The Angst of School Choice: Above All, Choose Grace.

There is a lot to be said -and there IS a lot said - about almost every aspect in the parenting of one's child/children, particularly before they are birthed or long before they reach certain milestones. Before my first child came rambling down the old birth canal, I was incredibly certain how I would raise them. So certain were my convictions, I had the audacity to consider writing a parenting book before conception. Imagine the pillar of smoke from THAT book-burning bonfire by experienced mothers everywhere!

While the core values (such as respect, responsibility and kindness) are still in tact, there are choices which have obliterated my once-resolute set of wills-and-will-not's.

Take education for example. It is a part of one's childhood that has many repercussions in their adult experience, making it a weighty decision. The two people making the decision have their own experiences playing into it. He went to public school, I went to a private one. Last year, we sent none to preschool and two to our small and well-run public school for half-day kindergarten, so close our children can walk to it. I loved going into the school, grateful for a teacher who loved our two kindergarteners and did an incredible job in teaching them how to read while keeping order in the classroom. I had no negative experience, but as this past summer wore on, I began to dread the children going to two different teachers with two different sets of homework coming home, having them spend 8 hours a day away (even though this is actually one of my dirty fantasies most days) and having to pretend to care about Earth Day Projects, reading logs, etc. etc. etc. (I know....wonder where my children get their chronic whiiiiiining problem from).  My overactive mind started to hover in otherwise unchartered (for me) territory: Cyber School.

There are a few families for whom I personally know whose children are some of the politest, well-adjusted, friendly, inquisitive and helpful children I know and they pique my curiosity. With these few families, there is a complete lack of the air of "I desire to nurture my children (morethanyoudoyours), so therefore, I give them the BEST education by schooling them at home". They do not wear their school choice as a badge of self-righteousness...they are simply independent adventurers. I think their free-spiritedness is compelling, their disciplined efforts admirable and there is part of me that totally adores what they do and would love to mimic it.  In one of my imaginary worlds, my children and I take long, lingering nature walks for science class, act out "Shakespeare for Preschoolers" (which we have memorized, naturally, since I've been reading it to them since the womb) and each has a favorite little nook or cranny of the house in which they daily curl up to read their 85 books from the library. Sitting in my rocker in this imaginary universe, I smile as I watch the sunlight dancing on their rosy cheeks (rosy because they were outside working merrily as team recreating an early Egyptian pyramid out of red clay). All this would be on your average school-year weekday and if we felt like it, we would put down our sharpened Ticonderoga's, close our black and white Composition notebooks and head out for a field trip to Target (which would also conveniently double as a math lesson in the study of receipts).

With this exceedingly deceiving scenario in mind, paired with a laziness that whispered "class parties...Science Projects....Reading Logs...times two...coming back to a frenzied household near you, and very soon!", I declared to my husband that I thought the one-and-only Holy Ghost was prompting me to look into cyber school for our precious offspring for this upcoming school year. Being the wise man he can be, he assumed an unsurprised expression and in a measured mode, told me he supported my LOOKING INTO it. Most days when he comes home, he's just hoping that the children don't tell him that I've finally been carted off in a little white jacket with no hope for return. Looking back, the experience (for him) had to be akin to hearing Lindsay Lohan declaring she's leaving Hollywood to head up The Huffington Post Religion section. The person's ability simply did not match the cause.

At his blessing for "research", I stepped out in bold faith the very next day with characteristic cannon-ball speed. I attended an Cyber School Open House at a nearby hotel meeting room.

I walked in, sans any note-taking device and met the very kind representative for the "school". Another mother eventually joined us and the informational meeting got started. As facts and figures where being shared (ones in which the other mother was diligently scribbling down on her notebook), my vision started to blur and sweat started to trickle down the nape of my neck. There finally came a point in which I felt my hand raising itself and heard my voice ask a very telling question: "Um, I'm just wondering exactly how much parental participation is required during a daily school day, please? Like, how many hours would the parent have to supervise?"

The with-child rep tried not to look repulsed, graciously replying "Oh, my. I would say pretty much all five hours must be supervised by a parent. There would be a teacher-led class on the computer twice a week, but other than that, you must be present for their continual learning support."

I could feel the nervous twitch that has developed over an eternal summer with a posse of five small children start to take over my right eye by storm. Visions of long days with pajama clad children duct taped to the kitchen/desk chairs with Jack Daniels becoming their mother's preferred Teacher's Helper started to dance in my head.

"Of course, of course!", I stammered, trying to downplay the obvious assumption I had thought the computer would enrapture and educate my children (in our home) all by it's lonesome. I may or may not have explained it earlier to one of my children as being just like "when you go to play on it's all morning!". 

In an increasingly less confident voice, I continued. "It's just that, well, I have three of my busiest children at home yet--twin boys who are three and a little girl who lives to make mischief--and I'm not certain how this would work...". I utter a half-hearted cackle at the severe understatement of what I just spoke.

"Sure. Sure. For families with younger siblings, we suggest buying desks for them as well, and letting them "play school"--color or do crafts or what not--while the older ones are learning", said the instructor with a polite smile. I stared blankly at her as if she had just said, "The world is full of unicorns, rainbows and lollipops around every bend! All you have to do is look to see them!"

This is when panic started to creep in and the sensation that I had terribly misread the old Holy Ghost cues took over. I clutched my receipt-littered purse closer and made myself stay in the chair and listen to the rest. As the meeting dwindled down, it was obvious she knew I was withdrawing my candidacy for Rookie Cyber School Mom Teacher of the Year and I thanked her for her time, sharing that is was good to know what was involved (apparently, the parent! Who knew?) and me and my notebookless self slipped out the side door.

On the way home, I was so overcome with relief that our little public school (who never did any wrong by me, except be part of system), filled with teachers who love and are TRAINED to teach (without Mr. Daniel's aid!), was waiting to take in our children for eight blessed hours a day that I nearly pulled in a laid a big wet kiss on an unsuspecting principle. No doubt it would have been a first for him and with the enraptured passion I was feeling at the moment, I daresay he would have enjoyed it. Truly, in our scenario, where my three youngest children cause me near-heart failure almost every single day, I am giving my school-aged children the gift of LITERACY, and possibly even sparing all of our very LIVES by SENDING THEM OUT THE DOOR to a place with people that can teach them in an environment far better than the one currently in our home, with their undisciplined mother (with a distracting eye twitch) at the educational helm (I shudder). I LOVE YOU TEACHERS!!!! xoxoxoxo.

Still, I respect the concept of cyber or home school. I had a terrific experience in the private school I grew up in. All of these are still options for other years, just not this one (or the next three. or until I have a startling change in my level of discipline). What this experience has taught me is this:

-Deciding the best course of education for your child can be tough (but always a privilege).

-Considering ONLY your family, your personality and your circumstances can be tricky, but it is completely necessary. We are apt to compare and go with the most acceptable route of those closest to us or around us. Just because all the "spiritual" people or supposedly "academic" people are doing it, does it mean it is BEST for your children and you.

-Whatever your decision between home, cyber, public or private, above all of it: CHOOSE GRACE. Grace to yourself and grace to those who choose a different path than you.

It is has been a good whirlwind that I put myself through. That I am not cut out for home/cyber school right now (or ever) does not make me less loving or lacking in the nurturing department. Quite the contrary, I think I'm doing the most loving thing for my children by sending them to school. It might not always be the case, but for this season it is. The same can be said for the mother who decides to keep their child at home this year and teach them at home or for those parents who invest in a private education. These are choices loving parents here in America have the privilege of making. Let us extend grace to each other as we do so and remember that those who do not have any of these options certainly love their children just as much as we love ours.

PS. Stay tuned for my next post: "A Desperate Mother Who Would "NEVER" Send Her Children To PreSchool Calls Her Local Preschool And Offers Dinner Delivered For A Year To the Admissions Woman Willing to Move Them Up On the Waiting List". I'm working on a shorter title, but that's the gist of the piece.


Popular Posts