We have just begun our 16 year of homeschooling. In Utah and other high LDS population areas, seminary is taught in a building adjacent to the public schools on a released time basis, mostly by full-time church employees. When my children begin taking seminary in 9th grade, I encourage them to take a class or two of interest at the local school. This year Alana, my 16-year-old (and only child in seminary), is taking seminary and four classes at Timpanogos High.
As a part-time public school mom, I attend every parent-teacher conference. When I meet with the teachers, I almost always get comments from the teachers about how wonderfully involved I am and how such involvement is. (In truth, there are a few teachers I have never met because they never showed up in an entire school year.)
Back when we were on the “public school track” and served on the PTA, as a room mother, and on the elected School Advisory Counsel (SAC) one of the major concerns at meetings was how to get parents involved in the education of their children. At one typically hysterical SAC meeting, an advisor recommended that we could do that by helping the poor, harried parents who worked all day and were forced to come home, pick up kids from school, and then horrors! care for them. The suggestion was to add school cafeteria family dinners to the already provided breakfasts and lunches. I added that we could “help” even more by setting up little wardrobes and cots in the lunchroom so the parents didn't even have to take their kids home at all. Then the parents could assuage any lingering guilt by having their daily allotment of “quality time” in the lunchroom before heading off to their adult duties. (No, that comment was not well-received.)
When our oldest was five, Sandpiper Shores Elementary sent out a notice about the sex ed classes (which started in kindergarten), so parents could come see the curriculum. Toward the end of the “open review,” Sam and I went to the media center. We were told that we were the only parents in the school to do so.
Last year, Sam and I went to Timpanogos on Parent's Day. Moms and Dads were invited to attend a class with their student and then eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. I went to Alana's class and was the only parent there ?and the teacher had no idea what to do with me. I stood toward the back of the room for some time before the teacher asked what I needed. I informed her about Parent's Day. She told a boy to get me a chair. She didn't say another word to me.
Sam wasn't the only parent in Belinda's class, there was another couple the teacher's parents! Later, in the lunchroom, we saw less than a dozen other parents.
One of the most common “proofs” that homeschooling really isn't so great when faced with overwhelming statistics to the contrary is, “Well, of course homeschoolers do well, because those parents have to be involved. We can't make our parents get involved and most of them aren't.”
My anecdotal experience aside, parental involvement seems to be an ongoing problem in pubic schools, at least if education journals and the like are to be believed. I readily admit that the cry about lack of parental involvement may just be part of the persistent NEA blame game, but there are plenty of articles dedicated to trying to drag parents into their kids lives.
The point being that a notion that most public school parents are terribly involved isn't universally accepted by any stretch.
To the reader who was offended by recent comments in the forum and others who feel the same way I don't think you need to be. Either you are one of the seemingly few really involved parents (in which case, kudos to you) or you aren't (in which case, get off your backside and take responsibility). Using public school doesn't make you a bad parent, but I contend that handing off the responsibility to educate your kids to any group with an agenda unrelated to teaching your child just might be.
When I began homeschooling, I expected people to wonder if they'd get a good education. But, to date, no one has personally questioned me about that. The comments I get most often in fact almost exclusively are about how homeschooling impacts the parents' lives.
The comment I used to get most often was, “What about socialization.” Now it's one of two things: (1) “I just could not be around my kids all day long” and (2) “I need me time.”
When some parents in my neighborhood found out my kids had opted to go to a school in Orem, instead of the one in Pleasant Grove most of the kids here attend, the comment I got repeatedly was, “Why do they go to Timpanogos? The bus only goes to PG?”
To me, taking a course of action because it's easier for parents isn't likely to be a sound parenting model.
These ideas all tie into self-reliance, dependency, government intrusion, and how we view the political system. When you get in the habit of depending on another entity to provide for you, it becomes really easy to let them do more and more. And it seems insurmountable to take back that personal responsibility. Most parents today can't even fathom the concept of being the primary educators for their children. They don't even know where to start.
When I speak at conventions, I give a definition of homeschooling that is unusual. It's not about where you school, it's about who's in charge. In my experience, most parents who use public schools are really not in charge. They see schools as the educational source. They constantly complain about classes and teachers and schedules and fees and requirements but will not consider other options. And if you won't consider options, you are at the mercy of whatever the school dictates.
There is usually at least one idiot counselor at every school who in spite of the laws to the contrary will try to tell me what my kids “have to” take. No matter how gently and politely I explain that they are wrong. We don't “have to” take anything they offer. Period. We can choose what they offer, if it fits our family, if it's a good program, if it will benefit our child. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.
When conversing with other parents, I constantly hear the words “we have to ?” and I keep telling people, “No, you don't. You can choose.” But when the “you don't have to do what the schools say just because they say it” is attached to “you could do something yourself” it's as if you are from another planet. They want things to be different, but they want someone else anyone else to do it: the school board, the NEA, the teachers, the administration. And if the only choice you'll accept is one that frees you from responsibility, then you have, really, lost your freedom.
If that doesn't fit you, then there's no need to wear the shoe! If you see school as a resource, but not the only source, if you are willing to do what's best for your child even if it's more work for you, if you are open to the many educational options that exist in the world and aren't tied to the 7 hours per day, 180 days per year, “because they said so” paradigm, then you can count yourself among the growing number of parents who really are in charge of education and don't have to settle for whatever happens to show up at the local public school.
If you are already there, then you get it. If you're not, it might be something to think about.