We Walked Away from Public School

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The most common question I am asked, is why? Why leave public school, give up the convenience and security of full time school to attempt something like homeschooling. Well, there is a long version of this and a short version. I’m going to share the medium one.

The “Incident”

We decided to wait things out and make our local school work for us, and then look at private school for her when she is older. However, I found myself repeatedly running into issues with the school that were troubling. We loved her teacher and the staff, but they were obviously overwhelmed and over-worked.

One day. when I asked about her reading level, her teacher said she didn’t know. Apparently our daughter had tested so far above grade level so early in the school year that they had stopped evaluating her. I was not informed in advance, so naively, I expected them to know here she should be placed.

When I shared this experience with my friends, many suggested that I write a letter, fight the system, complain, protest, have more one on one meetings, etc. For me, that was a major indication of how broken the system really is. The message I heard was: “If you want the best for your child, be prepared to fight, and argue and force your way into the principles office until you get what you think is fair.” Personally, I find that exhausting, and sad.

What We Want in a School

After the “incident”, we started looking for solutions that would help us ensure our daughter got the quality education she needs. We found it difficult to locate schools (public, charter, or private) that fit our expectations. My husband and I value education and learning and didn’t want to compromise any more. We wanted to find specific things in a school for our daughter:

  1. Academic Rigor - Our daughter is a fast and bright student. She picks up new concepts and ideas rapidly and needs to be challenged.

  2. Flexibility and Autonomy - We wanted to find a program that could keep pace with her rapid learning style and curiosity. We also wanted a program that would allow her to have some autonomy about what she learns. People often say that adult learners need autonomy, but I believe ALL learners need this.

  3. Diversity - Schools are some of the most segregated institutions in our country. I grew up in Seattle, which is incredibly diverse. That experience has shaped who I am as an adult. We both want our daughter to learn surrounded by children from lots of different backgrounds.

  4. Affordability - In our research we did locate a few great private schools with price tags in the $20 -$30,000/year range. We make good money, but can not afford that sort of tuition. With lots of time and preparation, we could have pursued scholarships, but it was too late in the year to make it happen.

Homeschooling to the Rescue

When evaluating all the options, we didn’t find anything in our area that was a clear and obvious fit. The lack of viable options is what motivated us to consider homeschooling (hybrid homeschooling to be exact). Since I work from home, I have the flexibility necessary.

The more I learned about homeschooling, the more excited I got. I loved the idea of creating a curriculum that fits our daughter’s needs and abilities. I learned that by partnering with other families through co-ops and tutoring groups, I could ensure she is exposed to all sorts of different people and experiences.