Sunday, March 16, 2008

Getting Ready to Leap?

I am adjusting to impending change. I feel the change calling, and I've tried and tried to resist it, but I know better, and I'm beginning to yield. At least be open.

I am considering enrolling my three children in public school next year. There. I said it. This is a decision fraught with anguish and emotion, and long-time homeschoolers will understand just what I mean.

I have been shepherding my children's education for eleven years now. I have lived and breathed their academic progress and interest. I have loved schooling them. They love being homeschooled, but I think it's time for a change. For many reasons, most of which I won't address in this forum, but the biggest reason is that I've tried to always discover God's will for my children, and His approval in my efforts to educate them and raise them.

I have been researching schools non-stop for the past week. We do not live in a great school district. There are low-expectations and a lack of hope. The positive side would be that my children could walk to their various schools (they would be in three separate schools, but each within a mile of our home), and they would see kids from church. The negative side would be the lower academic challenge they would have and the bombardment of really down-and-out kids around them. It would not be an inspiring atmosphere. They do offer advanced classes, which my kids would be in, and some AP courses. And, if that is our only choice, then I believe I have done a good job as a mother teaching them personal standards. I believe they would be at the top of their classes, and would pick good friends, and make the most of what opportunities would be available to them.

Lyndsay is my main concern. She will start high school next year, and she has definite plans for college. I want her to be challenged and inspired. She is a self-motivated, bright girl and will rise to the occasion. Another school in the next town is a tempting option. It is a Blue-Ribbon School in CA and has a high API index and many AP classes are offered. It also has a well-respected theater and arts program (which due to lack of funding has been cut from many schools). My husband is a graduate of this particular school and though it is a little drive from home, it isn't too far, and it is still within our Stake boundaries. And Lyns would still get to see her church friends in early morning seminary each day. But then, what to do with the boys? You see, we could potentially have 5 kids in 5 different schools next year. And we only have one car, that seats 5 people, so you can see the dilemma here. Especially if hubby is working a new job...(which we pray he will be).

So, the third option, and the one I'm most heavily leaning towards, is to see if we can get a boundary exception for the same school district that my husband's two children attend (a sibling allowance). Their mother lives in a very wealthy area in a top-notch school district, which also still falls within our Stake boundaries. We got his kids into that district because of her address, even though they are with us half of the time. I've been very impressed with their school and the programs they offer. I've researched the middle school and the high school in that district, and am blown away. The high school has a 99% college enrollment rate, and an impressive list of college prep and AP courses. The school is ranked 95th in the nation. I think the education would be challenging and rigorous for my kids, and I think the atmosphere would be inspiring and hopeful. There are clubs and groups and activities galore.

It is farther away, but three days a week we are driving there anyway with Caitlin and Sean. The middle and high schools are combined on one campus, so then we would only have two schools to worry about, instead of five. FIVE!! They wouldn't be going to school with kids that lived close to them (playdates, etc), but hopefully they'll have so much homework they won't have time for friends during the week anyway. :) A big concern is that these are kids that come from wealthy families, even celebrity families, and I don't want my kids to feel like they are the bottom of the heap economically in the school, or to feel pressure to keep up with their peers materially. I hope I have raised them better than that. There is the reality that public schools are not free, and there would be expenses that would be difficult or burdensome to us. But their academic opportunities outweigh that, right? And I can think positively, that maybe we won't be at the bottom of the heap for too much longer, right? And if we can get them into the district then that should be our first concern, and then other factors will work themselves out, right? (a second car for our whole family to fit in, a good job opportunity for Adam, enough money to allow them some fun opportunities with the school--field trips, etc?)

It's a lot to take in. There are so many unknowns right now. Things could be very different for us in the near future. All I know for sure is what is right now. If we could even get them in. I have so much on my mind! I want to make the best decision for them, to do what's best for them, to put them where they need to be. I have sacrificed much of my time to educate them here at home, when my friends have had time to pursue their own interests. I have laid a solid foundation, I believe, and it may be time for different experiences for them, as well as for me. I'm excited to see what's next.

*updated 3/17/08: Well, I've heard back from both of the "other" schools and they have absolutely no boundary exceptions now. One school is already 500 students over capacity, and the other one...the one that the other two kids attend...does not allow boundary exceptions for siblings. Only for parents who work in the area. Period. No exceptions. Sorry. So, back to the drawing board. There is a well-respected magnet school some people in our ward have recommended, but it's a 30 minute drive each way. We may just have to enroll the kids in our local schools and stay very involved! I know they'll make the best of whatever the situation may be.


Unknown said...

i'm excited for you. blessings, kathleen

Laurie said...

After homeschooling my children for 4 years, they went back to public school this year. Three of them are in a charter school. The education and teachers are amazing. The social environment is lacking but I have hopes that the administration is cleaning it up. It's been a day by day challenge for us and not one that I would have chosen but when we follow the promptings of the Spirit, it all works itself out.

Good luck on your decisions. You are a great mother and your kids will do amazing things because of your influence. If you ever need to bounce feelings or ideas off someone, I'm here for you!

Julie Lybbert said...

Hi Jenna,

I've been reading your blog for a little while now and am enjoying it.

As a one-time-homeschool-mom who recently (just this school year) put her kids back in public school after five years, I felt I could make a comment today.

I can appreciate the difficulty of your decisions. FIVE DIFFERENT SCHOOLS would be a real challenge! Our kids are in three different schools at this time. I was quite concerned when my kids started back about how they would do in the p.s. environment, but they have done tremendously well. I have been really pleased with how things have been going. I can really see how our years of homeschool have helped them, which is really neat to see.

If it were me, I would be leaning towards checking into the sibling allowance in the other school district. I would be going for the better schools. However, things tend to work out when you're trying to follow what's right for your family no matter what.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Wow, what an exciting time this is for you and your family! So much to ponder and pray over, but you have your family's best interests at heart and I just know you'll be blessed for it.

I don't know if it's the same where you live, but up here some of the kids in our ward were able to go to a different school for "religious reasons" (i.e. to be in the same seminary class as others their age). The schools up here took that as reason enough, not wanting to risk being seen as discriminatory. Worked out well!

Good luck!

Unknown said...

You know we went through this same decision making process as our oldest came up to his high school years. It was actually he who decided that staying home was the choice he preferred. I know there are days I still doubt that I am doing everything they need for learning but you know what helps...they don't doubt me, and they say, well mom we can always study more to get into school when it is time. They both have concrete choices made about their career choices, and I love that.
So good luck, we're still doing the homeschooling adventure...Nikolaus is 15, Zachary is 14 and Micheyla is 11.
Hope to chat with you more.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any experience in this area.. but you are brave and wonderful to put so much thought into the future of your little ones..

Good luck with your decision!!

PS. I have a little blog love for you on my blog!! :)

Lesley said...

Ugh, schools stress me out too! But what a big step for you and yours. We may be moving and having to switch schools too. Yuck.

Laski said...

Oh, a tough decision . . .

As a teacher, my experience has always been that even a substandard education can become exceptional with the involvement of the parents. With budget cuts, overloads, red tape/politics, tenure (for teachers who really need to go)--public education can be challenging, but there are GOOD teachers and excellent resources out there (as I am sure you know).

I wish you all the luck. I know it is a tough choice to make.

Most important of all--you have clearly set the foundation for your children, which will help guide them as they move on with their education and beyond.

Tara R. said...

Good luck with whichever option you go with.

Angela said...

I have always admired those that have the patience to home school their children.. good luck with your decision.

I agree with the others who have commented. You have your kids best interests in mind and much prayer and pondering will help you make the right decision!

anjmae said...

Oh, Jenna, that is what we are dealing with now as well, with our move back to the mainland. I feel a bit torn with these last two children, both of them needing totally different things. I believe as we stay in tune with the Spirit and with our family's needs, the right thing will become known to us.
So, rock on and keep up the most excellent work!

careyttops or katelyn's kid kitchen said...

wow, you've homeschooled for 11 years?! that's remarkable. and now to make a change...I can only imagine the emotions you're experiencing at this time.

I only have 1 in school- a 2nd grader and thankfully, we're in a wonderful school and I feel things are going well, but homeschooling has always been an option for me if I feel my children's education is suffering. next year I'll have a kindergartner and we're moving to a new area, which makes me nervous! I just hope education is good in Oregon where we're moving.

Good luck with your decision and finding the right school for your needs!

Anonymous said...

I hope the decision goes well, and everything works out! :)

YogaNana said...

So this would be about the change in the homeschooling law here in California? What would it take for you to get certified?


Jenna said...

Several people have wondered if my feelings are due to the "change" in homeschooling laws in CA. In a word, no. The information being passed around has been misrepresented as being a law change, when in actuality the ruling of a judge in CA only referred to one family who wasn't following the guidelines of education in California.

About that law hasn't been changed. The LA Times dreadfully misunderstood the case and the ruling, which only applied to ONE family that did not follow the rules (must file an affidavit declaring your home to be a private school) and that was also being investigated for child abuse. So that one family was told they could not homeschool. Everybody keeps asking me about this though. I hadn't heard of it until last week when my friend Sara Vance called, and I did a simple google search and found out the scoop. In CA you must either 1)attend public school, 2)attend private school, or 3)have a tutor. If you homeschool you can either do it through a public school OR you can file the affidavit declaring private school status for your home. This is what we have done for the last 3 years here. This woman enrolled her kids in a charter school, but then only took them for testing, teaching them herself at home. But since they were technically enrolled, they now didn't meet the number of required days of schooling because they were at home... anyway, there were allegations of abuse, and the judge wanted those 3 kids put in school to protect them.

Anyway, just wanted to clear that one up.

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Annette Lyon said...

I have no doubt that you'll be led in the right direction about where your kids will attend school. That's a pretty intense decision, though!

I was going to say (before I read your update) that if they ended up in the rich school, they'll do just fine. I went to school with children of plastic surgeons, kids who lived on Osmond Lane, had Olympic size pools in thei basements . . . and was the child of a humanities professor who drove a beat-up old ranger truck. We certainly didn't have much money in comparison, but we were clean, ironed, pressed, and mended, so I didn't even clue in that we were "poor" in comparison until I got a lot older.

Heather Moore said...

Staying involved is the key. We have fantastic public schools in my area. I always hand pick the teachers, etc.