For those of you that didn’t know, I was educated at home for the final two years of high school, and my husband was educated at home from kindergarten through graduation. You might guess that we’re proponents of home education, and your guess would be correct. I’ve been studying different curricula and educational philosophies since my own senior year of high school, and have intended to educate my (future) children at home since that time.
Now, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road, and I find myself conflicted. It’s not that my opinion of home education has changed; I’m still quite in favor of it.
I still think that in the long run, it provides the best opportunity for a quality education tailored to each child’s needs. That said, do I think that every child who goes through the public school system receives a poor education? No. Do I think that every child who has been educated at home has received a stellar education? No. I’ve seen both situations run the gamut; and yes, you can throw private education into the mix, too – I’ve seen it fall into both categories, as well.
So here’s my dilemma: my toddler will soon be aging out of his qualification for “early intervention” services in our state, a program that is run at a county level from birth to three years of age. With this program, babies and toddlers with developmental delays can receive speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, depending on the areas where they score low according to some standardized tests. This therapy is done “itinerantly,” within the support system of the child’s home (or wherever they spend their days, be that with a grandparent, a nanny, et cetera), at a frequency of one or two times per week.
Once they hit three years of age (or, actually, the even-more-arbitrary age of thirty-four months), they transition to a program run by the local school district rather than the county. If they continue to qualify, they may be recommended for a higher frequency of therapy visits during the week – or even for an integrated preschool classroom setting, where you’ll see a mixture of “typically-developing” children as well as children who are receiving therapies through the county’s program.
As of January, my son will be old enough for this program – and yes, he has received a recommendation from the evaluator that he enter the preschool classroom. Of course, as a parent, I have every right to say that we don’t want this service, and would rather receive his continued therapies within the comfort and familiarity of his own home. For that matter, if we wanted to, we could say that we didn’t want him to continue therapies at all, regardless of the testing and recommendations. We have that right.
You would think, with my background and affinity for home education, that I would say flat-out that he’s not going to a program run by our local school district, but that’s not taking into account a few things. First of all, the program is not run at the school – they farm it out to a local preschool / child care center. Not only that, but the very place where I was employed until I was six months pregnant with my firstborn. Furthermore, the special education teacher with whom I worked in my classroom is now the director of the program there. If there was going to be any place that I was comfortable sending my preschooler (and I nearly twitch as I type that, because in my mind, he’s still only two years old), it would be there.
After all, it would only be for two and a half hours per day. It would mean that he could receive his therapies in one consolidated location, versus having two different therapists in and out of our house multiple times during the week. And I try not to take into account the idea that it would give mama a small break, because ultimately, this isn’t about mama: it’s about the child. A “break” would be nice, sure, but I know there are plenty of mamas who educate special needs children at home, who have needs far greater than a speech delay and sensory processing difficulties.
If only those were the only considerations, though. But there’s something new that I have to take into account; something that didn’t exist when I worked there: Common Core. Oh, yes, that wonderful thing that’s causing all sorts of controversy at so many levels. Now, granted… I did Google to look up how Common Core guidelines affect things at a preschool program level in New York, and I couldn’t find anything that particularly rubbed me the wrong way. The only difference that I know of at this particular child care center is that instead of the teachers in each classroom setting up their lesson plans in conjunction with the curriculum that the center uses, they have one person in charge of lesson plans for ALL of the classrooms (to ensure that they meet Common Core guidelines), and from there, the teachers make changes to make the plans a better fit for the abilities and needs of the children in their particular classroom.
Well, while in theory that may free up the teachers from having to come up with entire lesson plans for each week, allowing them to better tailor those lessons for their pupils, in the long run, doesn’t it hobble them? They know their pupils better than the person who will be setting up the plans for all of the classrooms. Wouldn’t there be greater flexibility, and greater ability to meet those needs, if they don’t have to alter plans that are handed down to them, but are left to meet those needs organically?
You see, Common Core isn’t wrong because of the values it teaches. Common Core is wrong because it is an unconstitutional, federal usurpation of power. In fact, it’s not even directly from the federal government, but a private initiative from the Gates Foundation used by the federal government to coerce states. It is the very same “gun to the head” of the states that Chief Justice Roberts referred to in National Federation Of Independent Business v. Sebelius (Obamacare) with regard to the medicaid expansion coercion. Regardless, conservatives, libertarians, and moderates are all too in favor of such usurpation when it aligns with our values. This is not only wrong, it is extremely dangerous.
– Conservatives Are Completely Wrong on Common Core (Ben Swann)
Ultimately, my qualm with Common Core at the preschool level is not with the values it teaches, but that yet again we’re seeing an edict “from on high” that is meant to ensure that every program is painted with the same broad brush strokes. Every child must meet specific milestones. Every child but learn specific things. Because after all, unless they’re reaching these government-provided checklists, how will they ever manage to be prepared for the workforce? That’s what this ultimately comes down to, isn’t it? The workforce? The economy? Feeding the consumptive beast rather than allowing for individuality, creativity, and walking off the beaten path?
Oh, I’m sorry; is my libertarian side showing?
And all that is without even delving into Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy when it comes to the preschool years, let alone what I’m going to discover as I read Better Late Than Early. Maybe it will turn my entire opinion on it’s head; I guess the only way to find out it to finish reading it. Oh, and then there’s the whole “how does our conviction about worshiping as a family affect our view of education” aspect.
(This is the part where you might just point out that I think to much. Or maybe you did that after the first two or three paragraphs, and I just didn’t hear you.)
I have time to figure this out, but it’s not unlimited. I meet with the school district to discuss all of this later this month.
Katie was right: parenting is hard stuff.
Ultimately, though, I have to remember what this all comes down to. It comes down to grace. I’m not going to sit here and quaver over whether or not sending my child to preschool is “God’s will,” or if I might be ruining him for life if I do so. That would be to live in fear, rather than taking my life verse to heart yet again.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
– II Timothy 1:7
It’s almost like there’s a reason that it’s my life verse. You know, because I keep needing to hear it. Over. And over. And over again.