Sunday, July 14, 2013
My Christian Private School Experience: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
My early elementary education was fabulous. I had great teachers who cared. They were there because they felt called by God to be there. They weren't making a ton of money and like all teachers their work extended well beyond the 8am-3pm school day. They were attentive and loving and while this many years later I don't remember the details of those years, I remember being happy. My later elementary years were good as well. I don't remember them being quite as great as my early ones, but I have fond memories. My favorite year being the year my own mother taught my grade. She doesn't give herself enough credit, but I can tell you that out of all of my elementary years I remember that one the most and I remember how much I loved having her as a teacher. The class sizes were relatively small. My 5th grade year our class totaled 9 at its height.
I have little to no memory of my Jr. High years other than playing sports, which I loved. Sports also consumed my high school years. We were decent and the school saw the height of its sports achievements, which would also be their last hurrah. Because of our class sizes and the fact that most of us attended the church that the school was attached to, my circle of friends was small and tight. I had grown up, literally, with most of my classmates. My senior year was fun. Our class was particularly close that year and since most of us had cars we would all pack up and go to Grandy's after we were done for the day.
My education was Bible based. We memorized scripture, had chapel and Bible during the day. I owe most of credit for the scripture I have memorized to my school and have even managed to retain a lot of it through the years. I truly appreciate this aspect of my education and strive to make sure my children get the same.
I had excellent English teachers who did a good job of presenting a dry curriculum. Between them and my mother I have retained a love of reading and a decent amount of grammatical knowledge.
Our school had a lot of the same "socialization" issues that other schools have. There was drama, gossip, and bullies. I succumbed to peer pressure often and did things, while relatively minor, that I wish I had not done. I also gave into the social pressure to have a "boyfriend". I have always been an all or nothing girl and at the ripe age of 14ish I gave all of my heart to a boy. Of course, later down the road he tried to give it back to me and for the longest time I was sure he still had some of it. In retrospect I can see that eventually I got it all back, but I still gave a boy too much of my time and energy and it sucked a lot of joy from those years.
Christian schools have rules. Lots of them. I would never question the intentions of those rules. Most of them made sense. However, they were selectively enforced, even sometimes in my favor. The mixed messages sent during my high school years were overwhelming. You knew from year to year who the favorites were with the staff. It was painfully obvious.
Conformity was the word of the day. Conformity in the way you dress, the way your hair was done, how you speak. Like most schools, our school had an idea of what we all should look like, what we should all be learning and how that learning should be tested. Some of this even dug into the realm of legalism. From our ankle length denim skirts to our KJV Bibles, we were told that there was one way to do things and that was the only way. To this day I do not know why certain rules were in place.
My senior year I had 4 classes: English, consumer math, Revelations and Health. My English teacher was the only teacher I had that consistently showed up to class. Oh you read that right, I had 2 teachers (one taught two classes) that 99% of the time either didn't show up to class or dismissed us within 5 minutes. I loved those teachers. I hate those teachers. What is worse, is that the administration knew about it. My own mother called to complain. We were forced to go to class 3 days that week and then were again dismissed early from then on out. I think at that point my mom was just ready for me to be done.
Like most Christian schools we used Abeka. I was cheated. Abeka was a yearly repeat of the driest educational material you could imagine (no offense to those of you who use it). We spent hours reading down the line one paragraph after another with no real discussion and no hands on application. We were forced to stay on a schedule due to tons of testing. I took a total of 7, yes SEVEN years of some form of American History (providential history at that), when we could have spent some of those years learning church history, ancient history, medieval history; anything but another year of American! My high school years of math were disjointed. The year that I started algebra, the school decided to use our class as an experiment and split algebra 1 into 2 years. I, being used to being a mediocre student, didn't even try to skip the first part of algebra 1. Another class mate of mine was brilliant, scored 100% regularly, but because he missed the day of the placement test, was forced to sit through algebra 1. Anyways, I digress. Because of algebra 1 being split, I spent 1 year in algebra 1/2 , went to Australia and took a general math course, came back to Algebra 2. As you can imagine this caused all sorts of problems for me. Algebra 1/2 was basically a review of per-algebra and I had missed all of the new stuff when I went out of the country! I took no geometry, which generally gets put in between algebra 1 and 2. I can't remember which year, but I actually ended up in summer school for math at one point. At the end of my school career I had only had 1/2 of Algebra 1, a general math course, Algebra 2 and a consumer math class that my teacher never showed up to. Needless to say, I took many years of remedial math when I went to college.
There are many other things that I could go into, but don't feel like it would serve any purpose. I do feel like my parents did what they thought was best and in the early years it might have even been best. However, like all parents, I want more for my own children, and my own experience in this school has helped to determine that homeschooling is the way to go.