A Highly Personal Decision

Politics.

Activism.

Social Change.

Since my high school days, these are the things that have excited and inspired me.

During my freshman year of high school, I read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by, Dee Brown and found the band Rage Against the Machine not long after. I was shocked by the accounts of how the American government dealt with Native American tribes and fascinated by the sheer anger in lead singer Zach de la Rocha’s voice. His lyrics told a story that ran against everything that I had learned and the rage to make me believe it had to be true.

I wrote a lot of poetry in my teenage years and read even more books. My parents were not really into traveling (the farthest we traveled was Florida every year to visit my grandparents), so I fed my wanderlust with books like The Dharma Bums by, Jack Kerouac and A Clockwork Orange by, Anthony Burgess.

In college, my world view continued to open up, though through literature instead of travel as my parents vetoed my desires to study abroad. I started taking classes in World Literature and minored in Politics all while pursuing my passion for photography in the darkroom at Rutgers that is now extinct.

Then I stumbled upon Bruce Robbins, a professor whose interest in the place where literature and politics collide fueled my own leanings in that direction. As a senior, Bruce served as my adviser for my Honors Thesis, which was an exploration into whether books could use text and photography to achieve real social change. This was not just a scholarly pursuit, but also a very personal one. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do after graduation. I loved college. I loved the reading, the thinking, the arguing, and the writing. But would delving into issues of inequality and poverty intellectually be satisfying enough for me? Would I be able to change the world that way?

Well, my Honors Thesis took me into flophouses in Manhattan and led me to interview David Isay the creator of NPR’s StoryCorps, a project that records the amazing (and often lost) histories of everyday people. But it wasn’t my Thesis that led me to my next move. It was a poster. The poster was recruiting college graduates to apply to Teach for America. I read the statistic at the bottom about how children in poverty are reading an average of 2/3 grade levels behind their wealthier peers. But I think it was the photograph of a young African-American boy looking back at me with big eyes that drove me to head to the computer lab and find out how to apply. That poster, in an instant, achieved social change. My dream of getting a PhD. at Harvard fell dead on the ground behind me, and since then I have only glanced back at that dream a few times.

The story here gets more complicated, emotional, and well…long. So I will zoom ahead, past my 12 years of inner city and suburban teaching experience, through the births of my four children to this summer when I finally decided to turn my back on public school for awhile to homeschool my children.

Those of you who follow my blog know how hard I fought against testing and for quality, dynamic, and developmentally-stimulating education. You read my editorials, speeches, petitions, and pleas. You know I fought and fought hard.

My decision to homeschool was not a giving up on public schools as one teacher recently accused me of, but rather a giving in to my children and their needs and fulfillment. For many years, I worried about the world, now it is time for me to focus on my children. I believe that by giving them the best that they will in turn affect the world for the better. In just a short 10 years my oldest will be 18. And judging from what I hear from those parents who have gone through it, I too will wonder where the time went.

My decision to homeschool is a highly personal decision, not to give up on quality education for all, but to give in and commit myself to giving that gift to my own children while I can. There will be time to return to that bigger fight.

But for now, I will focus on them. I will honor my short time with them and give them every bit of what I want to give to all children. I will stop thinking about what I wish public schools would do and just do them without fight or argument. I will appreciate my opportunity to take this time with my children, knowing that one day (in the blink of an eye) it will be over, and then I can return to trying to solve the world’s problems.

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9 thoughts on “A Highly Personal Decision

  1. Christina Moreira says:

    I wish u luck and I am sure you will be great! I spoke to you briefly at the Camden meeting (Hespe left). I to have thought/wished I could homeschool my kids but unfortunately I can’t. I hope you will continue to blog about your experiences.

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    • Thank you Christina! I remember you!!! I am working to open a learning center so that even parents who can’t homeschool can have their kids benefit from the kind of hands on learning that far too many schools are moving away from. Good luck to you. Trust me planning to homeschool is no picnic either! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Melinda says:

    Paige, you don’t have to justify your decision. The kids are very lucky to have you to teach them and all of us are lucky to have you fighting for our children as well. I started out heavy against testing etc. but I too, realized that while I was so fired up, my kids were still in a sh!tty situation that could completely demolish their love for learning and their choices for their future. This will also be our first year homeschooling. There’s no reason why we can’t still be loud and fight the good fight but they have to come first. Don’t let someone’s snarky comment make you feel like you’ve been anything less than a warrior and a true leader in all of this.

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    • Thank you Melinda and good luck on your own journey! I think I needed to write this to be able to let the comment go. The teacher wasn’t a friend or former colleague but a stranger. And I know that anyone who knows me knows the decision was a difficult one! Your words mean a lot!

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  3. Nadene Pellegrini says:

    I support you, if my daughter’s school year doesn’t go as planned I will be home schooling her too. What are you using for home? I was looking for non common core curriculum.

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  4. I’ve found out that enrichment activities and classes that were part of the curriculum in 2nd grade at my kids’ school have been removed in 3rd grade – except for those few who’ve passed thru the gauntlet of standardized tests, “peer” comparisons (even though the “peers” may be a couple years older) and recommendations from “professionals” who have never even met my children. With fully 2.5 months of the 3rd grade being given over to PARCC testing, teachers are frantic to cram the rest of the expected curriculum into the shortened school year – even going so far as to force 3rd grade curriculum onto 2nd graders, whether they’re ready for it or not! And they’re going to do the same in 3rd grade. Seriously thinking of homeschooling, but it would mean I’d have to drop out of school myself and give up on getting a degree – limiting future work options.

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  5. Jack Fairchild (@jackfairchild74) says:

    The homeschooling movement is very strong and growing. So many of us “in the trenches” have made the decision to turn our backs on the status quo of public education and go it ourselves. My wife and I have discussed doing so ad nauseam. For those of us with the means it is a real and tempting option. We know multiple families in our district choosing to do so. Our parents generation do not understand and stigmatize homeschoolers, but they come from a different place. A place where education was not a for profit enterprise, but one where teachers were cherished and valued. I wish you the best, your family will probably be better off for it. I do have one request, more of a plead really. Please, please do not give up the fight for our schools. Stay engaged, informed, and involved because you are a significant ally in this war.

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  6. Stephanie says:

    Our stories mirror one another! I walked away from a
    Master’s as a reading specialist and tenured position in a public school to “waste” my time at home with my own children. We, too opened up a learning center, so my “unsocialized” children can take workshops with others, if they want. how lucky your children are that you have committed to them as a teacher!

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  7. Tamara says:

    Welcome to homeschooling! We are a year into this adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Many people don’t understand my decision to homeschool, but being able to learn along side my kiddos, choose curriculum and topics that we value, and to learn as we live life are some of the MAJOR benefits. I hope you guys have a great first year!

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