Four years ago today I was halfway through my first semester of my senior year at college. In my Persuasion class I had to do a comparative presentation on any topic of my choice. I chose homeschool vs. public school.
At this time, I was sort of OK with the idea of homeschool, but was under the impression that most homeschool families thought they were better because they were homeschooling and I wasn’t going to. Josiah was about 2 1/2 at the time, but there was no way I was homeschooling. He was going to go to the school district that his dad and I both graduated from and that’s where he was going to graduate from.
In my research I discovered that homeschool students overwhelmingly did better on tests that public school students — not exactly the results I wanted to see. I took the evidence and after much thought came to a great conclusion about school.
Here’s what I said four years ago, “It’s not about whether the child is taught at home or taught at school, it’s about parent involvement and social interaction. All of the test scores and personal interview I’ve conducted support this idea. Children will excel academically and socially when they have the loving support of their parents, whether that means ‘co-teaching’ with the public school or being the teacher at home.”
I was completely sold on this idea. I knew that if my kids went to public school that they could excel and get great grades simply because I was going to choose to be involved.
I WAS WRONG.
At the time I wrote this, a great friend of mine (who homeschools) said, “I would respectfully disagree with this. Yes parent involvement is crucial but it’s so much more than just that….Some curriculum is better than others. Some public schools are better than others. There’s so much more involved than just parent involvement.”
She was so right. My children have never actually been in public school, unless you count his brief time in preschool. However, Ivan our exchange student is in public school.
I hate it.
It may be a high school thing, but my perception of “co-teaching” is a myth. It may be different for elementary school, but I feel like I have to beg to know what’s going on. I was suppose to have access to Ivan’s grades through an online system, but it was 3/4 of the way through the nine weeks before I got it and that only happened because I went up to the school and told them to give it to me. I had no clue until halfway through the nine weeks that grades weren’t exactly where they should be.
The only way that I’m able to keep up with what Ivan is doing at school is mostly through Ivan. I have no clue whether or not Ivan has homework. I only know if he tells me. I can ask, but obviously he doesn’t have to tell me if he doesn’t want to. I have no clue that he has a test unless he tells me or when the grade pops up online.
When he gets a bad grade I have no clue if it’s because he didn’t take the effort to do it, if he didn’t understand the teachers instructions, or if the teacher had too high of expectations. When he doesn’t turn his homework in on time I have no clue if it’s just because he didn’t listen to the due date or didn’t pay attention or if it’s something the teacher is doing.
Apparently one of Ivan’s teachers has missed one to two days of school a week for the majority of the nine weeks. I understand we have personal issues and it’s not my business, but grades weren’t getting done and I had no clue whether he’d still not turned work in or if it was in but just not graded.
I emailed one teacher out of concern for Ivan’s grade and she never emailed me back. Soon after that I got a letter from the same teacher telling me that Ivan had a few things to make up in her class and that I needed to contact her. When I called, the only person I could get a hold of was the principal and it still took a day or two for her to get back to me.
I say all of this to show that my was right. Ivan’s grades on not dependent on how involved I am. His grades are dependent on communication between him and his teacher, communication between him and me, his ability to understand what the teacher wants, and the method in which the teacher chooses to assess knowledge. Some students don’t test well. When Ivan gets a bad grade I have to ask myself whether he studied or whether his had a hard time understanding the questions or the format of the test.
This is nothing bad against teachers. Teachers are overworked and overwhelmed. The problem is that I was under the impression that I was encouraged to be involved and that my involvement would make a difference on my student’s grades. The truth is that I have little to no impact on how much my student is learning. All I can do is ask if he has homework and ask to look at it when he gets done. That still doesn’t ensure that he’s learning any thing.
With Josiah on the other hand, I know whether he’s learning because I’m there every step of the way. It’s not about grades for me — I want to know that he understands and learns the concepts presented.
I am involved in Ivan’s education. I am committed to Josiah and Samuel’s education.
I’ll leave you with a humorous example of the difference that was provided by that same friend,
“One morning a chicken was talking to a pig about serving a wonderful breakfast for their farmer since the farmer had been so good to them. The pig said to the chicken, ‘Let me get this right. You want to serve bacon and eggs to the farmer. I have a problem with this. You see, you are only involved in producing the eggs, but I would be committed to this breakfast for it would cost me my life.”