Yesterday and today, I volunteered at Kelly’s school. My contract has been held up ( I often fear, permanently), so I finally decided to take advantage of it and do what I’d done years previously–and work on my childrens’ education.
Understandably, I was nervous about volunteering. Going into the local neighborhood classroom to volunteer last year prompted me to pull Kelly out of public school altogether. Homeschooling her instead had challenges, mostly social, so when I got a full-time contract late last summer, I know I couldn’t put her back to the neighborhood school, but when I could afford a local religious school for her, it was a good choice. Still, my fellow homeschoolers (and my tour of other schools) had told me private schools are little better than their public counterparts. Notably, one of Neil’s dearest friends from last Spring was a new, and delightfully bright, homeschooler who had been bullied at his $15K/year private school.
But my biggest surprise in seeing Kelly’s class was how very functional all her fellow classmates were. Kelly, maybe because she has such a straight-laced brother, is drawn to the rowdy, and such is the case this year. But, honestly, the rowdies are just the youngest in the classroom, who like to joke around. Kelly’s still a bit unfocused, as she was before, but she’s in a class of 13, which is less than half the class size of a public school, so it’s harder for her to drift away. Furthermore, I felt like my time to volunteer was something the teacher incorporated, rather than something she needed.
For example, today I came in with a story to read (of my own choice), and a small craft, similar to that I would have brought to a homeschooling group. I brought “The Garden” from Frog and Toad Together, which just happened to tie in nicely with the fact that the children had recently planted seeds and some of them had sprouted and others had not. All the children listened attentively, and then had little trouble putting together a craft I’d set up for them. Then, to my delight, the teacher improvisingly turned the fact that all the children had created flower masks into another lesson, pulled out a poem scheduled for May, and had them all review colors and a new song. In the meantime, during my 1-1/2 hours there, the teacher taught the children a moral lesson, had them review a song, and taught them phonics. While she was teaching the children phonics (in two separate groups), I read each alternate group three picture books, all of which were attentively appreciated. Oh, and they cleaned up after themselves, and the teacher was surprised when I cleaned up an artspace the children had been working in, even though adult volunteer clean up after children was de rigeuer in both Neil’s and Kelly’s public schools.
In the public schools, it was rare to be able to do more than one picture book a day, given all disciplinary control than had to be put into place to even get through it. And even then, I’m not sure 1/3 of the students could have told you what the story was about, whereas in Kelly’s new school, I think all of them could have.
Having seen snack time twice now, it’s clearto me that at least one parent cares enough to package something personal for their child; where at public schools it was all too often either dependent on what the school gave or some grocery school package like Lunchables or dry Top Ramen. So this school looks even less than a rich person/two working parents family conceit; and even then, that you might be able to think two working parents are indifferent to their children’s needs. It did come across that this was a school where the families cared about their children. It was sad that such families, like ours, could not send their children to the local schools–and that this obviously made public schools much poorer. When I combine our local property tax (which ostensibly pays for the schools), I’m paying $15K for Kelly’s education this year, too, and we’ll be paying about &17K for her next year. Peter points out that in many other areas, the schools may be acceptable for only the cost of the mandatory property tax. But in the public school, the teachers cannot kick out the unready, the disruptive, and destructive; and unlike Kelly’s private school, as a result, they need parent volunteers to provide the parent than can’t be provided legally.
I went to a private college, while Peter went to a state one. We both got an excellent education, but his required more effort (more in the way of getting into the right classes) than mine did. So private education is still surprisingly effective to me, altough I’m still intimidated at the cost of it.