Life Decisions: Schooling

I went to a Catholic school as a kid from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.  It was a pretty tough school with hours of homework and a grading scale of just five points for each letter grade (ei: 100-95 = A).  The report cards always had the grade point on them, not the letter, so you could realize how well or bad you did.  Fourth grade was the make or break year with a science project, a social studies report, and two book reports every month on top of the nightly homework for eight different subjects.  And we didn’t even learn a foreign language.  Every year we had to do a full week of testing in the fall to cover all our subjects to see how well we compared with every other child in the country.  I mean it was all day every day for a damn week of fill in the bubble testing.  Looking back on it, I would say the whole educational process was brutal, and I won’t even talk about my horrible social experience.

But I walked out of that school testing in high school standards in all my subjects, except two.  In history and grammar, I tested beyond 12th grade level.  But this didn’t matter when I tested into public high school.  Because I wasn’t coming from one of two middle school feeder-schools, I was registered last.  So what ever there was left was mine for the taking.  It’s a miracle I even got into the elective class I wanted.  But no one was on my side when it came to getting into Honors English.  There was only one class of Honors English and one class of G.A.T.E. English, which was for kids who had participated in G.A.T.E. all their school lives.  My mother walked into the administration office with hell’s fury behind her, waving my years of 95+ grades in grammar and literature under their noses.  It didn’t help; the class was full.

To make matters worse, I was placed in an experimental class that combined English and social studies.  Almost every parents’ nightmare, an experimental class with your kids as guinea pigs.  The high school system was set up where three days a week students went to six classes for 55 minutes and for two days a week they went to three classes for an hour and half.  The first hour and half session in my English class, I finished the assignment in ten minutes instead of the full time that took the rest of my classmates.  My teachers were astonished; my mother was less then pleased.  I’m betting she probably was near hauling my ass back to Catholic school.

On the second Friday of my first school year in public school, I was called into the vice-principal’s office during my English period.  I was asked if I would like to move to the Honors English class because they had two students that hadn’t shown up to class.  Apparently my mother had been calling the school every day, trying to get me in, but the decision was mine.  I, of course, went for it.  The vice-principal nodded and told me to hurry back to class so I can finish my work, and I just laughed and told him it was already done.

Monday I walked into my new class.  The teacher explained I would have to work hard to catch up on all the work I had missed.  She handed me a copy of the book they were reading.  I looked at the cover and nearly laughed.  I had read it in sixth grade.  I slid into the class just fine.  The week later my father was in the administration office working on some cases when asked how my progress was doing, if I was able to keep up.  My dad told them I was already caught up as I had read the book years ago.  That shut everyone up.

In college I learned that I was still head of the curve when it came to grammar.  I worked in the English Department, doing the grunt work that all student workers were forced to do.  I read what I copied, waiting for the sheets to come out.  I was shocked at how many freshman English classes had to teach basic sentence structure and paragraph formation.  As I got older, professors would ask me to help other students with their paperwork.  The first night or two of working with someone, I had to teach them basic diagramming and sentence structure.  Like math, grammar is a building built on a strong foundation.  If you don’t understand the basics, you can’t build a paper.

Today I went to an open house for kindergarten for Tornado E’s school.  I was pretty sure I wanted to keep Tornado E there, but The Husband had his doubts because he wants Tornado E to start learning a foreign language.  While we are now in agreement over keeping Tornado E in his school, it makes me anxious at what is to come.  I have to make a decision of Tornado E’s education.

I know that homeschooling isn’t for us.  But how do I pick a good school?  Do I want him to feel the pressure of Catholic school?  Will public school challenge him enough?  What about other private schools?  What about Montessori schools?  Will that work for him?

As I tried to convey my worries and fears to The Husband, he just shrugged them off, saying if we make a mistake we’ll just pull Tornado E and place him somewhere else.

Somewhere else?  Where?  And how will we know we made a mistake?  Will he be bombing is SATs before we realized we made a mistake?

I talked with the parents we knew in California last year before we moved when I realized I better start thinking of Tornado E’s education.  Two moms raved about the Montessori schools their daughters went to, but my own family has had poor luck with the system.  I wondered if it was better gear to oldest and only children who strove for high marks and challenging themselves.  One mom kept working with school systems and moved to two different school districts and then petitioned for a school change before she was happy.   But that was back in California, where at least I could find SOMEONE who messed with the school systems.  Now I’m in Arizona, and I know no one who has kids in school, no one who can show me the ropes.

Just when I finally get comfortable with the idea I might ruin my children’s mental health and prepare for it, now I have to worry about educational and professional future.  No pressure.

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6 Responses to “Life Decisions: Schooling”

  1. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Okay, I’m totally with you here. But here’s how hubs and I have decided to operate (which may not work for you at all, I’m just blabbin’.)

    Our girls are at the age where they LOVE to learn. School is fun, they are hungry for any morsel of knowledge, and we have good public schools in our area. I can’t see paying someone to teach my eager learner, who jumps at any learning opportunity.
    Later, if they turn recalcitrant and foul, I will gladly pay…but when it’s all sunshine and roses, nope.

  2. rakster Says:

    Hard hard hard.

    I am thinking about these kinda things already and our son is only 5 months old.

    I too remember so clearly good and bad teachers, good and very bad experiences, and what a lasting effect they had on my own life. So I’m concerned about our son’s…

    I don’t think I could home school, but perhaps augmenting the school school with lots of activities & encouragement in the areas of learning play that will help all along. Like book-reading and holidays involving history and the like… It’s hard!

    good luck.

  3. Fie Upon This Quiet Life Says:

    I’m a teacher, and I would never home school my kid. I think that kids need to go to school to get different perspectives on subjects. If I were teaching my kid, he’d only get basic math, very basic science, but he’d have a kick-ass English and history education. 🙂

    I went to Catholic school from K-6th grade, then switched to public from 7-8 grades (BAD! It sucked). I was back in Catholic school in high school. We just didn’t have good schools in our neighborhood, and we didn’t get a choice of where we went. So my parents paid a ton of money to send us to Catholic schools. It wasn’t excellent, but we got a decent education. More than I can say for the public school kids.

    I had both good and bad teachers in both the Catholic and public schools. The difference for me was discipline. The public school was just so crowded that it was like a babysitting service more than a school. I think kids will have good teachers no matter where they go to school. And they will also have bad teachers no matter where they go to school. The parents will have to fill in the gaps if they can. The most important thing is to keep yourself involved in what he’s doing so that you’ll know if he needs more help and/or more of a challenge.

    It’s hard to do right by your children in just about every circumstance. But since I’m a teacher, I keenly feel the desire to give my kids good school choices. There’s really no predicting what’s going to happen though. So I guess you just have to be vigilant and help where you can. My kiddo is 3, so he’s not going to be in kindergarten until the 2011/2012 school year, but I am thinking about it already. Ugh.

  4. Gibby Says:

    Ahhhhh, the schooling debate. We have this in our house all the time, even though both girls are already in school. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. Hubs went to public school, and his mom worked in the public school system for eons. Around here, most public school districts (including our own) are superior curriculum-wise to the Catholic schools. Do you see where this is going? Yep, I was out voted. However, after having Poonch in the system for 4 years now, I am happy. Our schools here are awesome (thanks to our ridiculous taxes and awesome people) and there is a ton of enrichment. But, I would agree with one of your previous commenters on the discipline…it’s nothing like the Catholic schools. After all, the public schools pretty much have to take everyone and anyone, whether they like to learn or not. I have definitely realized that being an involved mom and keeping in touch with the teacher is imperative to make sure your kid doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

    Glad I could confuse you even more.

    Oh, and as for homeschooling? Well, you read my blog. Obviously THAT would never work in our house. LOL!

  5. Steel Magnolia Says:

    Well, I keep waiting for someone–anyone–to just tell me what to do about schooling. I guess I’m still waiting, huh? I grew up in a small town where there was basically one school and you just had to make it work. Turns out, it worked pretty well for me, but not so much for many other people. Now we are planning to move to another part of the city, and no school system seem totally viable because, even if we move where the schools have good reputations now, the demographics and rankings and everything else change very quickly. So there’s no guarantee that the “good” high school will be “good” by the time my children get there in a decade. But we also can’t afford the crazy, college-level tuition of the private schools. I’m very nervous, but I guess we’re just going to try to make public school work. It makes me want to cry every time I think about it. Every child deserves the world-class education that only some children get in this country.

  6. faemom Says:

    First off, THANK YOU EVERYONE for writing in. I love that you have so many stories and advice. I could use all I can get.
    TKW~ Good point. When they are young and eager, it’s easy to teach them.
    rakster~ That’s a great idea to augment the child’s education at home, which is what we should do anyways. But it reminds me I still have some control.
    FUTQL~ You made some great points. Again, parent invlovement is the key.
    Gibby~ LOL Every little bit of confusing advice helps.
    S.M.~ I can’t agree with you more. It’s horrible that there are so many schools doing a poor job for our students. When will we learn that short changing education is short changing our futures? That ALL kids need a good education because who knows where they’ll end up in adulthood.

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