I walked her in that first week of school half thrilled beyond words at the adventure she was embarking on, half scared out of my skin of leaving my 5 year old in the care of another all day long. She shared my mixture of emotions; I could see it on her face. Reluctantly she let go of the leg she was clutching as I said goodbye. That was 2 years ago. We've come so far.
I left that first year of public school with a wonderful feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. She did it. We did it. She could read and add numbers and she made friends. She played and created and had a blast. It was an incredible experience for us both.
This was our amazing public school experience with kindergarten. Although first grade proved just as wonderful, I'm not naive to think every year will be as close to perfect. But I am hopeful.
As I walk through those halls, displaying clocks reminiscent of the ones I watched as recess called. . .as I breathe in the public school air filled with scents of freshly sharpened pencils and library books, I truly feel at home. I know it's where we are supposed to be.
Not all parents can say this, I know. Some choose private school, sporting crisp, clean uniforms with sharp logos. And many choose school in the home, where dedication and diligence allow parents to directly guide the education of their children. And there is no right or wrong. As long as we are walking the path we feel is best for our family, we are doing right by our kids.
Yet, many parents who choose public school fall victim to negativity and doubt as they navigate the academic road of their children. Those with a different view of education along with fear-inducing misinformation cause once-confident parents to wonder if they've made a mistake. Such parents may begin to scrutinize the system and consider pulling their children out of public school or opting them out of standardized tests.
But not this mom.
As parents we are the only ones responsible to make sure our kids get the education we want them to have. For some parents, that means choosing an alternate form of schooling through private or homeschool. For me, it means knowing we belong in public school and navigating our way through with confidence and hard work.
Despite the trend to pull (or threaten to pull) kids out of public school or at least standardized testing, we're staying put and here's why:
I'm 100%, without a doubt confident it's where we belong. We will stand on this confidence on the tough days (because there will be tough days).
I want my children to learn to thrive outside of their comfort zone. They will never learn to fly unless given the opportunity to spread their wings. This stretching will look differently for every family. For us, it looks like public school.
I want my children to learn that sometimes life is less than ideal. If I avoid every hard or seemingly unfair situation that comes our way, I am not teaching my kids how real life works. Crazy math problem? Tough teacher? Difficult standardized test? We'll face it together, working hard, addressing problems with the right attitude and respectfully dealing with bumps in the road.
Our teachers, administrators and staff need champions. Daily, I think about the thousands of men and women who have devoted their lives to educate our children. If we get weary of the system, imagine their fatigue. Yet they tirelessly serve in our schools. Through ups and downs, on good days and bad, our family hopes to be an encouragement, cheering them on along the way.
I want my children to be thankful for their education. It won't be perfect. It may be hard at times. But we can face each day with gratitude for the opportunity to learn and grow and for those who have given their lives for us to do so.
I want to foster hope for the future of public education. There are parents like me now and there will be more to come that want their children to experience public school. While I know the system is flawed and constantly evolving, I want to remain hopeful - for my kids and generations to come - that we can work together and find the best ways to give our kids a great education.
From coast to coast and county to county, the state of education varies on many levels. We are in the midst of a very successful public school system and still parents sound the alarm of concern over many issues, both big and small. No matter the current condition of the system we are in we can celebrate all that is good with public school, constructively address what needs improvement and move forward with hope.
Winston Churchill said, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." If we want to make a difference in our public schools, we must choose hope. Hope for our children, for our teachers, administrators and staff and hope for other parents - some who may not have the luxury of choosing an alternate form of education - so that together we help our kids win in public school.