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.