Monday, April 20, 2009

CMS: C is for Convenience

Around this time last year, Jeff and I began to ponder education options for our rising Kindergartener. At the risk of causing all of my homeschooling readers to hyperventilate, I will admit that our final decision was based solely upon something entirely unrelated to our educational philosophy. It wasn't based upon curriculum, academic emphasis, use of enrichment programs, student-teacher ratios, or test scores. No, instead it was based upon convenience, which is a hot little commodity for this working mom.

The school we chose for our firstborn was none other than our local public school and, after touring and researching several other options, we picked it because it didn't start until 9:15am in the morning, (around the same time I needed to be in the car running the other two to preschool), and it didn't get out until 3:30pm allowing our youngest to take her afternoon nap uninterrupted. Also, we thought, "It's Kindergarten, right? How much damage can they do?"

So now we are coming to the end of Carter's first year in CMS, and I can honestly say they have not just met our lofty expectations, they have by far surpassed it, earning them a well-deserved A++. Not only has his academic day been completely compatible with Griffin and Peyton's preschool and nap schedule, but Carter has delighted in being able to ride the bus to and from school each day, thereby making my job even easier! Other pleasant surprises for the year included Carter's teacher - a seasoned veteran who manages him exceptionally well, and the fact that under her, he learned to read, and tell time, and count to 100.

Unfortunately, the disappointments are beginning to outweigh how cool we think it is that the bus stops right at the bottom of our cul-de-sac, and that Ms. Juanita makes all the Kindergarteners sit up at the front of the bus with her. One of those is that we live in a fairly diverse community both racially and socio-economically. While our family possibly owns more children's literature than the local library, some of the students who entered Kindergarten with Carter had never held a crayon or a pencil. How as a teacher do you reconcile your responsibility to bring all 26 of these children with such varying abilities up to a common level? And is your bigger problem the non-English speaker who is legitimately struggling, or the kid who races through everything and spends the rest of his day cutting up? Because that would be our kid. The brilliant bored one. Or maybe he's not smart at all. Maybe he's entirely mediocre, he just looks smart because the competition is working at such a tremendous disadvantage.

Another concern is the lack of focus on enrichment activities such as art. Consider Exhibit A below:

It's an Easter hat, sent home as a Fun! Family! Activity! like so many other art projects have been this year. Problem being that neither Jeff (who is entirely responsible for the above millinery masterpiece) or I are at all crafty, hence the finished result is altogether worse than if Carter had just done it himself. AT SCHOOL. With an accredited art teacher presiding over the mess.

All things considered, Carter's teachers have done a wonderful job this year despite a work environment that would have sucked the joy right out of me. They are tasked with directing far too many kids at once, are very under-resourced, and endure constant pressure not to teach creatively, but to raise to raise test scores. Speaking of the AYP (which we didn't pass), in our particular elementary school, only 60% of the kids in Carter's school were found to be performing at or above grade level. I find that deeply disturbing...which is not to say that I don't understand why.

Suffice it to say, despite a seemingly successful year in public school, we are once again elementary school shopping. Yesterday we toured a private school option we are quite familiar with. For the past year we have compared the awesome projects that line their walls with the enormous stacks of worksheets Carter brings home. He, lately, has begun to notice what is hanging on the walls as well. On our last visit, he commented on "all of the different materials they used". It really is a much more vibrant, creative learning environment than he is in presently. The class sizes are significantly smaller, integration of faith and learning is a priority, and the other students are closer to his performance and achievement potential so the pacing would be more stimulating for him. Challenges are numerous, the school is a 20+ minute drive from our house, and they require something Jeff and I are only too familiar with: school uniforms.
Fortunately, Carter is a big fan of red.


  1. Please tell me this is not really truly the school uniform?!?

  2. You know, I actually *liked* wearing a uniform. One more decision I Did. Not. Have. to make in the morning for myself. And it was instant equality--uniforms and everyone was wearing Bata Bullets.

    We're paying for private kindergarten. And we'll probably keep making that sacrifice. For a lot of the exact same reasons you just listed. And also because in public school they would be riding the bus with the offspring of former "customers" of their police officer daddy. I do know one thing for certain--I do not have the personality to be the Homeschooling Mom. It takes a very special person and my talents/gifts lie elsewhere.

    As far as the "inconvenience"'ll adjust and adapt--and do it with style. That's what us crazy TCKs do, isn't it?

  3. Oh Melanie... again, you have given me so much to think about (and laugh about of course - you're too hysterical). Josh will be starting kindergarten in 2010, and we are so confused about what to do. My vote is for our local public school, which my husband is not going for. It sounds quite a bit like your elementary, except it's only 2 streets away - even more convenience. We've tossed around the homeschool idea, which means that I'd have to quit my part-time job, or keep working to pay for private. Then there's the ol' use my parent's address to get him into a better public school. It's only kindergarten, right?