My husband and I were having a discussion about ways to help our boys understand certain math concepts this week. Every time I find what I consider to be an especially ingenious way to present something new, I realize if I were teaching classrooms full of students, I could take this knowledge and re-use it, honing it to perfection. As it is, I only get to teach the same grade level twice to one student at a time. This realization lead to the idea to write a post about the benefits of public schooling as a contrast to my post on homeschooling benefits.
I often feel like I am re-inventing the wheel when teaching my boys. If they were in a typical public school environment, they would have the benefit of teachers with years of practice presenting the same material. Teachers who have gone through training on how to deal with a kid who may seem like a math whiz until they run into multiple step word problems that make them declare, "I hate math!" Most times I can find ways to get around these hurdles by an internet search or a question posted to one of the homeschooling forums I follow. I also have a few friends who have very creative ideas on how to deal with learning hang-ups that I can call for help. At some point, I assume we will reach an obstacle that will require professional help. I know I can find a tutor or other mentor when that time comes, but because we are homeschooling, it will likely not be free.
We currently have both of the boys enrolled in art classes at our local Y.M.C.A Arts Center. Prior to signing up for these classes, I always felt that our art lessons were lacking. While we have spent a large amount of time studying art history and styles we didn't always try a variety of projects ourselves. Some of that may have been lack of supplies, but more often it was lack of motivation on my part. It's one thing to introduce a whole classroom of students to some new messy medium; it's another thing to drag it out in your own house for two young, less than tidy boys. Once again, we have found a good fix through the art classes, but there is the associated cost.
We are still a couple years away from a full-fledged chemistry class, but when it comes, I'm not sure exactly how I plan to handle the need for lab equipment. It would be so much easier to have access to a fully stocked chemistry lab! It would also be nice to have a variety of lab partners available for my boys. Recently we were at a local university for a Saturday Science program. While we were there, I spoke with two different professors about the possibility of enrolling the boys in a basic chemistry class when they were high school age. They weren't sure about the university's policy, so I will be looking into that as a possible option. If needed, I will buy what we need and maybe try to assemble a small group of local homeschooling families to hold a class together. I've also been hunting for the perfect microscope for our upcoming science unit on cellular structure and microscope studies. Wouldn't it be nice to have free access to a quality microscope like this one?
Free Extra-Curricular Activities
In Pennsylvania, schools are required to allow homeschoolers to participate in extra-curricular activities offered within their school district. However, we have had little luck getting involved in anything through our local schools. One problem is that the definition of extra-curricular really means only things held outside of school hours. Because of that, we were told that JT can't participate in the elementary level band due to the fact that instrument practice happens during band class within school hours. Some districts make allowances for homeschool participation. So far, ours does not. I'm not sure if we will be able to do anything at the high school level either. JT would like to play basketball with the school when he is too old for Upward basketball, but I'm not sure that will work out.
Free Text Books and Supplies
Most homeschoolers will tell you that there is really no need to buy expensive curriculum in order to teach your children. While that is true to a point, I find that there are some items that are almost necessary to buy. We were fortunate in that we spent two years with a cyber school that provided all of the materials we needed AND allowed us to keep everything. I have been able to re-use quite a bit of those things. We also spend a great deal of time at library sales, garage sales and other places where we can pick up low-cost items. Even if you only use free resources online, you might need to use ink and paper to print out worksheets. I know that some public schools ask the parents to provide supplies for the students, but for the most part, the text books and workbooks are free.
Perhaps the one thing I miss most about the days when I had children in the public school system is free time. Don't get me wrong, I do love having my boys with me every day. They are also both fairly adept at entertaining themselves so that I can have time to myself to get things done around the house. However, just this week when I had to schedule an appointment that both I and my husband have to go to, not having the kids in school means I have to find a sitter. Very few people who sing the praises of public school will mention this most obvious benefit to parents. If the boys were in school, I would have the time to keep my house as clean as it was many years ago. I'd have time to take classes like I've wanted to for years. I'd have time to throw a day away reading a good book on the couch with no need to stop until that school bus rolled down the road at 4:25pm.
My list for the benefits of public schooling is about half as long as my benefits of homeschooling list. When I compare the two, I still feel that homeschooling wins hands-down for our family. Maybe I would have more money to spend on something other than science materials, maybe I would have more free time to spend on myself, but ultimately I think my life has been made far richer because of this adventure we have undertaken. Hopefully, when my boys are out and on their own, they will agree that we made the right decision too.