As modern day homesteaders, we believe from our heads
to our hearts that we MUST reject a lot of what is taken for granted
by the rest of our society. Not just on a whim, or a curious fluke in
our personalities, but by the very real knowledge that our modern
society is not well in many ways, and if we continue to immerse
ourselves and our families in it, we will soon be ailing right along
So we make the move from the city to the country, limit
(or eliminate) electronic mind-killers like the TV and the Playstation,
and boot those young’ns outside to run wild and free without the fear
of traffic, or kidnappers, or drive by shootings.
They rise early in the morning to the sound of the
rooster, the smell of the earth, and a breakfast of natural whole
And then, they go... where?
If your children are between the ages of 5 and 16, they
go to school, of course.
Here in the U.S. of A., we have a ginormous monstrosity
called the Public School System. It’s a wonderful idea in theory, and
the reality of it is that MOST of the time, in MOST of the places, it
works reasonably well.
But, just like everything else, we as parents must do
OUR homework regarding our local school(s), for, beCAUSE our country
is so big and so diverse, and beCAUSE by the very nature of "federal
control" things that are supposed to be standardized in a good way
generally get standardized in a mediocre way, whether your family’s
assigned public school is going to be a great one, an acceptable one,
a miserable one, or an outright dangerous one is very much a crap
And here’s the funny part (if you are a fan of dark
humor): WHERE the school is located does NOT dictate what your
children's experience will be. There are many, many inner city
schools populated by teachers and parents whose dedication to their
children is amazing, and many, many schools in affluent communities
whose children are routinely dying of drug overdoses while their
parents are chasing the next monetary goal. The majority of public
schools, like the majority of the rest of life, fall somewhere in that
huge grey middle area.
Chapter One—Our Public School Experience
Oddly enough (for a home-schooler), I’ve had good
public school experiences, both personally and with my children's
I attended public schools back in the day of small
classes, teachers who commonly came to dinner at the homes of the
students, room-mothers there almost daily to help with projects, and
the ability to go to the bathroom without needing a key to get into
it. Oh yeah, and there was no such thing as metal detectors at the
front door, or school security. Every door into the school was
unlocked, all day every day. Up until my older boy was in high
school, this remained generally unchanged—even in the dark days of
the mid 70's race problems in high schools, there was no lock down,
and if you moved in an already mixed group (like I did), there was no
fear—only a sad confusion at the rest of the mess, but we felt that
most of the time anyway.
My daughter tested into our local public school
system’s Gifted and Talented Program. By that time we had moved out
to the country, but were still within the urban school system. The
Gifted and Talented Program had been set up in, unarguably, the most
inner of the inner-city schools, in a city of over 80,000 souls. They
had set up the program so that 50% of the students were those who
tested into it, and 50% were neighborhood children whose parents chose
to have them attend their neighborhood school, rather than be bussed
out of the neighborhood to the nearest "normal" school.
My 5-year-old’s bus ride every morning exceeded 45 minutes, and took her
all over the area to pick up the other Lighthouse students, but because of
where we were living, it would have taken her that long to get to the
nearest "local" school anyway, with the bus stopping at every corner and
Although my (then) husband was EXTREMELY skeptical of the wisdom behind
bussing our child INTO the very city we worked so hard to get OUT of, and
yea, verily, straight into the heart of the worst part of it, plus his
concern that the lessons would have to be "dumbed down" to accommodate the
"local" children, I felt that we needed to give it a try and see what
What happened was remarkable.
Of course, our own child blossomed in an environment that was geared
towards individual thought and learning. She’s a genius.
The remarkable part (at least to my husband), was watching what happened
to the neighborhood kids—none of whom had tested into the Gifted and
Talented Program via the pre-kindergarten testing process.
They not only blossomed, they were an explosive riot of veritable flowers.
When it was just assumed that ALL the children would be not only capable,
but would thrive under the Gifted and Talented Instruction, without
exception, they were, and did.
My daughter’s experience in the Lighthouse Program taught her at a very
early age that people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds,
and that it is a mistake to label anyone according to what is visible on
My older son attended our "local" public school (although he's also
clearly a genius, little 5-year-old boys tend not to sit still and test as
well as little 5-year-old girls). This school was brand new, built to
service not only the rural families in the area, but all the new
subdivisions sprouting up in what used to be fields like so many noxious
weeds. Although the education he received was a good one (this
school was touted as one of Wisconsin’s finest grade schools), the lack of
social diversity in the students clearly colored his views (literally)—and as a young adult he still exhibits some vestiges of that.
Although I’m aware that little boys tend to emulate their fathers and
little girls tend to emulate their mothers, and there’s a very real
difference in the way this particular set of parents viewed the world and
the people in it, I’m convinced that being exposed only to little children
of like backgrounds for his entire early-schooling years didn’t help.
Both of these children grew up healthy and literate and have gone on to
successful college careers and (in the case of the elder one) successful
professional careers, thereby proving that a lot of the time, public
WHERE THE HECK IS THE STUFF ABOUT HOME-SCHOOLING????
Enter child number three, born to a different (half of it anyway) set of
parents, in a different state, and at a different time of life for these
This child was born at home, with a midwife, in a 100-plus-year-old house
at the edge of a tiny town in Texas. I had a part time job, meaning
that Alec had to go to daycare several days a week and we found a
wonderful one run by a wonderful woman—home cooked meals, lots of
outside playtime, lots of hands on activities rather than
sit-still-and-listen activities. Delia has an after-school-pickup
section of her daycare, and in the spring before her little charges turn
kindergarten age, they take a field trip to the school to get them
familiar with where they will be going in the fall.
We had already toyed with the idea of home-schooling since, by this time,
my employment offered me the freedom to take my child with me to work if I
wanted to, and with him being all of almost five, he could be taken
without CONSTANT supervision, allowing me to actually, you know, WORK at
We went on the field trip to the school. Out of 12 families, only 2
parents attended, and I thought it was odd that I was one of them, since
we were thinking of NOT enrolling our child in this school. One
would think that one would be interested in checking out one’s child’s
school... Our local school is considered very good; it gets wonderful
ratings by the Texas Education Association, and indeed, when we walked
through the front doors, we were met with a cacophony of colors and sounds
all touting the Fun of Learning, and our son was clearly psyched about it.
Hyperactively so. His excitement was contagious, and I was tempted
to be swept into it all along with him...
I looked up and saw The Banner.
Over the entry to the main corridor was a banner proclaiming this school
one of Texas’ Finest, signed (supposedly) by the President of the United
States of America, and boldly (even aggressively) stating:
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
I know that this phrase is supposed to be uplifting, comforting and
encouraging, and in my former, younger, newer life as a parent, it
probably would have been.
Since I am twenty years older, have been around life’s block a few times,
and have now seen our government and society at work, it struck me like a
slap across the face as being creepy and menacing.
And I knew at that moment, for sure and for certain, that THIS child would
NOT be attending public school.