Thursday, October 17, 2019

Choice is important

Most parents feel they do not have any choice about educating their sprogs.  But there are choices, and they do have their pros and cons. 

Public School

Let's start with public school.  Government funded and run education.  Most of my readers already know the cons: the teachers don't know the subjects they're supposed to teach; they indoctrinate rather than teach; there's no discipline in the classroom; the environment is chaotic, and bullies thrive on that; and smarter, more advanced students are, at best, ignored, and at worst sabotaged. 

Still.  That said.  There are still pros to public school.  They're few and getting fewer for parents of normal kids, but they are there.  And for parents of heavily disabled kids, they're a blessing.  First of all, due to several different sets of laws, public schools are required to bring in any kind of specialists needed to educate kids that are non-verbal through autism or other disability, kids who are bound to motorized wheelchairs through physical disability and need physical therapy as well as several interventions to allow them to acquire an education, and the speed better suits kids who just aren't as bright as normal.  Or kids who have difficulty with a home life that doesn't support fast learning (irresponsible parents who don't fucking feed their kids a decent--or any--breakfast is a big one).

Here's the biggest pro that makes most parents think that public school is their only choice: it's free.*

Private School

Next: private schools.  This choice can be broken down further by whether the school is secular or religious, and by duration (i.e., is it elementary, elementary and middle, or all the way?).  

First con: it's expensive.  How expensive can depend.  First, is it secular or religious?  Second, are there discounts, or scholarships, or financial aid that families can get?  Third, are their discounts for more than one child?

Our local secular school costs more than twice per year what the local university does per two semesters plus summer.  There are discounts for university professors' kids, but that still didn't put it into my family's reach.  I think they also had scholarships for need and for academics, but...they also, from what I noted, produced Greta Thunbergs that tended to wilt at the first sign that nobody was taking them seriously. 

We have several religious schools.  I can't speak to all of their cost schedules, because many of them are only K-3, or K-8, and I didn't investigate closely.  The Catholics have a K-12, and there's an evangelical protestant Pre-K3 through 12. 

The Catholic schools produce incredibly excellent students.  They coast through college, because they can.  They also cost quite a bit.  If you're Catholic, they charge less, but I'm not sure what they do for families having more than one kid in school at the same time.  If you're not Catholic, you pay the full amount, and I don't think there are discounts for siblings.  (It's been a few years since I investigated.) 

And the evangelical protestants...this is the school I put the kids in.  They do cost, and quite a bit, but less than either of the other full-duration options.  They cost about half again what a full year at the university does...but that's for both my sprogs, not just one of them, like the secular school.  There are discounts--parents pay full cost for the oldest, next oldest has a $500 discount, next one down has another $250 from the second kid's discount, and more than three?  The rest don't pay tuition.**  There are also hardship scholarships for families in a financial bind.  We had to take advantage of that one year.  They have payment plans where you can pay in one chunk (cheapest), two chunks (that one charges a little for processing both payments), or monthly during the school year (each payment includes a processing fee). 

 For the second con: bullying can be a problem.  However, unlike with public schools, the private schools' bullies tend toward the psychological: mocking the victim, or simply pointed exclusion.  Physical bullying is not tolerated.  And, if it gets to be too much, there's always another school or another option (see the last category). 

Third con: depending on the school, the curriculum is challenging.  The kids are working through the Abeka Books curriculum.  I, personally, really like the full curriculum.  It's fast paced, and isn't easy.  They blend similar concepts--especially in math, where they teach addition with subtraction, and multiplication with division.  They start with the broad strokes in history, then go back and add more and more details year by year.  Spelling is taught and tested from Kindergarten on, and cursive is taught starting in 1st grade.  I'd say about a third of my high school classmates would have been unable to keep up (the bottom third of my class).  There isn't a whole lot of support for disabled students, either--they brought in a speech therapist for my imp to get him up to speed when he was little, and they'll bring in occupational therapists on a part time basis, but the goal is to get the kid to not need them rather than support the child. 

As for the pros: in pretty much all private schools, the teachers are closely vetted for whether they're safe to be around children (as opposed to what you're seeing all the time in the news with teachers literally fucking the kids in public school), and they're also closely vetted for competence in both teaching and in their subject areas (unlike public school teachers that, when asked for help, tell the students to Google it because they don't know how, either).  Private schools use good curricula, not the frankly dumbed down and horrid Common Core (which public schools aren't even doing well with).  Class sizes are smaller--most people aren't willing to pay for what they think ought to be free, and that shows up best in class size. 

Best of all, the kids aren't crammed in a classroom with troublemakers that prevent them from learning.  Troublemakers are disciplined, and chronic troublemakers are expelled, unlike how public schools handle things.

However, there is a third option if your kid is being bullied past what they can deal with. 

Homeschool

This is the option I'd initially planned for before I even had kids. Yeah, I'd have to choose or create a curriculum and pay for the materials (and the curriculum), but it fit the budget a lot better.  Also, my experiences in teaching echoed this writer's.  I wanted to homeschool my kids because I wanted to give them every advantage and chance at success.

And then...then, my son refused to let me teach him or help him learn. Not anything. Nothing. He hid while he learned to crawl, pull up, walk, ride a tricycle, etc.  He simply will not learn when I am the teacher...or when his dad tries to teach him something...or his grandparents, or aunt. 

And then my daughter started wilting and only perking up when she was at the park with a lot of other kids.  She perked right up into a bubbly, happy little girl when we enrolled her in preschool, and only wilts during the summer, now. 

So. Both of my kids are in a private, religious PreK-3 through 12 just up the road from our house. And they're thriving, and a couple of years academic development ahead of their publicly educated peers. My daughter is about a year ahead of the neighbor's grandson...who's two grades ahead of her in public school.

Homeschooling is still an option if bullying becomes a problem. But right now, they're happy, and doing well enough. 
 
Funny thing is, there are politicians that would remove those choices.  There are places in the country where homeschooling is frowned on, heavily regulated, and parents risk jail if every i isn't dotted and every t crossed in the official paperwork required.  There are places where regulations placed on private school are so onerous that it prices it out of the reach of even the upper middle classes.  Places where, traditionally, school choice was supported by vouchers for students to attend the schools of their parents' choice (wildly successful in Washington, D.C., in particular) until the politicians demolished the program, dumping the poorest back into the worst districts.    
 
Choice is important.  Not every parent will choose wisely, but having the choices available is important.  Because not even every public school is equal.  
 
And this country was based on that right to choose: for families to choose which version of faith to follow (or none at all); for individuals to choose their own path, rather than have it pressed upon them by what class they were born into.   

Choosing your child's education is, perhaps, one of the most important choices a parent can have.  It's important that the choices be there, and not be regulated out of existence by pretentious snobs that want only their (substandard) children to have the advantage of a decent education. 

*Actually, it isn't free.  It's paid for out of property and other taxes.  State monies apportioned to specific public school districts come directly from that district's property taxes.  It's one of the main reasons why better, higher class income neighborhoods have better schools.  Well, one of the reasons, anyway.  There are others.  But all property taxes partially pay for the local school districts, whether you have kids or not, and whether your kids go to those schools or not.  Yes, that's theft.  No, there's not a lot we can do about it.

**When we were enrolling the kids initially, there was a family going through the formalities of getting their youngest school age kid started in the preschool class for the three year olds.  They already had four kids in older grades, and had two more too little for school.  There would be no way they'd be able to give all their kids the same school experience without that policy, and how do you choose?  Which kids do you leave out?  This family size may not be the norm over all the population, but larger families sort of are the norm at the school the kids attend.  

2 comments:

  1. Freedom of choice is important, more so now than ever. I went to public school because that was the only option.

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    1. Oh, me too. However. I'd have done much better being homeschooled and let go at my own pace. I'd have probably been done with high school by twelve or thirteen.

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