The Education Question, Part One: My Experience

school award

Little Kathy, 1993. Student of the Month (again)

Yesterday, I explained that I wanted to explore some of the thoughts my husband and I have so far had on educating our child(ren). I’m starting with our own personal experiences in school.

My personal experience with schooling is almost exclusively in the public school system.

Let me tell you: I. LOVED. IT.

I loved school right from the start. It wasn’t hard. School loved me first.

See, I was the kid whose drawing got held up for all the other kindergartners to see. “See all those nice details?” the teacher asked the class. “Just look at the fingers on each hand, the shoelaces on the shoes. Look at that – there’s a sailboat on the front of her dress!”

I was the one who got her card filled with gold stars first. I was the first-grader who got asked to read to the kindergarten class and got her picture taken in the big rocking chair, holding up the picture book authoritatively for the littler kids to see.

I was the first-grader who walked down the hall to the grade three classroom to pick up my reading material. The one whose pastel drawing got laminated for future classes to see as an example, whose book got bound for posterity.

I got certificates for my good behavior and my excellent penmanship. At the end of the year I got a tall stack of felt ribbons, listing all the subjects I excelled in, from science to math to French.

I was also good at track and field and public speaking, so I got medals every year, too. I had my name engraved on all the plaques in the front foyer. (That’s the school lobby, for my Yankee readers.)

In grade five, when the other students were pestering the teacher about who got the highest grade in such-and-such class, and then such-and-such a class, my teacher cut the conversation short by announcing, “Kathleen got the highest grade in every subject.”

(Please note, however, that I attended a very small rural school populated with lower-income kids. This was a tiny universe that I inhabited and ruled, though I didn’t think of it that way at the time).

Unsurprisingly, I adored school. I looked forward to returning at the end of every summer – buying new pencil cases and backpacks, riding the bus. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love to spend every day at a place where her every move was affirmed and praised?

The first day we were given homework, I shouted “YES!” and made the cha-ching! gesture with my fist. (I wish I was making this up).

This mutually-loving relationship with school went on as I continued on through high school and then university.

(There was a bit of an interlude in my academic triumphs during high school. I went on Accutane and got a heavily-padded bra, and ended up suddenly and unaccountably pretty. Not gorgeous, mind you; but after a decade of horrible awkwardness I got so high off the sudden rush of peer approval that academics got demoted for a couple of years. You can’t blame me.)

In university, I read chapters from the textbook we didn’t even have to read, just for fun. Just because I loved learning so much. My professors all hassled me about getting a PhD because I was such an obvious fit for the program.

The classroom was perfect for me, and I for it. There was no doubt in my mind that public school was wonderful.

* * *

If you would have asked me at any time during those years whether I would send my kids to public school, I would have answered, “Of course!” Public school was a happy place where you learned interesting things and did fun crafts and got stickers and certificates and medals and ribbons.

I mean, there were things I didn’t like, of course. School was a pretty lonely place when it came to things like recess, when you had to find ways to stay warm as you huddled against a doorway all alone in the dead of winter to read your Laura Ingalls Wilder novel. Getting up at the crack of dawn was always dreadful, as was standing by the road every morning in the gray, whistling cold, waiting for the bus to come.

But overall, school provided wonderful opportunities to earn praise and approval, and get exposed to all kinds of interesting books and facts.

At least, this is how I felt about school until I met my husband.

His experience with public school was a teeny bit different from mine.

I’ll be sharing his experience in my next post, followed by some reflections on our experiences in public school.

How about you? Were you educated in the conventional way? What was your education experience like?

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  1. I went to public school, Catholic school, Christian school and was homeschooled. I don’t think any of the was as amazing as your experience!

  2. You know I always find it an interesting argument that so many homeschooling families are called out for their lack of socialization, yet most people who went to public school will tell you that it was socialization that did the most damage.

    I too loved school and it loved me as much as it could – I’m smart, but was never meant to be a scholar – and also spent a lot of time alone at recess and there was a long stint where I was the kid who asked for more homework because I didn’t have too many folks banging on my door to play (yeah, I know, pathetic). I didn’t become pretty… well, ever… so I never had that to interfere with anything.

    The only thing I wished was different in my public school experience was I wish I had gone to a smaller school – even in my high school class of over 360 it was easy to get ignored if you weren’t the best of the best or the worst of the worst. A little more opportunity for academic attention would have been nice. Luckily I live where I grew up and I know a lot more about different opportunities for different grades than my parents did (it’s also easier to discover those things with this handydandy internets of course).
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  3. Oh, geez, what a cliff hanger! ;-)
    Overall most people I know enjoyed their public school experience, just as most home schooled kids I know enjoyed staying at home. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because they don’t know anything different? Am I so happy with my homeschooling background because I don’t know what it would have been like to go to school? Or do I really know enough from what my friends told me that I am right to assume I would not have enjoyed it as much? I just don’t know.
    Either way, it’s nice to know there are other parents out there who are already stressing out about their child’s education. I moved from a suburban city in Missouri that had the best schools around to a suburban city in Indiana that has the best schools around and I feel like most people (in both places) don’t even bother to question whether or not public school really is the best option for their kid(s). I honestly think they feel that if they have the best school district around it would be a crime not to send their kids to public school.
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