One of the topics that interests parents the most is the education of their children. The quality of your child’s education can change where they attend college or trade school, what types of jobs they will have and even the types of activities they can experience.
For Christians, the stakes are even higher. Your children are in school for six to ten hours a day (with extracurricular activities on site). The attitudes, philosophies, beliefs, and behaviors your children are taught by teachers or peers can shake, destroy or help build the faith foundations of your kids.
Sweeping generalizations are great, but often don’t work in education. My child had a very godly teacher in a public school. My friends have had “interesting” things taught to their kids in Christian schools. Even homeschooling has its share of questionable religious teaching hidden in some of the available textbooks and curricula.
So how do parents sort through all of the choices and pick the best option for their children? Everyone thinks their child’s school is the best, but is yours really good for your children? How do you know for sure? It can be overwhelming, even for those of us with degrees in education.
So, I was interested when offered the chance to review Education A La Carte by Dr. Kevin Leman. Leman looks at all of the options available to parents and discusses the pros and cons. Throughout, he weaves the story of his own somewhat disastrous educational experiences as well as some experiences others have had with the various options.
What I appreciated the most about the book as a parent and an educator is that he doesn’t push one option above the others. He seems to truly believe that even children within the same family may find the perfect educational fit in different options. I know that concept can be overwhelming for parents with multiple children, but I think having an author who is that openminded means you may get a more even handed description of each option. (You can still choose to split the difference and put all of your kids in the option which best meets the majority of all of their needs.)
In general, I think he does a fair and thorough job of explaining the various options clearly. He includes not only great information about each option, but also how you can assess each of your children to decide if that type of education is a viable option. The author also writes from a Christian perspective. He doesn’t quote scriptures or theology, but does filter his critiques through a Christian mindset.
I do have some areas though, where I believe Dr. Leman has bought into what is taught in colleges of education and ignored other evidence. In homeschooling for instance, he is obviously in favor of a classical homeschool education. He also seems to accept at face value that a particular type of parent is the only parent who can successfully homeschool their children. Although he mentions a lot of the homeschooling options, I don’t think he really understands that world as thoroughly as he thinks he does. There are so many ways to homeschool now, that almost any parent can be successful. We found in our experience those “quirky” homeschooling parents would have also been “quirky” public school parents and honestly, I believe the results would have been similar.
I also have a huge problem with the idea of “missionary” schooling. He promotes the idea that public schools would be better if more Christian kids attended them. On the surface, that is true. However, you can only decide where your Christian children attend school. I am sorry, but a five year old, a ten year old, even the vast majority of seventeen year olds, do not have the spiritual maturity to avoid the temptations of negative peer pressure and evangelize their classmates and teachers while also screening their curricula for hidden anti-biblical teachings. I am not totally anti-public schools, but the “let your kids be the light of the school” philosophy is misguided at best and possibly incredibly dangerous for your kids. That should be a rallying cry to encourage adults to work and volunteer in public schools in my opinion.
I was also very disappointed at how hard he pushed preschool. That is absolutely, college of education doctrine. Any honest educator will tell you, an involved parent is much better than any preschool for their child. And yes, any parent can be that great preschool parent. I heard that nonsense the entire time my child “should have been in preschool”. Yet in spite of being “denied” the extra time away from home, she was absolutely prepared to behave in kindergarten and academically walked in years above her classmates.
In reality, your child is more likely to pick up bad behaviors in preschool than good ones. Not all preschools are created equal. They have to design the curriculum for their “average” child, not your child. They may believe in giving the kids little, if any, academic preparation, or they may be executing whatever they are claiming to do so poorly, you are wasting your money. We aren’t talking calculus here. You know what you learned in kindergarten. You know what behavior issues your child needs to correct. You know what your child is interested in and loves to learn. Trust me, with hard work and creativity, you will make your child much better prepared than any preschool.
In general, this book does a great job helping parents sort out the different options and understand them better. Just make sure your evaluation of the options and how they will help or hurt your child includes a little extra research. The author does a decent job, but could use a little more real world exposure to kids homeschooled through preschool and parents who have “lost” Christian kids in both public and private schools. Ironically, although it’s helpful, an educator’s perspective is not always the most realistic when it comes to actual spiritual results of the various options.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.