Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kindergarten Contemplations

It’s hard to believe that I’m even writing this post because I am having difficulty with the fact that my baby will soon be old enough for school.  It really doesn’t seem like five years since Todd and I held her in our arms and thanked God for her miraculous birth!  And I’ve heard it only gets faster…

We have some big decisions coming up in the next couple of months about Grace’s education.  There are so many things to consider.  Of course, each option has both pros and cons, and we are prayerfully seeking the best choice for us.

Side note:  This post is not meant to criticize any school or program.  A parent’s right to determine the best education for their child(ren) is a highly personal and subjective matter.  There is no right answer for everyone!

Todd and I have not made a final decision yet, but here are the options that are available and my thoughts on the matter:

1.  LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL

PROS:  I am a former employee of the current district in which we reside.  I know a lot of people and I have a high level of confidence in the kindergarten program in our neighborhood school.  This is obviously the easiest option for us to choose because it is FREE and CONVENIENT (a short walking distance from our home).  It would be quite easy for me to become involved in the school.  A few of Grace’s friends from church will be beginning this school in the fall, so she will see some familiar faces.  It would also be nice to be a part of the local community in which we live.

CONS:  The class size is large (up to 21) and Grace has a tendency to get lost in the crowd.  She is rather quiet and reserved (until you get to know her), and she doesn’t bring a lot of attention to herself.  I’m afraid that she might not get as much academic attention as she would in another option.  Also, I’ve been in a lot of kindergarten classes and I’ve seen a lot of shocking things.  Regardless of how excellent the teacher is, in a public classroom, Grace will be exposed to things I would rather her not see.  I have no desire for her to grow up in a bubble, completely shut off from reality, but Todd and I have a responsibility to protect her as best we can.

2.  LOCAL CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

PROS:  Smaller class sizes and an emphasis on spiritual growth are the biggest advantages to this option.  The academic rigor is also well-known.  Many of our church friends attend and/or work in this school.  The location is convenient (about 2-3 miles), and the area is very safe.  Most of the families/employees in this school share similar values and I know it would be a great place for us to get involved and make new friends.

CONS:  The main problem is cost.  Private school is quite expensive, and in order for Grace to attend this school, I would need to go back to work.  This is something that we are considering, but it is not ideal.  When I resigned from public education three years ago to become a full-time homemaker, we realized that it was exactly what our family needed.  That topic warrants an entire post, but everyone is happier since I stepped out of the workforce.

3.  LOCAL FINE ARTS CHARTER SCHOOL

PROS:  This is a relatively new charter school with an excellent reputation.  The kindergarten class size is only 12, and there is an emphasis on fine arts:  ballet, music, and art.  This is right up Grace’s alley.  Instead of one ballet class per week, she would receive classical ballet four days per week.  The academic rigor is respectable as evidenced by high testing scores.  The convenience is good (about 5 miles away) in a safe area.  I have friends who have put their children in this school and are very happy.  I am looking forward to a tour with the principal next Tuesday where I can learn more about the curriculum and see the learning in action.  Another wonderful benefit is that this is a FREE option! 

CONS:  It is still a public school venue, and many of the challenges would be the same as in our local public school option.  And, since Todd and I were both former fine arts teachers in a public school setting, I can say with some level of experience that artsy people are different.  World views, philosophies, values, etc. are not always going to be consistent with what we are teaching her in our home.  That’s not necessarily all bad, because it will provide opportunities for us to talk and teach her things from a biblical perspective.  But we also feel a responsibility to surround Grace with like-minded friends and teachers to give her a solid foundation before she spreads her wings and flies off into the world!

4.  HOMESCHOOL

This is the option that both excites and scares me the most.  There are moments when I think, “I can do this!  It’ll be fun!”  And there are other moments when I tell myself, “No way.  What if I do a terrible job?  What if I forget to teach her something?  What if …?  What if…?”  Anyway, here goes:

PROS:  I honestly believe this is what Todd wants.  For whatever reason, he thinks I will do a good job. I also believe that Grace would love it.  She enjoys our times of reading and learning that we do together now, and I think that it could naturally progress into a more structured homeschool setting.  The most obvious advantage to homeschooling is that Todd and I make the decisions about what and how to teach her: spiritually, educationally, etc.  There is great freedom in the homeschool classroom, and I could tailor our program to meet her needs exclusively.  There is a HUGE homeschool support system in our area, and many families that I esteem highly have chosen this path for their children.  There are programs that I could take advantage of like co-op groups and TAFA (Travis Academy of Fine Arts), which is a fabulous fine arts education program for homeschool children in our area.  There is also great flexibility in the homeschool schedule.  I could decide to take a day to explore the local children’s museum or observe animals at the zoo or learn about Texas history at the Cowgirl Museum.  In addition to standard kindergarten curriculum, I would have time to spend teaching her things that I love like cooking, sewing, music, etc. 

CONS:  My biggest fear is that I won’t do a good job.  But, I guess it’s kind of like parenting:  you seek God’s guidance through scripture and pray for the discipline to do what is right.  Although I have moments of fear, I have finally come to a peace that if I approach this with a heart that is willing and eager to train Grace “the way she should go” (Prov. 22:6) that God will bless that endeavor.  If we do choose to homeschool, then there will be the expense of curriculum, setting up a learning environment at home, and enrolling her in enrichment activities like athletics and/or dance.  We would also pay for TAFA and memberships to places like museums, the zoo, etc.  These expenses are minimal compared to the cost of private school, but they are expenses nonetheless.  We also have concerns that Grace is an only child.  She is naturally shy, although she seems to be gaining more confidence every day.  We would counter this challenge and provide her opportunities for socialization through church, homeschool groups, TAFA, sports teams, ballet classes, etc.

I do have the added comfort of knowing that even if we make the “wrong” decision and our situation doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.  It’s not like we’re committing to one plan of education for the next 13 years!  We can always re-evaluate and follow a different path on a future date. 

As you can see, we have a lot to think and pray about.  I would appreciate any words of wisdom or guidance from folks out there who have faced similar decisions.  I realize that everyone’s situation is different, so please feel free to leave thoughts about your own experience!

10 comments:

heresthediehl said...

school decisions, i've come to believe, are some of the hardest we have to make as parents.

we started luke in our local public school, and all in all, i've been happy with it. there was an instance last fall that had me questioning things, but after much prayer, talking with other parents, reaching out to former coworkers at some of the schools i worked with, and discussions with my family, we've decided to stay with public.

but, it's something that i'm sure, in the future, we'll feel the need to reevaluate for one reason or another.

good luck...this is a tough one...

zusjames said...

I wrote a long comment and decided to email you instead. With prayer, you and Todd will make the best decision for Grace. We'll join you in that prayer. Suz

Audra said...

Oh Sister, how you speak to my heart. You know that I struggle with this topic on a daily basis. I was hoping that based on your decision, it would lead me to my decision! We have decided to definitley hold V back next year and are going to keep him in our church school for next year. I love you and your sweet family and I know that you will make the right decision.

Joanna J. said...

Thanks for your comments, friends. It's good to hear other people's testimonies! I think that as parents, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the right decisions for our kids. I'm really trying to not stress about it...just trust that God will give us wisdom to make the best of whatever option we choose.

heresthediehl - I'm glad you have a good public school and it sounds like you are staying involved and addressing concerns that arise. It's a great way to model problem-solving skills and how to live as a Christian in this world for your boys! Good job mom!

Suz - Thanks for the e-mail. I'd love to visit with you and pick your brain sometime. Now, when are you moving back to N. Texas??? :)

Audra - Oh, girl. You've got the hardest situation to deal with. Boys who are born late in the summer! The silver lining is that because of the way you and J have raised and trained V, he will be successful no matter what you choose to do! But I think y'all have made the right decision, and now I hope you can relax and have a peace about how things go. Love you!

Susana said...

Hi, I came across your blog when I was googling a gallery picture of the digital scrapbook kit that your design is based on.

I wish you sincere luck in your decision as to what to do with your daughter's schooling.

I am a mother to four ages 4 months to 10 years old. We have been in the public school system until this year. This is my first year of homeschool and I love it more than words can say. It has blessed our family in SO many ways.

I was very scared and apprehensive/anxious to take this plunge, but am so very thankful I did.

Prayers and good luck!

Susana @ My Family My Forever
www.myfamilymyforever.blogspot.com

3 for Me! said...

Wow! you have some great options... especially since you know people from each setting! And each has such STRONG pros. Another PRO for each is that you'll have the flexibility to be in the school A LOT... which helps in ANY setting (except if you had to go back to work).

We have a different situation... but have chosen to homeschool our 3 children (5,4,3)! It's an adventure that I went into with doubts and hesitations.... but I also come from an education background and if I wasn't a mom, I'd be a teacher... so with homeschooling I get to be a mom and a teacher! i love the flexibility, the time with my kids, being able help shape their character and teach them about God and His Word. And the best part is SEEing them learn... at least for me!

I also think it's great that your husband is supportive. It's a hard decision that both of you need to feel comfortable with and think is best for Grace.

Thanks for sharing!! And remember that whatever you choose come August you are not stuck in that decision until 12th grade!!

Meghan said...

I enjoyed reading your pros and cons. Our son will be old enough to start kindergarten this fall, and after much deliberation, we have decided to homeschool him, at least for the time being. I NEVER thought I would be a homeschooling mom, but I'm completely at peace with our decision and so is our son. Best of luck! If you decide to homeschool, I'd love to keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came across your blog through a friend of a friend's blog. I have no doubt that you could do an excellent job home schooling your child, and I do not truly know your personal situation - so you can take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

There are certainly risks with exposing your child to what exists in a public school classroom, but I think the rewards in dealing with problems that arise can be really great. There is something to be said for learning one's values through doing, versus learning only through others' words - if your child is faced with a difficult situation in public school, this is an opportunity for growth, spiritually and otherwise. Learning to adhere to one's values when they have been tested is very powerful, even at a young age, and is an incredible lesson.

Further, with good communication and support, that it seems you will provide regardless, it is likely that any problems that may arise, can be handled. Additionally, I do think there is a lot of value in children being exposed to other children; it's not just about whether your child is shy or not, it's about exposing them to venues that allow them to learn how to play with other children, resolve issues that arise, and navigate the difficulties that always arise when dealing with others! Although outside activities will allow this, it seems like it would not be the same as the day to day that comes with being in a classroom.

I hope this does not come across as too judgmental - I am so impressed by your commitment to your child, and I have no doubt she will do great, regardless, given the love and support it seems that your husband and you obviously provide.

Meghan said...

Anonymous,
Very well written. I would like to add that parents choose to homeschool for many different reasons. You are correct that in some cases it does teach a child to adhere to his or her own values. Unfortunately, this is not a guarantee. Expectations may be set too high for young children. New environmenet, new routine, new friends, and suddenly, you are not there to lean on, but they are expected to stand up for what is right and not be negatively influenced? Many adults cannot even manage that.

While I will admit that "sheltering" my child for a few more years is appealing, it was not the basis for my decision to homeschool.

Five seems like a fairly arbitrary age to send all kids to school. Many mothers (and fathers) decide to stay home with their children while they are young. If it's critical at age four, why end that at five? Sending a child to spend the majority of their waking hours under the direction of one randomly assigned teacher and a class full of their peers is a major decision and should feel like one. Just because the state will now take your child, it doesn't necessarily mean he is ready to go. Some thrive, some do not.

This was not written to be critical of those who choose to send their children to school. I just hope everyone feels like they have a choice.

Meghan

MamaAngie said...

"I can do ALL things through him who gives me strength." I have three children, 4, 2, 9mo. For us homeschooling has always been the plan. Both my husband and I were homeschooled so we are quite familiar with it. Even so, I have doubts from time to time. Many of the same thoughts that you have had. Will I do a good job? What if I forget to teach something? With the added "How do I care for the needs of three young children AND homeschool?" The needs of each child are different, so you cannot compare your child and what your child is learning to what another homeschool family is doing. In teaching your child you have to do what is right for you. A homeschool book that was helpful for me was 100 TOP PICKS FOR HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM by Cathy Duffy (I reviewed this book on my blog).

What's important to remember, that no matter what your decision...God will meet your needs. He always does!