I met Laura working one summer at Camp Ray Bird. She was smart, witty, hilarious, and huge hearted. As a social worker she uses those skills daily. I am absolutely thrilled to host her thoughts on education. After reading this, I have decided she needs her own blog.
This post is part of the series Jesus at the Blackboard. You can read the rest here.
Understanding the Educational Smorgasbord
If I had to choose a word to describe my educational experiences thus far in my life, it would most certainly have to be smorgasbord. Private preschool, public kindergarten, home schooled second through sixth grade, public school seventh through twelfth, private Christian college initially majoring in elementary education (intending on public school service), my current vocation requires my presence in a variety of private, public, charter, and Montessori schools, as well as a recent acceptance to a private school Master’s program. (Exhales)
While I do have a handful of memories from Kindergarten including my one and only treasured field day experience, most of my distinct elementary school memories come from home schooling. I remember being aware, even at six, about trips down to spend time with a teacher’s aide while my peers participated in activities about Halloween and Santa and DARE because my family didn’t believe I should celebrate or be educated about certain things. Today, I was in a classroom when a teacher deemed it appropriate to show thirty Kindergarteners a “Gangham Style” music video, the only English words they know being ‘Hey Sexy Lady.’ My skin crawled and my feelings resonated with that of my mother’s all those years ago. Innocence should be protected. From what I recall in my little six-year-old brain, my mother’s reasons made sense to me. I was sad to leave my friends, my teacher, but what did I know about it?? Even my five-year-old client today said “Ms Laura, that was a bad song.”
Since my Mother worked full time at some point during this period, every morning I was left a 3×5 index card with my assignments to be completed. I remember individual lessons with my Dad about the Presidents. I remember memorizing the state capitols while “Regis and Kathy Lee” was playing on the television. I remember dreading my math textbook. I remember struggling through work individually; it was hard and I’m sure I used some mean words with my mother at one point or another but the value of “a struggle” is something I teach on a regular basis. Even though I was very much protected from the realities of the world, I also remember the neighborhood bully who introduced me to the concept that home schooling made me inferior. And I remember worrying that I was not as intelligent as my publicly schooled peers. My parents were gracious in their response to my pleas to return to a life of public schooling, to be around peers my age and away from my siblings—a reasonable plea at 12 years of age.
Public school was more of a social challenge than anything, most likely because I returned for 7th grade. Middle school was like an awesomely impulsive immature highly ambitious and emotional rollercoaster/whirlwind that I loved being a part of, hated to be stuck in, and was the only period of my life where I could sleep 12 hours straight on the weekend, now I’m lucky if I can sleep in past 8. And then in high school we all suddenly and collectively realized it wasn’t cool to be anything like ourselves anymore, so not as fun but probably more academically productive. Intellectually I was above my peers and I was often bored in class, even through high school. I think this is where some of my love for Montessori comes in—how much more could I have experienced if I was in a system that where it was the norm to be at a different level and was more accommodating to “work at your own pace?” Also friendlier to those whose strength is NOT verbal lecturing or sitting for long periods of time.
It was scary in high school to be exposed to things I knew I should not be. The scarier part was my parents didn’t know how to ask me about those things and I knew it. They didn’t see beyond those “teenage hormones,” not unlike many of us who I believe repress those years between 13 and 17, and I think that did me the disservice of not processing through some hard issues. Was I intellectually and emotionally capable of exposure to and discussion of those maladaptive behaviors of so many of my peers and myself? I think so! A lot of people assume that the only intervention to prevent teen criminal behavior, drug use, and pregnancy is lack of exposure/extra sheltering because of those darn hormones. I think public middle and high school was a great opportunity for me to expand my understanding of the complexity of human behavior and God’s sovereignty. It was a challenge for me to attempt to mediate spirituality with the world and who I wanted to be. I was young enough to have that neural plasticity but old enough to think abstractly. I met many peers in college who were just beginning this process due to having attended only private Christian or home schooling and thereby were exposed to a particular subset of the population.
We could site the traditional argument against children being home schooled as “How will they learn how to interact in the real world? You don’t want a kid to be sheltered from reality.” As I started college, I know I felt insecure about a potential inferiority socially due to years ago home schooling. Now, I am more inclined to say that I am an introvert, period. Also, I’m a very successful social worker that, on a daily basis, builds rapport and facilitates recovery with “the real world.” I think this is in large part due to exposure to a variety of educational settings. I reconciled to the decision that there should not be us versus them. There is only us and there’s significance just because you are a human being, my sister, and my brother. I know the home school kid, I know the public school kid, I know the public school teacher, I know the Montessori teacher, I know the private school Mom. When my caseload parents ask me “what are the good schools, Ms Laura?” I don’t have an answer because I don’t know what a good school is; it’s too vague. No school has perfect teachers and/or administrators and/or students. But every school has good teachers and/or good administrators and/or good students. I think it’s a battle of knowing what your child is being taught and what your child is thinking.
As it regards my future children, I’m not set on anything aside from wanting to be home with them until and potentially through preschool. I think an early foundation is crucial—thanks Mom! Otherwise, I think value can be found anywhere, as long as you are looking for it.