No words can possibly express the feeling of joy, awe and responsibility I felt when I held my son for the first time. I had no idea how humbling and yet rewarding parenting would be, and now after three young boys and another on the way, my love for my children grows exponentially with each passing day. The task of raising children is immense and can be overwhelming.
Parents begin by naming their children, feeding them, clothing and housing them, guiding them to do what is right. Parents are a child’s first teachers, first friends, first role models. The first few years of my children’s lives were carefully planned, supervised, and guided to ensure a safe and loving environment for them to grow strong.
Florida law requires that parents must enroll their children in school at the age of 6, but there are various options for the model of school that is available. As another school year begins in Florida, nearly half of the 3.7 million students in pre-kindergarten-12 will attend something other their zoned district school. This is a big change from just a generation ago. But with more options comes more responsibility for parents.
Every child is unique and different. Every school is unique and different. As the primary educator of my children, I have the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding their education.
Thankfully, the educational landscape in Florida provides for options. Parents in Escambia and across the state have school choice opportunities to attend district public schools other than their zoned school, such as IB programs and magnet schools. They can choose public charter schools, private schools, religiously affiliated schools, Catholic parochial schools, or even homeschool (online or otherwise).
These options, though, are only beneficial if they are informed options. Parents must ask questions of schools to ensure the highest quality environments for their kids. “How does this school measure success?” “What is the mission of this school?” “How do you provide for the safety of our children?” “What curriculum do you use?” “Is the school accredited? By whom?” “What are the qualifications of my child’s teachers?”
Every parent has the right to ask these questions of teachers and administrators. In Florida, thanks to the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship and other choice options, parents have the freedom to choose another school or program when they don’t like the answers. However, parents must ask the questions! Teachers and administrators at great schools will be happy to answer questions, and they will be proud to talk about their teachers, programs, mission, and definition of success.
We are lucky to live in a state that has given parents the power to access so many different school environments for their kids. But that’s not where the story ends. Parents have the right to ensure their options are effective. Exercise that right. Ask questions, demand accountability, and inform yourself about the best options for your children. You are your child’s best advocate