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To recap, the last two weeks I’ve been musing about some pertinent topics in education. I started with teaching being more of an art than a science and continued with keeping quality teachers both in education and in our school district. This week I’d like to look at the other side of the equation: our students.

There are a number of choices out there for families when it comes to educating their children. The vast majority send their kids to public schools. I grew up and felt fortunate that my parents scrimped and saved to send my sisters and me to the Catholic school in New Ulm. I relished the small class sizes and the opportunities I received in athletics that I might not have found at the public school across town.

Over time, some people have chosen to home school their children, and now there is the option of online schooling for those so inclined. As with so many things in life, there are positives and negatives to all these educational choices.

Naturally, I’m biased toward public schools. I believe that we offer the best foundation for students and provide quality schooling with licensed professionals who have been trained to work with kids to help them toward the best future possible. One of the most common things I hear when parents choose a different path for their kids is the social side of things. Kids get bullied, ignored, and frustrated in public schools. Some don’t seem to fit in.

That can be a legitimate reason for choosing a different form of education. For some kids, they find success in a different setting, even if it’s open enrolling to a different public school. Other times, we see kids leave for those reasons, but return later when they realize the same problems are everywhere. I look back at my own schooling and know that I am a stronger person for figuring out how to deal with kids who picked on me (I used humor) and am even grateful for having gone through some of that.

Some folks choose to home school their children for religious purposes. We don’t have a lot of choices for private schools in our area, so this is the best route for some. Having gone to a Catholic school, I can appreciate the religious aspects of my education. If parents are capable and feel strongly about that, more power to them.

I’ve met some wonderful people who teach their children at home. These are people who are passionate about guiding their kids to a good life and really do a fine job. I’ve also seen instances where kids are suddenly home schooled, but it’s questionable about the quality of education being received. Teachers in schools are held to high standards for licensure, and I worry for kids who are in a setting where those high standards aren’t being met.

Online schooling has become more popular in recent years. This can be a good, interactive way of being exposed to any area of education you might desire to pursue. You can really narrow down areas of interest and get good knowledge that you might be able to get through electives in a smaller school. Some kids leave public education to try this with the sole thought that they figure it’ll be much easier than what we demand here. Most of those kids discover that online schooling is very rigorous. You don’t just get to sit around all day and do whatever you want on your computer. I’ve seen and heard about many kids who quickly return to the classroom setting.

Individualized education is important to many parents. There are requirements from the state in order to graduate, and there’s not much wiggle room with those. Schools continue to look at elective opportunities which will give kids a wide range of choices and help them choose a future path. Sometimes kids will go with a mixture of traditional schooling and online or even post-secondary classes. But the same thing happens at college, where you have certain requirements; I look back at some classes I had to take and wonder how that helped me become an English teacher. When you need a science class, you can choose between chemistry and biology, but neither was truly necessary to me, though it was to Winona State.

Of course I think public schools are the best option. We have our warts, but I especially think the social skills and responsibility learned are vital even outside being able to rattle off the Pythagorean theorem or identify a preposition. Schools will continue to evolve, but the basics will always be there: qualified professionals who want to see students find success.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is satori, which means sudden enlightenment, as in, “The student found satori when the teacher presented the problem in a different way.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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