Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When I Was a Kid...

Steve and I were discussing the school of choice option so many parents have today. It's a wonderful thing - sometimes.

When we moved to Michigan and found out Jackson offered this option, we looked into a few of the public schools in the city and in the county. We ended up choosing the school our daughter would've gone to if this option weren't given. Although the school fit our criteria in other ways, one thing we really liked is how close it is to our home and that there would be other kids in the neighborhood attending the same school (though given the school of choice option, we were not certain of this).

I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin and you either went to the public school or the Catholic school and only to the latter if you were actually Catholic. There was not a lot of diversity in my classes, most kids were from working class families with similar religious beliefs, hobbies and educational levels. I think racial diversity did not exist at all except for the one Spanish speaking student I can remember and my own best friend whose mom was from Greece. I never heard my parents talk about test scores, activities, programs, diversity or anything beyond the 2 parent/teacher conferences they attended each year for my first 7 years of formal schooling.

When we moved to Pennsylvania as I entered the 7th grade my parents purposely bought a home in the "best" school district around. Since I was from small town Wisconsin, I did not fit in very well in my new digs and sadly, I never took advantage of the programs offered. (Again, not a lot of diversity...) My parents absolutely did what they thought was right, but back then "best" was defined only by test scores.

Nowadays we still have the neighborhood schools, but we also have charter schools, private schools, religious schools, homeschooling and co-ops. How do we decide which school to send our child to? Do we want to find a school that is the best fit for our child and in doing so, are we setting them up to be less able to adapt to various settings? Does choosing a school become more important as our child gets older and their interests are developed?


  1. This is an EXCELLENT question! It might just be the public school teacher in me (heck, of course it is) but I think I'll always send my kids to the school that they are in the boundaries for, even if I have a choice. UNLESS - there is some extenuating circumstance for the child, which I know happens. (Example, parents decided to move their son to a charter school due to the stress he was experiencing in his classroom - ie children being removed and some SEVERE needs kids in his class - he just couldn't deal with the stress).

    I guess what I believe is that every child has a right to learn and if we all just move our kids around to areas where they are with students that are more the same class/race/religion (what have you) we deprive not only our kids of a chance to learn from others that are different, but I deprive another child from learning something from mine. Does that even make sense? Maybe the school my kids will go to won't have the highest test scores, and maybe my child's needs won't be met completely in that classroom. However, I can suppliment and home and teach there. And hopefully my child can help someone else's child. I hope that makes even a little bit of sense.

    I don't have any school age kids yet. :) So I can't say for sure, perhaps I'll change my mind.

    As always - each parent and child is different - you just do what feels right for your family!

    I support public schools as a whole (and I know charter schools are public schools, but they are a totally different animal) but I respect the right of parents to choose.

  2. Sorry - I know I already commented, but I thought of something else.

    I can foresee myself putting my kids in a different school other than their boundary for anothe reason. If I was a teacher myself at a different school I'd probably want to school choice my kids to the same school as myself. That way I could be with them more and also feel secure knowing they were in the same building as me.

    I could see parents doing that with their own kids, whether or not they are teachers. Maybe a parent just wants their child at a school that is close to their work.

    There are all types of reasons to school choice... I think you just have to examine why and weigh the pros and cons.

  3. Capitalism (in some cases) works...
    As parents (who care about their child's upbringing) we should want the best we can get for them. School is kindof important and if there is a choice as to where they go, we should explore all reasonable options. The more choices (including home school) we have the better our chances of finding something for them that is what we, as parents, want.
    That being said, what about the parents who just don't care? Where do they send their child? What happens when you get a school full (or just with a bunch) of kids who don't care about school because their parents don't care?
    We have a few examples of such schools here in Jackson, sadly.

  4. Tannie and Doc,

    Thanks for commenting. Tannie - like you, I want to support public schools and yet, Doc, like you, I realize that there are public schools that do not have the resources, the commitment from the adults, the programs that I want for my child. I will say that we are really happy with what we've found in Jackson and although it is not perfect, I know no school would be!

    One reason I was dissuaded from having our daughter attend a private school is because I worried that the like-mindedness of the parents would keep her from the exposure to different ideas that I want for her. Yes, I know this means that some of the ideas will make me cringe, yet I want Soph to know of these ways of life and to have the exposure to them while Steve and I still have an opinion that matters to her. On the flip side, I can see how sending Soph to a school in which every student has an involved adult would be a huge benefit to her - setting an example, setting the norm, but selfishly, I like our involvement at her school and being able to maybe help those students who don't have that adult in their life and showing Soph that it is up to all persons to help out.

    Doc - what do you think the root of not caring by parents is? Is it fear based? Laziness? Lack of their own role model? And how do we combat that attitude?