Opinion: Public and homeschool teachers are on the same side

Apr 2, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: 9:43 am

"Society pits homeschooling and public schooling against each other, and it's a farce," said Kimber...

FILE: Students listen as kindergarten teacher Stephanie Cobabe gives a math lesson during a full-day kindergarten class at East Sandy Elementary School in Sandy on Feb. 27, 2023. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

“Society pits homeschooling and public schooling against each other, and it’s a farce,” said Kimberly Gardner to me. She’s a public school teacher with 32 years of experience in elementary and middle school. “There are fantastic parents out there who have the time and the ability to put into really quality educational experiences for their kids … I commend those parents who are able to do that.”

Nikole Bergren homeschools her kids. She decided to keep her four kids home after the pandemic because of health issues.

“I have an insane amount of respect now for public school teachers,” Bergren told me. “Hours and hours a day with way more kids than I have at home. That’s a ton of work.”

(That was a public school teacher praising a homeschool mom and a homeschool mom praising a public school teacher. I just want to make sure we all got that.)

Public and homeschool teaching – rewarding and exhausting

Both Bergren and Gardner spoke about how rewarding teaching is. They also both described how emotionally exhausting it is sometimes. They described wide swings on the same day.

“There are big highs and big lows,” Bergren said.

These two teachers have so much in common. They both experience behavioral problems. As Gardner explains,: “Often society is so critical that we’re not doing our jobs. Come and be in my shoes a day and see what I’m going through. Give me some other suggestions.”

“It’s a tradeoff,” Bergren said. “There are great things about homeschool. There’s flexibility and individualized education, but in public school, there are wonderful social aspects, and they learn things from teachers that I wouldn’t even think to teach them.”

What do we not understand about teaching?

I asked both my public and homeschooling teachers this question.

“One of the misconceptions some people have is, ‘Anyone can go in and teach. It’s an easy job. If you don’t have any other skills, be a teacher,'” Gardner answered. “I just have to laugh when I hear that. It’s not just a job.”

That is the most profound common thread between public school and homeschooling teachers. They both love the kids. They worry and fret and rework and try their hardest to help the children learn all they can.

Thoughts on recent legislation affecting public and homeschool teaching

I asked both women how they felt about the law that was passed this legislative session in Utah that will give a $6,000 raise to public school teachers and $8,000 in financial support for homeschooling parents.

“Yeah for the raises for teachers,” Bergren said. “I don’t have personal experience in a public school classroom, but I do believe they deserve to be paid more than they’re being paid. As far as the scholarships for homeschooling parents, it sounds like a great start.”

(I love how supportive she is of all teachers.)

“I look at what the kids I work with are dealing with,” Gardner said. “Most of their families can’t do homeschooling. When it’s posed as ‘this can benefit everybody,’ I think — not really. These kids need free and reduced lunch, before and after school programs, and things that only public schools can provide. So, any money taken out of the schools — it hurts.”

These two remarkable women shared so much more about their experiences teaching different ages, their challenges, and what they wish people knew about their work.

You can hear the full interview Sunday at 8 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio and in the podcast

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View.

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Opinion: Public and homeschool teachers are on the same side