Choosing the proper educational path for your children can be a challenge, even from a young age. With so many different options—Montessori, public, private, parochial, Waldorf, homeschooling, etc.—parents have so much to consider. But for parents who disagree about their kid’s education, it can be an even bigger challenge.
Take me and my husband, for example. As someone who didn’t have a good experience in a traditional public school, I personally would like to homeschool our daughter. And since we’re both very lucky to work from home, I want to travel and use exploring the world as part of our daughter’s education. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t convinced. He feels she should go to school, have teachers who guide her education, and be surrounded by other children.
Disagree About Your Kid’s Education? Read This
What can parents do when they disagree about their child’s education?
Here with the help of Dr. Michele Goldman, psychologist and Hope for Depression Research Foundation media advisor, we’re going to discuss how parents can come together and choose what’s best when they disagree about their kid’s education.
Consider your child’s strengths and areas for improvement
It can be easy to get caught up in this argument while forgetting something very important: This is all about your child’s needs. “Consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses, areas that you know they’re going to struggle and will need added support in,” Dr. Goldman advised. “This can help to determine certain schooling options, or at least rule out schooling options, based on your child’s specific needs.”
Consider the reputations of your local schools
Dr. Goldman said that once you’ve discerned your child’s relative strengths and areas for improvement, it’s important to consider the reputations of local schools. Does the local public school have the resources to best aid your child? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the local private schools? Do your research about these local institutions to be as informed as possible about your options.
Discuss your own education experiences and values
To better come to an agreement on your child’s education, assess each parent’s values. “For instance, is one parent placing a value on academic curriculum while the other is considering extracurricular activities or socialization?” said Dr. Goldman. “Neither is wrong, but it might help to understand that with different values, you’re coming to different conclusions about what’s ‘right’ regarding schooling for your child.”
Dr. Goldman said you should reflect on your own learning experiences, since we often base our parenting decisions on our own upbringing. I know I’m personally guilty of this, because I didn’t have the best experience in school and hate the idea of my daughter going through the same.
“Whether your schooling was positive, negative, or neutral, it will inevitably influence how you’re thinking about schooling your child,” said Dr. Goldman. “Listen to your co-parent about their schooling when they were younger, which will help you to understand their perspective.”
Be realistic about homeschooling
For those considering homeschooling, Dr. Goldman said to be realistic about the parent’s ability to school the child. Can the parent school up to a certain point? What happens after that and will the child be okay with the adjustment at that time? Again, while the schooling decision can always be changed, we want to be mindful about the short- and long-term impacts this decision might have on the child.
Keep communication open for co-parents
For parents who are co-parenting while separated or divorced, it’s ideal to resolve the problem via open communication. “However, this might get more complicated because of primary residency and custody agreements (e.g., joint custody),” said Dr. Goldman. “For parents who share legal custody and who cannot come to an agreement, you may want to utilize a mediator or take the decision to the court if necessary.”
Collaboration, open listening, and problem solving are going to be essential skills to employ in this conversation.
Make a pros and cons list
Dr. Goldman said it can be useful to discuss both the pros and cons of your top choice. Of course, it’s probably easy to make a list of positive reasons why you want to school your child in a certain way, but it’s just as important to list the potential downsides. The cons are sometimes more telling than the pros, and the cons may also require some problem solving on your family’s part!
Consider the financial aspects of schooling
Another important factor to consider is the necessary financial resources tied to certain schooling options. Some families want to make the decision about schooling once and only once, which means being mindful of the 12 years of potential financial ramifications that accompany this decision. Other families are okay with the idea of switching to a different type of schooling after a few years. Either way, being realistic about the cost of different education options is important.
Keep love at the forefront
Remember that both parents want what’s best for their child and that you’re on the same team (even if it might not feel like it!). Your opinions on what’s best may differ, but this disagreement comes from a place of love. Sometimes it takes time and open communication to come to an understanding. Putting the child at the center, not the disagreement, can help ease some of the tension that might build when making this choice.