In the public school vs. homeschool debate there are a lot of opinions and can often lead to a heated discussion. As I’ve done research on homeschooling resources or read homeschooling blogs one thing I found popping up again and again was that many homeschool moms are former public school teachers. I found this to be very interesting to say the least. I mean what could be going on in public school that would cause so many of them to choose to leave their careers behind and homeschool their children? Was public school really that bad?
When we first made the decision to pull Grasshopper from public school there were two people I went to that helped me get started on our homeschool adventure. One was my mom, having homeschooled 4 kids she knew a thing or two. Another was a friend from church.
This friend from church just so happens to be one of those homeschool moms who is a former public school teacher. She kindly agreed to let me interview her and share her thoughts with all of you. Below is the interview, I hope you enjoy hearing what she has to say as much as I did!
Why did you want to become a teacher?
I love teaching and wanted to be a teacher from the time I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. I always loved school (though I was often bored in elementary school), and loved most of my teachers. Even though there were some very negative parts of elementary school (bullying, etc.) I still loved it. Maybe I loved it because I finished my work so quickly and always had time to read books while other kids were still working! I love working with kids, seeing their progress, and helping them overcome obstacles.
What did you teach and to what age group?
I taught music in the public school from 1995-2008 full time, and part time in 2012. I also taught music in Ukraine during the 2012-13 school year, and was a long term sub in 2013. The age group I taught was mostly beginning 5th grade band. I also taught elementary music, middle school band, one year of high school jazz band, and two years with a couple of Spanish classes every day.
Did you feel you had to hide your Christian faith, or watch what you said in the area of faith as a school teacher?
Yes. Absolutely. I didn’t really realize until teaching at a Christian school in Ukraine that I never really got to be myself in the public school. In Ukraine, I could finally be who I am in the classroom. Even then, I didn’t talk about God as much as I could have because I was still unlearning to keep silent. There were so many times that I have felt we’re losing the battle in public schools because I couldn’t talk with kids about Jesus and pray with them when they were having issues. Instead it’s all about good choices. But with no absolute moral basis, what are good choices????
That said, I did talk about faith occasionally. For example, as Christians, we have chosen to not celebrate Halloween for a variety of reasons. When teaching classroom music and the kids would ask to sing the Halloween songs in the book, I would tell them why I was choosing to skip those songs. If the song was just about pumpkins, I’d do that one to appease them a little.
I realized early on that I absolutely did not fit in with the average public school staff member. There are some great Christian teachers out there. However, the majority of Christians that I worked with seem to be the ones who attend church, but it doesn’t really have a radical impact on their lives.
I realized after quite a few years of teaching that I was having to support the teacher’s union which politically went against everything I stand for—supporting candidates that are pro-abortion, etc. It makes me feel sick to think of my money going to those causes without my having a choice in the matter.
When did you first start thinking about homeschooling your children?
A year or so before our son started Kindergarten. I took a 3 year leave from the school. We probably thought about it before then, but that was the step that made it possible. When our son was a baby, I had no intention of homeschooling. I always thought teaching was the best of both worlds—summers off so you could have more time with the kids. I have now realized that the flexibility that comes with the homeschooling lifestyle is so much better than summers off. We can travel when we want to, take days off when we want to, no homework, etc.
I came out of public school “OK” without losing my faith in God, but statistics show that this is more often than not NOT the case. Kids from Christian families can become indoctrinated with public school liberal agendas even if they seem to start out strong in their faith. We didn’t want to take any chances with our kids—they are too precious to “throw to the wolves” if they are not fully ready to stand up for what they believe.
I’ve had some friends say that they want their kids to be salt and light to the public school kids. Although I’m sure some kids are able to do that, I’m guessing that your average kindergartner is not ready for that challenge. Many college kids aren’t ready for that challenge either, at least on a day-in-day-out basis in a hostile environment. I choose to train up my children in the way they should go,and when they are old, they will not depart from it. Standing on scripture!!! The public school does not need to train my children.
Did you face backlash from your colleagues when you began homeschooling?
Not really. One colleague told me that another colleague was saying negative things about homeschooling/me, but other than that, people were pretty neutral or positive (at least to my face!) I saw a former colleague at a wedding this summer. She actually told me that she really respects my decision to give my kids my time, and to make the sacrifice that it takes to homeschool.
Was your decision to homeschool based more on your Christian values, or on what you were seeing in the public school system?
Both. Probably more public school system though. As far as Christian values, I wanted to make sure my kids were taught science from a Creation perspective. In public school there is no looking at both sides of the issue (in my experience). You either believe evolution, or you must be stupid. I have studied both perspectives. I’ve read numerous articles that point out flaws/impossibilities with evolution. As a Christian, I believe the Bible is true. I’m so excited every time I read something that shows how the Creation school of thought makes so much more sense in so many ways.
I also didn’t like giving up control over who your child has to spend 7-8 hours a day with in public school. As an adult, you have power to make changes if you work with a “bully”. As a kid, you are usually stuck. Teachers with a secular worldview may unknowingly or knowingly indoctrinate kids with a secular viewpoint. In my experience, schools tend to favor teachers and students who are politically liberal and not the politically conservative. I already mentioned that I had a lot of free time in school. I didn’t want my kids to spend hours more than needed on mastering subjects because they have to keep everyone together. If they have mastered it, be done. If not, do some more work.
What was going on in the public school system in particular that helped you make your decision to homeschool?
The climate can just be so toxic. All it takes is one or two kids in a class to ruin the atmosphere for everyone for the entire school year. I also see a lot of kids not being reached because they need more help than can be given. Other kids were often bored, like I was, because they are forced to learn at the same pace as everyone else. What if all elementary classes could be maybe 12-16 kids with one teacher, and kids could be placed based on academic ability? Kids like me wouldn’t waste years of their lives waiting for others to catch up, and those who are always behind could be in a setting where they can truly get the help they need.
Obviously a kids like Ladybug wouldn’t fit neatly into this scenario. I just want to get rid of the “factory” “one size fits all” approach to education. It DOESN’T work! Kids are not all the same. Let’s stop expecting them to be the same. I think a lot of other countries have it right when they have high school alternatives. These alternatives include a test to get into the college prep high school, or you can choose a tech school option where you end high school with a degree as a mechanic, or whatever. Public schools need to realize that what we do now to push everyone toward traditional college is not doing our kids any favors. Some kids are headed that way, but some have been gifted in other areas.
Also, where else in life do you put all people of the same age together? How does it help kids socially to only be around kids their own age for 13 years?
There is an idea out there that the public schools are indoctrinating our children to align themselves with a liberal agenda in matters of politics and social issues. As someone who has seen firsthand what is taking place in the school system do you believe this is true? Why or why not?
I touched on this above as well. I think this is true in some ways. The way sex ed is taught is definitely liberal “safe sex” vibe in many places, but probably not all. My cousin, who has taught 5th grade in Minneapolis for many years, has told me that she sees the curriculum there heading in a direction where she would be required to teach that gay marriage is OK. She is not wiling to teach this. She would resign first. The liberal agenda of evolution without considering other options? Absolutely.
When I taught in the twin cities, I’d take my band kids Christmas caroling around the school. We would play “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Good King Wenceslas”. One year, my principal told me that I would have to stop the caroling because of the Christmas songs. Never mind that none of them were about the birth of Jesus. Jingle Bells is actually just a winter song. Good King Wenceslas is about a good king bringing fire wood to poor people, and Jolly Old St. Nicholas is about a fictional character.
Yet, at the same school, there was a room set aside for Muslim students to go to during lunch for the month of Ramadan. I highly doubt there would be a place for a kid like me to go during Halloween to avoid all the pictures of witches and ghosts, or to avoid the Halloween art projects and songs that I didn’t appreciate having to be subjected to. Things are definitely better in rural areas regarding things like this, but I think it will likely change with time.
Many Christian parents feel sending their child to public school is a great idea because their children can be a light for Christ in the school. As someone who saw firsthand the student dynamics what are your thoughts on this?
I touched on this above before I read this question. I don’t see a lot of that (students actually being salt and light) happening, though I’m sure it does sometimes. Although my faith wasn’t negatively impacted at public school, I certainly wasn’t being salt and light to my peers. I was a good example maybe, because I never got into trouble, but I wasn’t prepared to witness.
You have a unique perspective having taught in both settings. What would you say to someone who is on the fence about homeschooling?
Don’t be afraid to try it. You don’t have to accept the status quo of American public education. I love to help people who want to get started, and I know others who can help too. Trust God that he’ll provide all that you need if your kids should be homeschooled. Yes, your kids will still have friends and activities to do if you homeschool. Plus, their friends will quite possibly be more positive friends than if they are spending most of your waking hours in school.
Don’t worry about how you’ll pay your bills if you have to quit your job to homeschool. God owns the cattle on 1000 hills and can help you make it work. You can still work part time. You might even find yourself in a much lower tax bracket, which helps immensely.
Believe that you can teach your kids. There are so many resources today—online classes, video classes, co-ops, etc. Yes, you can probably even help your kids get through calculus! It’s OK to want to be with your kids and to invest in them. It’s also OK if they drive you crazy sometimes too. Weigh the pros and cons and if you find a few too many cons in public education, don’t be afraid to try homeschooling.
I know families who have pulled their kids out of school mid-year and never looked back. I know others who homeschooled for a time and then went back to public school. Others homeschool from day one. Some homeschool K-5, or K-8 and then send kids to public school. If you feel that God is leading you toward homeschooling, try it. It is not always easy or glamorous, but it’s so worth it to invest in your kids.
Some other pros: You don’t have to follow the school calendar. They don’t have to get on a school bus at 7:15 A.M. (My kids sleep until 30 minutes after the bus went by each day). You don’t have to frantically figure out what to wear and what to pack for lunch each day.
Do you have any regrets on deciding to homeschool?
None. I remember being so scared and crying the day I turned in my request for a leave of absence from the school. Now I’d never take back the decision. It was the best decision for our kids.
Any last thoughts you have that I didn’t think to ask?
People ask if I’ll go back to teaching when my kids are done with school. I don’t know yet. I’m currently teaching band lessons one morning a week in a local school, so I’m obviously not entirely opposed to myself working in a school. That said, I don’t know that I want to ever devote 40 hours a week again to a place where I can’t share Jesus. I teach private band and piano lessons, have a homeschool band ensemble, I’d love to expand that in the future. I love having the freedom to be myself in that environment.
One last thought: If you are a Christian parent, make sure you carefully weigh your options before sending your kids to public school. Pray. Pray. Then Pray again. If you desire your kids to be on fire for Jesus and to live Godly lives, do whatever it takes to help them get there.
One more note: Socialization. In my opinion, school provides terrible socialization. Elementary school traumatized me a lot. It took me decades to gain back the self confidence I lost due to school bullying. This is a whole other topic!!!
My kids have gone to band at the public school. Last year, my son loved it and couldn’t wait to go each day. This year, both of my kids constantly talk about the behavior problems in the band and don’t seem to love it. It might be time to rethink the decision of sending them to the public school for 45 minutes each day. It drains me, and takes up a significant part of our day. If it’s not giving us life, it’s probably not worth it. They both love our homeschool band, and both played with the community band this summer. Hmmm, novel concept, letting kids play with and learn from adults or with kids who are a variety of ages, instead of struggling along in a group of all kids the same age…
If you’re on the fence about homeschooling, check out my post Should I Homeschool.