This is my seventh year to home school and because we lived in rural Honduras, the decision to teach my kids from home was the most practical one we could make. The Honduran public school system was in chaos, with constant national teacher-union strikes that forced children to constantly miss school reducing the school year, some years, to less than 100 days. We also did not have an adequate private school option for our oldest daughter, who at that time was five years old. Our decision was reinforced by the fact that, all the other ex-pats families we worked with home-schooled their children. We also observed the the quality of the kids being educated at home. They displayed many characteristics we wanted to see in our own kids. The homeschoolers around us were polite, smart, talented and able to carry on an intelligent conversations with a varied age group of people. We assessed our family values and decided home school would be the best choice. It was not a difficult decision, so our home school journey began.
It was not as simple once we returned to the USA. There were many more options to choose from, which we thought were all mostly adequate. We had to choose from our assigned public school, Magnet Schools, Charter Schools, Private Secular Schools, Private Parochial Schools, Home School Coops and the traditional Home School. We were back to square one; and once again, we had to reevaluate our priorities, our goals and our mission as a family and each of our kids.
Our reevaluation forced us to consider if we were to continue to home school all our children. And as we earnestly prayed, sought wisdom from heaven, and considered our current situation, we decided it was to our family’s best interest to think carefully about the individual needs of each child. From now on, we would take it a year at a time and a child at a time. Therefore, we concluded that a traditional school would greatly benefit our oldest daughter and we would continue to school our youngest two at home.
Finding a school was not as easy as we thought it would be. First, there were too many choices. Second, our public area school was re-zoned and its reputation for being a good school had dropped. Last, we needed to consider the needs or our daughter as well as the mission and vision of the schools we would visit. Here are some of the steps we took to find a school fit our family’s and our daughter’s needs:
- We waited. Before we arrived in the US, around mid-December, we had decided we would not put our children through any more changes than we absolutely had to. They had already experienced the loss of their home, friends, belongings, favorite food, favorite places and their place in our former community. Therefore, one of the things we would attempt to remain stable, at least for a semester, would be their home school (which is one of the many advantages of teaching your children from home). So we kept them all in school at home for the spring semester before we launched any of them into a completely different type of school situation.
- I created a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet helped me organize my thoughts and gather the necessary information (what was important to us) to begin our search. Originally, I used Microsoft Excel. Here is a link to a Google Spreadsheet I created to give you an idea on how to look at your school choices. Click on this link: School Choices Spreadsheet.
- We visited the schools. We had a very open mind about our assigned public school. It was the very first one I dropped-in unannounced. I was able to quickly meet the principal and be referred to the most important person in the school (the School Secretary) for a proper school-tour appointment. I left my contact information with her, never to be contacted again. A few weeks later, my husband was able to visit and tour the school. My drop-in visits to different schools continued on for several weeks until we had a better picture of what our real options were.
- Our daughter shadowed. When a prospective student shadows, the student attends a regular day of school and participates in all the activities and lessons along with the current students of the grade or class he/she would potentially join. Once we had reduced our options to two or three schools, we decided it would be a great idea for our daughter to shadow at the schools we felt the most peace about. She loved the first school she visited; and after speaking to the school principal, we were excited and reassured to know that the teachers believed she was at grade level (for I had never had her tested and had only home schooled her)!
The school selection process took us about three to four months. When it was finalized, I felt relieved as if a heavy load were being taken off my back. I realized that my daughters’ education does not all depend on me. I wouldn’t have to do it all (which I believe is a major struggle for many home school moms, like me)! I’m so thankful for the help and God’s amazing provision for just the right school for my daughter.
We don’t regret any of it. Our eldest daughter is thriving at her new school. She absolutely loves it! She loves her teachers. She enjoys her classmates. She is challenged to try new things we would have never imagined she would be a part of (like the girls’ volleyball and basketball teams). I feel so blessed and thankful for the partnership we have with the school to educate my girl. God is good!
How has your experience in school selection been for you? How have you had to trust God in this area? What suggestions or advice would you give?
Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP