How We Do School: A Guest Post from JessieLeigh

Today’s post is brought to you by my twin, JessieLeigh. Well, we’re not really related. At least we don’t think we are. But, JessieLeigh and I have some uncanny resemblances. We are both named Jessica, obviously. But, we were also both French majors, lived abroad, love froofy food, and our dads are both of Norwegian heritage. As if that weren’t enough, her husband says we even sound alike! Weird, eh?

One difference is how we do school. And we’re okay with that. JessieLeigh knows I homeschool. I know she doesn’t. But, we’re still friends. And we still learn from one another. If you missed yesterday’s explanation of this schooling series, you can catch up and then come back here.

Here’s JessieLeigh’s story of how she and her husband came to make their schooling choice.

– Describe your family

We have three children- one boy and two girls. Our son is five and will start kindergarten next year. Our older daughter is four, and our baby girl is eleven months.

– What state do you live in?

We live in Connecticut. (We made our initial educational decision while living in Indiana.)

– What’s your educational background (yours and your spouse)?

I have degrees in Literature and French. My husband has degrees in Political Science and Business Management.

– What were “must haves” for your children’s education?

It was critical to me that my children have access to individuals who were professionally qualified for their specific (and special) needs. I’m raising a little girl who was born four months early and a boy who didn’t speak until he was almost three years old. I believe they need- and deserve- more than I can offer in the way of therapy services. Because they are little (and in preschool), it was important to me that my children be in a program that is “play-based” because I believe that, at this point, that is their job.

– How did you research your decision?

Both of my older children received early intervention- we had therapists come to our home. Children “age out” of these programs at the age of three. At that point, the public school system assumes responsibility for providing appropriate therapies and services to support the child’s educational growth. Children have rights to receive these services (if they qualify for them based on evaluation) through the public school system whether they attend their district’s public school or opt for a private or home-schooled education.

We had to determine which educational platform would best support our children’s needs and family’s beliefs.  Sometime during the 2 1/2 to 3 year old range, my husband and I sat down and looked at the different school options available and discussed each child and his or her needs.  We had to consider those specific needs and the personality of that particular child in order to ensure we made the best decision.

– How did you come to that conclusion?

There are a lot of things that played into our decision to choose public school for our children. I list the majority of them right here. In a nutshell, we wanted to have the most qualified teachers and therapists that we could working with our children while exposing them to varying viewpoints and allowing them to learn to handle that as well. I have very specific and important roles in their education, but being their sole educator did not fit well with what we saw for our family.

– What benefits are you now reaping from your decision?

We have been so blessed to have an amazing (and incredibly qualified) preschool teacher in the public school system working with our two older children. She is warm, loving, supportive, and has so much experience dealing with all sorts of situations. We feel that having our children in a classroom with her has enabled their communication skills with their peers to grow by leaps and bounds.

It is not only incredibly convenient for my children’s therapies to be built right into their school days, it also normalizes it for them. They don’t feel like they’re headed off to some appointment when they go off to speech… it’s just part of a typical day to them.  They love school.  They love their teachers and their friends.

There are influences out there that I do not like… there are forces against which I feel I have to fight.  Unfortunately, that is just the way the world is, and if I weren’t helping them learn how to battle it now, in school, it is still a skill they would have to learn at some point.  For our family, I find it beneficial to do it now, while they still are so open with us (their parents), and we can provide constant support.

– What advice would you give to families considering or reconsidering this decision?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  • Who will be working with my child?
  • What is the ratio of pupils per teacher?
  • How do you handle bullying?
  • How will this program fit my unique child?
  • What is your educational philosophy?

Also, don’t think that because you send your child off to public school that you can’t have a role in his or her education. Of course you can. And you should. Partnering with my children’s teacher has been both effective and a great joy for our family.

Connecticut was ranked first in the nation in a recent analysis of the quality of public schooling available.  My educational choices for my children may have been different if we lived in a state where good public education was harder to come by.

How does your state’s school performance (or lack thereof) affect your choice in how to educate them?

– JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles.  She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.

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Comments

  1. Since we both went to public school in the state where we are living, we see how much we missed out on and when I got to college in another state I felt like there were so many gaps in my education- and I was in the honors program started as soon as it was available. Now that budgets are tighter and more cuts are always being made, I have huge issues with the school system and the curriculum they use.

    The charter school we are in works wonderfully, and my children could still get the testing and therapy when needed- in fact, I am going to be testing one son soon for his speech and reading. We feel like we have the best of both worlds.

    • @Linds, I think our own experience with a school system can have a huge impact. I actually graduated from the same school district that my children now attend (with many moves in between!)… When I got to college (in another state), I felt over-prepared. I was SO bored my freshman year, even taking some junior level classes. I went to decent college, but my high school was far more challenging. That was my first “ah hah” moment in realizing that not all schools are created equal… :)

  2. I like what JessieLeigh said: “Because they are little (and in preschool), it was important to me that my children be in a program that is “play-based” because I believe that, at this point, that is their job.”

    Before we began to homeschool our oldest son, he went to Montessori for a year of “toddler school” and a year of preschool. Her comment above is one of the primary reasons we chose Montessori for that period of time; they advocate that play is the “work” of the child.

    Loved it! Thanks for sharing, JessieLeigh! :o)

    xoxo

  3. Thanks for this series, Jessica! This was a great post – I particularly appreciated the note about undesirable influences. That is something that concerns me as my son is about to enter kindergarten in a school with over 1,000 students. But I will adopt and hold JessieLeigh’s perspective close when fall rolls around :)

  4. Before I decided to quit work and stay home full time, I was a speech pathologist. I plan to homeschool but I loved all your advice about your role in their education even if you aren’t their “primary teacher”. Having worked with special needs children in the school system, it takes a dedicated and devoted parent to ensure that they are receiving all the services they are entitled to and deserve. It is time consuming and the more a parent “advocates” for their child, the bettter that child’s education will be.

    Reading your post made me miss my days of therapy! Best wishes for you and your beautiful children! A 24 week preemie is miraculous!

  5. I have mixed feelings about the Public School System in Georgia. Although I graduated High School from the Public School System, I’m still torn about sending my daughter to PreK in the Fall. We’ve decided to sign her up and take a “wait and see” approach. We homeschooled her last year and she’s pretty much ahead of the game when it comes to her letters, numbers, colors and writing. I’m interested to see how she interacts with the other students and to see how she expresses herself. I can always remove her from the environment and bring her home. That’s my approach for now.

    Great series Jessica. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    • @Candi, Good luck with the pre-K! I think you have the right attitude. After all, no choice that we make must be set in stone. I would never be so bold as to swear this will always be the way I choose to educate my children… I’m just confident it’s the right choice in this season.

  6. I love reading why people choose to be crazy, like me, and decide to stay with our kids 24 hours a day 7 days a week. :) Thanks for posting this!!

  7. I am in California and the public schools in my area are JAM PACKED with not enough teachers and poor curriculum. Teaching for kids to do better on the tests so that the schools can get more funding since many of the schools are in dire need of funding in this terrible california economy. That is not how I want my child educated. We have chosen a Montessori school for our son who will be starting his 2nd year there this fall. He is 3 1/2 and doing far better than my niece who is 5 with language, writing and pre math skills. Also, my son is very hands on (just like his dad) and everything in Montessori is taught in a hands on manner so it is a wonderful fit for him.

    • @Coby, I agree completely that “educating to achieve test scores” is a bad plan. Test scores can only tell you so much. I’m not much interested in such a one-dimensional education… I think that particular problem is one that needs to be mended at a federal level. We need to stop only providing funding to the “right numbers”! :)

  8. That was well written. I like the fact that Jessica could state exactly why the public school option was best for her family instead of just saying “its what everyone else does”. We all have our reasons for the educational choices we make for our families. We have to do what is best for each child and not judge others if their choices are different from our own.

  9. As a teacher in California I feel the struggle of having my kids in a public school system. My boys attend a great school in a great district where the teachers still get to be teachers. In my district every decision is based on test scores. It is frustrating to me as a mom and as a teacher. I hate to say this, but I would not let my boys go to school in the district where I teach. Our class sizes are increasing and the challenging students are on the rise too. Teachers at my school have to be mom, dad, therapist, cheerleader, advocate, police, and then teacher. I know it’s an important job, I just wish the politicians would get out of the classroom and let us teach again.

    If my boys’ current district really changed I would pull them out and home school. Hopefully their district will continue down the right path so my boys can continue to thrive.

    • @Amy Lynne, That’s something I think about sometimes, Amy Lynne… if our school district goes down the tubes, what will I do then? Or… if we move somewhere with an inferior public school program available, will I still send my children there? Those are things I may have to face later on this journey… I would never say never when it comes to other options!

  10. Thanks for letting me guest post, Jessica! We definitely have more similarities than differences, and there’s no way I’d let how we choose to school our kids get in the way of that. :) Looking forward to reading others’ views too!!

  11. How do you figure out the quality of the school your child would be going to? I live outside Houston, TX & am not sure how to figure this out. I suppose if we send her then we’ll know…

    • @Elise, You can try a site like greatschools.org to get some general info. Word of mouth is also invaluable, though keep in mind that “hometown pride” can sometimes cloud people’s judgement. :) I don’t think there is any perfect equation for finding out if a school is any good, but if a town is actually willing to BUDGET adequate money to go toward education, that’s a great start. Good question!

    • @Elise, Call the school. Ask to meet the principal and/or some teachers. Ask for a tour of the school. Talk to neighbors whose children go to the school. Look at the school’s website. There is usually a wealth of information there – demographics, test scores, special programs, etc.

      We researched schools in our area before we moved here. But as my children became school aged, I learned so much more by reading online reviews, discussions and talking to parents whose children attend. Good luck!

  12. I am a newly-retired public school teacher who spent most of my career working with special needs students or students receiving reading or math intervention. Some of my students were academically gifted, as well. My own children went through the public schools for everything but preschool. Be sure to get to know each individual therapist or teacher working with your child/children. I have worked with some of the finest, and a tiny percentage of the worst, at the same school in the same district. If at all possible, volunteer occasionally so you can meet your child’s classmates and get a sense of the atmosphere in the classroom and school as a whole. Volunteering assists the teacher, the students and the volunteer :-).

    • @Elaine, Gifted children have special needs too! :) That’s actually where we’re at with my son at this point… he’s five and doing basic algebra. The public school recognized this, made the referral to the gifted coordinator, and we’ve all collaborated to provide him with the necessary resources and opportunities to explore that side of him while never alienating him from his peers. I couldn’t agree with you more about volunteering! Even just making sure you attend the little plays and shows and parties can go a long way in helping you see how things play out in the classroom. I also find it helpful to keep a notebook that is always in my child’s backpack… the teachers, therapists, and I write back and forth on a daily basis. Sometimes I might just write, “C had a rough night and didn’t sleep well- she might be cranky or lagging today.” It’s a great way to keep each other informed. Thanks so much for weighing in with your experiences!

  13. Thank you for this post! My oldest is 3, and I’m really starting to be concerned about our schooling decision. We somewhat recently moved to Florida, which doesn’t have very good public education. Unfortunately, I don’t think the private education is very good, either, and it’s much too expensive for us. I’m leaning towards homeschooling, but my friends from church suggest that public school is an opportunity for our kids to be in the mission field (even at a young age), and that as involved parents, we can make up for deficits in the public education at home. We haven’t made our decision yet, but I’m really glad to be able read this series!

    • @Lauren, It’s always tricky when you find yourself questioning the quality of schooling available in your state. My husband and I lived in Florida early in our marriage and, I hate to say, one of the reasons we left was that we wanted to have children and weren’t happy with the educational system there. One of the big problems in Florida, in my opinion, is that all the snowbirds pay taxes to Northern states… the number of contributing taxpayers is smaller than one might think. But I completely agree that education doesn’t have to happen exclusively in the public school, even if that’s what you choose! It is a great joy to me to supplement our children’s education with additional activities (some Faith-based) at home. Good luck as you move in to the school ages! :)

  14. Mary Smith says:

    I home school our oldest because our school system had no resources for high yield autistic children in the middle and upper grades at that time.I pulled him out in 7th grade. My son was treated as a behavior problem child and Placed in a room where they locked him in a 4 x4 cement room with a steel door as a behavior aversion type therapy.I was told I had no other option than to let them do what they wanted to with my child. When our 2nd child was also diagnosed with autism, a new person had joined our special Ed. department and told me in secret that I had the right to force the school system to treat my child as autistic and provide the proper services for him. The differences between the two children now are amazing. The older child has severe problem’s at 16 yr old and the 10 yr old is almost totally main streamed now. The damage the school system did to my oldest may never be repaired. I’m just glad that I learned my right’s before they did this to both my children.We live in the north Ga mountains and it really pays to learn about the school’s and your right’s as a parent before putting a child in the public school system.

    • @Mary Smith, Oh, Mary, I am so, so sorry for what you and your son have had to go through. That is simply unacceptable! It is also an example of how the “system” is flawed. When my children required Early Intervention, we got great, qualified therapists to work with them? Why? Because I read a ton and am blessed with a sister who is a Speech and Language Pathologist and helped educate me about my rights so I could better advocate. I asked the intake coordinator point blank what would have happened had I not made my expectations clear… she shrugged and said, “We have cheaper, less trained therapists to take care of them then.” Pretty pitiful. SO glad that someone gave you some good information which has benefitted your second son. Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

  15. Mary Smith says:

    Thank you for your kindness and sympathy. I’ve learned to be very vocal about what my youngest needs and very stubborn until he receives it. If it had not been for early intervention, I believe we would have a lot more problem’s with him than we do.

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  1. [...] Thanks for taking the time to visit LifeasMOM. As another busy mom, I understand that your minutes are precious. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed or receive free updates via email. Thanks for visiting!Last week I shared a little bit about my educational background and how our family has gone against the grain in choosing to homeschool. Then JessieLeigh shared her story of how she and her husband came to the conclusion that public school was the best choice for their family. [...]

  2. [...] of the most difficult times of year for me, a Christian woman who chooses to send her children to public school, is Christmastime. While I understand the separation of church and state, it often feels like our [...]

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