The Case of the Missing Life

7:30 AM

For whatever reason works in my mind, I've always had one dream: eating lunch in the public school cafeteria. Half-day kindergarten, the one-and-only time I could call myself public schooled, was always a failure in my mind because I went home to eat. I grew green at the thought of my brother, public schooled till second grade, eating lunch in the cafeteria, with his Dr. Seuss lunch box and thermos. Or was it the Jurassic Park set?

That was one dream I never experienced. I did go to the school nurse when my mother told me not to, because I had to get the experience of it. (That didn't end well.)

I had a backpack and fresh crayons. Beyond that, not even my one-and-only public school experience seemed like the typical public school experience.

As I grew older and read and observed more and more, my five-year-old hunch grew into a fact: The quintessential American childhood, with its problems, joys and successes, happens on the public school campus. Anything else, no matter how legit, right or better, just isn't going to be embraced with open arms. I mean, take away the prom, the little high school becoming state champ, the first kiss behind the brick building, and you've knocked out a good chunk of down home American fare.

School for America is public.

Period.

Allegedly maturity comes with age, but I've always struggled with identity crisis when juxtaposed next to questions of public school. I'm a smart kid, with only one B to her name (oh, how I lament that B). It's disappointing, if not frustrating, that I don't get to have a state-paid venue for my gifts - that I don't get eligible for big scholarships and opportunities - that I don't get the chance to be recognized as a community graduate with plans, dreams and talent - lots of it. Sometimes I'm discontent; sometimes I'm confused; sometimes I'm upset; but always, I cannot walk away from the high school without feeling that I've missed out on a huge part of life.

Nobody will ever ask me to the prom (though I wouldn't go, anyways). Nobody will ever vote me Class Clown (though I'd be embarrassed if I was). And I'll never get to eat lunch in the school cafeteria...not that the menu sounds particularly appetizing.

What a sorry existence.

Fact is, we homeschoolers must - we must - learn that yes, we will be different. Totally different. We will sacrifice things. We will miss things typical to others, things that seem so important to mainstream America. If we don't realize this, we'll panic at the thought of Junior missing his chance as All American School's star quarterback or Susie her spot in the school orchestra. We'll flip at the idea of spending eight hours away from a peer group our own age - we'll freak at the lack of homeschool opportunities. We'll think we're missing something - something important - no, something essential.

And then we grump about it and feel depressed and give up - and we miss the whole point of why we homeschooled in the first place.

We are not the world's. We press on to a higher goal, for we are not of this world but of that world to come. In the long run, proms, sports and school lunches will not affect our ability to excel at a job, run a home or disciple a new believer. That part of education is icing on the cake. The real deal, the true education, happens when the rubber hits the road. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Public school in many ways offers canned opportunities - join this club, go to this lecture, see this counselor. That's fine - that's wonderful, even. But homeschooling offers opportunities, too - free-range. You have to get off the couch and seek them. You have to teach yourself. You have to get outside your comfort zone and do things to make your dream happen. You may be alone. You may be unguided. You may be in the middle of nowhere trying to make things happen.

What we call "missed opportunities" are in reality the biggest opportunities of all - opportunities to prove oneself, to stretch taller, to take initiative and to really focus on and excel at what is truly one's passion.

If you think about it, we miss nothing by homeschooling - nothing important, anyway. And indeed, we miss a lot of trash and detours that wouldn't get us to our direct route in the long run. What is our goal? What is our destination? And are we truly reaching for that...or are we dabbling in things unnecessary - even hindering?

Homeschooling (in a small town, no less) by nature filters out distractions to our goals. Once we come to realize the blessing of a counter-cultural, different school experience, we will see the incredible opportunity we have to forge ourselves, blaze a new path and strike out for the glory of God alone.

School lunches? I'll pop in if I have the time.

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18 impressions

  1. Should we plan a field trip to the school cafeteria?

    (Sorry--this doesn't meet the criteria of a Thoughtful Comment, but I'm short on time--gotta go make school breakfast)

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  2. -- the school nurse?? -- *taps heel* I haven't heard that one.

    I've never had the want of public school. Fact is, I'm scared of the buildings (scary) and people would laugh me out of the school anyways, with my odd habits of laying down while I do math. *wink*

    As for the school cafeteria, you can get the closest to the menu by having leftovers for lunch. Especially if the menu is leftover squash cassarole. *gag*

    Sure, it would be nice to be with friends all day and be noted in the student of the year - but who can do school surrounded by people they're trying to impress? Especially if you get an F? ;)

    *hugs*

    ~Bethany

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  3. :D You wanted to go to the school nurse?! Most I bleive would rather not go to the nurse!

    Ugh..I myself am glad I don't go to public school.I'm not as bad as some when we encounter highschoolers, or kids from PS. But, I'm glad I'm homeschooled!

    Gotta love homeschooling...

    See you tomorrow!

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  4. Well Bailey, I can to you truthfully public school isn't that great. Most home schoolers I think would be shocked at some of the things that go on in middle school. And school lunches really are not that great. Overall public school isn't all it's cracked up to be. And this is coming from some public schooled through 5th grade!

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  5. Now I help in the public school lunch room, Mama...is that irony or what? :o)

    Bethany in public school? Now that would be weird. *HUGS*

    LOL! It was the whole "experience thing," Kara...and I was only five. Strange memories. Fond memories. Memories I would rather not repeat. Love ya!

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  6. Maria -- Another public schooled friend of mine said the exact same thing (and I mean exact): Public school isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

    So I believe you. :o)

    And from what I've seen of kindergarten...eek. Yup, I believe you.

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  7. Wow...that was amazing!! You completely described how I have always rather vaguely felt about homeschooling and public schooling..like I would never have a normal life. This post helped me realize that I as not meant for the normal life anyway, but better things. Thanks!

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  8. You're welcome. :o)

    Of course, I like to humbly think that we homeschoolers have the normal life and that public schoolers are living an aberration.

    But that's just me.

    (Teasing.)

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  9. Home schooled children certainly do have the real life I tell ya. I was public schooled through junior high and I still have my scars from that. Certain insecurities from taunting peers who don't like the smart kid, or the kid who doesn't follow trends and makes friends with the outcasts. Yeah that was me. It felt unnatural and i knew there was something wrong with sitting in a desk all day. My life became real when I left and a whole world of happiness opened up. I don't say this because I think I need to convince you or anything but I would be sad if any home schooled child thought they were missing something special. They aren't, it isn't fun or special. It is hard, it is a war zone of sorts battling for your own identity and trying to make everyone understand that you just don't want to do what they do just because it is "cool". I hated learning and only passed the tests so that I could move on. Never did public school provide me with anything worthwhile. I know some have better experiences than I did but I also know some have worse. It is dangerous even, children being molested even here in our small town by groups of boys. Scary stuff.

    As always I enjoyed your post, very thoughtful and you are a very bright girl and have a wonderful way with words.

    Happy Homeschooling! :D

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  10. I am feeling argumentative tonight...just sayin' ;)

    May I say that much as we might like to think so, just the fact that we are homeschooled does NOT mean we are the light of the world?

    I was homeschooled until last year [I'm a senior now] except for a few years of French class at the Christian school where my dad teaches.
    Now, I've taken several classes [mostly very nerdy] at the local public school, as well as the same Christian school, and from my perspective, allowing me to attend public high school was one of the best decisions my parents made.

    It was amazing to finally enjoy math [okay, I had a really good teacher last year, but just that was enough to make me want to take calculus...]. And yes, I felt like I was finally part of 'the all-American high school': big beautiful high school, school play [Romeo and Juliet, no less], and so on.

    That being said, I'm possibly more mature than a lot of people, and I developed mostly during homeschool, so I haven't had to face the identity battles and so on that apparently most kids have to go through. But overall my experience of the people at my school has been good. I would in fact almost say that it's been better than the Christian school I still take classes at: it seems somehow easier to fit in to your OWN little niche when there are a thousand other teens all dressing and acting in an assortment of ways.

    [erh, comment too long...]

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  11. [from above]

    I was also in a homeschool co-op group for quite a few years, and while I brought a lot of amazing memories out of that, it was also where I got the majority of any 'scars' on my personality. Homeschoolers can be just as bad, I think, at judging people by how they look or act, as public schoolers can. Maybe less blunt about it. Almost the only bad memories I have of peers come from junior high and high school years in a small group of conservative Christians.

    One other thing I'd like to touch on is that for some people, there are some GREAT aspects of public school that homeschoolers can miss. Being on a FIRST Robotics Competition team has been one of the best experiences of my high school career, and one that I would NOT have been able to have without being affiliated at a local school. [FIRST Robotics involves building a robot as part of a national competition..REALLY awesome....convinced me I wanted to be a computer scientist....but the competition costs Big Money, so only high schools can usually afford it]

    Um.....ran out of steam here and got distracted thinking about how I need to raise more funds for my robotics team....
    soooo, yeah, homeschooling is great, but it's not the only morally acceptable option [although that's another topic I haven't touched on].

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  12. Hi, Bethany! Woohoo -- two Bethanys, of totally opposite interests. Fun. :o)

    To clarify, I wrote this post as encouragement to homeschoolers who have vision but have temporarily lost it in the glittering halls of public schools. (Such as Me.)

    I don't believe all who title themselves "homeschoolers" share the same vision, biblical base or academic excellence that embodies to me what homeschooling truly is. Oh, boy, no -- and do I totally understand about mean, judgmental, exceedingly worldly and obtuse homeschoolers.

    We could argue on experience; I could say but and if and well...but that's just our different experiences. And I'd be ridiculous if I tried to convince anyone to snap up homeschooling as divine truth based on experience alone.

    That's not where I was coming from. I know people have had pleasant experiences in public school, though personally I've gotten more negative reactions in my circle of acquaintances. Those that had positive reactions still had a caveat and agreed that homeschooling -- at least what I was pursuing -- was better. (No egotism intended.) But I'm totally fine in granting that your and others' experiences were more than positive with a caveat. That's not where the homeschool vs. public school argument stands and falls.

    It's a battle of the worldviews -- or to put it less epically (word?), a difference of worldviews.

    In the worldview that I embrace as Biblical, education should be unapologetically, unequivocally Christian, which is why public education is not even an option for me. (I'm not talking of supplementary classes at a local high school or playing on the football team or such.) Shakespearean plays, academic campus, an extensive circle of friends...those, while certainly wonderful, do not take preeminence in my goal of education.

    What public school pushes in all their extracurricular programs is not, in my opinion, the essence of true education. True education is found in the core of Christianity. Yes, I know Christians have been able to be light and testimony in public schools -- I love those people -- but neither their approach nor their education is Biblical. Public school cannot be stretched to be anything remotely Christian. (Note: I don't believe it's sin to attend public school. Goodness no.)

    Do I believe that homeschooling is the only producer of light and salt? No. Do I believe it's the best way? Yes, if we're talking about homeschooling in the Biblical light...because God's ways are always the best, whether they include Romeo and Juliet or not. Do I believe that we compromise our vision to homeschool because programs and "opportunities" become hard-to-find or nonexistant? Not at all -- which was the point of my whole post.

    And the point of this whole long comment. Your argumentativeness is contagious. ;o)

    Take care, Bethany. Know that I don't judge you or think bad of you for disagreeing. Indeed, I think dissenters as kind, candid and coherent as you make blogging worthwhile. :o)

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  13. What ho, a reply! :)

    Hmm, this may not be very long because I really am not settled one way or other in my mind, about whether or not public school is the only correct choice.

    However...several points. I think that any truth, properly applied, will ultimately lead a person towards Christ, or at least not be a hinderance. Of course the crux there is in 'properly applied'. I do NOT think that the only Christian form of schooling is one from an inherently Christian background, however [yes, I know I just went against everything I've ever been taught, right there]. If that were the case, than it would be wrong to go to college at a secular university [which I think you've said is NOT wrong, just not for you]. It would also mean that it would be wrong to, for instance, intern at some form of research job where one's superiors were not Christian [forgive me if I took the conclusion too far, I may have taken it out of context].

    Never having been a parent, lol, I may be incorrect in this next statement. I think it is possible, though difficult, for a child to receive an adequate Christian education [knowledge of Christian applications to academics, familiarity with opposing worldviews, ability to think critically] at home, separate from and in addition to attending public school.

    [okay pet peeve here, use of the word Biblical. Just warning you...heh]
    I am not quite clear on your use of the word Biblical, I think. If public school is as you said an unbiblical approach to education, but you also don't think it's sin, I am a little confused. I have encountered 'Biblical' to describe a lot of thinks, often it seems to be a substitute for 'the only morally correct choice for a Christian to make'.


    I certainly understand, and mostly sympathize with, your appraisement of various opportunities and such as unimportant, compared with following God's will. However, I think I might disagree with deciding where exactly those two things part company. Probably a question I will have trouble resolving for a long time, much less convince anyone else, heh.

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

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  14. Bethany -- I like you. Lots.

    Agree slightly with your first point. While obviously we Christians cannot camp out from the secular world entirely in regards to education, I still think that we need to be separate from the world. (Psalm 1:1, many proverbs...et cetera.) A student becomes as his teacher. I don't, however, think we need to be purists about public school...several friends and my own brother took classes from public high school and the local tech college. Not Christian in the least. But I think too that Christians need to be more intentional in regards to education. Not just secular material with Bible commentary tacked on at the end.

    That's another post.

    And I couldn't disagree more that Christian education can't be achieved in the home. :o) The model of education we see in Scripture is in the home and the Christian community. Plus, speaking from personal experience, I have learned so much of apologetics on my own with no formal course. It was only natural, because I had to defend convictions of mine...and that took just as much study of the opposing views (humanism, feminism, moralistic therapeutic deism, for example) than of views close to home. If you get my drift.

    (If I misunderstood that paragraph, just ignore me. It's Sunday evening after a long weekend. ;o))

    LOL! I looked at my last comment after writing it and said to myself, "Your use of 'biblical' seems neither accurate nor clear." But what I meant is...well, "the only correct moral choice" isn't really what I'm trying to go for. It sort of touches on that, but it's deeper. It's more like, "This is what the Bible puts forth as the best, how things ought to be, how a Christian lives and thinks and operates."

    I think there are some issues in Scripture that are clear and clearly Biblical but not necessarily sinful if one doesn't follow them. For instance, I believe the Bible puts a premium on women being homemakers -- that's a Biblical pattern I think women need to consider and embrace. But if, for instance, a husband insists his wife nurture a career outside the home...that's not Biblical (in the sense that it's not put forth as God's best or God's general pattern for Christian living), but I'd be the first person to say it's not a sin for her to do so.

    Boy. Talk about incoherent.

    Thanks for dialoging with me. :o)

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  15. I can't blame you if you have given up on my ever posting again...heh heh. Life got very busy all of a sudden......


    Yes, I think you did misunderstand what I said about Christian education, and I think I did not write it very clearly at all! I do tend to say things in..complicated...ways sometimes, hehe.
    I just meant that there [IMO] can be more than just ONE way of getting a Christian education. That it certainly CAN be achieved in the home, but also in a public school. [the next point is required, for the latter to be true.]

    And, the other unclear point was, that it is possible to receive a Christian education [at home] in addition to attending public school full time.

    I guess I am making a difference here, between 'an education' in terms of academic things, and 'a Christian education' ~ education in application of the Bible and so on. They could, of course, overlap [and maybe should]. But I don't think it is NECESSARY for them to overlap [that view would hold that one cannot understand the Bible's application to daily life, without receiving science, history and math taught through a Christian perspective].
    For instance, someone who has just learned about Jesus, and is in a secular school or workplace: it seems absurd to declare that they cannot understand God without dropping everything and moving to a Christian school/homeschool/Christian workplace.

    Uhh....something tells me I just wrote another confusing paragraph.....heh.

    Thank you for defining your use of 'biblical' :) It really only irks me when people use it without thinking, as I know I certainly used to do.


    Hrmm, the college question, next.....methinks I shall comment on that post now too maybe, I certainly have opinions coming out my ears on THAT subject! :)

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  16. Leave it to me to blunder through your opinions. I can do it singlehandedly. ;o)

    Now I get what you're saying. (Laugh, for I probably don't.)

    I totally agree that it is possible to have a Christian education at home and a public education. But beyond possibility, the question I'm digging into (which wasn't the point of the post, but ah, bunny trails) is whether that's the way it should be. Whether that's the road we should take. Whether that's what the Bible outlines as best.

    With God's grace, anything is possible -- and I don't judge anyone, because I know there are different circumstances for different people. But since we're talking theoretical here, I still say public schooling isn't God's best.

    Because, see, the church suffered a heavy blow when it separated the "secular" (read: neutral) and the "spiritual." We lost our saltiness when we dichotomized and compartmentalized the Christian life.

    I'm not saying that the "Christian view" on, say, algebra is radically different from the "secular" view (I generally avoid looking absurd). I'm also not saying that one has to have a Christian education in order to be a good Christian. If we all have to be smart to get to heaven, I'm afraid I'll be left behind.

    But again, it's striving for excellence...it's striving for God's best. A person may not have a "Christian education," but they don't have to celebrate that and discourage others from pursuing it because they turned out just fine. (Not talking about you, by the way.)

    And the thing is, I think we Christians tend to view public schools as pure academics -- as pure fact and truth separated from philosophy and religion. But no education is neutral. Not one. The public school does have a worldview, and kids who grow up in it K-12 will by nature imbibe that worldview. That's what an education is -- it's not so much facts. It's more about interacting with the world and interpreting the world. And you can bet the public schools are not operating from a Christian worldview by any chance.

    But a public school doesn't have to be necessarily hostile toward Christianity or a haven of gangs and drugs. My biggest beef with public schools is not what they teach but what they don't teach. Parents, if they have a working relationship with their children (another story), can easily combat what is taught. But it's the things that the public schools aren't teaching that are making our Christian witness as a whole ineffective -- things about the Christian family order, about living a separate and holy life, about looking at the world with the Bible as a lens. Day by day by day.

    That's why my brother, for instance, can go into his public school class and not come home a rebel. The foundation is there. His worldview is right. And perhaps that's the same for you -- I don't know.

    Goodness. I think I might be passionate. In summary: There is a difference between fact and philosophy, but any decent education must blur the two. They both piggyback on the other. That's why we must be careful of our educational choices. And to direct myself back to the post's point...that's why I homeschool, even though I can't participate in a highschool Shakespeare play. ;o)

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  17. You know Bailey, I always felt this way too... and struggled to understand why my parents are so adament that homeschooling is the only way. I always thought that school is supposed to prepare you for life, for your future, the real world - the scars you may or may not get in school are to prepare you for the ugliness that is life.
    But tonight, reading this post, I figured it out. I was partly right - school is meant to prepare kids for their future lives. (And, might I add, I personally believe children should be homeschooled until high school, then it is up to the parent to decide, based on the child's maturity level and readiness for the ugliness that is high school, whether to continue homeschooled until the final year[s] of high school or to have them attend public high school all four years.) And that is exactly why I will not go to public school - because schooling is meant to prepare children for their futures. And my future is in the home, as a wife and mother and homemaker.
    So HOMEschooling is, naturally, the only proper form of preparation for a future HOMEmaker.
    Thank you for helping me see the light.

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  18. I don't know if you allow double posting, but Bailey, I just had to add that you should really read Elizabeth George's Young Women devotional series. Not because you need them, but because you two have the same "Good, better, best" philosophy. (Which I am trying diligently to apply to my own life. So far... eh.) If I didn't know better, I'd say you're using the pen name 'Elizabeth George' to become one of the world's best writers for Christian women! (Robin Jones Gunn aside, of course.)

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Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)