Thursday, June 12, 2008


It's officially summer. Audrey finished her last day of first grade this morning. She was up and dressed early, looking for me to paint her nails an iridescent blue. You know it's an extra special day when she, of her own accord, has put a headband in her hair. She had a great year at Edison, our local public elementary school. Last year about this time, we found out I was pregnant. (Surprise!) Audrey had been attending a private Christian school in Wheaton which we absolutely loved ( I was on the board, throwing myself headlong into curriculum and whatever else they'd let me do. To most people, it seemed crazy to drive her thirty minutes to some start-up school. But we loved it, and in many ways, I can say that our year at Clapham changed our life. When news of the "baby" hit, we had to rethink things. I wasn't sure I was up for the commute. We decided we'd homeschool, if only for a year, to get our feet back on the ground again. Then we'd revisit the idea of returning to Clapham. I ordered our books, even shopped Ikea for what I thought we'd need. And a week later, we found out it wasn't just one baby - it was two! When I said to Ryan, "Looks like homeschooling's out for us," he returned a puzzled look. "Really? Do you think?"

We chose the public school this year, for too many reasons to detail here, many of which were very pragmatic. It's less than ideal in some ways. But the reality is, we can't hack a long commute in the car and neither are we sure  that spending upwards of $40,00o/year to privately school five children is the best use of our resources. 

I'm sympathetic to other parents who have even fewer options than we do. I think of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, living in one of Chicago's worst neighborhoods. The public school is out. Kids are throwing chairs by second grade. A more academically sound magnet school draws them out of their neighborhood, a community where they feel called to put down deep roots and extend God's love. And the neighborhood Christian school isn't inexpensive. So go the stories for so many families. You want the best for your kids, and in some way, the best feels out of reach. For us, in this season, what's out of reach is school as we want our kids to experience it. Should I reconsider homeschooling? We've thought of it. We basically calculated that a full-time nanny that we'd hire so that I could homeschool would cost less than three children in the local private Christian school.

For next year, Audrey and Nathan will be back at Edison. For all its failings, we're going to choose to thank God for a school which is safe, whose teachers are genuinely invested in their students, and which, I won't lie, is a stone's throw from our front door.


Jeremy Pryor said...

There certainly is no cookie cutter answer for all kids, at every age and in all circumstances. We had great experiences with public and home school.

What seems so important is that parents take ultimate responsibility and don't abdicate it entirely to any institution (although they can be a very helpful tool).

erin said...

I so agree with Mr. Pryor. While there are days I wish the public school met all my expectations, their very failings present excellent teaching opportunities... from the caliber of children on the playground to the quality of the curriculum. I fully expect I will be backfilling until they graduate. I pray I do it well. Having accepted that responsibility, it helps bring me peace. And, without doubt, we (my family) ended up in Elmhurst, in public school, for a God given reason that may never be revealed.

My sister asked me once what my goal was when I told her I was giving Emma extra work in math. What did I hope to achieve? That was a more thought provoking question than it appeared on the surface. It was helpful for me to think it through. I realized that I wasn't trying to get kids into Harvard, or groom them for the Presidency (or anything else for that matter). I just want them to be FEARLESS about learning. I want them to learn so they are CAPABLE of *serving*. If they can read, maybe they can teach. If they excel at science, maybe they can heal. If they can measure, maybe they can build.