a classroom? Whose side will the teacher take when she gets into her first squabble without a referee? Who can possibly correct her mistakes with the love of a person truly invested in her heart, mind and soul?
I swore up and down that I'd send my kids to public school. Until I met them. Now I have this incredible little girl who does these amazing things, all day long. She's also incredibly frustrating. In typical preschooler fashion, she's a repeater. When she learns something, she has to do it again and again and again. Andrew and I, naturally, think everything she does is just wonderful and we repeat it with her again and again and again. Would her kindergarten teacher have that kind of time? Would they have the patience to listen to her stories? Would they encourage her to imagine more? To play more? To give more? Or would she be encouraged to sit quietly, endure distractions and attempt to learn in a group of thirty children?
Discipline gives character to a child and helps them to quiet their minds and organize their thoughts and opinions. Teaching a child to work within a time frame and complete tasks is important, no doubt. But to Andrew and I, respect for individuals and politeness in any situation comes first. We've learned that a likeable child with impeccable manners does, in fact, get the worm. My biggest worry in sending my girls to school is the "respect dearth" in the education system. While children are taught that everyone is equal, little attention is paid to mannerly interaction and respect. Not just respect for others, i.e. no hitting or biting, but respect for themselves. When children stopped rising to meet the teacher in the morning and saying "Yes Sir and Yes Ma'am," a huge shift occurred in the system. That shift is still moving to this day, the dearth getting bigger and badder as time goes on. Who will take the care to remind my daughters that a lady does not sit that way, speak that way, accept that sort of language and participate in that sort of behavior? Who will show them the respectful and modest way to guard their modesty and use their femininity in the right manner?
Is there sex in the schools? No doubt. Guns in lockers? Absolutely. Drugs behind the gym? You know it. Teachers and students interacting in abhorrent ways? To be sure. But HOW did it get that way? A lack of respect. Mothers aren't waiting at home for a call. Teachers are told that self-expression is more important than wisdom. Children are running their schools before they know how to run themselves. It's a sad, sad place and I don't have to turn my children over to a broken system.
Andrew survived public school. He's a fine, fine man with heaps of respect for others. They can survive, no doubt. But he survived in a different generation. The differences between just ten years ago and today are vast and frightening. And should children have to survive? Education should be a means to a thriving, vibrant child. When I see children assimilate to the public education system, I see them stripped of their innocence, vibrance and imagination. The real world is introduced to a 5-year-old and it just doesn't feel right.
So that means I have to homeschool? Well, maybe. But haven't I been their only teacher until now? Didn't I teach Lucy how to turn pages in a board book? Didn't I teach Molly how to problem-solve as she taught herself to sleep in her own crib? The simple skills, lovingly taught, make way for more complex ones. As I sit and teach them red, blue, yellow and green, those basic steps make a place for learning purple, orange, lime and brown. I'm sure I'll eventually have to teach them things like the absence of color and classical art and the Renaissance, but true education is a series of baby steps, isn't it? Some of it, we'll have to learn together. But my girls will be learning outside the box, literally. They'll be able to read in the sunshine, take puddle breaks, enjoy recess, eat PB&J with the crusts off every day and know that they're in the hands of the one person who truly values every, single second of their lives. What a gift. (And what a run-on sentence!)
There is going to come a time very soon in the future where graduates no longer have the education needed to complete simple standardized tests. This will be the point where homeschooled graduates take the reigns and really step in to run this country. Parents the world over have recognized this crisis and are stepping in before the damage is done.
I have been going around and around about this. Homeschooling is tough. It requires discipline, planning, motivation and attention to detail. It requires filing, organization and dedication. On top of all of that craziness, you have to be with your kids all day. I never thought I'd want to be with my kids all day. But that was before I knew there were people out there who are as awesome as the ones Andrew & I produce. Who wouldn't want to be with them?! I can promise you, no teacher will ever say that about my girls. Who better to educate them than someone who holds them in the highest esteem?
I should add...homeschooling does not keep your children out of trouble. They will still sneak out, make out, cut up, fib and get into all sorts of tangles. There is positively no way to stop the hormones and ill-fated judgement of an adolescent. They will, however, recognize that what they're doing is not going to take them down the right path and I can guarantee that your work will not be in vain. As you teach them with the love only a parent can offer, they will hesitate more, consider more and reflect more as they work through the stormy seas we all have to navigate. You don't want a child who doesn't experience. You want a child who can mantain the person he or she is and will become while they experience. (Why have a guardian angel if he's just going to sit around??)
We haven't made our final decision on whether or not we'll homeschool, but after writing this I doubt I can justify sending them to school. Andrew says it's ultimately my decision and he trusts my vision, but obviously it's something we talk about frequently and will embark upon as a family. (And don't get me started on spousal trust practically DEFINING the homeschooling family. I could write a book, y'all.)
I suppose it will really just come down to who I trust the most to shape my children into the amazing people they will continue to be. If you're reading this, I'll be praying for you as you start making these decisions. Right about now, you might be saying to yourself, "My! Wasn't that well-written?" Well of course it was, silly. I was homeschooled!