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Back-To-School Clarion Call Grows Louder

Monday 06 August 2018 at 1:22 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for August 2, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            Trying to live comfortably during the heat waves of July, I was surprised with the flood of back-to-school reminders popping up everywhere: discount stores advertizing back-to-school school supplies, clothing stores announcing back-to-school sales, media posts of pre-school-opening activities, etc. So August begins with a clarion call that school startup is around the corner.

            For East Bernard ISD students, Opening Day is August 20, for Brazos ISD, as well as Ft. Bend Independent School District, it’s August 15. When I was a kid, school always started in September.

            During my years as a public school teacher, I always noticed that kids were “ready,” even “happy,” to be going back to school, in spite of their sarcastic remarks to the contrary. As a junior college teacher, I didn’t notice this “good-to-be-back” attitude among college sophomores, -- I guess after 13 or 14 years of going to school, Opening Day was no big deal. But the faces of many freshmen showed anxiety, concern, and even fear of the unknown, yet rarely “happiness.”

            As a child, I loved reading, studying, and going to school, so back-to-school was as joyful as Christmas to me, especially during my elementary school years. I would not have been as happy had I been home-schooled!

            But, then, homeschooling was not as widely done in the 1940’s as it is today. Believe it or not, today, there are over 2.3 million children being homeschooled in the United States. Is that good or bad?

            Folks disagree on the answer to that question. Home-schooled kids did score higher on general achievement tests than did public school students, according to some studies; however, there were numerous variables in the surveys. It was also found that those homeschooled in unstructured course work scored lower on these tests than those who were taught with structured course work. In these studies, I wonder whether they factored in the education levels of the homeschooling parents.

            People who favor homeschooling believe the home to be a safer environment than public schools, and also they like being able to teach and import their value system and religious beliefs to their children. They worry, for example, that a child’s Christian beliefs could be hindered in a public school

            Regardless of these studies, I have always felt that a child’s social skills and emotional life are more effectively developed in a public school. However, homeschool advocates counter that such things as 4H, church groups, scouting, community team sports, field trips, and community volunteer work fulfill the child’s social and emotional needs.

            My question, though, is how could you play in a marching band if you are home-schooled, or write for the school newspaper, or serve as a cheerleader, of play on a varsity football team, etc.? The joy of doing those things and the social skills developed from them are immeasurable.

            My wife and I were both certified public school teachers, her specialty being science and math, and mine being reading, writing, and languages; so, as homeschooling parents we could have covered quite a few bases. However, as a teacher, I believed in public school education and was opposed to homeschooling, and never even considered homeschooling my children.

            If kids hate to go back to school in the Fall (or late Summer as the case might be), there could be something wrong with their particular public school, a problem that could be fixed. But my daughters were always happy and eager for school to start up again, and I have always seen it as a happy time of year, and still do.


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.

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