Where do you start when you know something is wrong but have no idea how to fix it? That was my dilemma several years ago. I knew that there was something wrong at school with my kids. I spoke with the teachers, the principal, even the board trustee. I couldn't get any answers or even hints of a solution. The problems were numerous - bullying issues, boredom, inappropriate material, awareness on my part that my children could be doing so much more. I eventually realized that the problem was not so much the individual issues but the shape and size of the box that they were in. Sometimes no matter how we try we can't fix a problem when the problem is an inherent part of the situation. To be put bluntly, the problem did not lie with the teachers, the principal, or the board. The problem was the system itself. There was a basic disconnect between how I viewed a good education and they did.
So, when the box doesn't fit, it is time to look outside the box. We hear this expression used all the time and, on some level, we understand what it means but, in another way, we often don't really go outside the box, we just look at the box from another angle. Because what is truly outside the box is the unknown and that is scary. I went outside the box to get my children the education that I wanted for them. I went way outside the box. It was hard; it took work; it was filled with uncertainty. But I discovered something along the way. Because my goal was always to have them educated in a way so that they could make responsible decisions and learn to love learning for its own sake. Because we always strove to open as many doors to their futures as possible. Because we always stay involved with their learning and growing,outside the box was just fine.
Every day I hear parents complaining about children being bored, teenagers hating school, a week spent watching movies. How serious are these failures of our education system? That is a decision to be made by each parent. But let me ask you this: if the box they are in is not working, why are they still in the box? Most importantly, why are they still in the box that failed you as a student? The most common line that I hear when giving people a tour of Mississippi School for the Arts is "Where were you when I was going to high school?" If this is the kind of school that you would have like to have attended, then why shouldn't it be a school for your children?
But even if we are willing to take ourselves into the unknown, we are very hesitant to risk our children. But we need to. If we don't then they will also live to regret that they did not have the opportunity to really learn what education could be like. As Einstein said and is oft repeated, "The surest sign of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result."