Facing the Stereotypes: Brittany’s Story

Facing the Stereotypes: Brittany’s Story

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. It was originally published on March 26, 2013.

Scene: Walking home from dropping the boys off at school. I stopped to chat with a fellow mom.

Other mom: Hey there! Are you on Facebook?
Me: (thinking, Who isn’t??? I LOVE FACEBOOK!) Yes!
OM: You should join our new group, the Perrymont Parent. It has the picture of the school as the profile pic.
Me: Awesome! I’ll join.
OM: Great! By the way, we are looking for parents to write a brief note about their child’s teacher, what you like about them, or whatever, to put in the school newsletter.
Me: I love my kids’ teachers! I’ll be sure to write a little something.

And I did. I joined the FB group and I spent 7 minutes composing a short love note for each Pre-K teacher for my twins. Because I do love their teachers. I love their school!

I love their Public School.

And the fact that I love their Public School is a little surprising to me. Here’s why:

As a former homeschool student, the prevailing thought was that all public schools were “bad.” Public school students were only “a number” in the classroom, would get lost in the crowd, and would therefore get a “bad” education. Public school kids were a “bad” influence because of their “worldliness” and bad attitudes. All the teachers were some combination of atheist/evolutionist/Marxist/liberal/lesbian/tree hugger and that was “very bad.”

Growing up, I was deathly afraid of public school.

Fast forward 20+ years and I am much smarter, wiser, more logical, and less silly.

I also have twin boys who are school age.

Last year when I launched my blog series about Adult Homeschoolers, the drive behind the project was my overwhelming, agonizing, paralyzing decision about whether or not to homeschool or send my kids to public school (private school wasn’t an option). All those fears from my childhood were blunging my brain, making my stomach cramp, and keeping me awake at night.

So I dove into exploring my educational past, and the educational experiences of so many other homeschool students. I talked the ears off my husband (who went to public school) and my best friend (who went to private school). I accosted to every mom I came in contact with (friends, strangers–whatever!) who happened to mention that she had school age children and threw out that loaded question: “So, public school?….how do you like it? Have you had a good experience?”

And, amazingly(!), all of those moms who sent their kids to public school answered, “YES!”

I had to face my fears with Truth:

My husband, a product of that “bad” public school system, turned out perfectly fine. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, way better than “fine.”

Through writing my homeschool series, I realized that I, as my children’s parent, will still be the #1 influence in their lives. I could still have a great relationship with my boys. I could still teach them about God and having a relationship with Him. I could still raise them to be respectful, grateful, loving men.

Even if I choose not to homeschool.

Even if I sent them to Public School.

So, we enrolled them in the small neighborhood Public School that is literally right across the street from us. I nervously asked my husband, “So, what is registration?” and then filled out all the forms, crossed all the T’s, dotted all the i’s. And they started school in August.

They loved it.

A few weeks later, I nervously asked my husband, “So, what is a ‘parent/teacher conference’? What do I say? What do they say?” and then went to have a one-on-one with my sons’ Public School teachers.

And I loved them.

They are wonderful women: kind, patient, creative, loving, and darn good educators. My children are learning so much in a loving, creative environment. My husband and I are constantly saying that each teacher is perfect for the personality and learning style of each of our sons. During one of our parent/teacher conferences, I told one teacher that she had been an “answer to my prayers.” She then shared about her relationship with the Lord.

Yep, the public school teacher.

The uncharted waters of Public School have been far from “bad.” They have been good, so good for our family.

I do know that all the stereotypes that I encountered as a homeschool student were probably not completely unfounded. Many parents have had justifiably bad experiences with public school classrooms, teachers, and their child’s peers.

However, stereotypes are just that: stereotypes. They are not true in every instance, or even most cases. And after our experience in the Public School system, I now take those stereotypes with a healthy grain of salt. As a former homeschooler, I am more than happy to shed my fears and add “Public School” to the list of viable options for my children as my husband and I continue to make conscience decisions about what is best for their education.

Looking Down Their Noses: Jamie’s Story

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Jamie” is a pseudonym. 

I have been mulling something over for about a month. Pieces of this for much longer. There is something I have noticed and it’s kind of driving me bonkers.

As someone who has taught in Christian/private schools, home schooled, been home schooled and now a mom of a public school student, I feel like I have a bone to pick.

Growing up home schooled and going to a billion home schooling conferences, I heard tons of “horror stories” of public school kids/classes/teachers. Looking back, I am surprised that some of these speakers didn’t dim all the lights and put a flashlight under their chin while they spoke. Parents leave these conferences determined not to let their kid go to a public school ever. So they keep home schooling, and honestly? Some home schooling families have no business “teaching” their kids, because they are learning nothing. (Those are the ones that give the “good” home schooling families a bad name.)

Even if these poor moms are ready to quit home schooling, they can’t. There’s fear. There’s judgement. There’s a pile of canned, self-righteous answers for all their reasons. Generally speaking, there’s no money to send their children to Christian school, public school is “out” (in their minds) and so they muddle on. Done, but not done.

When I taught (in several) Christian schools, there would be comments from the admins and staff alike that would poo-poo the other Christian school in the area. Basically, gossip:

“ABC school handled such and such poorly, we would have handled it so much better.”

“XYZ school allows such and such to go on, we would never allow that here.”

It all pretty much follows the pattern of “they are bad because ___, we are better because ____”.

Building yourself up with examples that may or may not be true (or based on truth) and tearing another down. It’s kind of a manipulative way to keep your staff and students right where you want them, all the while jacking up their tuition so much, it’s almost (if not impossible) to send even one child, never mind more than one. But still looking down their noses at public school families and rolling eyes at home schoolers.

I’m pretty tired of the whole scene.

There are fabulous teachers in the public school system, just like there are fabulous teachers at the little Christian school down the road, and fabulous mothers teaching their own children. And, news flash —

There are horror stories coming out of all three.

The public school system is not the enemy. It makes a convenient target, because it’s big and vague. And just because you assign too much home work, make your students wear uniforms, and have Christian in your title doesn’t make you “better.” And there are home schooling families that need to put aside their fear and the lies they have swallowed for years and admit they are in over their heads. The bottom line should be your children’s education. My oldest has learned more this year in public school than she has the last 3 years I have taught her. It’s been the best thing for her. I can “just” be her mom, and it’s taken a lot of pressure off of me.

It kills me when I hear people say, “I got to hear my child sing praise songs while cleaning their room. Ah, the benefits of home schooling.” Or, “I just got to see my child read a chapter out of the Bible. Ah, the benefits of home schooling.” Really? Somehow my children will never read the Bible or sing praise songs because they are in public school? They will never play nicely with their sisters or practice the piano or go to AWANA because they are in school? Just because it happens at 10:30 in the morning at your house, doesn’t mean it can’t happen after 3:30 in the afternoon at my house.

However you choose to educate your child is your business.

But there is not one way to do it. And there is not merely one way for each family. Kids are different, their needs are different, and situations change. Being fluid isn’t being weak. It’s being open minded and honest and putting your kids first.

And isn’t that what parenting is all about?

To be continued.