We’re blessed with some wonderful schools in our little town, and I know a lot of teachers personally. I like them. And it would be great to put my 7-year-old daughter on a bus in the morning and have some peace and quiet sometimes, and not have to worry about childcare on work days.
But here we are, homeschooling again.
My boys are 21, 19, and 17, and all were home-educated in my eclectic, facilitator-more-than-teacher way. We had compelling reasons for homeschooling, but things have changed. We live in a community where I bet a lot of the public school teachers are Christians. I’m working outside of the home, and childcare is not easy to find for school-aged children.
But after a summer of praying and thinking about it, I realized I’m just not comfortable sending my daughter off to a full-day, five-day-a-week program. I can’t point to any specific incident in our neighborhood school as a reason for keeping my daughter home this year. Yet my gut tells me that the kind and capable teachers and administrators I’ve met are working within a system that has values opposed to mine. And I don’t want to have to compete for my daughter’s value formation.
Apparently, I’m not the only person who feels this way. The Barna Group recently released a study in which they asked Americans what they think about the country’s public education. Here’s some of what they discovered:
Only 7% of U.S. adults said the public education system in our nation is “very effective.” Nearly half (46%) maintain that public schools have further declined in the last five years. A mere one-third of parents of school-age children (34%) say public schools are their first choice for their children.
Barna makes the argument that public schools still need Christians to be involved. Their study shows that Christians volunteer in the classroom more often. More than 2/3 of the public school teachers say they are Christians. Churches provide after school programs, tutoring, and other support. Barna says the public schools need us to be involved, in order to help teachers, shape policy and influence children with our involvement; it’s proven to be a good thing for public schools.
Yet the study also shows that Christians, more than any other group in the U.S., would rather not send their kids to public school.
While 84% of churchgoing parents send their children to public schools, only 24% say that is their first choice. In comparison, 40% of people who don’t attend church regularly say public schools are their first choice. Though only 6% of churchgoers send their children to religious schools, a full 47% say they would prefer to send them if they could, followed by a combined 28% who would choose homeschooling, private schools or charter schools.
It isn’t a surprise to me that the stats show Christians are important to the public schools. But it also doesn’t surprise me that some Christians don’t feel confident it’s the best place for their kids… especially when you hear and read about a teacher punishing students for saying “bless you” when someone sneezes; or questionable curriculum being imposed on schools by the federal government; or outrageous policies that result in 6-year-olds getting suspended.
Why risk entering in to all that drama? Why risk having your parenting undermined?
I’m not ruling out public school or private Christian school for the future, but for now I’ll go with my gut, brush off my Charlotte Mason books, get creative with our family’s schedule, and look forward to a year of getting to be the primary influence on our daughter’s wonderful, beautiful brain. It won’t always be easy; but it will be fun.
Update as of 2016: In the interest of full disclosure, we are no longer home-schooling, although we are still fans. As wonderful as that lifestyle can be, circumstances changed, and it no longer fit our family in this season. I went back to work full time as a ministry director in our church, and our remaining school-aged child is in a Christian School.
We’ll see what the future holds!