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School in South Mississippi: A Love/Hate Relationship

School in South Mississippi: A Love/Hate Relationship

Every parent has a different view of public vs. private vs. homeschool. Some have mixed feelings. Truth be told, it depends upon the child.

Lucedale resident Andrea Ardoin is the parent of Cameron Greene (age 22), Calise (age 18), Anthony (age 11), and Andrew (age 8).  She is an expert in educational choices. 

Cameron began his education at Faith Academy, a Christian private school in Mobile, Ala. It was a good fit, but as the Ardoin family grew, private school became too expensive. Ardoin regrets withdrawing him.

“I liked Faith Academy because they had Bible class,” her son said. This is of course a personal choice, but Cameron didn’t like the fact that public schools take the Bible out of education. He felt he wasn’t prepared for life after graduation. He didn’t learn practical skills, such as establishing credit and financial planning.

His sister Calise is a senior at George County High School. She is studious and thrives in public school. She’s recipient of a scholarship at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The scholarship allows students to take classes such as Business Fundamentals, Horticulture, and Welding to prepare for future careers.   

“I loved that the teachers and staff were available to aid students at any moment of time in my last four years,” she said, explaining that school personnel at George County High School are caring and helpful. Now that she’s moving on to junior college, she plans to get an associate’s degree in Science and a Physical Therapy Assistant certification. Her future plans include a B.S. in Human Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her career goal is to become a General Surgeon.

Public school was difficult for brothers Anthony and Andrew. Their mom Andrea and her husband, Chad, decided to homeschool with some help from Andrea’s sister, Cassie Hearndon. This family loves homeschooling because it’s flexible, and parents can see exactly what their kids are learning. They use Abeka Academy program, plus Teaching Textbooks for mathematics. For Cassie Hearndon, a pre-med major in college, teaching is a calling. She writes the science part of the curriculum herself. As rewarding as homeschooling is, Andrea admits there are challenges. It’s a commitment that requires organization, and it can be arduous and demanding to be at home all day.

Perkinston native Callie Cook is the mother of two daughters who attend Liberty Preschool in Wiggins. She said she hates high-stakes testing for grade promotion, and loves the fact that teachers incorporate technology into assignments for students.

Nicole Weeks Harvey’s daughter, Natalia, is a third grader at L. T. Taylor Intermediate School in Lucedale. 

“What I love about my daughter’s schooling is how being in another environment away from home really helps who she is as a little person and who she will become,” Weeks Harvey said. “She interacts with others in a way that allows them to pull other traits and characteristics out of her. I’m not sure kids would be so well-rounded without that outside interaction.”  

“Something I don’t like,” she confessed, “is I wish teachers, and especially school administrators, saw the value parents can offer to schools, whether it be hands-on volunteer work or simply guidance and opinion.”

George County mom Alice H. Knight parents Jami, a 5th grade Honor Roll student at Benndale Elementary. Due to Covid-19, she selected distance learning for this past school year.

“The teachers and staff are very attentive and patient with the students,” Knight explained. “I love the fact that they keep an open communication with the parents.”

The small school offers a “Parent University” where parents “come in one evening a month to be taught by the teachers so that we can assist our children at home with homework.” 

One downside is a lack of music classes at her child’s school. Cutting funding of arts education is common across the educational board.

“I love music because it helps kids express themselves in a different way,” Knight said. “I would love to see it brought back in the school. Of course common core is not my favorite, but it comes with life changes. I’ve learned to cope and try my best to deal with it.”

“Overall,” Knight concluded, “I am fortunate that my daughter gets to be a part of a school district that is excelling and continues to find ways to make things better.” 

Regardless which option parents choose, our educators are steadfast in trying to provide the best possible experience.

Freelance writer Mary C. Fairley lives in Lucedale, Mississippi, with her husband, Buddy. She is a graduate of University of Southern Mississippi and is a retired Medical Technologist. Mary is a mother and grandmother. She is contemplating where to plant daffodils. Her work has been featured in Country Woman, DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South, Mississippi Magazine, Parents & Kids-South Mississippi, and Parents & Kids-MS Delta.

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