Yesterday, I wrote about some wrong assumptions I had about public schools (you can read that HERE). Today, from my limited perspective, I would like to give advice to myself (six years ago). Knowing what I know now and what I've experience, this is what I would have told myself six years ago before my oldest entered the public school system:
- Be as involved as possible. Join the PTA, volunteer for field trips, volunteer to drive when they need parents to drive kids, volunteer for the bake sale, bake for the bake sale, give your husband extras from the bake sale (oh, that's a bonus), help with book fairs, be part of teacher appreciation day. Do whatever they will let you do. Having a "stay-at-home" mom (in my opinion) is pretty essential – especially in the elementary years. Parents might need to ask what lifestyle issues they are willing to give up to do this well (including downscaling the house). Be as involved as possible! Sacrifice as much as possible to do so. You won't regret it.
- When you are as involved as possible – teachers and administrators will know you are "on their team" and "on their side" and you can have HUGE influence! This is easier in the elementary years. As they reach Jr. High – they keep parents a bit more separated from the "action" but there are still plenty of ways to be involved.
- Beyond the volunteering – show up at open houses, informational meetings, and observation days. It shows you are interested and every teacher loves interested parents. And it gives you a voice with those teachers and administrators. If something does go wrong, you already have credibility when you come to talk about a difficult subject.
- Just because teachers, administrators, and staff aren't all devoted to Christ, doesn't mean they don't want what is best academically, morally, and in character for my children. It is hypocritical when Christians condemn the morality of our nation, but then act like having moral teachers who don't know Christ is a terrible thing. I'm thankful!
- Don't worry. There are a lot of Christian teachers and staff. For some reason, I had heard and assumed the worst about public schools. I'm ashamed of that now. I would have told myself to chill out. God has a huge presence through believers at these schools.
- Don't let your first interactions with any teacher be a complaint or what you don't like. As a rule, if there haven't been at least three positive interactions, keep your criticism to yourself. I haven't violated this, but I sure have been tempted to.
- If your child gets in trouble or gets a low grade, don't assume they are a victim of some unreasonable teacher who hates your child. That makes you look like an unreasonable parent. Assume the teacher is fair, right, and likes your child. (And this certainly isn't just a public school issue. It happened at our Christian school with teachers a lot!)
- Ask questions of your child – every night… questions like… "Anything that disagrees with what we've taught you?" "Anything that made you think?" "Anything that you loved learning about?" I haven't done this as well as I wished I would have.
- Ask a lot of questions about their "out of class time" too. You will learn a lot: "How as lunch?" "Who did you eat with?" "What did you talk about?" "Anything happen in lunch, study hall or between classes that was hard?" "What is that friend like?" "Why do you like them?" (A lot of that just gives you an inside look at their friendships.)
- Don't back away from what you believe – just do it in respectful ways. They aren't as unreasonable as those who fear public school will make you believe.
Just some advice I'd give myself if I started over with my kids in public school and advice I would offer to any parent considering public school education.