The other day at play group, a few of us dads got to talking about school and the choices we have for our kids.  There are three basic choices available to families when choosing schools: public, private, and home schooling.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.  And seeing as we have members of our group involved in each type of schooling, there really are no right or wrong choices, but best choices for each individual family or even student.  My wife and I have spent much time discussing what we will choose for our family, and I’ll reveal to you our choice.  But not until after I’ve shared some of my thoughts on all three.

Home School: Now it might seem like a natural choice for a former teacher (myself) and current teacher (my wife) to take on the responsibility of educating our children ourselves.  We would have full control of curriculum and schedules.  Resources are a bit scarce (it’s not easy raising a family on a single teacher’s salary), but we would use the world as our classroom- incorporating our excellent local museums and educational sites into lessons.  That being said, home schooling is technically illegal in our state (as it is in most states in the U.S.).  But there is a way around it- most states allow a form of home schooling by registering with your local public school district who, in turn, will often provide curriculum guides and/or state standards of education.  Many districts are also developing “Online Academies” with curriculum content and assessment tools for a reasonable price of tuition.

Public Schools:  Being public school educators, my wife and I are fierce advocates and supporters of public schools.  We are passionate about the need for access to a quality and free education for every child.  Public education is the backbone our democracy.  Ahem.  (now stepping off of my soap box, and temporarily putting my run for public office aside) Public schools are free, have an accountability system, and provide a variety of activities and other educational opportunities for students.  My fears with public schools, especially after having been a part of the system, are the number of challenges that are faced by the teachers and administrators that I see as impeding their ability to provide the best for my child.  Educational goals and philosophies change with the political seasons.  Especially in larger districts, it can be very difficult to have a voice in what happens in the schools.  And with large class sizes and increased individual needs of students, I’m concerned that my children won’t get the attention that they need or diserve.

Private Schools: I like the idea of becoming a part of the community of the school that I send my children to.  That is a much easier task at a smaller school.  And sadly enough, the people in charge tend to listen more, and react faster, when you are directly contributing money to the school. And in some areas, that can be a lot of money.  I am in no way saying that I want to buy my kids’ education, and expect the school to do all the work.  On the contrary, no matter what choice you make for your child’s education, parents have a responsibility to be actively involved in the educational process.  I’m just saying, money has it’s influence.  There is also something to be said for the free market’s influence in private education.  In competing with each other for students (and money), private schools often adopt innovative or unique educational philosophies.  One of which my family might just buy into (both literally and figuratively).

Ultimately, my wife and I want our children to have a well rounded education with a variety of experiences in the arts, sports, and other extra curricular activities that will prepare them enter the world and pursue their hearts’ desires.  When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, my 4 year old recently responded “I want to be a pilot, then a teacher, then an astronaut, and a night in shining armor, a teacher again, and then a super hero.”  Those are some pretty big goals, but my wife and I will be there supporting him the whole way.  And what type of school will we be using to help support those dreams?  Right now, we’re going private.  But that could change.  You never know…