Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Stand Relieved

We've decided to send our kids to our little local elementary school next year.

I spent several months this spring holding the options - homeschooling and public schooling - in either hand, weighing one and then the other, and finding nothing to tip the scales in either direction. We've never felt either the obligation to homeschool or the obligation to public school. I think it's largely like being an omnivore vs. being a vegetarian: you can do both well and you can do both badly. There's no moral imperative either way, at least not for us.

So I spent a long time undecided, just because neither the advantages nor the disadvantages of either side were compelling to me. Eventually I started feeling more frustrated at my indecision than anything else.

But my mom pointed me towards the Ignatian discernment process: basically, a way of praying for guidance when you're faced with two licit options, i.e., how to pray for wisdom when it isn't a moral issue, when you're really free to follow either course. And my husband gave me a few hours by myself to quietly pray through the decision. And I came out of that feeling very free to send our kids to school next year; indeed, it seemed best.

So, we're starting something new in the fall, and we're all looking forward to it. I think, given how I was raised (public school and loved it), I'm better equipped naturally to be a public schooling mom than a homeschooling mom.

A big part of the reason we started homeschooling was because I didn't think I could be a good public school mom with twin infants. I still think that was true, and I don't regret these past two years. But now that Anna and Lucy are so much older, and I'm not nursing two babies and not getting enough sleep, I think I can be the sort of public school mom I'd want to be: involved and available to help.

The thing that really made me feel okay with the decision was when I realized what my real question was. It was: is it okay to delegate my children's education?

When I put it that way, and then thought of the homeschooling mothers I most admire in real life - the ones that are doing a really awesome job - I realized that all of them delegated parts of their children's educations. The music lessons, the co-ops, the online classes, the charter schools, the clubs, the P. E. lessons, Classical Conversations, the play dates . . .

And the second thing I realized that it was exactly these areas of delegation that were the parts of homeschooling that drove me nuts. The unstructured social interaction, the something-different-every-day, the money, the spotty scheduling . . . basically, it's the frugal introvert's nightmare.

So, the question wasn't, is it okay to delegate? - all the parents I admire do - it was, is it okay to delegate to our local elementary? So I toured our local elementary again, and was really happy with what I saw. Instead of listening to the hyper principal give a sales speech (the hyper principal is gone now), I talked to a kindergarten teacher who's been there for almost twenty years, and I feel like I got a much better picture of day-to-day life in the classrooms, and what I saw looked good. Not perfect, but pretty good.

And as someone who went to pretty good public schools and is pretty happy with her education, I'm okay with that.

But we have the good luck to live in a nice city that is, frankly, full of 1) young Christian families and 2) retirees. Which makes for a public school environment that beats most.

So . . . we'll see how it goes. And if it goes badly, well I know now that I can homeschool, and so we'll just pull them out if it goes badly.

But I think it'll go well.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


Ma Torg said...

I had the same debate these last few months, but decided to stick with homeschooling. It is a hard decision to make, especially since so many people turn it into a moral issue. Good luck! I must say I envy you a bit! I do sort of wish I could put our kids in school at this stage of our lives but Berkeley just does things so weirdly that I can't bring myself to trust them to educate my children. Bummer.

Jessica Snell said...

Thanks, Kelly. I'm sorry your location limits your options; I know it's a blessing to live in a city anchored by a Christian university.