Between Good and Best

My cousin, Rebecca, sent me a response to “The Daily Grind” that I thought I would answer in a post of its own.

How is teaching spanish going?  how are the girls doing? how is homeschool going?  please do not take the next remarks as a personal attack, they are designed to be more of devil’s advocate than anything else.

1. as a public school teacher how can you justify being so against your kids being in public schools?
2. being that $ are tight and our economy is so screwed up how can one be against any job offer?

again just a devil’s advocate point of view.  not intending to incite ill feelings but more intending to read your beautiful writing and profoundly in-tune with God responses.

With the blog, I launched right into my feelings without giving any apology for them. Rebecca’s questions probably represent many others’ wonderings, so I’ll try to answer them as honestly as I can. First, let me share about my teaching Spanish. I am in the uncomfortable position of being a long-term sub for someone who might be back in three weeks. This means that I need to continue in her style and on her schedule, so if she returns, everything isn’t catywumpus. The second day I arrived, I followed her schedule and gave a test — which the majority of them flunked. Their grade is mostly determined by how they do on the tests.  Which means that in two weeks, when the time for conferences arrives, I will have to be the one to answer for this. A sticky situation which is not at all pleasant.

Needless to say, I enjoy my kids. They’re smart, they’re fun, and they’re polite. You can tell that they have a good teacher. They have handled with grace the difficult situation of losing a well-loved teacher for a reluctant one who is willing to give her best for the time at hand.

Homeschooling is going well. With Paul home, the girls have only gained. They created a water-wheel. They hiked South Sister. They went to an old abandoned apple orchard and gathered apples. They traveled to the valley and picked blackberries. Dagne learned to ride her bike. They continued on all their subjects. Next week, he begins work on the garage. I allowed the girls to have input into the decision of what they did. I laid out all the pros and cons of going to school vs. staying at home. The younger girls do not want to go to school. The older two will want to go to school if I continue to work full-time, but they’re willing to wait until Nov. 6 to find out.

People often ask me the question about being a public school teacher and not wanting my kids in public school. Good question. I have a few  books to recommend that helped me know how I wanted my kids to be educated: For the Children’s Sake, by Susan Shaeffer Macaully, Home Education by Charlotte Mason, and The Underground History of America, by John Gatto.

Do I think all public schools are bad? No. I just think, that fundamentally, at its very core, my child’s education isn’t the focus. For Paul and I, we know that we are responsible for our child’s education. No matter what we do for schooling, no matter how we choose to do it, our children’s education is our responsibility — not the state’s or the public school’s.

Life is about choosing between good and best. For us, the best way to educate our children was from the home. If we had had other choices that were better, we would have chosen those. But working with what we had — this was the best way. They get good sleep. We eat meals together. They can accel or wait for mastery on any subject. Family closeness is easier to incorporate. Sibling rivalry almost disappears. The most important part of homeschooling is that we have buy-in. Our children are interested individuals that want to learn. I think public schools are losing buy-in earlier and earlier. Unless it’s willing to change, the system will continue to lose its students to other ways of educating.

The other reasons we have chosen homeschooling over public schooling is the social stuff that goes on. Paul being in the middle school, seeing good kids get kicked out for drugs, going home for “nooners,” laughing about getting raped — I say this shocking material because it is true — we just want to preserve our children’s innocence awhile. People say we can’t do it for ever, but I think it’s parents’ responsibility to preserve it for awhile. Like I said before, we have buy-in with our girls — we could trust them to do the right things at school. We could trust them to make good choices — but a lot is lost.

Elsa gets her school done quickly and spends the rest of the afternoons drawing and painting. Greta gets done and writes and sings songs. The little ones play pretend and swing in the hammock. They ride bikes and go for walks. They do chores and help around the house. These activities are all sucked up in the hurry of driving to and fro and homework.

We want our children to produce. They need time to do that. This is the best way we know how to do that.

As for the second question — how could I be against taking a job when money is tight? Again, we’re trying to choose between what is good and best. A job is good. But what are we really supposed to be doing? Should I take a job in a system I don’t believe in? Will I be taking up space and keep out someone who is strongly committed to bettering the public school system? Will I interfere with someone else’s calling by not following my own? We need the money — but my heart burns to write. So everytime I get an opportunity elsewhere, I feel like it’s a step backward. And I also long to be at home.

These longings may be my being spoiled and not wanting to grow up. I don’t know. I felt this may be the case which is why I took the job. Growing up seems to be something I need to do alot. My Anne of Green Gables ideals sometimes has to meet with reality. I understand that. But sometimes I sense a danger in not trusting myself and what I believe in. I worry that if I fall away from my path, I’ll bump someone from theirs. Conversely, if I follow my destiny with courage, will I help others to do the same?



  1. You guys are doing great! Keep smiling.
    I’ve looked at life from both sides now
    Win or lose, still somehow—well you get the idea! lol


  2. I love this post! I was going to respond to the last one but now I think I am better able to respond to both. My kids are in public school and I wish everyday they were not. I wish for a better way to educate my children while still making a living and I am also a teacher. As a teacher I see the failures in our public school system. Our kids are not growing and maturing into wonderful human beings. They instead are being herded like cattle from place to place with bells and told not to go outside because heaven forbid they might be exposed to nature and learn something naturally. When they are outside they are supposed to have such a large amount of structure that it negates any learning that might have taken place immediately. Because of our current system we are losing our boys in the hundreds. There are no options for boys who want to kill, conquer and create and I do mean that both figuritively and literally. When we allow the kids to be themselves they amaze us but those times are rare because they do not fit within the prescribed times or standards. Also as a parent of two public school students I realize I am actually doing much of the teaching at home anyway, via two hours of homework for a 5th grader. Lastly, an additional frustration with the system, once they label your kid and get extra money for educating them, they hold so tightly to that label that you practically have to pry it out of their dead hands, as I did last year for my son and now found out today I will have to do again this year. Our great minds that created our great society were educated mostly by their Mom’s but at the very least not in a public school.


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