Today marks the last day of National School Choice Week. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Arizona, which has the largest percentage of charter schools in the nation. As someone who attended a Montessori school, a public school, was homeschooled, and even graduated from a charter high school before attending the largest university in the country (Arizona State University), I can attest that school choice works.
Education was one of the most important things to my family, even more valuable than money. Though I couldn’t read until the age of nine, I was always surrounded by books and had an intense desire to learn everything. My parents struggled to find the right school for me. Not able to afford a private school, they sent me to a Montessori school at the age of five. The Montessori system was developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. It is based on independence and freedom of movement, giving students the power to decide when they want to learn something. While I was only in the Montessori system for three years, I contribute these years as being the foundation of my libertarian believes. The values of independence, freedom and respect I learned have stayed with me since my first day as a kindergartner.
When we moved to Arizona from Florida, my parents sent me to what was supposed to be an excellent public school…only to enroll me in a newly formed charter school three months later. This charter school was part of a new revolution in Arizona. It was composed of a group of former public school teachers who were unhappy with the lack of quality education in Arizona. It was there I learned how to read and discovered my love for writing. The small classroom setting allowed me to receive an individualized education. Instead of being treated like a random student on an assembly line, ready to be packaged and filled with random facts, I was given the opportunity to foster my creativity through art, music and creative writing classes, in addition to math and science.
When I was 10 years old, my mom decided it was time to homeschool me. This was the best decision she had ever made in regards to my education. I was at an age when I was becoming more susceptible to peer pressure. Instead, I was able to focus on what I wanted to learn and reading whatever I wanted. By the time I enrolled in high school at 14, I was reading and writing at a college level and was taking classes at the community college.
My high school, American Heritage Academy, was a K-12 charter school modeled after the same liberal arts education as Hillsdale Academy, a private school founded by administrators from Hillsdale College. It was in high school that I was first introduced to the works of John Locke, Fredric Bastiat, Henry David Thoreau, and George Orwell. While I was never good at math and never had enough math skills to develop my interest in science, I was able to strengthen my writing, history, debate, and leadership skills. Perhaps I would have gotten the same education at a public school. Who knows? But what I do know is that I would not have gotten the same individualized instruction from my teachers.
With advances in technology, many aspects of our lives have become specialized. From cars, to phones, to tablets, to clothes, we make our purchases reflect the type of person we want to be. We don’t have to settle with one way of doing things. But when it comes to education, we are told that only one way works. Why not allow parents to choose what is best for their children? It was because of school choice that my parents were able to individualize my education to what I needed at the time. It was a style that may not have worked for other children… but the beauty of school choice is that it doesn’t have to work for everyone.
With everything else in the world becoming more individualized, why not make education individualized as well?