On Public Education.

Know what happened today? This:

Pink. Of course. 

Pink. Of course. 

That's right. FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN.

My little baby girl is growing up. *sniff sniff*

4 years, 360 days ago...

4 years, 360 days ago...

For a long time, despite the fact that I was never homeschooled a day in my life, I was adamant that I would homeschool my children. There were too many things wrong with the public school system; teachers are forced to teach to standardized tests; many teachers get burnt out from working so many hours and not getting paid what they're worth... I saw so many problems with the system as it is, and I wanted to give my children the best opportunity to explore the world--I wanted them to learn to love nature, to ignite their curiosity, to throw themselves in the arts, to study what they love instead of being forced to memorize facts and equations.

But as my health declined more over the last several years (which I just recently found out has been due to chronic Lyme disease), I began realizing that I am just not cut out to educate young children. I do have aspirations to eventually someday teach literature classes to college students. But I have never felt called to teach young children.

And the thought of teaching my own children, at this age, freaked me out.

When we were first house shopping a few years ago, I kept looking in this neighborhood (where we actually ended up), partly because there is a good school here. Even though I planned on homeschooling, I thought that there might come a day when I have to go back to work, or something might happen that would require my children to utilize the public education system. And here was this school known for character education, and I thought, well, just in case...

So we bought a house literally right across the street from the school.

And here we are, with my health a big issue, not to mention the intense writing schedule I'm trying to maintain while also raising my two young children. And my socialite daughter, who thrives on interaction, would not thrive at home all day with me, an extreme introvert.

So we registered her for school.

I was rather surprised by my decision to put her in public school. But it was actually thanks to another friend of mine that I started seeing the benefits of public school. She told me that it only takes a handful of committed, caring parents and teachers to help turn a school around, that you can actually model for your child believing in something so much that you work hard for it for the benefit of many people. 

I've always understood that not everyone can homeschool. (I mean, come on, look at me.) Some would like to but can't because of work or other issues. Some just have no interest. And here in the United States we have this public education. Free education available for every child. We're giving education to people for free. Sure, maybe it's not perfect. But many children come out of the public education system relatively unscathed by the experience, and nearly 100% of the time, much better off because of it.

So we're going to do our part, in our little corner of the country, to participate in and maybe improve (even a little bit) the public school system. Right here where we are. I have come to a deep appreciation of the teachers, faculty, staff, and administrators who work so hard, day and night. Who follow up with their students. Who check in on them even when school is not in session just to make sure they're okay. These people are heroes in their own right. They care. They show these kids they love them, that the students are intelligent and worthy of education. And I'm so grateful for people who answer that call.

I'm grateful not just for those who will be teaching my daughter this year, caring for her, looking after her during the day while she is away from me. But I am also grateful for all the teachers in the public school system that had a deep influence on my own life. There are several teachers I had throughout the years that I could still name for you and explain just why I remember them so well. Teachers who encouraged me to pursue my writing, who even went so far as to nominate me as a school representative to a young writers' conference without my knowledge. Even remembering some of these teachers makes me a little teary-eyed. 

And my daughter will have teachers like that, too. Teachers who will see her talent in art and encourage her to pursue it, to enter contests, to deepen her understanding of technique. Teachers who will see her interest in and curiosity about science and nature, about different kinds of animals, and how things are made up. And they will encourage her to read more, to study more, to explore more. And for this, I am grateful

So today, on this first day of kindergarten, I want to say thank you to the teachers, the school staff, the faculty, the administration--anyone who influences children at school at all, whether you serve them a dollop of mashed potatoes or clean up the vomit in the hallway or teach them how to spell their own name or listen to their questions about life--you are so significant and important to the formation of the next generation of citizens here. You have power in your hands to do mighty things, to help form and shape curiosity and encourage exploration of the world, of children's own abilities and limits. You have the power to shape the future for the good of humanity.

Thank you.