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I’ve regurgitated this post from one I wrote over at HDYDI.com. Because I can.
As mid-August approaches, I join a few million other people in my city as we brace ourselves for the onslaught of School Traffic. In the meantime, I’ve noticed an uptick of posts in both my neighborhood parents and my Mothers of Multiples group forums related to school issues and childcare. And I guess it’s because I have kids now that back-to-school has me thinking about more than just highway congestion and school zones, but also about developing our parenting/education philosophies and future intentions.
And though what I’m about to say surely is full of sweeping generalizations and un-unstudied opinion on education systems, I feel that public schools have become all about teaching-to-the-test with a visible reduction or elimination in subject matter such as physical education, art, and music. Do I think any and all public schools are horrible? No. But I do think that public schools focus on one, maybe two types of learning styles.
So what are the alternatives? Well, there are private schools with expanded curriculum. Yet for us, by virtue of tuition, there’s the…Cost Of Tuition. How the heck do people afford it? And with more than one child? Though to me, the bigger cost of private education is limiting access to the demographic and socio-economic fabrics that make up our larger community. The ones we’ll turn them loose on in twelve years, expecting them to live and work together.
There’s public and private magnet schools, but goodness, so many Labels and compartmentalization and boxing like “the math kid” or the “health careers kid” or the “performing arts kid”. I was lucky (that’s not the right word), to have been labeled Gifted from an early age. (Clearly, somebody screwed up!) I say “lucky” because I have been witness to kids being treated differently depending on if they are “regulars” students or “honors” students. Though I can’t quote directly, I do know there are studies that prove this to be true. In my experience, it meant that I was encouraged to think freely, more easily forgiven when I didn’t conform, and given more say in what courses I took. The very type of individualization that would be beneficial to so many, but is often limited to not enough. Gifted kids are excused their ‘genius’ when the same actions by an underperformer merely gets them labeled as trouble. That kinda didn’t have anything to do with magnet schools, but I’m thinking out loud here anyway.
Oh, and homeschooling. At its best, kids get immersed in their environment and learning is a natural process with appropriate amounts of structure and double doses of discipline from both the parent and child to make it work. Backers say kids are smarter, do better in college, and know better how to deal with all kinds of people and situations. Detractors say they don’t get socialized appropriately or that the parents are granola wackos and religious extremists. With unlimited financial resources, and should I notice either of my children to have learning styles that don’t correlate with the more traditional auditory learning and/or reading/writing preference-learning, we’d lean more towards the option of homeschooling rather than the current local public school system. And I consider myself pretty middle of the road.
Speaking of which, being that our kids are ONLY SIXTEEN MONTHS OLD, our ‘middle of the road’ will be Montessori school, probably entering sometime between 18-24 months. At this age, with two working parents, we’re still in a situation where we have to pay for childcare, so I’m less inclined to get worked up about shelling out money for ‘schooling’ at this time. We like Montessori because it fosters self-directed learning, but still offers some structure. And more importantly, encourages independence, respectful treatment of others, and integration as respected individuals in the environment in which they live, and PLAY. It’s a lot of work and a lot more messy, but we strive to do things in a “Montessori way” at home, too. Once we hit Kindergarten or 1st grade age, I’m not sure what we’ll do, or even what our finances will allow.
No matter which educational methodology we approach and ultimately choose, there are pros and cons to all of them. None of them are perfect. And we as parents have equal (if not more) responsibility to continue their education outside the walls of any school. I mean, I find it to be Jennifer’s and my responsibility to teach things like manners and learning that there is a world outside ourselves, and a sense of community, and spiritual development, and fostering self-confidence without self-absorption. I suppose in the end, we are required to do what’s best for us and our child(ren), studying them for their learning styles, getting involved with educators without becoming that parent. After all, we have to be the change we want to see. I just wish the process didn’t come with so damn many variables! And wait lists! And residential zoning requirements!
If your kids are young like mine, have you begun considering what’s important to you and what’s not as it relates to education? If you’ve hit the Kinder/1st grade era, what kind of environment are your kids in? What was your thought process? Are they thriving or have you had to tweak things? If you have older kids, say upper junior high or middle school, have you been pleased with your choices? Would you have done anything differently?