Teach your children well in public, private or at home
August, 2011

Vacation’s about over and it’s time for kids to get back to the schoolhouse for another nine months’ of educational gestation. Over on the peninsula, it may mean riding the limo to another year of preppy pampering. For others, it could be staying at home with a parent or a tutor providing home schooling.

I don’t know much about home-schooling, or private school for that matter. I rode the bus every day for 13 years. So I was intrigued when a home-schooling mom approached me about teaching art to her high school kids. Home schooling, I guess, means your mom or dad teaches you everything it took dozens of teachers to pound into the rest of us. Sounds iffy. I wouldn’t qualify. As a patriotic American, I never was very good at math or science, but that’s only important in places like India and China. However, I was pretty good at drawing cars all over my blue, cloth-covered binders.

But I digress. What are the advantages of home school vs. big school? Home school gets you lots of time with your mom, who will probably go nuts trying to remember grammar and history, not to mention shuddering at the dark mysteries of quadratic equations or the periodic table. You also get shelter from the public school storm, so to speak, and maybe a little religion. I’d miss the sports.

What home schooled students will miss is socializing with kids who speak profanity instead of English, armed gangster wannabes, newbie pushers and zoned-out jocks. Unless you’re in a private school, where all of the above is clad in costlier immodesty, and asocial texting comes from better phones and tablets. Except maybe for those parochial schools. I don’t know, but do the Sisters still teach Latin and Greek and wrap disobedient knuckles with swift, unforgiving yardsticks? Cool.

Nevertheless, here’s a sincere shout-out to all of the dedicated teachers at home, in the classroom and on the field who deal with students who can be talented, even brilliant, one moment, disinterested the next, and pregnant before you know it. Here you go for another year. I wish you the best in finding the genuine diamonds in the treacherous rough. They’re definitely out there, but may not tell you how much they enjoyed your class for a few years.

Most parents work really hard to help their kids learn right and enjoy youth as much as they can. God bless you, it’s a tough job and you need all the help you can get. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent, a grandparent, aunt, uncle or mom and dad. The goal is the same – to give Junior a fighting chance when he’s one of us.

Other parents, less engaged, will complain to the principal that their precious, pierced daughter has a right to cuss out a teacher, while others didn’t know their son wanted to play sports, let alone that he made the team. Some have been home-schooling their little darlings all along to be ill-mannered, disrespectful or even violent. Like the old man, their kids will use drugs, drop out, steal stuff from Walmart and make more unexpected kids with forgotten partners. They’re the reason some Salinas schools have police nearby, or even stationed right on campus. They’ve never taught their kids real respect for people who’ve given their careers to do a better job with them than they did. But then, you can’t teach what you don’t know.

Well, the bell is ringing and class is starting. Good luck, everyone, see you at the game!