Choosing the Best Schooling Path for Your Family

Originally posted on The Consciously Parenting Blog July 21, 2016

When I was growing up, it was a given that children went to school. A few kids I knew went to private school, but most went to the local public school. That was the expectation.

After I graduated from high school, I went to college to become a teacher and took a job in a public school in South Florida where I worked for three (really long) years. During that time, several of my own students were pulled out to homeschool and their parents said things like, “My daughter loves you as a teacher and we do, too, but this system is not good for her.”

Honestly, it wasn’t good for me, either.

That planted a seed for me and by the time I was even considering having kids, I knew that we would be looking at alternatives to public school, depending on what my child would need. Just questioning was already such a departure from the way I had grown up.

My personal experience teaching in the public school planted a seed to question.

Over the years, I have fallen in love with different philosophies of education. I love to research and find other ways of doing things and truly believe there is no one right path for even one child throughout his or her formative years. As parents, it is our responsibility to help find the best option for our child at any given time, depending upon what is available where we live, and what we all need as a family.

I have a long history of choosing an educational path, trying it out and watching my boys to see how it feels for them and how it feels for me. We had a super awesome experience in public school when my oldest was in 4th grade. He asked to go and it was a big transition from the unschooling we had been doing the previous several years. But his teacher understood him and he rose to the occasion. 5th grade was a disaster for many reasons and I pulled him out to attend a Waldorf school, which was great for him until it wasn’t anymore, several years later.

My youngest enjoying the play time at his Waldorf school. Photo credit: Shannon Livingston, Livingston Galleries

I love Waldorf, but my youngest son’s teacher wasn’t a good fit for him and we had to pull him from the school where his dad worked after 1st grade. It was a bit awkward to say the least. But it wasn’t working for him. My youngest is 12 now and has been attending a Sudbury school (think unschooling school) for the past 4 years. At the end of last year, he decided he was done with his beloved school and wanted to homeschool. He wants a little more structure to his learning and a little more freedom at the same time, so we’re reinventing what we’re doing again. And I’m working to figure out what it can look like for me and still do my own work.

Related Podcast: Finding Your Family’s Educational Path

I think the most important thing I can share with you regarding education of any kind for your child is choosing a path where they’re motivated to learn. Does it light them up? Are they on board with it?

In the end, all education is self-education. If they aren’t motivated to learn whatever it is, they won’t. And if they are motivated, nothing can stop them.

It doesn’t mean that they’ll never be frustrated.

This isn’t about protecting your kids from uncomfortable experiences or feelings. But finding your child’s growing edge, or the space where they will learn the best and that is a good fit for your family, is what’s most important.

My oldest son is attending a public school again so that he can be part of a Culinary Magnet program. He’s getting ready to start his Senior year and his fourth year learning to be a chef for nearly 2 hours every day. He’s there because he wants to be there. He does (most of) the work required because he knows this is what he needs to do for the path he’s chosen. The motivation he has is because he wants this, not because we told him he needs to go down this path. And he can change his mind if it isn’t working.

You may love a particular philosophy, but find that the way it is implemented or the model itself isn’t a good fit for your child at a particular time. When an environment is a good fit for a child, they’re more likely to be on green (thinking brain rather than emotional or survival brain) and will learn better. When a child is stressed in their environment, they literally lose access to their intelligence and thinking brain. Stress is bad for learning.

And at the same time, when you are happy with your choices, it is also good for them.

Related post: The Brain Stoplight

Some parents know they just can’t homeschool. It wouldn’t be good for anyone. Or maybe it wouldn’t be good right now. It’s ok. How you feel about this matters. Sometimes it is just a new idea, like with my son this coming year as we figure out how to make homeschooling work for all of us. Sometimes it isn’t an option.

But I encourage you to decide what your options are. What is available? How have others solved similar challenges in a way that felt good to everyone?


Rebecca Thompson Hitt

Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

Rebecca Thompson Hitt has 171 posts and counting. See all posts by Rebecca Thompson Hitt

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