Longer Hours in a Broken System: The Future of American Schools – Part 1

I have never looked seriously at homeschooling - untilrecently. 

This started about month ago when I first read the story of Derrion Albert, the honor student killed in Chicago while walking home from school.  I often worry about my children and their safety in the coming years especially once they start High School.  Today, high schools are a breeding ground for drug use, underage sex, and gang violence not to mention the peer pressure, bullying (now online and through texting) and the constant exposure to more and more liberal world views. 

Please understand I am not some fanatical Christian father who thinks we should lock our kids in church and never expose them to the outside world.  Read some of my other posts and you will understand I am against this approach.  But somewhere a parent has to draw the line and do what is best for the children.  My children frequently come home and complain about two specific areas: 

1.       They are not learning “new things” at school

2.       Other kids misbehave so much that the teacher spends 30% of their time on discipline.

My son expresses this more than my daughter and he does not understand why kids constantly find ways to bully and make fun of other children.  My wife and I are seeing this as a wake-up call.

This past week, President Obama proposed that in order for the U.S. to keep up with the education trends and falling behind the rest of the world, that children would need to spend more time in school and have less free time. 

"Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

I immediately read scores of remarks from parents around the country, some positive and some outright crazy.  But one specific parent made it very clear.  If the education system in America is broke, more time in it will not yield positive results.  In fact, this may lead to higher burnout and dropout rates as well as even greater pressure on our already hurried children. 

Hurried In The Hurried Child by David Elkindhe, the author finds that “Infant mortality is up after more than a century of decline. More children live in poverty today than two decades ago. There has been a fifty percent increase in obesity in children and adolescents over the last twenty years. Our teenage pregnancy rates are the highest for any Western society – twice that of England, which has the next highest rates. Suicide and homicide rates for teenagers are triple what they were twenty years ago.

Educationally, SAT scores have plummeted, and at the other end, some fifteen to twenty percent of young children are “flunking” kindergarten. And perhaps most frightening of all, in the United States today, millions of children are being medicated to make them more tractable at school and at home. This is a several-hundred increase over the last five years.” (Preface to the Revised Edition, p. xvii)

 Based on this, I believe that as parents we basically have a few choices:

1.    1. Move to areas where the public schools are the best in the area and hope that, combined with strong parental, faith and life training, our children will get through it. 

 This option is limiting as real estate prices are high in these areas and you are still playing the odds as these schools also have problems.  Not to mention your career or lifestyle may not be conducive to living in this area.

2.  Look into private schooling either secular or religious based.

 While this option is better than the first, it also requires substantial money out of pocket.  I am the product of a private school and I assure you that this is also not foolproof.

 3.   3. Homeschooling.

I’ll be honest, my vision of homeschooling was a stay at home mom preparing lesson plans and teaching children day in and day out while placing stress on the marriage.  I also had visions of ultra-right wing fanatics like those in Jesus Camp.

While this option offers the most flexibility and I believe gives the children the best education and training in morals and values.  It is also extremely time and resource intensive.

There is also a hybrid of all these options which I never knew existed, until now.     

 

Continued in Part II