Thursday, August 9, 2007

12 years in public schools: part I

Kelly, over at 'Families against Feminism', wrote a series of great posts, in which she discussed the benefits of homeschooling, explained why she and her husband decided to homeschool their children, and gave answers to common objections made against the decision of parents to give home education to their children.

While I'm not a parent yet, I thought I would share my insight, as someone who spent 12 years in different public schools. Better do this now, when the memories are still more or less fresh!

I was always a top student, but you know what? The more I think about it, the more certain I am that it was all thanks to natural curiosity, love of learning, being a bookworm and kind encouragement from my mother. Almost all I know about history, geography, languages, literature and everything you can classify as 'general education', I learned on my own, from books, or with a private tutor who gave me a boost which propelled me towards being autodidactic. Sure, we were taught grammar and spelling in school. Do you think I remember any of the rules? Of course not! I learned it only thanks to Mother, who cultivated my passion for reading and writing. The only thing I didn't learn on my own was math. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, I realize I was actually more homeschooled than public schooled!

When 25, 30 or more children are gathered in one classroom, confined to a strict schedule and supposed to do the same assignment at exactly the same time, do you know what inevitably happens? The weaker children are left behind, and the brighter ones are bored. Children become distracted and lose their concentration. This is not a wise use of time and energy.

Children flourish when they get lots of individual attention, especially the insecure ones, who carry the burden of feeling like a failure on their little shoulders – a feeling that is completely unjustified. I know it, because I've been tutoring children and teenagers for about 5 years now. I enjoy it tremendously and see the children make great progress. And I'll tell you something; this is not because I'm such a great teacher. I have no qualifications. But I focus on their needs, listen to their difficulties patiently, and show them they have my full attention. I praise them and do my best to make each one of them feel like a success. This is very hard to achieve even in a very good private school. Private schools can often solve our other concerns, for example regarding the moral content of what our children are exposed to, during classes and breaks. But nothing beats the loving and knowing attention of Mommy.

Teaching is a noble profession, but busy and irritated teachers can sometimes be so inattentive! I remember how once, as a little child, I completed a reading assignment in the first ten minutes of the class (we were supposed to be doing it during 30 minutes) and started drawing. I was so absorbed in my work I didn't hear the teacher snap at me. She complained to my mother and suggested that maybe I'm not qualified enough; and perhaps something was wrong with my mental development! I was taken to a psychologist who said I'm an 'extraordinary' child and very intelligent for my age, so no wonder I'm bored during classes.

I'm not sure how things will turn out if I'm blessed with children, like I hope, but here's what I think: even if our children aren't exclusively homeschooled, we can't leave their education in the hands of schools alone. And don't think you can't teach your children because you're less qualified than a professional teacher! As their mother (grandmother, aunt, big sister, family friend…), you know them much better, and have such a wonderful opportunity to appeal to their individual strengths, encourage them and praise them!


Brenda said...

Thanks for your insight on this! As a former public school teacher--I agree. As a mom who is about to homeschool--I agree. As a mom who sent my kid to public school for 1 1/2 years--I agree. As a mom who sent my kid to private school for 1 1/2 years--I agree.
Even good teachers cannot do as much with our children as someone who loves them can.

Mrs. Brigham said...

My public school experiences were *very* similar to yours. I loved reading and studying on my own and learned pretty much everything either on my own or from my parents and/or grandparents. Both my sister and I were in the gifted program in school and never even studied for a test, thanks largely to our "home educations". School was a terribly boring experience each and every day, never challenged my mind, and left me wanting for something more. I also was not too enthused by the nasty behaviors seen frequently around the school. ;O(

After my own public school experiences, I knew I wanted to homeschool any children I might have before I even came back to my Faith. My mom is a public school teacher and comparing my experiences and hers does not leave me positive about the public school experience or the education that is offered.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post! Here is my reservation about home-school, though, to which I don't think I've ever seen a response.

First, I should say that I loved school! I looked forward to it every day when I was little. I'm still in school (university) and I still LOVE school! The main thing I've learned in school that I couldn't learn elsewhere is to appreciate what other people love to do. I loved diagramming sentences and reading and writing. I didn't like science very much. So if I home-schooled, I worry that I would skimp on science, or pass my prejudices against science or other subjects on to my children. At school, the science teachers love science, the math teachers love math, etc. I can't replicate that experience at home.

I don't think that you should put your children's entire education in the hands of the teachers at school. That's not fair to the students or the teacher. Children should read and learn at home, too.

Thanks for listening!

Kelly said...

Anna, you hit this problem right on the button. In our sad public education system today the bright are bored, I too was one of those kids, the timid or slower learners are just left behind. The whole system is geared toward the average student, this is fine for the average student.
I too worked as a tutor, years ago, and I was constantly working with children who the system had left behind. Some were unusually bright, others took a bit longer to catch onto things. All had the biggest problems with the basics, reading and comprehension. I had kids who were in first or second grade and they barely knew their alphabet.
I still don't know how I'm going to school my daughter when she's ready for school. I'm already prepared to pull her out of any school she's in and home school if she's bored or if they're leaving her behind.
The only real solution is real parent involvement. I know in families where both parents work they don't want to hear this but it's the truth. Parents need to be involved in their child's education everyday. Doesn't mean you have to home school but you've got to know what's going on in your child's life.
And education, or rather learning, doesn't end at the end of a school day. Learning occurs all the time and can be incorporated into everyday activities like chosing groceries, sorting laundry, or making dinner. As mom to a 22 month old I can say that in a way she's already being homeschooled in a lot of basics as she's with me throughout my day

king's_daughter said...


Great post on the educational cautions of sending your children to public school! I think the greater danger, however, is all the things children would be exposed to in a school! Not even nessecarily the wrong things they would be taught about science, history, etc., but the social dangers of it all. I do believe that most homeschoolers are more socialized than school children, because in a school, you're only around peers your own age all the time. I am homeschooled, however, so I am constantly in the company of people my parent's age, older people, young children, babies, and yes, teenagers my own age!

I would encourage anyone who is thinking about homeschooling to look in the proverbs for some verse on "fools". I know somewhere it says that a companion of fools becomes foolish. I was homeschooled for my entire education, and I would never want to go to public school! If the Lord chooses to give me children, I will keep them at home and by my side (when they're young) at all times. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I could never imagine sending a precious little boy or girl to a public school.

Since I am homeschooled, and am going into my senior year of highschool being homeschooled, anyone is welcome to ask me questions about my experience!

Again, I don't mean to offend anyone; I repect your decision to send your children to school, even though I think homeschooling might be a better option. :-)

Susie said...

It is my prayer that I would be allowed to home-school my children. As a child, I would seek books that were above my age level to read. I am trying very hard to prepare myself to home-school my wee ones (starting with pre-school lessons, etc). The more I research about home-schooling, the more I find how amazing it is!

USAincognito said...

I attended public and private schools and was also homeschooled so I have been able to experience life in all 3 educational sectors. I must say, the education I received at the public schools was far inferior to the education I received at the private schools or while being homeschooled. I was like you, a gifted intellectual student who got bored easily if the classes were not challenging enough.
Public school education is one of the issues that makes my blood boil and gets me going. Before I started working in law enforcement I was a practicing family counselor in a very large Southern city. The clients I specialized in dealing with were juvenile offenders and their families. And I was always shocked to find out that the schools did not have books but rather wrote everything on the chalkboard for students to copy down. There was no using textbooks and there typically was not a lot of homework - and these were jr high and highschool aged kids!! I understood that the school system was depleted in funds but the lack of education was appalling to see!
And I honestly believe that the lack of education in school and the lack of education in the home leads to a lot of the juvenile delinquency we see today. This was never more prevalent to me than in my years spent counseling families with juvenile delinquents.
Okay. I am done ranting for now. lol. ;) Sorry!! Didn't mean to get on a soapbox there - but one more point....Our educational system today desparately needs to be overhauled!!

Laura H said...

Great work! I myself was not always homeschooled. I went to a private school(what's the difference?)where I got my character shaped to the person I am now. I am working on overcoming it, but it is hard! Praise God I have understanding parents, and friends!
Laura H

Word Warrior said...

Great post Anna...thanks for referring to my blog at Families Against Feminism on homeschooling.

Two things I wanted to say...first, for Annonymous who is concerned with "skimping" on subjects she doesn't prefer...this fear is based on our conditioned idea that a student only learns primarily what a teacher feeds him... I was just discussing this today, that the goal of the parent in true education is to raise children who are self-learners. We should not rely on getting our knowledge from a person (this is a handicap), but rather recognize that "the world is an ocean of knowledge" just waiting to be discovered.

As a parent, I may hate history, but I can provide stimulus for learning through books, videos, museums, etc.

Furthermore, in a "delight-directed" type of setting (which is what our family mostly does), your children will naturally gravitate toward subjects they love..and that's OK. We all do that. They may just love the subject that you hate!

The beauty of it is that while I may not enjoy a particular subject, I don't have to. I have a much broader opportunity to provide the MEANS of finding information, even if I don't possess it myself. (Another added bonus is often parents end up loving a subject they previously hated, as they share the learning experience with their children!)

Secondly, and I'm sure Anna will address this in a forthcoming post, we must remember that even MORE important than academics is all the negative influences and ungodly teaching that our children receive in public school. As parents we MUST assess whether we can have a clear conscience before the Lord while turning our children over to be educated in an anti-God, humanistic, feministic institution.

Is that really fulfilling our duty to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Anna S said...

Thank you for offering an answer, Kelly! You explained it much better than I could. I also think that while we should all get the basics even of the subjects we hate, we will naturally study more of the ones we love! Nothing wrong with that. We can't ALL study exactly the same things to the same degree.

And yes, indeed, I'm going to address the immorality of my school environment in the next post about this issue, which will come probably tomorrow or on Saturday.

Sheri said...

Since I went to a very tiny Christian school (it was very close to home schooling and my parents were incredibly involved in my education) I was intersted to hear your thoughts on public schools. My husband shares the same views Anna, as he attended a public school and college.

Public education would not be an option for our children. Not only because of the poor education, lack of parent involvement, large classrooms, etc. but for all the reasons we teach our children about the Lord! They have taken the Ten Commandments and Prayer out of school and the schools have turned into literal war zones for the hearts, souls, and even bodies of our children.

JME said...

Great post I totally agree. I was a straight A student, bored out of my mind, I didn't have to try very hard at all. My grandmother is the one who challenged me and made me want to learn as much as I could.
I hated school, the atmosphere, the childish behavior, I just couldn't wait to get out!!
I thought college would be different; I was wrong.
My daughter is now 16, we have homeschooled since she was 7. My husband wanted her to go to school, that was until 1st grade and then he felt that was enough. We brought her home and it has been a wonderful experience, I would never change. I haven't done this alone, we have had an equal part in her schooling.

Anonymous said...

We have moved back to my home town, where I attended the public school K-12. The only private schools are Christian and expensive, the former my parents didn't care and the latter was the major factor.

Again, I was one of the brighter ones, but due to my Asperger's Syndrome (which has not been offically diagnosed) I ended up barely passing high school, since classic public school is not geared toward children with only mild special needs. (Florida is similar to Michigan in this.) Our local school does have an excellent special needs program.
My brother has been officially diagnosed with Asperger's (his case is much worse than mine). Once the school was legally obligated to work with his difference, he started doing much better.

I've always thought we could have done much better if we had been home-schooled. That way the lessons could have been tailored to our needs, wants, quirks, loves, hates, etc and we could have worked at our own pace, which most likely would have been much faster than public school. They started teaching reading (and forget grammer!) again in my 10th grade year! Unfortunately, my mom was too busy working all thru' my childhood so homeschooling could never have been an option.

Ah well, the past is there for us to learn from, the triumphs and the mistakes.

God Bless!

AshleyR said...


TAG your it!!

You've been tagged to post 8 Random Things About Yourself.

You can read mine here if you'd like.

laariii said...

i learned more about English literature after i left school - just from my own reading.

Anna S said...


What do you have in mind for your daughter? Are you going to homeschool her?


Thanks, I think I'll do it in a few days!

Anonymous said...

I'm really leaning toward homeschooling at this point, since it is cheaper than the local Catholic school, which would be totally acceptable to me as well. I've looked into a few things online (Thanks to Alexandra at Happy Hearts at Home for the links!) and I'm hoping to meet another local lady who homeschools within the next few weeks, so I can get more one-on-one info from her about regulations and such.

God Bless!

Michelle Potter said...

Anna, when I was in public school I was both the "gifted child" and the dunce. I had a natural ability for grammar and spelling, learned to read early, and scored in the 98th percentile in the language portion of the SATs. I also loved history, though I never had a head for names and dates. However, with math I was always barely scraping by -- and sometimes not getting by at all. I failed math twice in high school, and had to take summer school to graduate.

When I "grew up," I learned some things about myself that helped to explain my failures and successes. First off, I am a kinetic learner. I am absolutely incapable of learning by having something explained to me -- I can't even find my way to an unfamiliar grocery store unless I write the directions down. Secondly, I am very logical, but have a terrible memory. Even mnemonic devices don't work for me. So I write things down, look things up, and don't worry about asking people to remind me. Once I have that little boost, I can figure out the answer to anything I need. I have become very good at math, and discovered that I have some talent for computer programming languages -- a very maths-oriented field!

It's too bad no one figured that out when I was in school.

Rightthinker said...

Homeschooling is by far the best way to ensure our children are:

Firmly rooted in Christ
Attended to and protected from social concerns such as drugs, sex and fitting in-while that doesn't usually occur on the school grounds, that's where the plans are made for after school.

Children who are homeschooled have a great set of like-minded friends, and are being proven to have higher scores, and a better rounded education than children in even the best public schools.

Great post! God Bless!

Anna S said...


For some reason, I can't view any posts on your blog! Am I doing something wrong?

Michelle Potter said...

Probably not, Anna. I've been having a bad time lately, and haven't posted. Because of the way I have it set up, if I go an unusually long time without posting I end up with nothing on the front page. However, if you can't see what I posted today (about leaving babies in the car), then email me at

deb said...

Many of the commentors have spoken of the advantages of gifted children being homeschooled. May I add that children with learning difficulties are also helped by homeschooling.
My eldest son has dyslexia and Tourettes Syndrom(Sp?). School was very hard for him. In the third grade, I noticed that he could barely read but his teacher assured me that I was wrong. It turns out that he was very good at guessing and using context clues to fake his way through an assignment, but if I took the words from his books out of order and asked him to read them he couldn't. He finally admitted to me that during quiet reading time, he would just gaze at his book and occasionally turn pages, not knowing what he was reading.
I took him out of public school and I am so happy that I did. He has finished his education and is going to attend a school for the culinary arts-something that he is very gifted in.
Recently he and I watched a show about Tourettes that stated that many people with this syndrome are depressed. My son was shocked, but the truth is that if he had remained in public school he would have been teased mercilessly.
Now he is a bright, young, well mannered man who is both confident of himself and compassionate toward others.
Thank God for homeschooling.

Anna S said...


Certainly, ALL children benefit from homeschooling: those especially gifted, and those individually challenged as well. As it is often said, the public school system is designed to accommodate the needs of the average student. The problem is, there's no such thing as 'average student!'

Heather said...

As a former public school teacher, this is a big issue to me that I have written about on my blog. In short, I thank God I attended a Christian school and that my husband was homeschooled. What I encountered in my 3 years of teaching shocked and enraged me. There is no way that I would ever entrust my children to public school. I'm always encouraged to hear of other religious people, Jew and Gentile alike, who are committed to raising up their children according to God.