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Concerns That Every Parent Should Understand Before They Send Their Children to School

17 January 2012 9 Comments

1193228_doodled_desks_2Inspired by the many articles on the internet about what parents should be prepared for if they homeschool. Creating a little reporting balance.

Maybe you’re counting the days until your little one will finally be going to school. Maybe your 4, 5, or 6 year old is also waiting on bated breath to hear school bells telling them to go to class or to bring home homework assignments to do together as a family every night at the dinner table, with smiles and laughter, eating s’mores.

But there is a reality to school that few people talk about. There is a cultural fantasy about the beauty of public school, that once kids go to school, they shall learn, and be free, and grow up to be upstanding citizens. And every year, children all over the United States strap on their backpacks for the first time, and start their first school day in their 12 or 13 year long educational career. Yet, before taking the big leap into this long-term investment, have the parents taken the time to consider the very real challenges that school brings to a family?

Before sending a child to school, families need to do some hard thinking. Is this change really going to benefit their children? Does the fantasy of school match the reality? Do the parents know if the child’s temperament is a good match for school? And what kind of legal rights to parents have if school doesn’t work out? These questions and so much more are important to think about before signing up for a 13-year family commitment of public school.

Time considerations. Very few families understand just how much time and energy is required of not just the student, but the entire family when a child is in school. There are fundraisers, meetings, homework and project time, afterschool activities, school shopping that happens throughout the year, not to mention possible costume design, volunteering to decorate and clean up, and other special event requirements. Being a good, involved parent of a child in school takes a lot more energy and commitment than most realize. It’s not easy to be a school parent. There might be hours during the day that are free, but most school parents say that their time is very full and do not spend their free time reading books all day. It’s hard work.

Money considerations - It might be free to reserve a seat at a public school desk, but it costs a lot of money once that seat is filled. There are supplies, clothes, transportation, after school care, projects, fundraisers, and so much more. Gaining access to a teacher standing in front of a room might be free, but everything else costs money. And if you don’t have the money, your child might miss out on important opportunities. There are exceptions, and some children are able to get a good education without spending a lot of money. But statistics show that schools with more money donated by the local community have higher student success rates. If you are in a successful, good school, you will very likely be spending a lot more money than you thought you would. It’s important to remember to budget for these expenditures, and go into the situation with open eyes.

Limited and unpredictable environment - Once your child enters school, that will become her world. Most of her friends will be there, she will formulate her opinions based on the school children’s social trends, and will be raised by other children who may or may not have the best social skills. Over time, the friends from school and that social community within, will become everything. She will not be exposed to the outside world much, except on social outings with the friends she makes at school and through fieldtrips she takes with friends at school. The world will become very small. Making sure this doesn’t happen will take a lot of work. In addition to making sure she has all of her school work done and attends all of the school events, keeping her in the loop with the rest of the world will take devotion and time. Making sure to get her out into the world, to take classes with other children who don’t go to her school and make friends outside of her small circle will be hard. Many children resist this once their very comfortable social circles are created. But it’s important to remember that in the end, their social skills outside of school are just as important as having tight, default friendships.

Limited resources - It’s easy to be convinced that school will provide everything a child needs for 13 years in order to be an educated individual. But that is rarely the case. It’s important to know that it is rare that a child is working at exactly at his level. And often times, school curriculum is limited in scope, or only scratches the surface of interesting topics. Also, many schools no longer offer art, creative writing, music, or interesting electives like languages other than Spanish, psychology, computer programming, and a lot of other skills that children need to know in order to have a complete education. Many schools have reduced or totally eliminated recess. It’s important to know before sending a child to school what it is that you want your children to know and experience as they are growing and learning, because once they are at school, they will be limited in what they can learn based on what that specific school is offering. Anything that he is not learning in his school will have to be learned at home, with extra effort on the parent’s part. Then we get back to the issue of how much time it already takes just to deal with school related demands. Trying to add supplementary material to make up for what’s missed in school can be a challenge.

Shy and active children will often have problems - There is a misconception that school will bring out the extrovert in shy kids and will calm down the hyper ones. If your child is quiet and reserved or very physically active and talks a lot, they will probably have challenges in school. The schools will want your child to behave a certain way, and they will have to either force themselves to change to comply, or will get into trouble or have social and academic difficulties. If your child is not already attending all-day classes regularly, where they have to sit for long periods and focus, and do schoolwork when asked, see if there is a program nearby that allows you to try it one or two days a week, to see if it’s a good match. Many parents send their children to school with no idea how they will like it, and then if it doesn’t work out, feel obligated to finish out the year, or even several years, at that school, using a lot of emotional energy and time trying to figure out how to fix a problem that didn’t exist until the child was in school.

Legal rights - One of the biggest misconceptions that parents often do not know about public school is that once they sign their child up for the school, they lose a lot of their rights. And what rights they don’t lose legally are often suppressed with pressure from the school and the community.  They lose their right to decide what their children are learning, they lose the right to be with their children whenever they feel like during the day, they lose their right to decide when to go on vacation or whether a child is sick enough to stay home (that has to be decided by a doctor). And the social pressure to take the standardized tests, for the children to do homework even if it’s far too hard, far too easy, or far too much, for the children to participate in every single project or class function even if they are not interested, for the children to stop what they are doing when they are engaged to stay with the group, and for the children to not stand up for themselves and maintain the authority of the teacher even if the child does not agree or is not happy - all this pressure to let go of parents’ and children’s rights starts the minute the children’s name is on the teacher’s roll call. Many parents don’t understand just how much they will be giving up until they are imbedded in the system, and it’s much harder to get out. To avoid this pitfall, understand exactly what your rights are before your child starts school, and understand from the beginning your options if it doesn’t work out. The feeling of having no other option but public school is what keeps parents and children’s rights so suppressed in the first place.

Sending children to school is a great option for some people, but not for others. There are many resources and places to get information on public schooling which you should research before doing this; every child is different, and every parent has their limitations.

Related posts:

  1. I Homeschool Because I Believe My Children Have Human Rights
  2. Feminist Homeschooling Concerns
  3. What Is Wrong With Being “Shy”?
  4. Socialization in Young Homeschool Children
  5. Virtual Schools, Charter Schools and Homeschooling

9 Comments »

  • Amy said:

    Nice article!

  • Alaina Frederick said:

    I have been considering homeschooling for a while now. As my oldest gets older and closer to the age when kids change from playful you’re my friend this week to actual bullying- I’m just afraid of what his peers will do/say to him. He has had issues since birth and I just can’t stomach what he is going to go through.

  • Michele said:

    As a homeschooling mom of five, I find your points to be spot on! My two youngest are attending school now to participate in sports. My husband is a public high school teacher, so we were prepared for most things, but still…what an adjustment!

  • laurie said:

    I wish I’d read this two years ago before I enrolled my soulful, kind-hearted, social, playful, inquisitive, sweet daughter in kindergarten at one of SoCal’s “top-rated” public schools. After almost 2 years and enough mind-numbing homework to crush us, we are in the process of getting out. Luckily, my husband has a stable career and I am a freelance writer doing most of my work at night anyway. I shudder to think of all the families who can not make this choice simply because both parents work during the day.

    I’m nervous about homeschooling, but absolutely detest the current educational model, the lack of school supervision, the bullying that started in kindergarten and the focus on one-size-fits-all/teach-to-the-standardized-tests model that seems to devalue critical thinking and creativity. It’s awful, plain and simple, even in one of the “best” schools. Best just means the test scores are high which offers no reflection on anything other than memorizing facts and doing countless worksheets. (We average 2 hours of homework a night in first grade. I don’t know what we would do if we had more than one child.)

    Thanks for this wonderful article. I’m sending it to all my friends with preschoolers. I hope to meet you soon at one of the local picnics!

  • Michelle said:

    We have decided to start homeschooling our 9 year old daughter starting next Fall. I actually wish I could take her out of school now, but we just aren’t prepared yet (and you can’t just “homeschool” in CA, you need to put them in some sort of alternative school, charter homeschool school, or sign forms to effectively start your own private school). The straw that broke the camel’s back was when we received what we perceive to be a “threatening” letter from the school district telling us that our daughter has had excessive excused absences so far this year and that if she misses four more, they “request” that we send a doctor’s permission for any more. First, we don’t have insurance at this time, so I cannnot take her to a doctor for a cold or flu that I know she will get over by herself. Secondly, how dare anyone tell me that I don’t know when my daughter is sick enough to stay home from school. It has been a hard winter on many children we know as far as sicknesses go, I know she is not the exception this year in terms of how many days she has missed. Plus, the reason she’s gotten sick so much this year is because they also stated in the letter that she is only to stay home if she has a fever over 100 degrees (any fever can mean you are infectious, not just over 100) and is “known” to be infectious. Exhaustion, stomache aches, headaches, etc. are not reasons to let a child stay home from school according to the district. It’s all about money. When my daughter is sick, they don’t get her daily money from the state. It’s ridiculous. It was also apparent to us that, though we know we are great parents, the district could call social services on us whenever they want based of how they feel we are raising our daughter (she is a straight A student by the way!).

  • Taking School for Granted « At Home and School said:

    [...] If you need a checklist of questions that every parent should answer before they send their child to a traditional school, read Tammy Takahashi’s blog post, Concerns That Every Parent Should Understand Before They Send Their Children To School. [...]

  • June said:

    It’s true that school isn’t always the right option. However, I think for most children it is - depending on the types and qualities of schools in the nearby area. Sending a child to school just for the sake of it isn’t the right thing to do if you don’t have faith in the school and the teachers within it.

  • Parish said:

    I pulled my 5 year old out of a “great” SoCal school. He was bullied by a 7 year old who was still in kindergarten. Everyday he begged me not to go to school. Imagine my dismay when I discovered through the teacher that he was the object of a bully and I had been dismissive of his request. I pledged from that moment to honor him and to encourage his love of play and story telling. He is so much happier now that he is home but when he gets out of line I do threaten to send him back to school!

  • Helene Poulakou said:

    Good to have the option of homeschooling your kids!
    This is not allowed in many countries — I know for sure that I would give it a serious thought, if I had the option.

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