April 27th, 2010 Comments

East Dawn Schoolhouse(NOTE: This post is in response to this post I read yesterday.)

Neither of my grandfathers completed the sixth grade.  My parents completed high school, but neither completed more than a few college courses.  My brother and I went on to graduate school.  Someday I’ll finish my Masters, and he’s about ready to finish a Doctorate.  In addition, both of us are professional speakers, educators, and trainers.  In a word, education is something I do.

But that doesn’t mean I know anything about educational or learning theory.  I have friends who have PhDs in education and learning theory, and I have other friends who are school teachers.  Anecdotally, I can share experiences where teachers and instructors were awesome – and vice versa.  My other two claims to expertise in this arena are a history of that includes three grade schools, three middle schools, and two high schools.  Additionally, I had a brief tenure as a school principal last Spring!  In other words, I may not be able to define good educational theory, but I can certainly spot it when I see it.

With all that said, my preamble, so to speak, I’d like to address some thoughts I have on our current state of elementary education:

  • First, the majority of our public schools do a great job academically.
  • Unfortunately, due to numerous concerns, publicly funded schools no longer deal with issues of morality or character.
  • Over the past few decades, public school systems have developed fantastic programs for developmentally challenged and gifted students.  However, due to limited funding, these systems are unable to deal with the special niche needs of individual children and their families.
  • Private schools exist for various purposes.  Some value academics, others value creative pursuits.  Some private schools exist to protect the children of various religious sects, while providing a solid educational experience.  Private and parochial schools are more free to pursue character, moral, and values-based experiences.
  • Most private schools don’t have the resources to provide for children with educational and developmental challenges.
  • Finally, while there may be no perfect solutions, each family has to make choices based on their values, needs, and the vission they have for their kids.

Three Distinct Choices:

Because of the values, character, and morality issues, our family has decided against public education for our kids.  This isn’t to say that schools are corrupt or deranged.  Nor is it to say that our family’s values are better than others, it’s just that our family has chosen a different path in the raising of our kids.  The values we seek as a family, are basically unavailable in the public school system.

Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas (LOC)Our next choice would be the parochial system sponsored by our current church of choice.  Unfortunately, from our perspective, the majority of schools in this system emphasize behavior over principles, and religion over spirituality.  In many ways, this makes the church-school option more distasteful than the public school option – to us anyway.

A third choice would be a non-parochial, private school.  Despite the fact that most of these schools are above our pay-scale, which rules them out right away, it is ultimately a difference in values that would stop us from sending our kids to most top-rated private schools.  While they tend to prepare kids for great social and financial success, these aren’t values we put at the top of the list.  In fact, when I sat on a school board last year, I frequently was heard saying that I didn’t care if my kids ended up as trash-haulers, as long as their hearts are spiritually pure.

While there may be other choices that we haven’t fully considered, we look forward to the home-school option.  It won’t be easy, but it will allow us to stay true to our family’s values, spirituality, and to encourage our kids socially and academically.  Additionally, we want to encourage our kids to pursue a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.  Homeschooling will allow us to continue to be the parents we feel we need to be.

I started Kindergarten before I was five years-old.  Throughout the rest of my childhood, I was usually about a year younger than the other kids in my class.  Academically, I always did fine.  In fact, because I was rarely challenged, I was usually bored and only got average grades.  I could have skipped my senior year and graduated from high school when I was 16, but I’m so glad I didn’t know that!

Despite my good academic success, socially school was always hard on me.  What I’ve learned in my lifetime, trying to deal with some of the school-inflicted, social scars, is that it is better to start kids later rather than sooner.  While all kids have unique skills, talents, personalities, and issues, eight years-old seems to be a great age for kids to start school.  Before the age of eight, few kids are equipped to deal with the social pressures they experience.

I don’t care if my kids ended up as trash-haulers, as long as their hearts are spiritually pure.”

There are no easy solutions.  Single-parent homes, dual income families, busyness, stress, and various health and developmental issues make this all very complicated for everyone.  There is no way I want to come across as critical of the various options – or the people who make those choices.  For some, one option is out of reach, for another, there may be no other options except the one they’ve chosen.  It’s a jungle out there.

The key, to me as a father, is to have the courage to make the tough choices and not just go with the flow.  It would be easy to drift through the next 15 or so years of my kids’ lives without choosing – and just let the status quo choose for me.  But when I look back on the past 15-20 years of my life, they are a blur.  Those years seem just like yesterday.  So, knowing how quickly these years will go by, I’m willing to make the tough choices to give my kids the best foundation.

To our family, the best foundation isn’t always academics.  It is much more holistic than mere education.  We have chosen to play a deep and active role in our kids’ lives.  Whether it be unhealthy school lunches, bullying, abuse, or a lack of values-based learning, these are some challenges our kids won’t have to face.

I would love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments. What has your family chosen?  And why?  What do you value in an educational system?  What values are important in your family and how has that translated into your schoolastic choices?

(This post is in response to this post I read yesterday)

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  1. Brent Logan says:

    One option I didn’t see listed is the non-denominational, Christian, private school. You may find the values you’re seeking, and without the high cost of a non-parochial, private school. There is a hidden “cost” to this choice: your kids will learn that people of other denominations are Christians, too. 😉

    1. gwalter says:

      You’re right Brent. I don’t know enough about this option to speak with any real clarity.

      When I think of tailoring our kids’ education to fit our vision of social, spiritual, and health values, I continue to be drawn to the advantages of homeschooling. We are essentially taking an approach where we are daring to shelter our kids. It is our goal to provide for them a framework and foundation that will enable them the strength to make good choices when they are older.

      Also, because our current religious framework is in flux, we are unwilling to submit our kids to the instruction of another, who may (or may not…) differ from our own core values.

  2. Brent Logan says:

    Gary, we’ve done it all. We’ve had our kids at our denomination’s school, we’ve home-schooled each of them for multiple years, we’ve had them at a non-denominational school, and we’ve had one at a public school for multiple years. I served on the board of our school for many, many years, on the board of the non-denominational for a few, and I volunteer weekly (not to be confused weakly) teaching math at the public school. Sounds like we might have something to talk about. 🙂

    1. gwalter says:

      Hey – besides sitting down for a “cuppa sumpin,” may I suggest you share your experience and thoughts in a blog post? I’d even be willing to post it here – and would welcome a blogger of your caliber here!

      1. gwalter says:

        This is just a test of a new plugin.  A reply to this comment should send you and email.  We’ll see if it works…

      2. Brent Logan says:

        My caliber continues to increase. I suspect it would be career limiting if I were a circus cannonball (or maybe would result in a satisfying *pop* as I exited the barrel).

        My thoughts on this complex topic are many and my time available to write them down is mini. I’d prefer the face-to-face, enjoying a nice, hot “cuppa sumpin’.”

        For those who won’t be able to enjoy that mini-tweet-up, let me summarize:

        You typically find what you’re looking for. Your kids will get more out of it if they put more into it (regardless of what the teacher actually requires).

        Your kid’s education is vastly improved by your being an active and present participant.

        There’s much good to be said about homeschooling, private denominational schools, private non-denominational schools, and public schools.

        You kids can learn much by being exposed to different viewpoints. They can also learn a lot by being exposed to similar viewpoints by teachers whose behavior doesn’t match. I believe the latter is more insidious.

        Finally, YMMV.

      3. Brent Logan says:

        In re-reading my comment, I thought I should probably clarify: my penultimate point was not aimed at homeschooling teachers in general or you in particular.

  3. gwalter says:

    Thanks Brent! YOu make some mighty fine, high caliber points!  I think that fits well into our philosophy of starting our kids after they are better able to make good decisions for themselves.
    I’m about due for a trip over the mountain, and with most of my testing out of the way, I have more freetime than I did. Ping me with your schedule – or a time you’re available – and I’ll make it work!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gary Walter. Gary Walter said: Schooled | Confessing My Dad Attitude […]

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