Sunday, November 05, 2006
Thoughts about schools
The discussion about public versus private schools is always going on in our home lately. Next year our little girl will be entering kindergarten. Interestingly, I have come from being a staunch proponent of the public school system, to a supporter of private school education, and then back to public again. From my observations, private schools generally contain children from 2 different family backgrounds: 1) those that highly value education and/or 2) those that have loads of disposable income. Public schools, on the other hand, contain a different mix: 1) those that value education as an opportunity to gain more than textbook knowledge or 2) those who don't want to be there, but don't have a choice. I want a school that contains children from both #1's, without the #2's. I am even considering becoming one of those moms that commutes almost an hour each way to send my child to school. Is this crazy? I mean, how different will the outcomes really be for my children if they attend the public school down the street, versus the prestigious (and highly academic) private school a bit farther off, versus the "ideal" school over the hills and through the traffic-filled woods? As I ponder this, I realize that our decision on where to send our child is influenced less by what the school teaches, and more by the type of peers my child will interact with. Children will all learn to read and write in their own time, but the values they pick up these formative years, those are hard to change. These values become a part of their thinking for the rest of their lives. Who I am, including my insecurities, my self-confidence, and my perception of myself in relation to the world was and is shaped by the people around me. So, to me, it makes sense to think this way. Am I thinking too much into this issue and am I trying too hard to control every unknown in my children's future? Maybe so. But this could be one of the most important decisions we make for our children, especially since, if we were to go the private school route, this could possibly be the school they attend until they leave for college. I am grateful that we have the option to send our children to private school (as long as we don't have any more unintended mishaps). The choices among the over 70 private schools in the area, however, range the whole spectrum - on one end you have the school that boasts of famous and highly esteemed alumni such as Paris Hilton, and on the other you have the earthy, "anthroposophic" school that emphasizes healthy play and artistic learning. Ultimately, I want my children to go to a school that values my child's education as a high priority and inspires them to reach their highest potential. Every parent wants the same, but how a school achieves these goals is what parents differ on the most.