The little one is five-going-on-six (or maybe 26, but that’s a different article), it’s time to register for school. It’s just what most parents do without giving it much thought. Many of us just turn our children over to the public school system and let them take it from there. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It works for a large percentage of the population. Most people aren’t even aware that there are other options or think they aren’t capable of pursuing them.
Are you sure the little one is ready for school? Compulsory school age in the state of Pennsylvania is 8. https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/chapter11/s11.13.html That means you don’t even have to send them if you think they aren’t mature enough. Another year at home may be better for a child than forcing him to sit still for several hours every day. Teaching them some kindergarten skills at their own pace over the course of the year while encouraging creative, educational play may spark a love of learning that a formal class may squash. If you plan on trying this, you may want to do some research on the skills needed to complete kindergarten. Please do not just hand your five-year-old an iPad loaded with educational games. While this may be a fun way to reinforce what they have learned, it is no replacement for actual teaching whether it be by a professional or a parent.
Whooa there! That almost sounds like homeschooling. You might be asking, “Are you suggesting I homeschool my kid?” What if I am? Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and there are some parents I would never tell to homeschool. For example, if you can’t even convince your child to brush their teeth and go to bed at a reasonable time, homeschooling is probably not a good idea and you should probably go ahead and register your child for school. However, homeschooling, especially in the early years, can provide a learning environment that schools, by their very nature, can’t provide. One on one (or two) attention is something even the best teachers just can’t accomplish.
What about socialization? Did you meet all your friends in school? Did you meet all your friends at work? Did you meet all your friends at church or a community event? Who says your child has to go to school to make friends? Homeschooling does not mean your child never leaves the house. In fact, if you decide to teach your kids at home, I recommend you get them involved in activities that meet several times a week. Find a sports team, a dance class, a church group, a library club, scouts, something. Let them make friends and invite them over and let them visit them.
Maybe homeschooling just won’t work for your family. I’m certainly not one of those people who will accuse you of not loving your child if you aren’t willing to sacrifice everything to do it. Maybe a private school or a charter school is the best choice for your family. Then again, maybe your child will thrive in public school. Many do.
I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t just send your kids to school by default. Don’t do it just because it is what is expected. Give it some thought. What is best for your child? As parents, don’t we all want what is best for our child? Don’t we want them to grow up to be well educated, productive members of society? As parents, that is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to equip them for life. Just sending them to school and assuming the teachers will do all that is irresponsible. There are a lot of great teachers in our schools. They do an amazing job and a lot of them go way beyond their job descriptions, but it is their job to teach them certain skills, not prepare them for life. That is a parent’s job. They are there to help us prepare our children, not do it for us.
As you may know, I am the mom of six, two boys and four girls. (Thanks for any prayers you may be willing to offer on my behalf.) When they started school we decided that we would consider what they needed each year and make changes if necessary. In retrospect, we made some good decisions and we made some not-so-good decisions.
For one of our sons, school would have been a disaster. He had a learning style that just wasn’t compatible with the school environment. He was very active, easily distracted and more hands-on than most students. We tried kindergarten, two years in fact. He didn’t do terribly but the teachers viewed him as distracted and perhaps not ready for school. The fact was, he probably wasn’t ready for the classroom. That didn’t mean he wasn’t ready to learn. We brought him home. I taught him to read in 15 – 20 minutes increments alternated with active play and meaningful tasks. He thrived. When given the opportunity to learn something of his choice, he would find an experiment to conduct and race around the house in an attempt to locate all the items he would need to carry it out. He enjoyed watching things grow and fixing and building things. His love for reading was pretty much nonexistent, but if we had kept him from learning other things until he reached a certain reading level, he would have been miserable and probably stunted in his education. The school system has a method that works for most students. It just didn’t work for him. As a parent, I didn’t expect the school to adjust its teaching style for my son. Making sure he gets what he needs is my job, not theirs. They provide a service that works for most. I can’t demand they provide a service that only my child, or maybe a small percentage of students, need. My son is now 26. He learned at home until 6th grade. At that point he entered school and was on par with the rest of his class. He played middle school football and high school track. He took the necessary academic classes and as many shop classes as he could fit in his schedule. He graduated a semester early, worked full time until the fall semester at a local community college started, and completed an auto tech program at the top of his class. He now works for Maserati and is married to a physical therapist. They just bought their first home.
At one point, I was homeschooling all of our girls. One of them begged me to go back to school. She even wrote me a very well written letter. Her main reason was that she missed her friends. At the time, I didn’t think this was a good enough reason. I figured if they were really her friends, they would make the effort to continue the friendship. She was doing well in her studies at home and in my opinion, she needed a heavy hand when it came to discipline. She was a strong willed child and I felt she needed more parental management than most. Unfortunately, she was also fairly unhappy which probably made her even more strong willed. In retrospect, maybe sending her to school and letting her experience the natural consequences of her behavior may have been better for her. I probably let my fear of embarrassment get in the way of making the right decision. Maybe what I considered strong willed and obstinate would have evolved into leadership qualities within the school environment. Was this a mistake on my part? Should we have sent her back earlier? I guess I will never really know. The good news is she returned to school as a freshman, played softball all four years, made a lot of friends, graduated 8th in her class, earned a bunch of generous scholarships and will be attending Kutztown University this fall to study Early Childhood Education. If this is my failure in making educational decisions for my children, I’ll take it.
Whatever you decide is the best educational path for your child, just be involved. Most teachers will tell you that their best students have parents who are involved in their education. Volunteer to read to the class, be the team mom, join the PTO, be a chaperone. Some of your kids may say they don’t want you to be involved. Don’t listen to them. When your child comes home from school don’t ask them what they learned. They will shrug their little shoulders and say, “nothing”. Ask them to show you what they learned. Ask them what the story was about today. Ask them who they played with at recess. You don’t have to homeschool to encourage learning. Visit a museum, encourage experiments, help with projects.
Teachers and school staff are awesome. They do a great job. This article is in no way meant to belittle their skills or efforts. Their profession deserves all the respect we can give them and probably more. My point is, your child’s future is your responsibility, not theirs. No one knows your child better than you do and they are counting on you to do what is best for them.