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Soap Box: Education

Is public schooling better than homeschooling? Who knows? The answer to that second question is obvious: No one seems to know. For some reason, this often turns into a heated debate. We affix some personal and emotional attachment to being right. However, I do not think this is the “right” question. I think a better question would be: Which is the best choice for my family?

No one seems to know which is the better education. Why? Well, homeschooling isn’t the same across the board, just as public schools aren’t the same. Both types of schooling can fall victim to some of the same problems. For instance, in both environments you can find poor teachers. Lazy teachers. Burdened teachers. Teachers who don’t like their students – Oh no, not that! Another area could be parental involvement. Now, this gets a little hazy when the teacher and the parent are one in the same. There just seems to be more success on the part of a child, when parents are involved in their education. To be honest, I do not believe all public school education to be bad or good. I do not believe all homeschooling is bad or good. I also do not believe all flavors of ice cream are good. Some are, in fact, bad.

Another issue with both schooling environments: Socialization. Why does the matter of education become one of socialization? Socialization is a matter of human, and therefore, social development. Tell the truth! You heard someone say that word once and it just stuck in your head. One could argue that school is much more than book learning. Agreed. However, the idea that socialization occurs in public school is a myth. Having 30 ten year-olds cooped up in a classroom for seven to eight hours a day, five days a week is not socialization. Actually, that would be called a social experiment. Totally different.

On the other hand, the idea homeschoolers lack socialization is another myth. Homeschoolers have the opportunity to make the world their classroom. True, not every family leaves the farm. You may even find children locked away in underground bomb shelters, wearing dirt-caked clothing, broken finger nails, eating bugs, and never seeing the light of day. Oh wait, that was a low-budget movie I saw once. Innocent mistake. Home-educated students are not confined to a campus and have opportunities for civic involvement. In fact, my kids participate in several groups that include their peers. To break it down: These are both myths. Please get over it. Better yet, look up the definition of “socialization.” “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Quick, guess that movie!

Funding could be considered a problem plagued by both homeschooling and public school students. However, I’ve been on both sides and when it comes down to it, I pay a lot less schooling my kids at home. I found our public school constantly asking for money from parents. We have to purchase all of our child’s school supplies for the year, purchase all sorts supplies for little school-year parties, buy this and buy that. Not to mention purchasing lunch boxes, school clothes, backpacks, more binders because some kid at school vandalized or stole your child’s, etc. In fact, I’d really like it if your tax money went to my children’s schooling, too. No, you don’t agree? 🙂

Homeschool families have to consider what curriculum to purchase for the year, any supplies they may need or want, and well . . . that’s about it. I find that we rarely buy any extras. The real savings come down to clothes! I know, you weren’t expecting that one. I have saved a ton of money because I don’t have to run out and buy school clothes. They just wear the clothes they have. When they need something, then I go out and buy it.

Time. Time is wasted in the home and in the classroom. In the classroom, the teacher has a limited amount of time to dedicate to a particular subject or topic. Then the class must move on to the next subject. In the home, the kids can waste as much time as they want, but that dreaded writing project will still be waiting for them. In the classroom, students have to wait for the teacher to help students who need it. At home, the students ask for help and get it on the spot. At home, we actually have time for each other. The kids have time to pursue their interests. When my kids were in public school, they returned home at 4:30. Gavin had about an hour or more of homework each day. We would eat dinner, clean up, and go to bed. There was no free-time. No time to just breathe. Actually, that was probably the most stressful time for our family. Now, the kids are involved in soccer, gymnastics, and piano. They are trying things out. When my kids were in public school, I had lots of time. I spent a lot of time doing nothing all by myself. The kids had time to do . . . nothing. Absolutely no time for an extracurricular activities. None. Also, with regards to time I have to say that there is so much time wasted, both at home and in the classroom.

Homework and busywork. In public schools these exist. Homeschoolers don’t have these. The end.

Grades. Again, public schools use grades to show mastery of information. However, grades absolutely do not reflect understanding. I was hung up on this, too, until one day it sort of clicked. Grades show that students turned in their homework and were able to sit down and take a test. At home, there is no homework, there is school work. When their work is completed and a concept well understood, the student moves on. There is one exception, Tristan is tested in math and science. Because his work is mainly independent, his test scores are recorded. However, test scores reflect how well he can take tests. His true understanding is demonstrated when he can tell me what he knows with accuracy and with confidence. However, my kids do not really receive grades for their subjects (spelling, English, history). If they did, they would get straight A’s because, as I’ve mentioned, they do not move ahead until they know their stuff. It’s sort of a hard thing to grasp, kind of like taking attendance. Why on earth would a homeschooler keep a record of attendance? Schooling happens every single day.

Now, you may be wondering (or maybe not) why I felt the need to share. I’ve shared some of these thoughts before. Well, some things just refuse to die. Myths about socialization is just one. I could go on and on about that. You may, or may not, have noticed that I did not directly address private schools. We have some experience with a private school, as well. It was a unique experience which occurred in a different country. Therefore, I hesitate to comment. We had a mixed experience. The first couple of years were wonderful and we were blessed with amazing teachers. The last year was a disappointment. A lot depends upon the teachers. Great teachers = great experiences. Poor teachers = disappointing outcomes.


School Marm


Middle School Years

The scene: An eight grade boy sitting beside a fifth grade boy at the kitchen table.

Tension? Oh yes, there is some tension.

Giggles? Yep.

Uncontrollable chit-chat? How’d you guess?

It’s hard to believe that we have finished two years of homeschooling at the Barker Academy of Higher Learning. After last year’s start, stop, and restart execution of home education, I thought I’d keel over from emotional turmoil. Turns out . . . our decision to keep the boys home was a good move.

We are now preparing for our third year. This year the boys will be studying Rome to the Reformation from My Father’s World. The boys are diligently working through the summer with a few breaks here and there. Tristan is finishing up his Pre-Algebra and we are quickly drawing closer to the final week of Creation to the Greeks.

Although I am the Mean ol’ School Marm, I have decided that we all need a break before diving into our study of Rome.

Now, quit the chit-chat and get back to work!

Your favorite teacher,

Mrs. Barker


Yes or No, Stop or Go?

Disjointed. Scattered. Those words sort of describe how Matt and I feel. Well, at least how I feel. However, I’m pretty sure we are in agreement on this.

We feel pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions, while trying to make the best decisions for our family. It hasn’t been easy. I don’t think big decisions are ever easy. For me, it usually comes down to a Cost/Benefit Analysis.

When we moved into our house we felt overwhelmed. Not only were we moving and unpacking, but we had to deal with all of the things associated with buying a house. For a homeschooling family, this can be a tough time. At least for me. Piles of books, music equipment, and miscellaneous boxes all over the floor in every room stresses me out. All I can think about is putting things away so that I can finally breathe.

I think the feeling of being overwhelmed is what pushed and pulled us into the direction of sending the boys to school. We had planned on homeschooling them again this year. In fact, we were 5 weeks into the current school year. I think Gavin was having a hard time adjusting to being so close to family and moving to America that he started acting out more during his studies. And we were hoping that the kids would make some local friends. Oh, and I should add that I tried the “official” homeschool group for the area and it turned out to be rather ridiculous.

The solution seemed simple. The day the movers came to dump our household goods into our garage, the kids went to school.

I’ve had some restless nights about this. I’ve cried during commercial breaks, where families are doing something together. And I’m pretty sure Matt is starting to go deaf in his left ear from hearing me whine about it.

When it comes down to it, I miss my kids. I see them for an hour before school and then again after 4:30. Gavin always has an hour of homework and Tristan wants his computer time. I miss my kids. Academically? The school is okay. I don’t have a problem with the school. Socially? Well, I was hoping for a little more.

I used to spend all day with them. And that is something that is truly special about homeschooling. You get to spend time with your kids and you get to be the one they pick up bad habits from.

Yes, my kids fight. They whine. They complain. But they are fun! They love to learn, as much as I do. They appreciate trips to the museum, science experiments, and being together. As it stands, we hardly get to see each other. It’s sad.

The flexibility that we once had has completely gone out the window. We are locked into a routine. And you know me . . . I don’t like being told what to do.

Now, that we are settled, I told the kids that during Christmas Break I intended to “rethink” this whole school thing. I never said another word. Earlier this week, Tristan asked if I was still going to “rethink” the school situation. He is lobbying for homeschool. He says that he’s not impressed with public school. Gavin, on the other hand, doesn’t care either way. He likes recess. However, he added that he would prefer to be at home again. But, kids don’t make these types of decisions on our house. Their opinions do matter, though.

So, now what?

Now, I’m praying. Praying and crying. Crying and praying.

These are my kids and I don’t want to make a mistake. They are their own little beings, not an extension of myself.

I think about all of the reasons why we started homeschooling. Have any of those changed?

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter where they get their education. I just don’t want the decision to be a selfish one on my part.