I’m a homeschooling parent so I belong to quite a few homeschooling groups on social media. I used to love seeing what other families were up to and asking my questions, but lately, these feeds are regularly inundated with news stories about public schools, and quippy little statuses about how awesome ‘we’ are for homeschooling. I’ve got to be honest. The public school bashing is starting to get to me. The number of instances of this are increasing.
Now it’s true… Sometimes, it feels justified. Debate surrounding abuse and neglect of students by teachers, commentary regarding the latest headline news about armed teachers, and discussion about the horrors of common core all come to mind.
So don’t misunderstand me. These are valid reasons, in my opinion, to keep your kids out of public schools and I’m positive I could write 10 reasons to keep your kids home, as well. The shootings, the bullying, the abuse by teachers… I understand why some parents are in an uproar about public education and choose to keep their kids out of public school. But, as a public school graduate, as the child of public school educators, and as the friend of many teachers and support staff who work in public schools, I’ve gotta tell ya… the public school bashing makes me crazy!
So, from this homeschooling mom to all you parents who are loving their public school experience, and to all you homeschooling parents who are silently (or not silently) judging others and tearing down a valid educational institution, I give you; 10 Reasons Why Public Schools are Awesome.
1. It’s free childcare. I see Facebook status’ every single day this time of year about how excited parents are to ship their kids out for the day and – I’m paraphrasing here, but I think I’m correct – let someone else deal with them! Oh moms and dads, I hear ya! I mean, I love having my girl home with me. Truly. But some days, it would be awfully nice to have a bus to throw her on and some well educated adults to not only look after her all day, but teach her stuff too!
2. The beautiful souls inside those walls teach our kids to read. I see post after post every single day on homeschool forums about how hard it can be to teach a kid to read. Phonics? Sight-words? Sounding out? Broken rules? To diagram or not to diagram… all of these reading and language focused questions are totally legit and I’m thankful every day that someone else taught my baby many of these valuable skills. I’m totally serious. I’m not sure we’d have gotten past ‘at’ and ‘the’ had she been homeschooled in the primary years. Kudos to primary school teachers!
3. School is inspiring. My daughter had public school teachers who were better story-tellers than I am – better at bringing history to life, and describing things in great details that make learning dynamic and memorable. It’s hard at times, to be the jack-of-all-trades. To try to inspire kids to love a subject that, (let’s be honest…) we HATE, is no little task. So at a public school, where a teacher who loves history teaches history all day, or a teacher who loves doing messy science experiments teaches science all day… well they’ve got a big advantage over me in the inspiration department, especially on the days when just floating a cork in a cup of water seems a bit overwhelming.
4. They let things like THIS happen. Teachers help kids decorate cookies at Christmas and put together plays. They make silly crafts and invite moms and dads who work everyday to come in and visit their classrooms. They bring us to tears by teaching our kids songs. They teach them to be artistic and musical. When my daughter attended public school as a little one, assemblies and parent visit days were among my favorite days of the year!
5. Public schools are full of really nice and fun kids. Yes, there are mean ones. No, not all kids get along. But just because there are a few bad apples doesn’t mean friendships and relationships can’t grow in public schools. And, if we are the kind of great parents we say we are, sending our kids to public schools fills them with even more friendly kids!
6. Public schools provide opportunities for kids to learn and compete in sports. I’m a fan of competition. I don’t like the idea of students competing for everything… I’m not a fan of the idea of ‘race to the top’ or comparison of grades. But sport is a safe and fun way for kids to develop a spirit of competition, and a drive to win. Not all kids are competitive by nature, but those who are need a healthy way to express their desire to be the best. Being on a team is proven to be beneficial in other ways, too: accountability to others, respect for coaches, learning integrity through following rules, and self-discipline through practice are just a few of the awesome things kids can learn from playing a sport. Not all parents can afford to register their kids in private rec leagues, but in public schools, kids get to participate for free!
7. At school, kids have the opportunity to be part of awesome art programs. From music lessons to band practice, art class to art history, and drama & dance to full-fledged productions, schools give artsy kids a way to express themselves that homeschoolers can’t always replicate at home.
8. There are countless awesome, caring, and knowledgeable teachers in public schools. In our public school experience, we’ve definitely had a few teachers who were duds. But many, many of the teachers we encountered were people I was thankful my daughter was around every day. Teachers pour their time and energy into our kids. It is, in so many ways, a very selfless job. I know, the debate over education is always thriving – but let’s face it. Anyone who willingly, sits in a room with 30 (or more!) bratty, smart-mouthed, smelly little kids gets my respect!
9. Kids who need some extra help have services to help them succeed. Support staff, ESL teachers, counselors, after school help… there are lots of ways public schools attempt to stand in the gap for kids who learn just a little bit differently. While not every school board does this perfectly, I am in love with integration, and have seen it done very well.
10. They are a place of great diversity and can offer ways for parents to encourage their kids to be accepting of others who are unlike themselves, and to give our kids many opportunities to show compassion. I’ve seen some homeschooled kids who do not understand how to relate to people of different ethnic backgrounds. Some don’t know how to have conversations with kids who aren’t of their religion. Others still haven’t been allowed to get together with kids whose families don’t agree with theirs on theology. Public schools require kids to be around differences of opinion, and that can be a bold and powerful tool in teaching empathy.
And, a bonus!
11. No one is turned away from public school. Regardless of circumstance, income level or social status, all kids can be educated in public schools. I’m not a fan of kids having to apply and ‘audition’ for private schools, as if some kids are more deserving of a better education than others! I’m also a realist when it comes to homeschooling, and realize that not all families are in a situation that allows them to educate their kids. Single parents, moms with too many kids to manage it, families who need extra income, or parents who are emotionally or physically unable to educate their kids need a place where they can send their children to learn, and not feel judged. It’s cruel and uncaring to consistently tell these well-meaning parents that their choice is wrong. It’s mean to repeatedly cut down a parent’s decision to public school.
Homeschoolers are constantly questioned about ‘socialization’ and we are forever viewed as ‘those weird unsocialized homeschoolers.’ I would argue that when we publicly tear down other’s choices to send their children to school we are being just that – weird and unsocialized… Because a healthy and well meaning parent doesn’t tear down other parents. It’s not portraying good social conduct to attempt to raise ourselves up by undermining the decisions of others. Let’s let our actions speak louder than our Facebook statuses. Let’s spread our love and concern for children without the judgement and condemnation toward parents.