Monday, May 18, 2009

Schooling: What to do???

By profession, I am a teacher. By heart, I am still a teacher. It is very difficult for any parent to make the decision as to which school to send your child(ren) to these days. There are so many options: charter, public, private, religious, etc., that it makes it even harder to make this important decision. My eldest son has always attended a Catholic school in Florida. Actually, he attended one prominent one until third grade and transfered him out when the tution sky-rocketed to $10,000 a year (not a typo) for elementary education (if you go to the link of this school you will find a fancy flash website with tons of features but don't let this site fool you into thinking it was as flashy or fancy in real was definitely, in my opinion, not worth the price we were paying. We switched him to another Catholic school, near our neighborhood for only $4,300 per year (we were saving at least $5,700 with this change). Plus books, uniforms, fees, etc., etc., oh yeah, and the building fund...donations to the Church (which we would make already). It is amazing how it all adds up. Even after the change we were spending $5,500 a year for Catholic schooling. If you know public schools in Florida, you'd understand why my son was no were near them! So now that he is finishing his last year of elementary school and we have invested close to $50,000 in his schooling from pre-kindergarten three until now, fifth grade. Where do we go from here?

He could continue at the current school; a great school by the way. Well worth the money! A new building will feature state of the art technology and a beautiful Media Center. Very exciting!!! Their Middle School is fantastic, teachers are dedicated and love what they are doing. I know this first hand because I had the priviledge of teaching in their MS for four years. Their sports program is great, their Art and Music program as well. But what are these schools lacking in? Not quantity, but quality! First of all, their teacher to student ratio is at the minimum requirements about 30:1. Have you ever been in a room with 30 sixth graders trying to teach grammar? Not fun...or I should say not fair; and I'm not talking about the teacher, it's the kids that don't receive a quality education because it is nearly impossible for the ONE teacher to spread him/herself that thin. Ideally the number would be half but then you'd have to add more buildings and increase tuition. So, what next?

I've been contemplating the idea of homeschooling for a while now. Not that I have anything against homeschooling. I've seen the nicest, most polite kids from homeschooling families (usually at church). My heart tells me it's a fantastic idea but my mind sometimes plays tricks on my heart and the educator in me tells me I might be underexposing my kids by making this decision. My husband has a similar mentality with the exception that he thinks it would be okay to try it for a year and if works great! if it doesn't, we can explore other options. So what do I do? The only thing left to do, pray about it all the time and then be silent. Wait for God's voice to guide me to make the right decision.

Homeschooling involves a lot more dedication and support from the parents of these children. They are their teachers during and after school hours. No longer would I be able to allow someone else to guide my children in the learning process about seven hours a day then I play catch up when he got home.

So what are the pros and cons of this? Lets see:
Pros: no wasted time with aimless worksheets, waiting for others to "catch up", cost efficient (I'm sure we won't spend $5,500 in books and supplies per year), time efficient (more things can be learned in less time), more time for extra-curricular activities, no worthless homework assignments, no negative influences from other kids (or teachers) that don't share the same values as our family, I could go on but just these couple of things is enough to see why I'd select homeschooling as my choice for the best schooling possible for our children.

Now to be fair, the possible Cons: no other adult interaction, less resources (art, music, PE, or gifted classes), no other kids to socialize with on a daily basis (other than my own children), involvement in religious activities such as Living Rosary, Stations, May Crowning, and other school related activities such as D.A.R.E. (drug prevention), Spelling and Geography Bees, etc.

So how do you remedy the "cons" of homeschooling? First, one perfect, or pretty good, solution is finding a Co-Op in your area. In our case, we were looking for one that was Catholic. I'm sure there are others in this city since there is a good homeschool population in the area. In my area there are two great Catholic Co-Op groups to choose from. For peace of mind I looked for the one closest to home. This fantastic Co-Op (a group where the parents involved contribute in teaching classes), there are a total of 12 families, 27 kids, 3 babies, 4 toddlers. The kids range from n rising newborn (lol, still cooking in Mama's tummy) to 7th grade. This group will also aide in the, very important, socialization process all children need to survive in this world. So this is my solution to homeschooling's cons, find a Co-Op and you'll have a happy school year! (I hope!) As I begin to get more involved I'll post more about this group. But I can definitely say that it has been a blessing in my decision making process for the future of our children. Thanks to Katie and Liz (the moms who founded the Co-Op) for all your hard work and dedication in making this group possible! KUDDOS!

So to end, we have decided that this is the best scenerio for our children. We pray the Lord sends us the wisedom and strength to continue this important task.

Pax Christi!

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