Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Public, Private, or Home?

So the other day I was hanging with my family. As my sister is a teacher, the subject rolled around as it often does to education. I mentioned that I think kids take way too many tests nowadays, and that I felt it is getting in the way of learning. As vague as that sounds, that is how I feel. Now my sister happens to agree with me on this score, and said it was just a "fad" in education right now to test so much, and that it would last until a new one came around. My sister sees herself as the de-facto authority of Mr. Personality's education, and has told me that if he ever does poorly in reading, she is going to sit down and have a long talk with him. While it is touching that she cares about him so much, it is also a little bit annoying.

We have had many conversations like this, and from my perspective, it seems there are quite a few fads that school districts try out, usually just to discard them. For example, phonics was used a long time ago when teaching children to read in a school setting. Then someone came around saying they had a better way than phonics, and phonics was dropped out of many a curricula. Lo and behold, not too long ago they decided that phonics was indeed the way to go, and they have incorporated it back in.

This type of flip-flopping on how to teach children in public schools has made me a bit wary. Supposedly, the school district we live in is first-rate, in the top 5% for test scores in California. But I'm not sure that's really saying much, as California is almost last in the US in the per capita amount spent for each student. It seems to me that public school is too policy-driven, with the needs of the actual students very far down in the equation. My sister counters that a good teacher will do what works, regardless of what is handed down from the district.

I have heard good things about Montessori schools, and their method of teaching intrigues me. A little bit of research on my part, however, showed that almost anyone can use the name "Montessori" when establishing a school, they do not even have to register the title with the official Montessori organization. I guess you would have to go to that individual school and find out how they do things, as well as getting the credentials of the teachers. But Montessori schools also tend to be on the expensive side. My sister reserved judgement on the Montessori issue, saying she would have to dig a bit deeper.

I drew the biggest gasp from my family when I mentioned that I would be willing to homeschool Mr. Personality if it came down to it. My sister thinks only religious nuts homeschool their children, and my cousins were predicting a lifetime of social ineptness if he never attended a "regular" school. Never mind that I told them there was actually a large social network for homeschooled children, as well as organized sports and the like. Never mind that I mentioned that I had read an article that said homeschooled children tend to score as well or better on tests than their public counterparts. I was immediately branded some kind of weirdo who wants Mr. Personality to never see the light of day or have any friends. Even Hubba-hubba is extremely opposed to the idea, and gets mad when I mention it.

People are getting so crazy about giving their children every possible academic advantage that they can. One mother in my playgroup was sending her two year old to a preschool that cost six thousand dollars a semester! And he didn't even go full time!

Part of me wants to keep up with the Joneses and go all-out with his education. Then there is another part of me that says I am being paranoid about the whole thing. That the most important factor for his future success in life is a set of parents who actively participate in his education and make him do his homework, that keep tabs on him, and show up to every event he is involved in. Parents that keep the channels of communication open with him, respect his interests, spend time with him, and let him know he is loved.

Success might really be as simple as that.


Piece of Work said...

I completely agree with your last paragraph, and I sure hope it's true. We don't have the money for private school, so public school is going to have to be what we make it. I tend to think of homeschooling as a little odd, too--but just because the thought of being inside with Isaac all day and actually trying to teach him something (nevermind having him *learn*) makes me want to vomit.

Mel said...

I think you're right. I also think there are a lot of different ways you can educate a child and none of them are necessarily right or wrong.

Heather said...

I think you're right too. I know kids who've gone through home school, private school, public school, and Montesorri, and some of them came through shining and others have challenges no matter WHICH educational track they went through.

Anvilcloud said...

Here, we always follow the current California ... about five or ten years after it has been scrapped there. Or so it always seems.

WordsRock said...

Success is certainly much more likely with involved parents, and that applies to both private and public schools.

I think the best educational method varies from child to child. The trick is finding the one that best fits yours.


Karla said...

Oh Gina,
I have to believe that money can't buy happiness, and it certainly can't buy intelligence.

If that was the case, the state of our world is in grave danger considering the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

I guess however, you could argue it can buy you a fancy degree, which impresses and open doors in the world of career opportunities.

I have to agree with Suzanne in that success is more likely attained with parental involvement and finding learning methods that fit a child best.

But hey...I'm not a parent with a child in school, so I can only speak of what I believe in.

Sue said...

I agree with the comment above, that it depends very much on the child. Some benefit from schools of varying types, others don't. We've home educated our sons for the past eight years, and have no regrets. Before that they went to a small church school in the UK (but not a private one - lots of religious schools are state-sponsored there) and that was fine too. On the whole I think now that home education is better wherever possible - it takes the child's unique identity into account, it gives him so many more opportunities for learning and socialising, it frees him from peer pressure and the oppression of timetables and school bells. But not everyone likes it. I'd say: just take a year at a time, and let your child lead the way. If what you choose doesn't work out, it's always possible to try something else.

Elizabeth said...

My son is 16 and has been a Montessori kid since K. He now goes to a Montessori-based high school (technically, Montessori education stops at 6th grade).

He's a smart kid. I know I'm his mother but really, he's smart. I think that he has this basic, innate wisdom that he would still have with or without his education but I do believe he has gotten an incredible education and that has enhanced what was already there.

Of course, his education has cost a fortune but he's an only child so that makes it easy to pour some extra money into it. I would recommend that you at least look into the Montessori schools in your area.

In the end it's your comfort level and intuition that will make the decision for you. Other than that, just pay attention to him and he’ll be fine.