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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

school woes

So. I have been holding off on this topic because I didnt know - pardon my language - what the hell to write, because I don't know - again pardon - what the hell to do.

And I still don't.

But I figured maybe some of you have input or are in the same tough spot so I figured I would write just this: I don't know what the hell to do about school for little man next year.

I really don't. And it sucks. Because I am the type that likes knowing.

Who ever knew parenting at school age - making all these huge decisions - would be so tough! I know everyone says you can change if its not the right fit but its his first introduction to the educational world, the world of learning that is so important to me and dada. I dont want it to suck. I don't want it to be "okay." I want it to be PERFECT.

Our woes are thus - little man turns five in August. So first off, do we delay a year? EVERYONE says you should. But he is begging to read and go to school (sure I can teach him, and we are. His favorite game lately is the Hominem Game. I don't even know if I am spelling Hominem right. Am I ? Do you even remember what hominems are??? Exactly my point. - for the record the game is thus: "HEY," he yells out. "SEE and SEA. HOMINEM COMING UP!!" It's slightly adorable. But I digress.)

[Edited to add: Dada just gently informed me, a week after this post that indeed, sea and see are HOMOPHONES, not HOMONYMS. Ummm. Oh. Right. An example of the latter would be lie ("dont lie to me little man!") and lie ("lie DOWN little man") Just didn't want to be responsible for any misinformation, my dear reader. HA.]

My point is not "oh my brilliant child," my point is, he WANTS to do school stuff. And sure, I am down with the whole homeschool thing, maybe, at some point, if I get my organic dairy goat farm and my yurt, especially then (insert winky face guy.) For now though. Well, baby number three arriving in September changes things. Having something for him to do, whether its school or preschool or whatever, would kind of be really really REALLY great. For now.

And we were thinking our local adorable Waldorf school was the answer, we were down to signing away our life in private school payments, and then we thought, well, you know, paying THIS MUCH to have our kid bake bread and dig in the dirt is all well and good but he does that at home with me. FOR FREE. I can just invite neighborhood kids over to bake bread and then send them out to dig in our mud pits (which we really do have) and voila, we have recreated the Waldorf kindergarten experience.

Also, we realized that the private school world (while great for many, not knocking it...not totally) can tend to contribute to a bit of an entitlement kind of complex down the line, and well, we aren't so into that. Plus, diversity is important to us. We live in a very diverse neighborhood and this school was, umm, really white.

So. There is that. So then I think, crap. What do we do then??? So I look into public kindergarten. Well, our school district does full day kindergarten, which is great for working parents but, a lot for our little man I think, with no preschool experience under his belt and a little sister at home who ADORES him (I also then go, all day with little miss and baby and no brother to play with her and help out??? NO WAY. Plus it starts at 7:30 in the morning? WHAT THE HECK??) But then I find this nicey-nice sounding public "open school"  which we could opt into...which has half day kindergarten...but, which is full for this fall. And there are a few other nice little charter schools and a French immersion school to look into, but again, too late for those for this year.


Back to square one.

So we visit a little private school of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. I like this. It was a sweet little school and the kindergarten only meets three half days a week. Kinda perfect, right? But...they do the whole desk, bookwork thing which might be too much for my little man at 4-turning-5. Still an option though.

We don't HAVE to have him in school until age six. So we could do nothing. But he wants something. So I start looking at preschool programs. I find this great one, The Forest School, a nature immersion program that has kids outside in the woods EVERY DAY. Some Waldorf, some tweaks (a heightened focus on being kind and social skills and the Golden Rule because the teacher saw that lacking in the local Waldorf private school world.) Plus, playing in the woods all day, eating porridge in your little wood lean-to under the trees. How lovely! We are visiting next week. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

So maybe the little forest school for the summer and the small private school for the year? Or the little forest school all year too and then trying to get into the half day program at the public open school next year? But then, will he be bored hanging with three-five year olds all year, instead of learning letters in a class? There is also a part of me that is fearful his little domineering self would be the class bossy kid in that scenario. He tends to play much better with older kids and I could see him being the sweet youngest boy in the class if we did send him (to the little private kindergarten....but do I want him in a private school environment, even though they have much more focus on personal development and social skills?? ACK!!!! And round and round my tortured mind goes.)


Where is my goat farm??? I want to run away and hide from this decision.

Ideas? Advice? Opinions?


  1. My suggestion is to forget about where you want him this year - look into where you want him to go for grades 1 to 6. Once you figure that out, see what that school has for a kindergarten program and if it suits your family or not. If it doesn't suit your family, you don't have to do kindergarten, you could look into preschool for him, I doubt a preschool would turn him away if you registered him for a four year old class, maybe some even have a five year old class. If you put him in kindergarten at one school now that you don't plan on keeping him at for grade 1, then come the end of the school year you might feel pressured to keep him there for all of elementary and he would already have friends there, etc. Good luck.

  2. Oh my, my daughter loves to play the Homonym game too -- and her pre-k teacher is completely befuddled!

    I think I've told you part of our school history before. My kiddo began a Montessori preschool two 6-hr days a week when she was two months shy of 3. She thrived. Then we put her in a preschool closer to home that was five 6-hr days a week, with desks and uniforms. She thrived there too. After that, she was in a Jewish preschool five 8-hr days a week. Again, she thrived. It wasn't till this year -- a public bilingual pre-k program with an afterschool program -- that she started to become frustrated with school. She's the oldest in her class (she was nearly 5 when she started), so maybe it's that. Maybe it's having a teacher who isn't interested in learning what a homonym is. Whatever the case, we're moving her to a public bilingual charter school with an emphasis on sustainability next year, with the hope it's a better fit.

    Parenting is a series of difficult decisions, never knowing what choice is really the best. Listen to your child, your own heart, and your finances, and I have no doubt that you'll make a decision that will be good for your family. Maybe not perfect, but then again, what is?

  3. We're doing Charlotte Mason-style homeschooling, using a program called Heart of Dakota. I would totally vote for homeschooling (because it sounds like you aren't sure what he's ready to do and you could adapt it as you go) except for baby #3. We're having baby #4 at almost the same time, but for us it will be our third of homeschooling and BOTH our middle children will be going to preschool. So I think we'll survive.

    Anyway, I think that the Charlotte Mason school sounds good for the fall. It's only three half-days a week, and CM focuses on *short* lessons, so it will be school, but it shouldn't overwhelm. Also, I think that character education and Christian values are a big part of CM philosophy, so there hopefully wouldn't be too great a feeling of entitlement there. Even if there is, I doubt it would affect him too greatly in the course of one year. Then next year you could switch if you weren't happy with the environment of that specific school.

    Also, a thought that occurs to *me*, being me, later in the year you could use his days off to try out some light homeschooling and see how it suits you and him before you make the decision for the next year.

  4. oh, sara, how many choices today's parents have!! ..recalling the "old days" when all you did was send your kid to school -- the only school -- the public school--and hope for the best. like your grandpa Lynn used to say: "I know you'll make the right decision" and I agree with his thoughts.! xo g'ma marian

  5. With parents as involved and intentional as you guys are any of the choices you've listed will go well. I lean towards less formal schooling at younger ages, but that's just me. It's just my opinion, but I think and feel strongly that all day kindergarten of any variety is really sad for kids.

    We did Charlotte Mason homeschooling for the most part. Started out with Abeka and Calvert - a program you might like if you decide to do homeschooling.

    Relax. With parents as involved and intentional as you guys are it's really hard to screw them up for life making a kindergarten decision.

  6. Oh, school choices! It snowballs so quickly from "What should we do this fall" to "Have I completely screwed up his chances at Harvard?? Have I put him off learning for life??!!" I totally know the feeling, bc we've stood on that ledge and had to talk ourselves down from it. Trust me. This. will. be. OK.

    As I've mentioned before, we're BIG fans of Montessori. It's just a great fit for our kids and our lives. My kids have been in 5-day-a-week programs for years, partly bc the Montessori model is a 3-hr work period 5 days a week, and partly bc I was working part-time myself for most of those years. I can tell you that both of my kids absolutely love it, and I don't feel like they've missed out on "being kids" bc they were at school. A lot of that is the school's philosophy--I'm so not a fan of the traditional model, asking young kids to sit and listen. They need to move and do! It has been so much fun watching both kids become more independent, more self-confident, more social, and more knowledgeable throughout the process. I think my favorite thing about the schools we've been at is the focus on classroom community and being good citizens, focusing on empathy and graciousness.

    As far as the age-thing, that is something we spent a lot of time thinking about. Both of my kiddos have early Sept. birthdays. Claire was ready to head to first grade at 6, and we had no doubts about that. Daniel, however looked like he needed more time. We decided to give him a "growth year" and next year he will be 6 and starting kindergarten. (Still the same classroom, though, since they're grouped in 3-year blocks, but he'll stay 9-3 for 3 days a week.) Now that all the agonizing has passed, we're so happy we made that decision, and he's in the right place. But holy crow that was tough!! I kept thinking about him being 17 and starting college, and I just couldn't picture that working out well. So I'll say that if you're having doubts, don't be afraid to give him more time. Your Mom instincts are probably right.

    There are so many benefits to each approach, that you just have to give one a try and see if it fits. I know you want it to be PERFECT for your little man, but no program, no matter how wonderful, is perfect. But every program has something to offer, and it sounds like any of the choices you listed would be great. You'll be fine. He'll have an adventure. You'll all learn from the process and grow together! :-)

  7. I love the discussion. I don't personally have the finances for private education, and I do have a commitment to public education, since, well, I'm already paying for it. And homeschooling/unschooling sounds so fantastic, but soooo much work for a momma. But, I agree, if your only option is all-day KG for a kiddo that has not done formal education before, it's hard to convince yourself that'll be a good fit. Does the district have any public early childhood education options? One thing that might be worth mentioning is that while I love our preschool for my daughter, it is the perfect fit, I'm sure other parents come home and throw their hands in the air, because they do very little "schooling" in the traditional sense of letters, numbers, etc. My daughter has been doing that kind of stuff forever, so that matters little to me. What I hoped for her was that she learned appropriate social cues, friends, etc. My greatest fear for her school experience is that she gets labeled a problem because she can't deal with the rigors of finding your coathook, sitting in a circle and keeping your hands to yourself, minding authority, what have you. Don't get down if the perfect option is out there, but it won't work out for this upcoming year... in the big scheme of things, you can just punt for one year. Trust that you can't screw this one up, no matter what, because at the end of the day Little Man will come home to you.

  8. If it were me, and it kind of was, I would not put him in kindergarten. The waiting a year is about more than academics. It's about socialization and self-control and all the other lovely things that they have more of a year later. Mo is a 7/1 birthday and, despite him being a smart, school-loving, authority pleaser (I think this is a very common first child thing) with two years of preschool under his belt, we waited. I've never regretted it for a second. The maturity he gained between five and six made so many things about the school experience easier.

    We did a fancy, private preschool (Dodge Nature Preschool) for the second of Emory's three(!) full years of preschool (he was absolutely desperate for social interaction, so we started him right at three). It was great, but, honestly, he didn't love it more than he loved his cheap little parks and rec preschool a few blocks away at a neighborhood park. I don't remember where you live, but it might be worth looking into whether there are cheap neighborhood options available. Having a great philosophical match is great, but most preschools are play based and pretty mellow.

    Good luck and come to playgroup sometime and we can talk more about this! I totally understand how fraught this whole decision can be. :)

  9. blogger. is. stupid. i cant stay logged in or comment.

    this is sara, by the way.

    thanks for your comments. you are lovely encouraging people....

    we have visited another school, a preschool with a five year old room! totally affordable! really sweet! it might work. forest school is next week. will totally let you know.

    now lets see if this posts...


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