Educational Choices: Taking It Day by Day and Kid By Kid

By Guest Blogger Greta W.

Most of us 80’s kids grew up during a time when everyone went to a “neighborhood” school. I remember growing up in Pfafftown and going down the street to catch the bus with about 10 other kids on the way to Old Richmond Elementary. We all then went together to attend North West Middle. We lived in that school zone and that is where we went to school. There was very little choice available at that time to parents.

As I entered high school things did begin to change as they started to bus kids around to different schools in the name of equality. However, for the most part, we were locked into the neighborhood school where we lived. There were very few people in private schools in my area, and there were a lot less choices back then if you did want to attend a private school. We had a few homeschoolers in our community, but very few. Flash forward 25 years and the landscape of school choice has exploded!

I wanted to share my story today on how my family came to be where we are today in terms of school choice. I want others to know that choices are individual, children are individual, and we are all learning what works best for our own children. For my family, it has been quite a journey and my oldest is only in 4th grade.

When my kids were in pre-school we were living in Roanoke VA and I had both of them in a great Montessori school. I am a huge fan of the Montessori Method and loved it there. When my oldest daughter began Pre-K we moved back to NC. We could not get into the Montessori school here and decided to send her and my son, who was three, to a Catholic school. My husband and I were married at the church there and it felt like the perfect place for our kids. I thought “Wow! That was easy! We are set until college!”

The Catholic school was terrific and everything went smoothly until about the end of first grade. My daughter was struggling in spelling and writing and every day became tear filled. What I came to discover is that many Catholic schools are perfect for an average to above average learner who needs no intervention, but can be lacking in the ability to handle most special circumstances. I met with principals and teachers who were very supportive but agreed that they could not give us what we needed for our daughter.

I was so frustrated and torn. Should I keep them there at a great school even though it is not meeting her needs?? I loved the small family atmosphere and the fact that I had grown up around a lot of the people in the school! It was our church and home. I struggled for months. As a former teacher (I taught 2nd grade before kids), I knew that my daughter needed to be placed somewhere more supportive of her learning style but my heart was breaking. Finally, we decided to take her out and homeschool for a few months until we could get her into the school that would be a better fit. Telling other parents and friends was extremely difficult because we were walking a fine line of saying “it is good enough for you but not for us….” However, we did what we had to do and everyone was extremely understanding and supportive.

Now onto the next leg of our journey! To my surprise I LOVED homeschooling. I loved the flexibility of having the kids at home with me and I loved what I was teaching. We made the choice to continue homeschooling for my daughter for 2nd grade. We had an awesome tutor who worked with her a few days a week and it was perfect.

When I first began homeschooling; I had an almost one year old at home and my younger son was still in the Catholic school. He did great there until about the end of kindergarten when we started noticing the exact same problems that we had seen in my daughter. We ended up taking him out as well and homeschooling both him and my daughter. I thought, “Now we are set!“ I had a great network of friends from a homeschool group and there were tons of kids and so many things to do. Almost too many! Through our homeschooling have done PE, rock climbing, sewing, piano and flute. We have done science classes and days at various museums. All of these activities we would never have time for if we did not homeschool. I quickly got over my pre-conceived notion of what a typical homeschool family would look like and realized they were just like me! We are very lucky to have a state that is supportive of the homeschool choice and our family is very blessed to have great tutors who have helped us along the way!!

Homeschooling was, and is, for the most part, so rewarding. After three years, it has been awesome to watch my kids flourish and learn at home. However, I am beginning to see that we may be at the end of our homeschooling journey. My daughter will be entering fifth grade and my son third next year. I am noticing that they are not “flourishing” in the way they once were. They are both itching to get back to school. Even though having a social group is very easy now in the homeschooling world, my kids are ready to be in school with teachers and activities that I cannot offer. So, alas, here we are again. Another choice we are going to make.

We are now trying to discern where to send our kids next. We have been researching public schools, magnet schools, private schools, catholic schools and charter schools. The choices are amazing and overwhelming. Both of my older children are diagnosed with dyslexia. We had them both tested by an amazing psychologist (who also tested my husband when he was in high school!). We tested both children when we took them out to homeschool so we would know exactly what we needed. We were told that public school system would not be the best choice for us. There are some great public schools who offer programs for learning disabilities but not for what my children needed specifically. So, that narrows us down to charter and private. Charter schools are very difficult to get into and we are placed on a waiting list. Doors are closing and now that makes the choice much easier. We have a great school in mind and we are fairly certain that we will be sending them to a private school that has special programs for them and also a wonderful facility with tons of extracurricular and activities.

We are praying about all of these choices but mostly we feel so blessed that we have them! I realize that not everyone can or wants to afford private school but even in the sector of public schools we are now given choices on where our children will best fit. It is overwhelming at times but so much better than the alternative.

I have learned to be flexible on this journey. Every year is different and every child is different. I have learned that there is no perfect school or homeschool. You have to do what is right for you and your family at that time without guilt. Change is hard and being flexible can be hard. I hope that my words today can give hope, ideas, or sympathy to some of you who may be struggling with educational choices for your children. As moms, I think it is so important for us all to support each other with our decisions and know that we are all just trying to do what is best for our children. I am proud of my husband and our family in that we have really tried extremely hard to think of what is best for our kids and our family. And it seems to be working … at least for now!

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