Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Back to School... or not

One week ago, I took my son to kindergarten. Now, for many people, this is something to look forward to. One less toddler in the house, one more starling out of the nest for seven hours a day. For me, it's a reason to cry into my dishwater. I have VERY mixed feelings about school.

We used to send our kids to private school. They received an excellent education in a very moral atmosphere. However, the families at the school were wealthy, that California type of wealthy with Hummers and McMansions and $300 jeans. We were one of few exceptions. I didn't want my children to be teased or rejected for not having what their peers had, so I pieced together designer wardrobes from thrift stores and made sure they opportunities to earn the key items their friends had. Yet I had very real reservations about the whole scene. The materialism permeated the experience, and even interfered with the moral education that was my reason for sending them there. Paying tuition as well as keeping up with the Joneses became way too expensive when multiplied by several kids, so we turned to charter schools.

Our charter school was geared toward science and math. It catered to gifted students, but... not enough. The kids were bored for much of the day after years in a top private school. Luckily, we were accepted to an even more challenging Latin charter school that required this hellaciously long application process. The day after we received the acceptance letter, we found out we were moving to another state. One without California's wide range of charter schools.

That led me to homeschooling. It was a magical two-plus years. I never dreamed I could find so much inner joy spending the day with a house full of small children. To discover new information with them, to see their faces change when they finally 'get it'--it's priceless. It feeds your soul. Homeschooling was an amazing experience, but an insular one. The kids wanted to branch out. And, to be honest, so did I.

Now we are in public schools. The kids are exposed to some questionable ideas, especially the high schooler. We discuss these things as they come up, and he has appeared to be ready for most of the challenges public school poses. At some point, we all must live in this terrible world of ours. His most scandalous moments have involved another homeschooler, so I can't blame that on the evil world. Because we live in an excellent school district, the education is sufficient, even by my lofty standards. Everyone is involved in honors and gifted programs that will prepare them for successful lives.

But that could change tomorrow. I'm just nor feelinf bought into public school. As a matter of fact, I feel excluded by it and vaguely jealous of my children's teachers. They get all day with my awesome kids. Do they know how lucky they are? How cool my children are? What lovely souls they have? I doubt it. As soon as this schooling arrangement doesn't work, we're outta here. We are tentatively back to school. Today at least. Tomorrow... ?

My schooling philosophy? I will do whatever it takes to get these kids an exceptional education, moral and otherwise. We are partners in this path, so I take their feelings very seriously. It's THEIR life. THEIR education. If they become unhappy with their current schooling situation for legitimate reasons, we will change it once again.