What About School?

There are so many things about school that people love or hate. But one thing that seems to come up more often are the different options about schooling.

I went to public school, as did many of my peers. It’s something we have in common. We expect certain things, whether included in anecdotes from way back when or while reading a fictional story. I’ll admit I open-enrolled to a different school than my assigned choice based on geography after a move during high school, but that seemed the best choice at the time.

Open-enrollment is still a good choice for many students, and they’re choosing it more often. Another choice families are making is to move to the school district where they want their children to go to school. We did take school districts into consideration, though the final three choices of houses when we looked (three years ago while pregnant) all ended up in one school district. Luckily, we didn’t mind that district at all. The elementary school is visible from my house, which we didn’t know when we purchased it.

Some students go to private schools. I’m not sure how they view charter schools, if they’re part of the private phenomenon or something else they haven’t figured out a good word for yet. Private schools often tend to be based on the same principles as public school: learning from a desk with a teacher, though they do their best to make it better than what someone gets in public school – or at least to try to make it seem that way to be worth the cost. Many of the private schools in my area are religious-based. In addition to the regular subjects, students are also taught their particular religion.

Charter schools started in the 1990s and has several success stories. Instead of the usual teacher, desks and books – they try learning in different ways. Some of them incorporate radical learning methods to make things more interesting and fun for students. I remember a few in Chicago with great results teaching kids discipline through yoga.

There are also choices to not attend a school, but to learn from home. Home school options are many and varied, incorporating almost everything from guided learning in the real world to workbook packets to study from at the kitchen table. One of the newer catch words is unschooling. Many times the question for these children is socialization, once the question of whether their academics were up to snuff, and home schooling associations exist to associate with other children. Unschoolers are often out in the world with people of all ages (or that is the premise of unschooling) to learn from everyone and work with all kinds of people while they do it.

Theories abound on the best way for a child to learn. Many burn our public schools in recent years and worry about the state of education. Are you worried about your kids? Do you think I’m worried about mine? While the answer is probably yes to both questions – also consider this from an author’s┬ástandpoint. I write books for young adults. There are so many options for education and learning, and at some point all of those will enter into books.

Is your heroine the kind who was unschooled? Is she struggling with certain things, either as a student or as an adult who never got into the subject because she was never interested in it? Did your hero have issues with public school and rebel against all authority figures? Is your private school student the only one in her class who didn’t go Ivy League when her charter school sister made it?

Maybe all the different kinds of school can be shown in both good and bad lights in fiction, and it’s up to the author on how the characters need it to be for the story. There is truth and there is an ability to push it only so far for believability.

I’m thinking of exploring all of that, somehow. How does school affect your YA protagonist and the other characters in your stories?