So as we tour the country and raise a family, we are now becoming exposed to varying views of the educational system in this nation. Before I had kids, I swore I wouldn’t become one of those crazy parents who constantly discussed their children’s abilities, skills, education, or base every aspect of their life by where the “good” schools are located. But I think I have become my worst fear! I feel it’s in the name of love and wanting to do the best that I can for my next generation, but am often unsure which road to take. My kids are just beginning their educational careers and I have so many questions…..public school, private school, parochial school, charter school, home-school…some mix of both? And within those choices, there are even more choices. It’s exhausting. Everyone has an opinion and it seems like there are pros and cons within each. I recently saw the movie, Waiting for Superman http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/action/ It was so thought provoking, whether one agrees or not. But one thing can’t be
argued and that is….the stories told in that movie and the statistics shared about the falling behind of the US compared to the education around the world. It was disturbing and haunting on so many levels.
Personally, I have always loved school and would be a full-time student forever if I could. I love learning, the classroom and achievement…all the positive parts of academia that give that nostalgic feeling. I loved school not for what I thought it would get me, but somehow it was the gift itself. That may sound corny, but it was true for me.
I saw some similar, yet different traits in my son. He loved learning and would ponder interesting ideas. But the difference is that he could sit with a project for a lengthy time, even as a baby. I know with my ADHD, he didn’t get that from me. Of course, he has all the normal toddler/preschooler anecdotes. Specifically, he is obsessed (and that is putting it mildly) with Spiderman. My Spidey lover has never seen the movie or a program on Spiderman, but is in complete admiration. He has every article of clothing, is in constant costume, both at and away from home, and engages in the normal role play for Superheroes that I guess every kid his age does.
But along with my appeasement of his alter ego, I felt I wanted to do something with his need to know everything and his love of learning. So I saw this program on TV about teaching toddlers to read. My husband was deployed and I needed a project…so I thought, “What do I have to lose?” So in addition to all of our fun activities, I spent 15 minutes a day working with my son on words he loved….mainly animals. He loved it and memorized them before he was even 3 ½. And he was reading beginner books within 6 months. And my infant daughter at the time was looking at words and acting them out. I was amazed. At the same time, I was obtaining a certification in education so I was learning the stages of learning development that occurs in all of us before the age of 5…how that learning window never occurs again, how the “way” we learn is set within this timeframe, etc. It was a perfect match to practice what I was learning in my own academia.
My son attended a great academic based preschool on the East
Coast and that timeframe rocked my educational world. As a new parent and new to the battlefield of preschool, I had no idea how serious it was and how controversial the varying methods could be. And I had just enough information to be dangerous. I happened to find a great teacher who began a private school out of her home. It seemed like it met my needs…price, schedule, lesson plans, etc. And after a few weeks, I could see even more of a love for learning…all of these kids were doing science
projects, learning to count money, reading books, acting out plays, doing
addition/subtraction….and they were all 3 and 4 yrs old. And more than anything, they were having a blast! I was blown away. It reminded me of the Dr. Seuss book, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! (which I loved even before I had kids). http://www.seussville.com/activities/HOORAY_TeachersGuide.pdf
So when the military moved us, I was saddened to leave my great academic find. But I was sure that I could find something similar, right? We moved to the West Coast and in our small community, I could not find anything close. I had a spreadsheet of all the schools I visited and I stopped counting at 18….and these were just preschools! I was ruined. I thought if I was this high maintenance during preschool, how could I ever decide anything academic in the future?
I finally settled on a part-time Montessori school I found along with some basic homeschooling from me for both of my children. I’ve learned a lot along the way and it’s been a great school environment with a dual language immersion program. It coincides great with the things we do as a family.
As a parent, I’m trying to find the balance of pushing and letting go, hard work and play, discipline and care free. It’s difficult even for a grown-up. But I also feel that my responsibility is to connect my children with their strength, not mine or anyone else’s. It’s about the whole person, spiritually, physicall and mentally…..making sure your children are nourished in all those aspects and well taken care of. I love the book, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, and yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not
even in your dreams.
So like most parents, I want to create the best environment
for my children so they can fulfill their purpose, but I do know it will
ultimately be up to them. Education is just part of the whole, but the whole can be quite consuming at times…the emotional sacrifice and decision making is just the beginning I’m finding.
But then, it’s helpful to read articles like this one in Forbes where someone can be a success out of the worst of circumstances. http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/08/08/entrepreneurship-nothing-to-lose-and-everything-to-gain/
So why should I worry right? And does this mean I can stop paying for private school because education does not equal success?
So as I “wait for my little Spiderman” to continue to find his
strengths, I pray for our own strength to guide him and my daughter and make the best possible decisions for our family in all aspects of life! Only time will tell.