Choosing a school, choosing a value

I sometimes forget that I’m a mother also.  Sometimes I look at my girls in confusion, wondering how they got here and how I am supposed to take care of them.  (I do know the answer to those questions- you don’t have to remind me)

My eldest has just turned 4.  Since she is teaching herself to read and thinks adding and subtracting is fun, I think I should put her in kindergarten next year instead of preschool. 

We’ve been checking out schools.  There are the public and Catholic schools across the street, which my neighbourhood informants tell me are unable to support all their students’ needs and end up catering to those falling behind. 

 Both my husband and I went to public schools. 

It wasn’t a good experience.  I learned that getting high marks and having ill-fitting hand-me-downs was social suicide for a girl.  I also seemed unable to change either.  Teachers told me that fitting in socially was more important than exploring my strengths, so I hid in the background.  And skipped as many classes as possible, which was a lot since I was quiet.

My husband learned that having a bully in your class was detrimental to your health.  Since he refused to collaborate and steal porn magazines or pick on other kids, he became the target. 

Lil T’s shop-a-holic grandma and aunt won’t let her be the kid with weird clothes, but I am afraid she’ll still be smart.  And I hope she won’t go along with the bullies.

So, the public schools here seem like a bad idea, even though entirely convenient since they also have after school care.

We have other options like charter schools.  Military learning styles, sitting feet flat on the floor, hands folded.  There is a requirement that all students be at or above grade level.

Parents who want to know if sending them to that kindergarten will give them an advantage in getting into Yale.  Principals who stress that Christmas is CHRISTmas.  It is full of the Christian kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to the Christian private schools.

I think Lil’T would do fine.  Her little friends from bible study all go to those schools. 

But, when she is 50, what will she have really learned?  To hate uniforms?  To love spelling bees?  To do 1 1/2 hours of homework every night instead of being involved in sports?

So, I am planning to register her in a bilingual Spanish school.  It is small and caters to both kids with disabilities and those with gifts. 

They learn to dance!  If I had learned to dance Merenge or Salsa in elementary school instead of being told dancing was evil, I may always not injure my husband at his work party.

16 thoughts on “Choosing a school, choosing a value

  1. HeIsSailing says:

    School was absolute hell for me. I can say in all honesty that it was 12 wasted years of my life. I learned absolutely nothing from school that I did not learn first at home or from my refuge in the public library (for instance, my mother taught me to read, write, etc). I was the skinny nerd kid in dopey, old hippie clothes with patches and coke bottle glasses. Since I skipped my second grade and advanced straight to third, I was always the youngest and smallest in my class. Add to that my sexual confussion, ineptness around girls, my peculiar taste in music, etc…

    … in other words, I was bullied to no end for 12 years. My God I hated school.

    After flunking out of my senior year in high school, and faced with having to repeat the whole year, my mother decided I needed discipline and enrolled me in the local Baptist School.

    The education at this school was the worst. I learned all about how Jesus wanted us to keep our hair short, and the girls learned that Jesus wanted them to wear ankle length dresses and no hair ornaments. But that school did have one thing going for it that I will always be grateful for.

    School uniforms.

    Sure, I hated it at first. A stupid white shirt with a blue tie and black pants. I really hated the fact that I could not hide behind my long hair, since it had to be trimmed well over my ears and off my collar. But I quickly learned that that one simple instillation of discipline, school uniforms, made the class bareable. With that uniform, the bullying ceased. Rich or poor, cool or nerd, in or out, sosh or greaser, that uniform made us all THE SAME. Class distinctions disappeared.

    30 years later, I still remember that lesson. For what it is worth.

    • prairienymph says:

      The charter schools have uniforms. I like uniforms for the same reasons I like naturism: no class distinctions. I wish I would have had them in my school.
      Lil’T is like one of my brothers who uses clothes as an artistic medium to create so I am worried uniforms may not go so well.

      My husband escaped the bullying after he moved to an academic school with an emphasis on music. I doubt discipline was what you needed, maybe just a peer group that thought being nerdy was cool?

  2. Lorena says:

    Oh your kids will love you for helping them learn Spanish. I’ve never met a person who didn’t wish they spoke the language. Or, at least that’s what they tell me. Are they pandering?

  3. Ahab says:

    In an increasingly diverse society, knowing Spanish will be a boon for your little one later in life. This sounds like an intruiging school!

    As for schooling, I attended both Catholic school (K-3) and public school (4-12), and both were unpleasant experiences. I was always the outcast, and in both schools, teachers and counselors encouraged kids to fit in rather than be true to themselves.

    • prairienymph says:

      I hope the school will be a good choice, there is this pressure to pick the one and only best choice or I’ll ruin my kids forever. That anxiety may come more from lack of deep sleep.
      I loved that the principal deffered to the teachers and admin staff often in his presentation and that the teachers seemed so passionate. That style of leadership appeals to me.

      I imagine our teachers and counselors thought they were advising us to conform for our best interests, but the message was “there is something wrong with you, pretend to be like everyone else.”

  4. St.ain't says:

    Your children will have the #1 advantage in any school you choose because you will be an involved parent. As a teacher, most parents of my students saw school as simply long term child care. I only heard from them when problems arose, and only then to blame the teacher or school.
    No matter the choice; public, private, religious, non-denominational, your input can influence you child’s education more than the school.
    That being said, I think your choice sounds great. I specifically chose where we lived based on the schools available because I didn’t want my kids raised in a narrow, white-centric setting as I was. Good luck, Lil ‘T!

    • prairienymph says:

      That must be frustrating for you to be treated like day care and responsible for the full education and character development of a child you only see a few hours a day.

      Very good reminder that most education comes from outside school. My parents’ love of learning still influences me.

      We live in an immigrant rich neighbourhood and part of me wants my kids in the public system to interact with them. However, I’ve been told by other parents that because there are so many non-English speakers in the classes that the English speaking kids are given the task of teaching the language. There just aren’t enough resources there.
      So, I’ve decided the best way to make a difference is not to send out my kid to help newcomers adjust, but to invite the mothers over. Which is much easier said than done.

  5. DoOrDoNot says:

    I followed you here from HeIsSailing’s blog. I, too, think your school choice sounds very appealing. We aren’t too far removed from making school choices (2 boys, ages 7 and 4). You know, you’ll probably like the school, but if you don’t, it’s not really a big deal in the scheme of things to just change schools. Sometimes, we just can’t know the right choice til we pick one!

  6. Sounds like a good choice to me, prairie nymph. I have strong feelings against public education for all of the reasons already expressed. And the fact that you are encouraging your little ones to pursue their own interests and talents will ensure they have a wonderful education overall.

  7. Learning a second language from the get go is a good thing. Spanish is a great choice as from there French, Italian, and Portuguese give you access to a great deal of the world’s peoples.
    Your cousins went to public schools and did well. Of course, their mother was a volunteer until she went back to work. LynnieC was in Grade 6. We also had some wonderful teachers in elementary with whom we are still in contact. High school was big enough the kids found their own peer groups.
    Secret to successful schooling is parental support for the kids AND the teachers. The teachers cannot do it alone and neither can parents which is why I oppose home schooling. Keeping kids in a box does not keep them “safe”.

    • prairienymph says:

      My husband went to the same high school as your kids. I think it was a great school for the quiet and nerdy.

      Yes, some homeschooling does scare me. I am friends with enough homeschooled to see how it has impacted them.
      There is a woman in our neighbourhood who wants to homeschool her boys because “there is so much garbage out there in the world”, “I don’t mind sacrificing my career for my kids” and “I would miss my kids if they were gone for 6 hours a day.” Poor kids. She also said she would never let her boys play with dolls with a shudder. Yes, she is a conservative Christian.

      We have discussed homeschooling as an option for a year or so. For example, if I was to apply for a program in the Philappines.

      • When I was maybe three and Ross was a baby I wanted a doll that I saw in the local general store in Cavell. Dad bought it for me. The lady at the store told me that boys don’t play with dolls and dad told her that was nonsense. Looking back, I can hardly believe it but Dad could see no reason that a man couldn’t help raise babies. Given the farm work, he never had a lot of time or energy, which is where the division of labour into men’s and women’s work originated, but it certainly had nothing to do with his ideology.

      • prairienymph says:

        I’ve found that farm women have a more fluid gender identity. I think urbanization crystallized gender roles into harder forms. On a farm, work needs to be done and everyone has to pitch in. My farm friends loved having their dads around during the day; even if they were busy they were still accessible.
        I always thought Grandpa’s lack of time had more to do with procrastination and the subsequent extra work that came from that.

  8. Chris B says:

    I have mixed feelings about public education. On the one hand I did have some bad experiences, but for the most part I had good teachers that loved what they did. Maybe it was just the schools I went to.

    In Edmonton at least, you can send your kids these days to almost any school you want. The result being that parents almost never send kids to the school they live in, kids have long bus rids to the “school of choice”, and many inner city schools are either having to diversify through some special program (say German immersion) to stay open or forced to close. The result is many mature neighbourhoods no longer have public schools and no longer viable neighbourhoods for families to live in. The families flocking to the suburbs are demanding new ones be open. Your choice sounds like a good one, but I’m just ranting in general about a complex problem on my mind these days and a hot topic of discussion.

    On another note, I have a friend that is going to be sending her son to Waldorf school and have heard good things about it.

    • prairienymph says:

      Here you have to send your kids to the local school unless you want a specialty program. The bilingual school is within biking distance of our house, but it does seem sad that we have 4 elementary schools between here and there.
      I talked to a woman who was artist-in-residence of the school closest to our house. She said that it wouldn’t be the first choice for her kids, confirming our decision. I guess we are part of the problem now, but I don’t feel right about sending our kids as ‘missionaries’ to the declining schools.
      I’ve heard good things about Waldorf schools too.

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