My oldest daughter is 5 years old and her birthday is in December so she missed the cut-off to go to kindergarten this year. At first, I was disappointed that she would be 'left behind' for the year, but I soon realized this meant an extra year to be with her and one more year for her to be a kid.
Meanwhile, one of my goals this year was to understand the education system. I grew up in Canada where almost everyone I knew went to public schools. The school system from elementary, to junior high to high school, even including the universities in Canada are all about the same quality. There isn't the same diversity in quality of schools as there is in the US. Since moving here, I have heard all about 'magnet schools', the 'gifted track', and schools with 'bad test scores'. Until recently, I found all of these terms quite intimidating and insisted that I would blindly send my kids to public schools because I didn't want to complicate life. Trying to keep life simple is an over-arching goal I am striving for. Sometimes in contradiction, I have also been trying to make educated decisions, particularly those that affect my children.
Well...in the name of getting 'educated' about the school system, I now find myself drowning in the debate of whether to send my kids to public or private school. I have researched dozens of schools online, called at least a dozen and visited a handful of schools in the area. This search has taken hours of my time and at the end of it all, I have a host of new emotions - irritated, excited, frustrated, inspired, and very, very confused.
Here are some of the highlights of my search:
- Some schools you can triage over the phone. I called one school, which is a Montessori school, and explained that I was looking for a school for my 5 year old. The lady who answered spent the next few minutes explaining why my child was now past the ability to learn in Montessori style and why all other preschools were inadequate. Montessori was the better way to learn she said but it was too late for my daughter....thanks.
- My husband and I went to one of the elite private schools in the area and spent one hour on what I thought was a tour and what turned out to be an interview. We were amazed by the grounds and the facility but not so inspired by the way the lady was sizing us up the whole time. This was early on in the process, I didn't realize that they were vetting us as well and I knew we really blew it when my husband asked after the schools finances - she answered "I'll have the development team get back to you on that...." as she rolled her eyes. Knowing that it would cost us at least 1 Million dollars if we sent all 3 of our kids to her school, I thought this was a very reasonable question...but clearly she wasn't impressed.
Here's what we've decided. While the public school system in our area is generally speaking one of the best in the country, our particular school has one of the lowest scores in the county so we won't be sending our children there. If we move in the next few years (which we might) then we will gladly reconsider as there are many advantages to the public school system.
In the meantime, I will try to send my daughter to a private school. I say 'try' because unfortunately she needs to take an IQ test. Unfortunately, because these tests are not good at predicting future cognitive ability - they only test a child's current skills which means that 70% of future gifted children would be missed when tested at the age of 5...(this fact is courtesy of Nurture Shock - a book I HIGHLY recommend).
So if she passes the IQ test, behaves well on her trial 'day at the school' and the administrators like our application, then she will go to a private school that is affordable (more than Catholic, less than the elite), on the smaller side in numbers and not a Montessori :).
We would like to send her there for at least kindergarten, maybe Grade 1 and then we'll have to see...I'm not convinced that long-term private school is the right path - there are social, financial and academic implications that I still need to think through.
Would love to hear any other thoughts on this debate that I'm sure many have considered.