1. How do I choose the best
way to educate my child…?
There are so many variables in education that this is a
very individualized question. The
reality is that as a parent you are going to have to work hard to educate your
child. Each method will require different
types of effort. You need to consider
your personal skills and values along with your child’s strengths and
weaknesses. You will also need to know
the educational options in your area.
There are three main options to consider. The most commonly considered options are
public verses private schools. A more
maverick approach to consider is to educate your children yourself with homeschooling. Below is some information to help you make
Public Schools -
The most common choice is the
local public school. Historically,
public schools have been very influential in creating society as we know
it. It was the way my parents chose to
educate me. It is probably how most of
you were educated as well. Local schools
are publicly funded and curriculum is state mandated. Parental involvement level is a personal
choice. However, for most students to be
successful, parental involvement is a must.
Public education is
free. There are some very wonderful
public schools with some awesome teachers.
Most of the children in your area are probably enrolled in your local
public school. Many groups and
associations follow their local public school calendar. There can be educational choices within the
public school system.
There is usually a set
curriculum. Teaching styles,
environment, or social expectations may not the best match for your child. Your child is exposed to an abundance of
values and philosophies which may not be aligned with your family’s value
system. Some schools are not as receptive
to parental concerns as they could be.
Private Schools -
Private education is a common
choice in some circles. Privately funded
and privately owned, these schools are often affiliated with a religious
denomination. Some are focused on a
specific curriculum or style.
Occasionally, they are totally independent from any affiliation.
Parental involvement is
accepted and appreciated. Because
parents are paying for their child to attend, private schools may be more
responsive to a parent’s concerns about their child. Many private schools have high academic standards. Parents may be able to find a private school
that compliments their spiritual and/or educational value system.
This method can be
expensive. Some schools require a lot of
resources of both time and money from parents.
While this is wonderful for the children, it can be overwhelming for
some parents. Because private schools
are often looking to fill seats, there may be students that you would not have
anticipated being accepted into the school.
On the other hand, some schools are so selective with enrollment that
children are not able to experience children with other social, economic,
racial, or intellectual differences.
Home Schools -
Parents choose to educate
their children in their own home.
Usually, it is Mom who becomes the teacher. Though, grandparents, friends, and tutors
have been known to be the primary teacher.
The curriculum, as well as the spiritual and educational focus become
the responsibility of the parents.
This method provides students
with the most individualized program.
Students are able to master skills in their own time. Students with “different” learning styles can
be educated effectively. Student’s
strengths can stressed and weaknesses can be addressed. Flexibility is available. Peer Pressure does not become as much of an
issue with this method as it can be with public or private schools. Curriculum choices are many and varied. They can be readily attained because of the
many homeschool resources available these days.
This choice can become a wonderful way of life.
Parental involvement can be
intense. The teacher must be able to set
and accomplish educational goals. There
is a temptation to allow life’s every day challenges to overshadow the
student’s educational goals. This can
leave your children with a less than adequate education. This method requires persistence and
perseverance. Financial commitment,
though not as demanding as private schools, can become an issue.
2. What about charter
Charter schools are in reality public schools. They are publicly funded with tax dollars,
but are not required to answer to the local school district. Each charter school has its own educational
emphasis or “charter.” In California,
schools apply to the state to establish charter schools. I will list a few examples of the types of
charter schools in our local area. There
is a school emphasizing career goals; one focusing on fine arts; one requiring
students who attend to wear uniforms; and several that focus on home education. Some charter schools require campuses attendance
and some allow for home education or independent study. Because charter schools are funded with tax
dollars, they will not pay for curriculum with an obvious religious bias. Some charter schools have a set curriculum and
others allow parents to choose supplies from approved venders. Some charters will even give parents the
option of using educational dollars toward activities such as karate, dancing,
music lessons and the like.
While purists do not consider
those who use a charter school to be true homeschoolers, many parents who
educate their children at home through this method would disagree. Charter schools with a program for
homeschoolers can certainly be a supportive entry into the world of homeschooling. Financially, you cannot beat this method,
however, you must be comfortable with the fact that the charter school retains
ultimate educational control.
3. Reading is finally
beginning to click with my child, but the school wants to retain him. What do I do…?
This is such a difficult situation. You will notice the pronoun “he” used in the
above question. I most often hear from
parents of young boys who are about 7 or 8 years old and at the end of second
grade. Some children, particularly
little boys are not developmentally ready to read until they are between 6 and
8 years of age. Unfortunately for these
children, that puts their natural biological development at odds with academic
expectations. Our society, while well
meaning, is emphasizing academic achievement goals that are not possible for
some children to attain.
Some options to consider are…
Retain your child as the
school suggests. This may be most
beneficial for the child who is emotionally immature or small in stature.
Ask to advance your child to
the next grade with academic support such as tutoring, time in the learning
center, or the support of an Education Specialist. There can be some emotional damage to some
children who are retained a grade if it is not handled with extreme care.
Try looking for another
educational option that may be more compatible for your child. Perhaps there is a private school or a
charter school that is a better match for your child. Homeschooling is another option. Academic ability and development is easier to
manage in this environment.
4. When should I start my
child in kindergarten…?
You know your child best, but, there are laws that mandate
the age at which your child must be enrolled in school. For instance, in California, a child must be
enrolled at the age of 6. If you are
having to make a decision, my bias is that latter is often better. Though there is the occasional precocious 4
year old who may be ready academically, socially, and developmentally, most
children fair better waiting to 5 or 6.
It gives the child a step up as they compete with classmates. They have more maturity to handle separation
from family and adjust better in school.
Free child care is not a good enough reason to send your child to school
at an early age. And though some
children are academically advanced at 4 years old, as their peers develop and
catch up those children often become much more average. In addition, academic
burnout is becoming an issue for elementary age children. I find that disturbing.
5. Should I consider home
You have to know yourself it know if this is an option for
you. The biggest challenge to home
schooling, is that education absolutely must be a priority in your home. Life has so many distractions that it is easy
for the education of your children to be put on the back burner. You have to be willing to be parent, teacher,
and disciplinarian. Teachers,
administrators, schools, or other students cannot be used as excuses for your
children’s learning ability or behavior.
It is all your responsibility.
On the upside, home schooling allows for so much individuality
that students can excel if given the opportunity to do so. A parent can encourage their child’s
strengths. Weaknesses can be worked on
little by little without them becoming overwhelming obstacles. The course of study can be tailored for each student. Quick students can expand their learning
opportunities and slower students can take their time on subjects as
needed. A child who struggles in on
academic area does not have to be held back in other areas of study. There are many kinds of intelligences that
are difficult to encourage in a typical classroom. Students with high physical or creative
intellect can be encouraged and challenged within a homeschool environment.
There is flexibility in scheduling. A child does not fall behind if they have a
sick day. Students can just pick up
where they left off in their lessons.
Family activities and commitments can become part of the homeschool
schedule. Work schedules can be
accommodated by adjusting the time of the school day. Daddies with different work hours can still
have time with their family. The all-important
family meal can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
6. What about socialization
for my homeschooler…?
This is the most common question I get about homeschooling. At one time, I called into the Tom Sullivan
Talk Show in regards to public school teachers who choose to home school. Even with someone as educated and interested
in issues as Mr. Sullivan, it was the first question asked. For homeschoolers this such a basic question.
Most homeschoolers agree that not all socialization is
positive. As a classroom teacher, I
worked very hard to make all children feel valued. But, children can be very cruel. A child who is considered either too bright
or too slow may not fin in socially. The
class clown is often a child trying to hide issues of insecurity or learning
differences. It is all too easy for a
child to become bullied or become the bully because of being an outcast among
his/her peers. Homeschooled children are
not exposed to the severity of negative socialization that other children come
in contact with every day.
On the other hand, in my opinion, learning to deal with
peers is a learned behavior and a child needs chances to learn these important
social skills. But, the remedy is so
simple. Sunday school, Little League,
Soccer, homeschool associations, and play dates are ways to easily allow for
My oldest children went from being in daycare every day while
I taught in the public school system to a homeschool style situation in our
small private school. The steps I took
to transitions my very social kindergartener to home schooling was pretty
simple. Sunday school was already a
weekly experience. We joined our
church’s home school ministry on Fridays.
Because my guys were so used to seeing children daily, we added a weekly
play date to our schedule. Over the
years, we have included (not all at once, naturally) Little League, soccer,
gymnastics, dance lessons, cub scouts, karate, drama, a Keepers of the Faith
club, and our church’s after school ministry as they have become of interest to
Personally, our family is very blessed to be a part of a
homeschool support group. We get together
of Fridays for activities, field trips or play days. Our teenagers have a semiformal event each
year. After the activity time, mothers
are able to visit with each other and find support. Our children
have buddies that attend the
I once had a father who was considering homeschooling quiz
me on what his child may miss out on because of homeschooling. It was amazing. Because of the support we
parents give our children and each other, we could not find an experience that
was not provided in some way. There are
so many opportunities for socialization that as a family you will have to
decide the level of activity involvement that you find acceptable.
7. What is the best
curriculum for my child…?
Curriculum must be comfortable for the teacher to use as
well as meet the needs of the students.
One way to help us discover the type of curriculum that will work best
for a student is to be aware of their learning styles. There are three learning styles. While children acquire knowledge in all three
ways, they tend to have strengths in one or two styles. The three learning styles are…
Auditory learners - The
children learn best by listening. The
students love lectures and CDs or tapes.
Visual learners - These are
the see and do students. These children
tend to do very well with basic text books.
Tactile or Kinesthetic
learners - These are the touch and move students.
I attempt to match the curriculum to the child as much as
possible. This means that I do not use one
publisher or style of text. As you
choose curriculum, it will need to match both you as the teacher, and your
child’s learning style. If you need
individualized help with designing a course of study for your students, contact
me for a private consultation.