Not Perfect, But Right for Us by Joy Fisher

119_FisherFirstDay.jpg

A few days ago I took my kids to play with some friends at the elementary school playground in preparation for school starting back this week. Watermelon and popsicles helped the children ease back into the group dynamic. Moms and dads stood around in the shade talking about how quickly the summer days have rushed by.

Construction has been ongoing on our school campus all summer. A new classroom wing is being added, and the older sections are getting cosmetic upgrades. The day we were there, the parking lot was still littered with construction equipment and storage trailers. It’s pretty safe to say that conditions will be less than perfect on the first day of school.

That experience is a good picture of how I feel about our choice to send our kids to public school. Every year, there’s a lot of pleasantness, but also a bit of clutter. Like many parents in the public school system, we did our homework and moved into a school zone we felt good about. We didn’t know it then, but eventually we needed special education services that included a program for our son who has Down syndrome as well as academic enrichments for our two little scholars.

My children entered grades 2, 4, and 6 last week. The key for getting off to a great start is the same formula I’ve used for many years: Be positive! Greeting administrators with a smile and signing up to help in my kids’ rooms sets the tone for the entire year. When those inevitable imperfections arise, I try to be a part of healthy solutions.

Enrolling in the public school system means there will always be frustrations regarding zoning, aging facilities, larger classes, and budget shortfalls. That’s the clutter. The bright spots are teachers who love kids, interaction with families from other cultures and walks of life, and the challenge of teaching our children to make the best of situations that are sometimes less than ideal.

Joy Fisher was part of the editorial team of ParentLife’s premiere issue over 16 years ago. These days, she serves as contract Content Editor of Bible Teaching for Kids Special Buddies, LifeWay’s Sunday School curriculum for children with special needs. She and David have been married since 1995 and are the parents of Samuel, Jacob, and Lara.  

Do your children attend public school? Tell us about your public-school experiences.

My School Choice: Homeschool by Rebecca Ingram Powell

134_Aug10HomeschooRIP.jpgHomeschooling is not for everyone. After 14 years spent in home education, I believe it is a calling, and not everyone is called to homeschool. For instance, my dad, a pastor, would never tell others that they should be preachers too. That is his calling. He knows it is not for everyone. My mom was called to teach in the public school, and her career spanned several decades. She loved it, but she didn’t think that everyone else should teach school. It was her calling. Whether your calling is dentistry, homemaking, fire fighting, or counseling, nothing but that is going to work for you. Homeschooling has worked for my family because I knew that it was what I was supposed to do.

I felt the Lord calling me to be a homeschooling mom when I just 8 years old! I was home from school for a "snow day." I loved being at home because we were all together. On this particular snow day I decided to tally the number of hours each week that I spent in school, the number of hours I spent sleeping, and the number of hours I actually had at home. Even at 8 years old, I didn’t like the way those numbers added up. I know it may sound really strange to some of you (maybe all of you!), but I believe the seed for homeschooling was planted in my heart that day.

Fast-forward nearly 10 years (1985). This time, I was a high school senior, at home with a bad case of "senior-itis." LOL! I was watching The Phil Donahue Show, and Phil’s guests that day were David and Micki Colfax. The Colfaxes had garnered national attention for their outrageous decision to homeschool their four boys. They had written a book about their home education experience, and the proof was in the pudding: Their sons had all been accepted into Ivy League schools. Impressive! The seed settled into fertile soil.
Less than two years later, I was working my summer job at the mall, and I met a mom who was homeschooling her two children. They were different, yes, but it was a difference to which I felt drawn. The mom was peaceful; the children were well-behaved and courteous. I wanted that for my future family.

At that point, the seed in my heart began to take root. As the Lord often does when He calls, He confirmed my journey every step of the way, from a husband who was always devoted to this method of education, to friends who had been called as well. As we waded in, curriculum choices surfaced that were a perfect fit for my children’s needs. And when the challenge of high school came along, the Lord provided tutorial programs that gave my students the benefit of learning from teachers who were experts in their respective fields.

Oh, and the question I was asked about a bazillion times in the early days, What about socialization? Well, my kids have had friends, played on sports teams, and been active in their church and community. These days we are often asked, What about college? We’ve only graduated one so far, but she was awarded a merit scholarship to the university of her dreams, where she’ll be attending this fall.

I do not believe that homeschooling is the right fit for every family. But if it is the right fit for yours, and if you feel the Lord is calling you to make this decision, then I encourage you to honor Him with your obedience. I will tell you from my own experience that I have no regrets. The lessons I have taught my children are irreplaceable, the value of possessing a Christian worldview is immeasurable, and the years that have flown by are irreversible.

Rebecca Ingram Powell is the author of Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. Read more about Rebecca’s homeschooling journey on her blog: www.MomSeriously.com.