Why we’re leaving public school

August 17, 2015

27  comments

This is the story I wrote for the Gulf Coast Newspapers describing why we made a big decision regarding our son’s education.  Check back in the days to come for updates on how our new way of life is going. 
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I feel like somewhat of a traitor because with my whole heart, I’ve always loved public schools. I’m the product of a great public school education from 1st grade all the way to an advanced college degree. I taught in public schools and saw the beauty of having all walks of life pull together, becoming friends and learning as one community.

 

But now we’re retreating and have decided to take our son out of the Baldwin County School System for the remainder of his high school years.

 

In the last few weeks, two of my son’s friends were sent away to out of state boarding schools, several are moving to private schools and there are others who are homeschooling.

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What happened? Just as there’s no one cause for the brokenness, there’s no one quick answer for a solution.

 

Most teachers are saddened to see their passion for education being crimped. Funding issues, computers which eliminated both textbooks and taking notes by hand, political correctness gone mad, and the cutting of fine arts and language programs, plus many other things have all led to a less than perfect situation.


Educators can’t take all the blame because many families have placed a low priority on a quality education. As long as their student is passing his classes, they don’t care what the school or state rankings are, or even what is being taught in the classroom.

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Parents sat silently and didn’t bat an eye at a meeting a few years ago when it was announced that no other language courses would be offered other than Spanish, but moments later, cheered wildly when it was announced a new Bass Fishing Club was being formed.

 

If we don’t demand it, we won’t get it.

 

The good news is that we have a few new common-sense School Board members and local city governments who are developing ideas that will certainly turn things around. Our current search for a new Superintendent of Schools will also bring fresh ideas.

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Although different groups are pushing for different things, the positive spin is at least we know we live in a community where many people care. Citizens are researching innovative programs to meet our challenges, and my husband and I remain committed to help in any way we can. We realize that even though our children will be gone in a few years, the health of the school system is indicative of the entire community’s well-being.

 

However . . .the reality is, it’s going to take a few years to get it just right, and my son only has a few years left. He’ll be starting the 10th grade this year, and because we’ve seen how quickly our eldest son slipped through our fingers and into the world, we know time is precious.

 

These last three years will be pivotal in our son’s educational, social, emotional, physical and spiritual life. And to turn that short time over to a system in turmoil wouldn’t be prudent.

 

louisa_walker_churning_butterWe’ve investigated private schools and for one reason or the other, decided they aren’t a good fit. So for us, the clear answer is to homeschool. Before you gasp and send me a butter churn, I promise you, it’s not what it used to be – sitting around Ma’s kitchen table by candlelight has been replaced by high-tech individualized action-packed, hands-on courses.

 

My son was actually the one who asked to be homeschooled and made a mature list of “pros and cons” to argue his case. He’ll take all the required classes, (thank you God for creating math tutors) and additional classes that wouldn’t have been available in regular school. He’ll double up on reading and on occasion, may actually write with a real pen and paper.

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Every child is different. What’s good for mine, may be terrible for yours and vice-versa. But everyone deserves the opportunity for a quality education, and despite being in a state that ranks low in that area, I truly believe Baldwin County will rise above the challenges to be great once again.

 

Until then, I’ve found peace by realizing that although leaving public school made me feel bad, not being an advocate for my own child would have felt worse.

*This story first appeared in the Gulf Coast Newspapers.

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If blog posts become sparse while we’re adjusting to our new routine, you’ll know it’s because I’m busy traveling, reading, exploring and learning with my precious, funny, fast-growing son.

I can’t wait!

 

Leave a Reply

  1. I think you have made a wise choice. Several families in my neighborhood homeschool their kids, as does at least one of our blogger friends that I know of. I applaud the chance you have to do this wonderful thing for him and his future..

  2. I completely agree with everything you have written here. We moved to Lillian to be in a small town, out of Pensacola where my husband I grew up by the time our children started school. With all the changes that have taken place and many many countless incidents that we and other families close to ours have had at the school we decided Public School was no longer right for my son last year and kept my daughter at the elementary school. This year we will homeschool both of them because it is the best fit for our family for so many reasons. There are many co-ops around and in the Baldwin County area that your son can join for clubs and even classes for credits. Feel free to email me if there is anything I can help you with. RaisedSouthern.KariScott@yahoo.com

    1. Very similar story, since I also went to school in Pensacola. I’m very excited about the clubs and other opportunities offered to homeschoolers in our area. There are almost too many to choose from! Maybe we’ll run into each other at an event.

  3. I don’t blame you and I have known of lots of kids homeschooled and they did graduate with a great education. I worry and pray – I know those words cancel out each other – about my little grandchildren. Where we live we are blessed to have very good schools that are rated wonderfully high. So praise God! God bless you for being a mother who cares enough about your son to take the time it takes to homeschool. I do wish there was an answer and a solution to this education problem. Um, I think it started when they took prayer out of our schools and then wouldn’t allow teachers to really discipline their students. Just my two cents. Bless you, Little Bitty Pretty!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

    1. Actually, our schools here are fairly relaxed about allowing religious activity, although my son had one teacher last year pull a huge politically correct stunt and when the students started questioning her, they were told they couldn’t mention anything religious, which in Alabama isn’t true. However, it’s the academics that are of concern to us, not so much the religious aspect. My husband and I (and our church) take responsibility for that part of their learning, but I can definitely see what you are saying. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. This long time public school teacher applauds your decision. Our only child went to Christian schools and you have no idea how much grief we took from friends and family. We don’t regret it at all. Sadly, many parents really don’t know what goes in schools; sometimes from the teachers and sometimes from other kids. Thank you for pointing out that the sad state of many school districts is not the fault of just one part of the community.

    1. I think you have to do what is right for your family. We’ve realized our children only have a small window of opportunity for us to help them learn before they set out on their own. If we have to sacrifice for three more years to make sure he’s well educated, down the road it won’t seem like much time at all. Good for you for making the hard choice.

  5. Oh, Leslie Anne, I hope you are right about the Baldwin Co. schools. Both of my grandchildren started school today in Spanish Fort (one in 5th and one in kindergarten)…..the public school system here in Montgomery tanked a few years ago and it’s such a struggle for those going to private schools. My other grandchildren live in another county and Taylor started 6th grade in a wonderful school system….her twin brother is in private school here since he has some learning disabilities but from what we know about this particular school it is one of the best around. It’s so sad what’s happening in our public school systems.

    1. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about a thing. The lower grades are okay, although a little overcrowded. One of my favorite Principals, Julie Pearson, from Gulf Shores Elementary School was on the news tonight and had the right attitude. She said everything was going to work out with the School Board, but in the meantime, her teachers were committed to providing excellence.

      The high school years are a different story, and that’s where the challenges lie, so your grandchildren are safe and sound in Spanish Fort (which is a great place to live!).

  6. As a retired Army family, our children went to many schools. Most were DOD schools, thankfully. They were the best because they could attract the best teachers with pay and opportunities for travel. When we were transferred to MA, we put them in parochial school because the public school system was so horrible. This was in the mid 1980’s, for reference. The wife of my husband’s commanding general told me that we were part of the problem, not part of the solution. Her kids had already graduated from college but mine were in 3rd and 7th grades. I told her I would not sacrifice my childrens’ educations because the people of MA refused to fully fund their school system when we’d be moving again in 2 years. BTW, our children were both in accelerated programs and ahead of their grades. After 30 years, this still makes me mad. We all have to do what we think is best for our children. Who cares what anyone thinks about our own, well thought out decisions for our children? NOT ME!

    1. I worry about places where all the “nice” families flee the public schools and those left behind have to hold everything together on their own. I think New Orleans is like that. I don’t think Baldwin County is anywhere near that, but they need a wake-up call that a situation like that starts somewhere with a few here and there leaving, then snowballs. If we had younger children, we would feel differently, but like you said, sometimes you just have to do what’s best for the moment and not look back.

      Thanks so much for the great comment. (And that goes for all of you!)

  7. I was so interested to read your comments about your education system. I live in Australia and our National Curriculum is currently being re assessed, it seems that history and geography will fall by the way side to allow for more literacy teaching. The problem being that children are moving into high school with very poor literacy skills…or at least some children are. There I think lies the problem because not every child has a problem with literacy and yet all children will miss out on learning other things that to me are required for a well rounded education. Home schooling is not encouraged here in Australia (unless you live in a remote location where you are schooled by the School of the Air) but I can see a time when people are going to demand change. Thank you for an interesting article.

    1. So glad to hear your point of view. I always tend to think of my Grandparents who were some of the most well-rounded and greatly educated people I ever knew. They could do math in their heads quickly, quote poetry, spell, read, write . . . and it was all taught to them in simple one-room school houses with very little money spent at all. We have to go back to the basics!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Hope all will be will in Australia.

  8. I am the product of Catholic schools, 16 years then a Master’s degree. My own two boys attended public school. As an over stressed teacher, I appreciate and respect all of your reasons to homeschool. I am going to make a copy of the graphic in your post about the testing schedule. That is a nail hit directly on the head. Good luck.

    1. I don’t know of any one kind of school that’s perfect, and one that is close to perfect may not be that way two years later. It’s what is going on at the moment that matters. Glad you understand the craziness of testing!

  9. Two of our grandchildren are/were home schooled. When my oldest granddaughter was 11 years old, her school lost some major funding, due to a glitch in the system. They needed to return money that was mistakenly allotted. One of the programs omitted was in reading. This was the one we needed very badly since our granddaughter is somewhat dyslexic. She was thriving in that class. When funding was lost our daughter made the decision to home school. Everything went well. Our sweetie pea is an amazing 25 year old. A gifted photographer with her own business and devoted youth pastor’s wife, she is making a difference in so many lives.

    Her little brother is in second grade, home schooled. He is a character and doing quite well. Of course, I give credit to their mom. She is incredible.

    Our other two grandchildren are public schooled. They are doing very well there, but there are challenges, also.

    1. I think it may be overwhelming for some people to think about homeschooling their children. Since I have a background in teaching, although it was kindergarten, I’m a bit more bold when thinking about alternatives to the system. I’m glad your family took the brave step to take matters into their own hands. You know what is best for your child, and if you don’t act on it, you’ll have regrets. Sounds like everything worked out great for you, and I applaud your efforts. (cutting reading?? seriously???).

  10. Our son is going in the sixth grade and was supposed to go to Fairhope intermediate school. In May, he asked that we homeschool him. After a lot of thought and prayer, we decided not to send him back to public school this year. For us, it was about very large classes, lack of teacher interaction, and most importantly, it seemed all he did was take tests. Somehow he seem to be losing that love for learning. We may only keep him out one year but feel we can make a meaningful impact this year. He will be doing online school. I have already had more interaction with his teacher (via phone and email) in two weeks than I had in two years at FIS.

    1. Hi Mary. This is interesting because what I didn’t have the space to mention in this article was that we also homeschooled for one other year . . . 6th grade at FIS, for reasons very similar to yours. (There was also a medical issue we were dealing with – migraine headaches) When we put our son back into regular classes again in middle school, he never forgot what a good year it was, so that’s why he always wanted to return to homeschool. The online school is really a great option, and one of my son’s classes is actually going to be from the Georgia Dept. of Education web site. There are so many options now, it’s wonderful.

      Good luck, and I hope to meet you in the Fairhope world of homeschooling!

  11. Kudos to you for caring enough to help your son get a better education. It can’t be easy to homeschool and as I have no children, it’s even easier for me to tell others “what I would do.” But honestly, looking back at how school was when I was growing up and how I see it today, in good conscience I could not send a beloved child to public schools. The political correctness alone is enough! And when I talk with kids in schools and they don’t even know the basic history of America, I’m frightened for our future.

    So thank you for making the sacrifice to homeschool! Knowing you, I wouldn’t mind being a student in your kitchen 🙂

    1. Thanks Dixie, and your right about how things have changed. It isn’t just from last decade to now, but there’s been a big shift here in just the last few years.

  12. To further comment, if we’d lived in our hometown our entire lives (instead of both of us growing up in military families ourselves), we might have fought the good fight to improve our local school system. However, since our children would only be in the MA school system for two years, that was not a sword we were willing to fall on. Our son is now a veterinarian who owns his own practice and our daughter has a Masters and is a high school biology teacher. I think we made the right decisions for them. You should hear the stories (some sad and some horrifying) that our daughter tells us. To top it all off, as she and her husband suffered through 8 years of infertility, treatments, shots, etc, she had a least one 16 year old student each semester who was pregnant. The best news is that they now have a 3 year old boy who is the light of our lives!

    1. I love happy endings, and I hope the U.S educational system has one soon! Thanks for sharing a great story.

  13. I echo your support for the concept of public education. And I admire your dedication to making sure that your son has the best possible experience for his remaining high school years. It is a national disgrace, in my opinion, that we aren’t willing to put our money and focus on improving public education. We should be ADDING languages and arts programs and tech programs and on and on. These opportunities should be available to all – not just children in wealthy communities. Sure it is cliche, but the kids are our future. They will be responsible for figuring out solutions for the problems in the world. I want them to be as smart as possible!

  14. Leslie Anne,

    Homeschooling our daughter 10th-12th was one of the best decisions we made for her. During that time she was able to pursue subjects that interested her, and develop her writing skills. She would not have done those things in public school. When she turned 16 she was allowed to take classes at the local community college (free of charge), so she had 15 hours of college credit when she graduated high school. She went on to college and received a degree in English / Professional Writing, and is currently working on a second degree. She has spent a year in South Korea teaching English, and the contrast between our school systems and theirs is drastic. They are driven to make sure their children are educated, and they demand perfection. I don’t ascribe to perfection; however, if in this country education became more important than sports, videos games, social media, etc we might see major changes in our educational systems. By the way, I am not against any of those things…they all have their place.
    The size of schools, teaching to tests, discipline issues, and so many other things have contributed to the downfall of our schools; however, one of the biggest issues is the demise of families and our value systems.
    My niece is a coach and History teacher and recently she was telling me about the issues she faces with her students/players and it is astounding. None of the problems have to do with learning; they are all social/family structure issues.

    The easiest way to destroy a nation is from within…and I think we are on that road unless good people with values wake up and stand up.

    I am so glad you wrote that article for your paper; maybe it will help your community to get involved (whether they have children in the system or not).

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