Three years ago we decided to put our kids in public school. It was such a hard decision, fraught with so many doubts and fears. When you spend years in the homeschooling community, you are exposed to a lot of negative ideas about public schools. It goes both ways, of course. Many public school families and teachers have negative ideas about homeschooling. So much of this comes from a lack of personal contact with the real people in those situations. Here’s what I know.
Two of my kids have been enrolled in public school for nearly three whole years now. From the very beginning of this experience, I have been so impressed with the teachers and staff at our school. After years of going it alone with homeschooling, suddenly I felt like I had a whole team of people on my side for the education and growth of my kids.
Last year I started subbing as a para, and immediately I was impressed with what I was seeing within the school. Because you know what? Every single day these amazing people show up and love on these kids. They patiently teach and deal with children who don’t want to learn, who are hungry, who have terrible home lives, who are just having a bad day. They challenge the super smart kids and they get face to face on the floor with the kid who has shut down. They encourage, inspire, and motivate.
As a sub I have seen teachers crying when challenging special-needs kids with major behavior problems were pulled out of school. I have seen teachers patiently repeating the same instruction over and over until the students understand. I have seen staff members greet my children by name and with a genuine smile. I have had a teacher give me her cell phone number so I could contact my daughter easily during the school day. I have seen even the most difficult kids get hugs and high fives and encouragement from multiple staff members as they walk through the halls.
And then the world shut down. And I have seen my kids’ school come together in amazing and surprising ways to support my children and my family. I have seen teachers come up with plans to meet unique learning needs at home. And I have read status after status on social media about how brokenhearted the faculty and staff are about the way this school year has turned out. This is what I didn’t expect when we chose to enroll Ryan and Gracie– that my children would end up so very loved by people who were, three years ago, strangers to me.
My situation is unique in that I’ve been homeschooling for all these years and being home with my kids doesn’t really intimidate me. It hasn’t been that hard for us to fall into something of a routine. And I’m in a much better place emotionally than I was when we decided for my mental health that something had to give. I’m glad for this extra time with my kids, even as I’m sad for the loss of what might have been.
But with that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that my kids’ teachers and the staff at their school have become heroes to me in a new way in the last month. I’m so sad that my kids are missing out on time with other adults who see them as amazing and who challenge them to be their best selves– and who understand common core math. We’re okay, and we’ll be okay, but this homeschool mama would like to say this– my kids’ public school teachers are my heroes.