Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I Broke Up With Public School

After a difficult beginning and a confusing relationship, public school and I broke up last month.  We had the kind of relationship where nothing was particularly bad but nothing was particularly great, either.  And once the scales tipped slightly towards the negative, I felt like it was time for our relationship to end, at least for now. 

A challenging class combined with many substitute teachers created an environment where my kid just no longer felt comfortable.  She cried one day as I dropped her off in a busy classroom under a substitute’s care.  I drew a heart on her hand like we did at the beginning of preschool, reminded her that I loved her, and told her I would be there to pick her up in a couple hours. 

But that was the beginning of the end.  From then on, if there was a substitute at the door when we went to drop her off, we drove back home.  And we started looking for a good time to end the school year early. 

Some might think that a few tears are not enough to change a child’s whole educational course.  But for Eden, those tears were the indication that what had been working well enough was no longer working.  The uncertainty and frequent changes were pushing the limits of her ability to adapt and roll with it. 

I wrote an “it’s not you, it’s me” letter to her teacher, Eden said good-bye to her friends, and we broke up.  It was a good break-up, I think, full of mutual respect and no hurt feelings.

In the whole scheme of educational choices and philosophical camps, it’s easy for people to draw lines and take up sides.  I suppose making choices for our kids puts us in camps and gives the appearance of sides.

But I’m not going to bash public schools.  I actually love the ideal that public school represents…that we pool all of our kids from all different backgrounds and all beliefs and all abilities and educate them in one community.  That our kids become our ties to each other and we learn to care for each other’s kids and each other’s families.  That our teachers pour their lives into our kids and encourage their passions and find the techniques that work best for each kid.  That our kids make friendships that teach them how people who are different can become like family. 

The reality may be far from the ideal, in some cases.  But I believe that most public school teachers and administrators are working, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, towards that ideal. 

I’m hopeful that one day public school and I will reunite, when it’s a better fit for my kid and our family. 

For now, I am a homeschooler.  Yikes.  That’s something I thought I’d never say and someone I never wanted to be.  But, we don’t wear denim jumpers and braid our hair and read the Bible every morning.  I thought those things were requirements, but it turns out they’re not.

Above all, I’m grateful to have a choice.  Many families don’t.  I’m going to make the most of my choice and the path we’re currently on.  Just like the public schoolers, the unschoolers, the private schoolers, the charter schoolers, the virtual schoolers.  We may disagree on the particulars and the goals and the methods, but we can lean into the hope that we’re all making the most of the path we’re on, doing the best we can for our kids.  


Leah Crocker Althiser said...

Thanks for sharing this Jamie! I respect your choice. Even though it will be a few years before I have to choose for my little one, if public schools remain the way they are now, I can see myself making the same choice. And I was a public school teacher for 10 years! Have to do what is best for you little one.

Jamie said...

Hi Leah! It's great to hear from you! These decisions are so hard!