Tuesday, October 19, 2004


When I rode my dinosaur to public school in what’s now central Omaha, there were three choices: public school, private school or parochial school. Once you got started in one of those choices, you pretty much stayed with it all the way to graduation.

Now there are dozens of ways to get the education job done. Diversity and change are the way of the world, you know. In the olden days, the typical career went like this: you’d work in one basic capacity for one employer all your life . . . but now you might have 10 different kinds of jobs for 10 different employers. Lots of change going on. Well, it’s the same thing now with schooling.

If you browse through websites such as the Alliance for the Separation of School & State (http://HonestEd.com) you begin to see the amazing variety of options and combinations for schooling these days:

Public school

Private, nonsectarian school

Private, faith-based school

Charter school (a hybrid of public and private education; not allowed in Nebraska)

Academies, public or private, with a more tightly-focused curriculum, such as technology or the arts


Private kindergarten (often associated with a child-care center)

Private tutors

Private mentors

University model schools

Community schools (attend private school for two or three days a week and do home studying with parental guidance for the rest of the week; see www.gfi.org)

Online schools (some are narrowly-focused and supplemental, such as focusing on classic books that are no longer taught in public schools)


Homeschooling co-ops, in which parents share the teaching duties and may go together to pay a teacher as well

The last few options are the ones that interest me. My husband and I are older than the average parent and have enough income so that we aren’t dependent on public education. My work is also very time-flexible. From talking with homeschoolers, they say that, because there are so few distractions, they can get their teaching done in a couple of hours, versus having a child off to school for seven hours or more. It’s not that hard to work an adult schedule around a couple of hours. And I’m beginning to think it’d be worth it for my child, unless I can find something better within an existing school.

I just believe very strongly that vocabulary is destiny, and the way to get a great vocabulary is by becoming a great reader. I don’t think that happens very often in a formal, organized setting such as a public school. So reading instruction is my top priority. That isn’t shared by many kindergarten teachers or education administrators, who value socialization and behavior above academics. Of course, I value them, too, but not at the expense of the 3 R’s.

Who better to teach a child ALL of the above, than her own Mom?

I could teach in the mornings, put her in child-care in the afternoons, and still have enough time to do all the adult-world stuff I need to do. Homeschooling might be impossible for someone who needs to work full time, but it makes sense for someone like me. The main driver is what’s best for Maddy.

I can see tremendous advantages for homeschooling her for her kindergarten year and maybe first grade so that she gets the basics of reading, writing, math and penmanship down pat. I believe 1-on-1 is the ideal way to instill the basics correctly. I mean, you can’t beat that staff-to-child ratio.

There also are a growing number of group activities being offered for homeschoolers that will make sure she keeps building up a big circle of friends and experiences beyond our family’s four walls.

Then maybe we could put her in a private school part-time for a few years, and homeschool her a couple of afternoons a week, for example, not only to keep up that individual attention, but also to expose her to cool learning experiences that no formal, organized school can do. I’d be interested in getting with a few other parents to do that on a cooperative basis, to spread out the burden beyond myself, and also to take advantage of the diversity of skills and interests that different parents would like to share.

After that, if she wants to, she could go to regular public or private school, maybe through high school, and supplement any watered-down curriculum with some distance learning options or maybe a tutor or mentor in the area she might be interested in studying in college.

The ‘’factory model’’ for education -- the one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter approach -- is dead. Choice and creativity are much, much better for kids . . . though they’re a little more work for parents.

The point is, you used to make your educational choice between two main options, public or private, and then stick with it.

Now we’re no longer stuck. Isn’t that great?

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