Public School v. Homeschooling: My Dirty Little Secret
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
For the past few years, I feel like I've been living a double life. It's not that I've been flat out lying, but I haven't always felt 100% honest in my social media profiles.
It's time you knew: My heart is torn between public school and home school. You see, my kids go to public school, but I teach homeschoolers.
Ok...so maybe that's not tabloid worthy news, but sometimes it feels like a scandal. Education has long been a polarizing issue between political parties, but it's now dividing friends, families, and playgroups. It seems that it's only acceptable to come down on one side or the other and condescension towards the other group is expected.
Well, here's a news flash: The type of schooling you choose does not make you a superior human being and it certainly doesn't make your child superior to others.
I suspect you're aware that public school teachers often have a low opinion of homeschooling families. It can feel like a slap in the face for these teachers to spend many years training and growing in this profession only to have a parent get frustrated and pull their kid out of the classroom. They get angry when, in addition to their already packed teaching schedules, they have to provide resources and textbooks for kids that aren't even in their classes anymore.
Homeschooling families, on the other hand, have been known to see public school teachers as government pawns and slackers. The perception is often that teachers don't care about their students, don't know their content, and spend a large majority of their teaching time playing mindless videos for their classes.
Early in my teaching career (a little longer ago than I'd like to admit), I taught in public school classrooms. I taught Biology, Physical Science, and Earth Science. I taught high school and middle school. And to all those middle school teachers: BLESS YOU. I only made it one year with those hormone-enslaved nuts. (I say that lovingly, as I currently have one under my own roof.)
During my first two years of teaching, I had to teach Biology from a 2' x 4' rolling cart. All of my teaching materials and science equipment was moved from room to room each period and my office was a tiny cubicle in a common area of the high school. To say this was a frustrating arrangement is an obvious understatement. But did I still work my tail off trying to reach every student in my classes with any and all possible teaching strategies and resources I could find? Absolutely.
I taught in an urban high school, a suburban high school, and a rural high school during my public school career. I taught with exceptional teachers that inspired me and apathetic teachers that should have retired years ago. I had fabulous administrators that backed up their staff and only wanted the best for their students. I also had terrible administrators that were only driven by tests, data, and politics.
Is public education a mixed bag? Absolutely.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I left full-time teaching and began substitute teaching. Over the next few years, I also dabbled in private tutoring and had 2 more daughters.
During this time, we were attending a small church with many homeschooling families and I made lots of friends in the homeschooling community. I saw these parents doing everything they could to raise polite, well-educated citizens and I was impressed. Eventually, a friend of mine asked me to teach Biology at a local homeschool co-op. My kids had gotten a little older and I jumped at the chance. Once a teacher, always a teacher.
This opportunity was a blessing that had long-term effects on my life. I have now taught in homeschool co-ops for 5 years and in two different states. I love the small class sizes, flexibility to choose my curriculum, and lack of bureaucratic paperwork. During this time, though, I've become better connected with the homeschooling community and I've seen both extremes of homeschooling, just as I did in public school.
Many homeschooling families spend immense amounts of time researching curricula, testing resources, keeping up with content, navigating college admissions processes, and trying to provide their children with every opportunity to succeed. They are constantly reevaluating their educational choices in order to meet the needs of each individual child. There are a large number of homeschoolers with learning disabilities because their parents felt they weren't being well served in the public school system.
I've also seen homeschooling families that attempt to manipulate the system in order to do as little teaching and learning as possible. I've seen high school students whose parents don't follow up and are unaware that their child spent the day playing video games instead of doing school work.
Is homeschooling a mixed bag? Absolutely.
Our family has been blessed to live in areas with great public schools. My oldest needed a teacher other than me, which is how we started down the public school track. Don't for a second think that I have passed off my kids' schooling to someone else, though. I am frequently in their classrooms, communicating with teachers, and checking on what they're learning. I supplement and modify their schooling as needed. I've even taught several lessons in their classrooms.
Are there things that happen in their school that are less than ideal? Absolutely. I've made my feelings known to teachers and administration when necessary. We're only venturing out of elementary school this year and I am constantly reevaluating whether public school is the best choice for our family. Homeschooling is always an option. Private schooling is always an option.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Education can bring out some very strong opinions within our communities. I truly think that's just because we're all trying to do what's best for our children. (Every teacher I know talks about their students as their "kids"). We are blessed to live in a country that allows us to choose among a host of schooling options. Let's agree that there are benefits and problems with any type of schooling.
I know I, for one, am tired of the animosity.
So you won't find me catering to two different audiences anymore. Every teacher- both in the classroom and at home- needs great resources. I certainly acknowledge that some lessons work better for one group than another, but I'd rather let you decide how to use my resources to suit your needs.
SO WHAT IS CHANGING?
From now on, I'll be combining my two businesses. Gnature with Gnat (my TeachersPayTeachers store) and Home Science Support (my homeschooling online courses) will be joining under a new name: Suburban Science.
Both names have had some issues over the years- I mean who picks a business name with a silent letter in it? I was naive when I made them and they've both grown faster than anticipated, which makes it very difficult for me to maintain customer service and social media accounts for both businesses well.
I think this change will benefit everyone by providing easier access to the resources you need. It will take me a while to change everything over so don't be surprised if you still see the old names for a little yet.
You'll see me post about my homeschool co-op classes and my kids' schools. You'll see me post fun science facts and teaching tips.
But most of all, you'll see my real life, rather than a rose-colored version of it designed to fit into a homeschooling or public school box. And I hope that encourages all of us to see that we're not all that different after all.
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