I hope that you are all doing well. Just thought I would post some reflections on education after having begun my studies in Education and having sent my boys back to school full time.
Homeschool and Public School Differences
Busy! That’s the best word I can come up with for the major difference between doing a homeschool education versus managing the work and time of a public school education. At homeschool, it is very easy to get all school work done by 3:00 and be ahead of the curriculum at that. At public school, not so much. With the public school, homework now comes home every night along with piles of paper for various activities. When I worked a couple of years ago, I did not have the time to help my boys with their homework. Even though I am busy again, I know that they will fall behind if I do not help them. That was another reason homeschool seemed like an appropriate choice for our situation: Not only did my boys have more time in the evenings to do other things, they were also getting ahead or, in some cases, caught up. When you are behind, it helps to have that advantage that homeschool has.
I also feel like our time is more monopolized, more driven by anything and everything that has to do with school. But that can only happen if I let it. It’s going to be a challenge for me to keep life in balance. I think education is good, but it definitely doesn’t fit the bill for being a good god. I will have to work on keeping our priorities straight. That said, I am grateful for the teachers the boys have this year. I know many of them already, so I am rather confident that they will do a good job.
In researching for one of my classes, I found an article about how the benefits continue to be proven with many homeschooled kids: Number of Homeschoolers Growing Nationwide. Christians are not the only ones homeschooling, by the way.
So are public schools a lost cause then? No. I have also been reading a book, The Power of Their Ideas by Deborah Meier, about schools in Harlem. Teachers there have been working to create smaller schools and have also been making it easier for families to be involved. The results are good (I am only a couple of chapters into the book so far, for what it’s worth). Instead of a Secondary teacher having 150 students every day, they only have about 40. This helps both the teacher, who would otherwise be working at survival teaching, and the students, who know they have someone who really knows them, their talents, their weaknesses, their interests. I’ll let you know more as I continue to read it.
I have also been reading a book on Teachers and the Law by Schimmel, Stellman, and Fischer. I found it somewhat promising that most cases are judged upon the morality of an action and the final judgment records that immoral behavior is not acceptable in the field of education. However, there are cases where it seems the judges don’t want to punish immoral behavior because they feel they would be going outside of their jurisdiction to do so, so they resort to more vague conclusions that I think will go unresolved. The book by Meier indicated that all of these cases and judgments are creating a lot of bureaucracy and red tape that makes it difficult for teachers to teach. This reminded me of being a student in grade school. There were many field trips that our class was not allowed to go on, but it was not from the behavior of my class. It was based on the behavior of the class a year ahead. Sadly, it seems that everyone gets punished when one person decides to act inappropriately.
Other items to share:
- School boards decide what teachers will teach.
- Children are allowed to start religious clubs at their schools.
- Our public school system was meant to not have a lot of federal intervention because someone somewhere knew that it would be impossible for a large government body to know what each little, diverse community needs to succeed. Locals should be more aware of the needs and should be trying to figure out ways that suit their particular circumstances.
Religious and Secular Differences
Let me preface this with saying that the two aforementioned books are secular books because I am required to get a State License to teach. But, one surprising consideration–I have gone to secular schools my entire life…until now. I am going to a religious college (Catholic) for my graduate studies and am taken aback. For my whole life, especially in my college studies just a few years back, I have had to defend my faith, vigorously at times. I had to always be prepared for battle, to bear the hatred toward Christianity, to have undermining statements made in the name of some new fancy word or concept. I have been tested many times in this arena and have had some remarkable blessings occur because of it, thanks be to God. That is one HUGE reason I am grateful for being in the battlefield–blessings were poured forth!
And another thing I have learned from this secular experience–Not all secular professors have completely fallen for the devices of pure secularism. Most are liberal in its authentic form–open-minded, they love to hear new ideas, have discussions that will help them discover new intellectual ground, and even learn from their learners, willing to grow. I could only guess at what political party they are inclined because politics do not define their vision of academia. That is good teaching!
If you must go to a secular school, be confident and respectful, Christian. Know your stuff, and you will be fine. They may not agree with you, but most of them will respect you.
Unfortunately, there are some liberal professors in the political sense (I only met one)–very dogmatic, they want everyone to agree with their perspective, are angry if you don’t, and they take away points because they think you are stupid. Just my sense. Then there are conservative professors (I actually only met one) in the political sense, very dogmatic, and they…well look at the qualities I put for the politically liberal ones. Politics, in my opinion, need to stay out of Academia. Academia needs to continue to practice patient inquiry, as John Paul II would say. Politics, the impatient child, should not inform Academia. It should be the other way around.
How will these professors at the college I am attending now treat intellectual endeavors? Will they treat it as a time to get something done politically, or will they do Academia justice by sticking to honest intellectual pursuits? I don’t know yet. I have only been going for a couple of weeks.
So why have I been taken aback by going to a religious institution?
In one course, they are asking me to read material that is clearly Catholic. They are giving me a grade on my ability to find the morality in all literature, Christian or not. I don’t have to fight a system of beliefs that believes there is no such thing as morality. In many ways, this makes my life so much easier. I feel like I have just arrived to a peaceful land after having been in the intellectual battlefield my whole life. On the other hand, it is also much harder. Now I have to prove to people who actually believe that morality exists that I can see it too, and maybe I can’t see it as well without that negative contrast from the secular world, without that battle. I feel a little bit like Ulysses from Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” like my gifts may not do well in this environment simply because I am used to having to fight to keep my conscience clear. That. That feeling I have. That was a surprise to me. I thought I would feel so relieved going to a religious school, but now…well, I am not quitting, but it will take some getting used to. I also know that the battles may be even harder because this is a Catholic school. Perhaps this is just the quiet before the battle in a different sort of arena.
Anyway, Back to My Studies and My Boys
I am getting ready to start my field experience next week, so I have a lot to prepare. I am really excited about it. I want to observe several different schools–secular, religious, public, private, religious…
I hope that you are all doing well!