Historic moments seem to be happening every day, some to be proud of others a source of loathing for decades to come. The headlines this morning read “Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary After Historic Tie-Break by Mike Pence—Pence is the first Vice President to break a tied vote for a Cabinet nominee.”
I have been out of the the mainstream education system for nearly four years now and my time in the system was very short before the birth of my children. I don’t have experience on my side when I think about the needs of our education system and how it can be improved. I can only rely on my personal insights and observations. I went to public school and had no complaint about my education, I had fantastic teachers who genuinely invested in me and were interested in my success. I liked school but I’m not really sure I liked learning, at least not the way many of the subjects were presented to me. To this day I am insecure in my skill in mathematics. I suffered from migraine headaches beginning in second grade because I didn’t understand the subject matter and the pace was too fast. From such a young age I stopped investing my energy into learning and put it into keeping up with my peers and surviving academically. Far from thriving in school, I was just keeping my head above water.
“What did you get for number six,” I would stealthily whisper to my seat partner. I was a friendly girl and would quickly make an ally of the person sitting next to me.
To my relief no one ever ratted me out, proclaiming to the whole classroom world what I really was: “CHEATER!”
I developed a good poker face and vowed never to show my cards for fear of being ridiculed by my peers for being stupid. Even though my teachers would have been gracious with any question I asked, I never wanted to ask, I never wanted to seem a failure. As a teacher, I love teaching math because I want to help students like I was who might be too afraid to ask a question. I present a concept from a variety of angles to illuminate it for different learners. Because knowing how something works is like the adage about the man and the fish. “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll never be hungry.” I value the slow approach to teaching concepts that galvanize in a student’s mind and become a lifelong tool that will forever change their lives. I worry there isn’t enough time for one teacher to carefully address the unique needs of each student to ensure they grasp a concept before moving on, given class size, social/emotional needs, and arbitrary national testing standards.
I struggle with wanting to get back to the school system and help to train up young minds…because I am a good teacher…but I am also a good mom. I have taken time out to raise my children and my future is unclear about when or if I will return to work, especially, when I consider how I can provide a fantastic education to my own children. Homeschooling my kids, an idea I never thought I would seriously entertain. I have a stigma of the kind of kids who are homeschooled, that they are weird and ill adjusted, and just not “normal” in some way. I know that this is just false but dismantling preconceived notions is hard, no matter how erroneous. What is normal anyway? “You’re weird” was something I heard on a weekly basis growing up. I turned out fine.
Thus enter the beautiful blindfolded Grecian statue holding out a pair of scales.
Would my children benefit in some way from the social benefits of public education?
How do I justify the immense personal investment in my post secondary education only to withdraw from the system and only teach my own children?
Is it fair to choose an alternative education for my children when other kids don’t have a choice…am I giving my kids a “privileged” educational experience? Should that matter?
What will my family members think about it? Will they be disappointed I am not working, or think it is a mistake to homeschool my kids, or think I am doing them a disservice?
In four years the boys will be seven years old and the baby will be beginning preschool. The future of the public school system is uncertain, and the choice to homeschool my children is becoming more and more like the correct choice for my children’s education. With homeschooling it appears that the sky is the limit, and for my boys young
interests, that may be a real possible subject of study…they love all things mechanical and scientific: planes, rockets, trucks, cars, robots, tools and systems. They love learning how things work, and the likelihood that those interests will continue to be nurtured is uncertain in a public school system. I want to give them the best shot, and perhaps for now, the investment I made in my own education will help my children to have a fantastic education…maybe it was all for them…maybe I was investing in them before I even knew what it was like to be a mother.
Maybe I am their best shot. If so, I straighten my back and lift my head up to boldly honor their intellects and fan the flames of their curiosity, to protect their love of learning and lift them up on my shoulders to get a better view and have a better chance as my parents did for me, and theirs before them.