Friday, January 17, 2014

A Plug for Public Schools

With all the digs on the government and its awful debt and leadership, I just had to write this post!

I have several friends who homeschool and this blog post is not meant to offend any of them.  I just want to share my own personal experience with school and my children's educational experiences, in case there is anyone out there reading this and feeling guilty for not homeschooling.

I have had children in the public school system for 10 years and, because of moving, between my four oldest children they have gone to a total of ten different schools in five different school districts. 

I just want to add that I home school my own children for three months of the year, every year--June through August.  We don't just veg on summer break.  I set up schedules and draw up lesson plans and assemble school work packets.  It is a lot of work--summer break is really not a break for me.  I love teaching my kids and having fun activities to do with them throughout the summer, but, I welcome the opportunity for them to go and experience school in a classroom setting--learning with their peers, learning how to communicate with their peers, learning to take turns, being exposed to different teaching styles, and being in a position to help others.

So, I do know what it is like to homeschool.  Those who do it year round--good for you!  Everyone has their reasons....

People are afraid of the public schools for many reasons.  And, you can google all those reasons.  Really though, there are dangers all over the place, whether you are in school or not.  While I am not turning a blind eye, I do want to talk about the positive experiences I have had over the years with, *gasp* public schools, so here is a list of things that I have done, over the years, that have made our public school experience enjoyable:

1. Do YOUR homework.  I have always checked out the ratings for the new schools, before we moved and enrolled our children in them.  I check the school's academics, test scores, extra-curricular activities, as well as any comments from actual students, parents, and faculty.

Almost always, I have been able to go tour the schools beforehand, many times with my children.  Being a religious person, I always pray before I go, so that I can sense things at the school I am visiting. 

2. Meet and greet.  We go to back to school night, open house, whatever you want to call them---we go and meet our kids' teachers.  I ask them frank questions, give clear comments, and sincerely compliment them.  I have yet to meet a teacher who does their job for the money.  They aren't getting paid a lot and they want to make a difference.  They are usually eager to meet me, the parent behind the brilliant and kind student that they love having in their class.

3. Stay involved.   Become a member of the PTA or PTSA and attend meetings.  You get to meet other concerned parents who care about their child's education.  Most importantly I volunteer in the classroom--teaching art or music or just helping out by running copies or grading homework.  This is much more difficult to do in jr. high and high school but there are still ways to get involved--being in contact with the teachers makes it more possible to lend a friendly, helping hand, even if it's just chaperoning a field trip on a bus full of loud teenagers :) .

4. Keep up with your students.  We talk a lot, my children and I.  They are as anxious to see me after school, as I am to see them!  I love being the first person they share their struggles and triumphs, of the day, with.  I love meeting their friends and their friends' families.  It feels good to know the faces of those names you hear all about. Keep the communication door open between you and your child.  Be present and willing to help with homework--know what they are studying!

5. Show appreciation.  I try to take opportunities to show my gratitude to my kids' teachers.  Most of them have master's degrees in their fields.  This means my children are exposed to much more knowledge than I have in my repertoire.  I appreciate teachers sharing their wealth of knowledge with my children. 

Letters, like the following, show that my children's teachers appreciate them too.  I am blessed to have such wonderful children and I am glad that they have the opportunity to regularly share their light with others, as they work hard at their education.

"She raises the bar, and I appreciate her academic work ethic and her kindness.  She will be missed..."  Mrs. K.

"_____ will be greatly missed.  ______ often enhances classroom discussions and is very cooperative.... I feel fortunate to have known _________ for this short time."  Ms. D.

"________ is such a bright spot and finds good in everything!"  Mrs. S

" __________ 's stories are so imaginative and creative.  We love having __________ in our class.  His peers look up to him and he is kind and friendly to everyone."  Mrs. L.

And, of course I could go on and on.  I am not saying that the public school system is a perfect one--'cause it is not!  But, I don't think homeschooling is either.  I know for each parent and each child it is different.  So, I am not here to make digs about either.  But, I want people to know that good things do come out of the public school system and I intend to help that continue to the best of my ability!



the Holyoaks said...

I love this post! As a former public school junior high English teacher and now mom of three, I too am a champion of our public schools. So much of what you get from them, as a student and as a parent, really depends on the attitude you have going in. If you think your experience will be good and that you or your child's teachers are there to help, you will have that experience.

Thank you for this well thought out and well articulated post. I couldn't agree more with each of your points. You are pretty amazing! This just makes me miss you more but also makes me so happy that you are my friend.

Marie' said...

Wonderful post, Kiersten! I grew up loving school, and my parents did just what you wrote. They taught me to respect my teachers, and showed it by example.

Tara said...

Being teacher in the public schools, I also very much appreciate this post. I see first hand the efforts expended by those giving their all to educate children. It's a demanding and often under appreciated profession.

You are an excellent, involved and diligent mom that any teacher would appreciate!