Friday, August 13, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

It's been quite some time eh? We've been traveling and I've been wrestling with big issues in my head like education, parenting, and generally being a mom, so while many an excellent blog post has been written in my head, none have actually been put to paper. So sorry you have missed out on my current neuroses!

This morning in the shower, I had an epiphany. I decided that in September, Peanut would start up in our Preschool Homeschool Co-op that she participated in last year, and I would no longer consider any other preschool or class options for her right now. I should probably start at the beginning...

I have been thinking A LOT about preschool and education lately, as I have been reading everything by Alfie Kohn that I can get my hands on. I had been considering having Peanut join a public school preschool special education class as one of the peer role models, and while the benefits would be great, the idea of public school was not really appealing to me. I never thought I would be in this position. My entire career has been in public service, much of it in the infant and toddler portion of the public special education system. I have always been a supporter of public education, and I think I still am...I'm just not sure I want to be "that mom" at the PTA meeting who disagrees with literally everything. At this point, I am feeling pretty strongly about limiting the random rewards that schools are famous for - get a certificate for a happy meal for every book you read, candy and snacks provided for remaining quiet in class - and I am feeling even more strongly about the loss of our teachers. We have wonderful teachers who can no longer focus on inspiring curiosity and encouraging learning, but are in a punitive system themselves and are teaching to the test. It is no longer about education, it is about sorting children. Reading groups, grading systems, tracks - it is all sorting. Kids staying quiet to learn...seems really absurd. Shouldn't they be excited and interested and talking with each other? I'm so afraid of the curiosity within my baby being squashed like a bug on the very first day. There is so much more about public school that makes me nervous, but at this point it is all superfluous.

So then I considered Waldorf education, which is really laid back and matches mine and Peanuts style as far as how important (or not) it is to learn letters and numbers by age 3 or whenever it is deemed necessary to learn them in order to "get ahead" (of what or whom I'm not really sure). It would provide an opportunity for her to explore with me and without me in a relaxed atmosphere with lots of art, music, and movement. The teachers are all loving and the mood is accepting of everyone. But really, while it all looks grand, it is an hour drive each way and I am not prepared to do that for a 3 year old who may or may not speak at all during the whole semester.

Then I went back to the idea of public school, and then I saw Consuming Kids. One of the things I dislike about public schools (and have always railed against) is the corporate influences. Soda machines in schools to raise money and lesson plans created by major companies and industries just make my blood boil. The film identifies some schools where they have gone so far as to sell the naming rights to the gym or auditorium in exchange for advertising. They also talked a bit about bus radio which was fairly crazy. Talk about a captive audience, and talk about taking advantage of childhood innocence. And lots of schools went for it before the public outcry was so huge they shut it down. Sheesh. So yeah. We're back on the homeschoolers bus. Which I can honestly say I have never ever ever had any clue that I would be even remotely considering going this route. Even after our co-op experiment started last year, I still assumed that we would be sending the kids to public kindergarten. Now I am not so sure.

We have two years to make that big K decision, so for now I am focusing our energies where they should be. Peanut and Pumpkin (probably starting in January for him) will do our homeschool coop, and we can spend our free time exploring whatever floats their boat. I figure we can pair our "field trips" with what we are already doing in school - as we explore each monthly theme, we will spend some time during the week diving in further so we can all learn and have fun together while broadening her horizons a bit. So during our Visual Arts month, I expect to hit some museums and probably some working art studios. We will likely be harvesting during our harvest theme :) but we also have many festivals and the farmers markets as well as working farms to explore.

Right now, Peanut is focused on princesses - specifically Cinderella. We spent the morning at the library looking for princess books where the princess is not a total floosie, and can actually fend for herself a bit. I think we gave the librarians a bit of a kick, but we did find some good stuff on Pocahontas, Joan of Arc, the real Cinderella (not the one with the blue dress, immaculate hair, and barbie proportions marketed by a certain company), and some stuff on dresses and costumes. I think by following what she loves - ballet and classical music, dancing and beautiful dresses with sparkle, we can tackle some interesting things! We've just got to be original and creative and aim to stay curious.

So now that decisions have been made, you should all hear a bit more from me on a regular basis. And maybe I will stop griding my teeth at night too. At least until the next big decision comes a long.


Jerm said...

I hear 'ya, Laurie. We're struggling with many of the same issues. Plus, monetarily, while homeschooling does not directly cost money, since one of us would not be working a job to stay home and teach, you're probably talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of missed salary (for us, 14+ years worth)... Of course I want to give our kids the best, but that's one heck of an opportunity cost.

Laurie said...

Yes - I go back and forth almost daily on the cost benefit of me going back to work vs. staying home for the long or short term. I keep second guessing it....Argh!