Misconceptions About Public School

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The following post is written by contributing writer, JessieLeigh:

photo credit: Alex Grant

There are so many factors to consider as we decide what path we’ll choose in educating our children. And, happily, there are many great choices out there! What works for one family may not work for another. Priorities will vary from parent to parent just as needs vary from child to child. 

I am, in no way, on a campaign to get people to choose public school. I would, however, like to dispel a couple of myths you may currently believe about choosing a public education:

“I won’t have any say in what my child is exposed to.”

Will you have less say than if you were the teacher and your other children the classmates? Well, yes. But you most certainly can have a say. 

I can honestly tell you that I’ve been surprised how careful our teachers really are to ensure that my children are not exposed to “controversial” topics. One even checked to see if we were okay with our son having a conversation about heaven with a peer. (For the record, yes, we were fine with that.)  I have far more control over what my children are exposed to at the school than, for example, at the supermarket. Or even, quite frankly, in the church vestibule.

“I’ll hardly see my child!”

Sending your child to public school doesn’t have to mean saying “bye, bye” and not seeing him again for eight or nine hours. If you want to see more of your kid, you can! 

You can choose to drive your child to and from school. You can volunteer in the classroom. You can attend the parties and special functions that will be scheduled. You can offer to help during specials (art, music, library, PE). Will you spend all day/ every day with your child? No. But you can most certainly still stay very involved!

“I don’t have any patience, so I’ll send him off to school.”

I think we can all agree that being a good homeschooler requires patience. But, here’s the thing… sending your child off to public school can require a fair amount of patience, too.  Arranging conferences, dealing with occasional politics, navigating the minefield of peer relations, organizing needed homework/snacks/permission slips… it all takes time, organization, and patience to do it well.

You don’t “check out” and wipe your hands of responsibility when you decide to choose public school. At least, not if you’re doing your best job.

How about you?

What common misconceptions do you hear about how you choose to educate?

— 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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  1. You go girl. It is few and far between when you hear any good things about public school, especially in church circles. We have chosen to put out daughter in public school, and not only did she have a great kindergarten year, but she was a light among her friends. In fact one of her friends and her family came to church with us one sunday. Your never too young to be a light 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this post! Because of these (and other) common misconceptions I have frequently felt like I’ve had to justify our family’s decision for our kids to attend public school. We view our town as our mission field, so public school has always seemed like the most obvious choice for us. As a stay at home wife and parent I do volunteer in the schools when possible and I provide the transportation to and from school (we pray during the short commute). I also supplement their education at home, making sure that they are learning the values that are important to our family. There have been a few times when something said in school provided me with the perfect opportunity to talk to my kids about our family values. Overall, public education has been a very positive experience for our family. I’ll be sharing your article on FB for sure! 🙂

    1. so true! I have felt the same way – I am always having to defend our decision to go to the public school. My son has PDD-NOS and we chose to go public not only for the awesome teachers but the great services they can offer in the school. He LOVES it and we supplement (and correct if necessary) an information that he gets at school. I try to be very involved and help my children to be lights to others. So far our experience in the public school has been far better than the Christian school our son attended.

      1. My oldest, my son, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and we, too, were very fortunate to have some amazing services and therapies provided by the public school. I’m so glad you’ve had a supportive, good experience!

    2. I am on the exact same page when it comes to supplementing, Jennifer. I think it would be a grave mistake for me to send my kids off and wipe my hands of it. We can absolutely play an instrumental role in education even when choosing public school! So glad you’re having a good experience!

  3. Thank you Jessica. How nice to not have public education bashed for once! I take pride in my job as a public school teacher and my girls have had amazing experiences each year so far. Your guest blogger is accurate on everything she said. I especially like the part about being involved in the school. That is such a key for many of our families. The parents are involved in so much which also helps the school run with the expectations we hold. It takes a village, right?

    1. I have been so blessed to have really good relationships with our public school teachers thus far… and I really do think a lot of it has to do with constant communication and a willingness to “do my part”, if you will. Thank you for the work you do to help teach our children!

  4. I’m a public school teacher too – and I, too, appreciate your words. Every child is different, and I’ve considered homeschooling more than one of my boys on more than one occasion – you must choose what is right for your child. (And as a teacher, we WANT parents at school – not to interfere, but to support. We know that YOU are your child’s first teacher.)

    1. I so appreciate these words, Angela: “We know that YOU are your child’s first teacher.” No matter what method of education a family chooses (and I totally agree that it’s not ‘one size fits all’), the parents should always be active and involved teachers. Thanks so much for weighing in from the perspective of a public school teacher and parent!

  5. I applaud your guest writer and her positive comments about public school. I am a public school teacher myself, and many of the blogs I read promote homeschooling predominantly. I definitely agree that if you choose to put your child in public school, your involvement in the school should be HIGH! I can’t begin to tell you how many times over my 8 years of teaching, that I had parents that I only saw at Open House and at the end of the year. I couldn’t get them to come for events or even conferences. This past year I had a very involved group of parents and it made for a much better year for me.

    And I will say this for your blog and some others who promote homeschool. You opened my eyes to the positive sides about homeschooling. Having seen it presented to me negatively in the past, I have enjoyed reading about those who choose to teach at home. Too many times I have seen it attempted by people who had no clue what they were doing, no “homeschool plan” as you call it, no curriculum or anything that remotely resembled “school”. Thank YOU for showing me what homeschooling truly looks like!

    1. awww, thanks. I’ve walked on either extreme — and neither one is really accurate. There are lots of good choices out there. I have strong opinions about what to do for MY family. But, that is where my jurisdiction ends.

      I am glad that, in some small way, I’ve dispelled some misconceptions about homeschooling.

    2. I agree, Kimberly! Jessica would tell you that I’ve said much the same thing to her, myself. Her balanced perspective and gentle, straight-forward explanations have enabled me to read about homeschooling without feeling simultaneously attacked for choosing public school. I have completely enjoyed her series. 🙂

  6. Thank You, thank you, you are so right!! I have grown up with many misconceptions about public school, and consequently have homeschooled or sent my kids to a private christian school, but I’m happy to say my kids have now been in the public school for 2 years now and we LOVE it!! The teachers are wonderful! It is our mission field, my 11 yr. old brought a friend to Christ already, my 15 yr. old started a bible study w/her friends and attends another larger one before school. I know public school is not for everyone, but please check it out before you dismiss it. I have seen advantages and disadvantages to all methods of schooling. And I have never seen anyone write positively about the public school, so again THANK YOU!!

    1. Aw, thanks, SharonMarie. I absolutely agree with you! Public school is NOT for everyone… but it’s not always a bad choice, either. 🙂 So glad you’ve found a schooling option that’s working out great for your family– I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we should ALL be hoping for one another.

  7. Yes, thank you for a positive public school post! We did not choose public school lightly – we put much thought, discussion and especially prayer into our decision. God gave very clear answers to us. The biggest misconception that I hear about public school is that God is not present. That is not true! I have heard children witnessing to friends while walking my sons into school. My son brought home a picture of a cross he drew, and said everyone around him was drawing similar pictures and talking about Jesus. Their teachers have openly said they are Christians. The 2nd misconception that I hear alot is that the Pledge of Allegiance is not allowed, but my children recite it every morning with the entire school.

    1. My children also say the Pledge, Kadee… and (shhh….) my son even sang “God Bless America” with his kindergarten class this past year. 😉 Experiences will vary, of course, but I think saying “God isn’t present at public school” is really underestimating the omnipotence and omniscience of God. Just my thoughts on it…

  8. I think the biggest thing to remember is that there are advantages and problems associated with both homeschooling and public/private school. Each family knows what’s best for them and judging others for their choice is unkind. I know families who do both at the same time depending on the child and their particular school circumstances, especially when their kids cover a wide age range. The benefits of a larger group of kids at a public school are many…friends from a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds, great sports and music programs (hard to do marching band in your backyard perhaps), school plays, dances, and amazing chances to serve others. The list goes on and on, and I wouldn’t trade my children’s experiences with those things for anything. And heaven knows I’d never make it teaching calculus 🙂 For us, public school, especially at the secondary level, has been great.

    1. This is it exactly, I think. We all have to make the best decision we can based on our individual situation. So many factors can play a role, including (but not limited to), the individual child’s needs, the quality of education in a certain region, the season of life, etc, etc. What works for one family may not be a good fit for another… and that doesn’t make either one “better” or “more holy” than the other. 🙂

  9. I am a homeschool mom, but there are so many misconceptions on both sides. One thing I found was really neat, was last year, I went to the school district and asked for help as a homeschooler and they were very helpful for me, even agreeing with me that my child was not one that would fit in the public education system very well, because of his specific needs. I really appreciated their help and support! It made me a better homeschool mom!

    1. Yes! There ARE so many misconceptions from both sides (or, ALL sides, really, if you consider all the private schooling options, too). This has always frustrated me. The simple truth is that there are some lousy public schools out there and there are some homeschoolers doing inadequate jobs. But you can’t define an entire group by either extreme and, at the end of the day, I think most of us are doing our very best. 🙂

      1. I think that is really true and I love it when we can all work together and realize that we may not understand or agree with everyone’s choices for their families, but we need to just make the best choice for our own family.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. We are a public school family are were blessed to get a spot in our neighborhood’s Montessori School. Our oldest is only a K5 this year but so far we have been very happy with the instruction he’s received. The teachers and administrators have been nothing but kind, helpful, and supportive of us as a family and my ever interaction with them makes me feel good about our decision.

    We live in Milwaukee, WI which is a “failing” district and I frequently have to defend being an MPS family. So often I’ve run into parents who proclaim, “I refuse to send my child to public school!” or “I wouldn’t consider sending my kids to MPS!” and it makes me sad and frankly quite angry. I respect those who choose to homeschool or go the private school route but I would much rather hear the positive reasons they do so (religious education, a specific educational philosophy, etc.) than have them denegrade the choice I have made for my family.

    Sadly, our state government has massively defunded public education, specifically our district in which 80% of the students live in poverty. The School Choice program has been expanded but our family’s income is too high to qualify. Not that private school tuition is in our budget, of course, unless I work a lot more which isn’t possible in my field. I worry about what will happen with our schools but take comfort that my children are so young we have a few years to see what happens. What people forget is that even in a failing district there are high acheiving schools and they suffer as well when funding is cut.

  11. Thank you Jessica for presenting various ways we teach our children. I loved your series awhile back called, “How we do school.” It brings into perspective that all parents try to do what is best for their children. We love our them and ultimately want to do the best we can in an imperfect world.

    Thank you JessieLeigh for promoting the positives of public school. You’re absolutely correct in the fact that an entire group should not be judged by the actions of a few. I send my oldest daughter to public school and she is thriving. The teachers have pushed her harder than I would have and she has risen to the challenge. Plus she loves the interation with her schoolmates. She’s a social person, and being in a classroom setting is best for her.

    And thank you to the school teachers who say that parents are the child’s first teacher. This is a very important fact that gets overlooked within this debate. School teachers are not responsible for teaching the kids everything they need to know. Learning begins, and continues at home. I find ways to make learning a part of our home environment. She grew up with me asking her questions like, “If there are 5 apples in our basket and we eat 2 for lunch, how many will be left?” Plus I read to my children constantly. DD2 is a voracious reader. She’d rather have a book than a new toy!

    Bottom line, we all love our children. As a parent with more than one child will tell you, they aren’t one-size-fits-all. So why should we try to fit our teaching style into a pattern for all children?

  12. Thanks so much for this post. I just read a great book called going public by the Pritchards (husband and wife co authors) It is faith baised book about how to help your child succeed in public school setting. I loved it. Maybe you will too.

  13. We also felt called to send our kiddos to public school. We make sure they know that the Lord can use them to share with others about Him.

    I agree about keeping the lines of communication open with the teachers…our teachers seem to really like it when we stay in touch and volunteer.

    In fact, our elementary school teachers banded together to help my husband with our 6 children when I was in the hospital with pneumonia for two weeks after the birth of number 6 around Christmas time. The principal and her daughter even took a turn watching the children. They also helped wrap the presents for Christmas when I was released two days before Christmas.

  14. Great post, JessieLeigh. We have a phenomenal public school in our community and I have little doubt that I’ll be sending my daughter there. I always liked the social aspect of public school – having different experiences, meeting new people and being able to minister to those who might not believe in the same things we do. It’s definitely not for everyone but that’s not to say that only homeschooling is the end all be all.

  15. I am a former teacher, a former stay-at-home mom, and someone who chose private school for a time. My sister-in-law did a beautiful job homeschooling.
    I believe we are entitled to inspiration regarding what is right for our children as the individuals they are. As a teacher, I can tell you that your influence and involvement in ANY school are crucial. We know who has been taught first at home… Guess what, they are great students.
    Where good influences are needed are for the other children. The child whose grandmother is 28, or the one whose Dad is in prison, or whose cousin got shot outside their house… Please come volunteer and share your love and example with these precious ones. They are being crushed underfoot. It has broken my heart to see bright eyed Kindergarteners turn into sullen 4th grade thugs. These children deserve better.
    Lastly, we held a voluntary Monday faculty prayer meeting before school… Teachers are not godless. Many of us teach as a way to serve.