Monday, June 15, 2009

Star Belly Schools

Floor Pie is a terrific blog from one of our new Woodland Park Pre-3 moms.

Star Belly Schools is an insightful look at her experience in getting her older son -- The Boy -- through the complications of the Seattle Public School kindergarden selection system. If you've gone through this, intend to go through this, or if you just like good writing, you should check it out.

Seattle is home to an embarrassment of great elementary schools. North Seattle parents, in particular, find themselves in a potato chip aisle of sizes, styles and flavors. The public schools are almost uniformly solid and include a growing list of “niche” schools (e.g., AE2, Salmon Bay, John Stanford, Summit). We are also home to one of the nation’s most varied and competent collection of private schools.

In my family’s case, we felt the need to sample them all, and so dragged ourselves through at least 40 different school open houses over two years. It was a grueling and eye-opening experience.

We started from the perspective that we were capable of teaching Josephine anything she needed to know through about 5th grade, so our focus was on the social, rather than academic, environment. Some of our friends thought we were playing fast and loose with our daughter’s future with our “cavalier” attitude toward the three R’s. When they raised their hands at open houses, they asked questions about test scores and computer-to-child ratios. (I’m not making this up.) We were more focused on recess quantity and adult-to-child ratios. Naturally, they, in the end, chose different schools than we did.

My point being that we all bring our own values to the process and that’s what must guide us.

Several families have told me of their commitment to public schools, for instance, and that’s their starting point.

Others are looking to continue the kind of involvement they’ve learned in cooperative preschool, and that’s their starting point.

A few are excited by “alternative” approaches.

We’ve had several families come through Woodland Park who were eager to try homeschooling.

Most of the literature out there urges you to identify your child’s learning style, then match it to a teacher or learning environment. That’s probably good advice if your child has clearly identified special needs, but for most of us it’s just confusing if not outright misleading. I’ve looked at a lot of studies that attempt to identify the criteria that contribute to a child’s prospects in elementary school. In every one of them, the key determinant for success is parental support.

As a co-op teacher I tend to forget that most parents drop their kids off in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon (or evening if their school offers extended day programs), and remind them to do their homework. As coop families, we’re accustomed to a more active approach. Even if we -- as most do -- choose traditional drop-off schools, we are the parents who will continue to stick our noses into classrooms, attend parent meetings, and volunteer whenever possible. We will continue to show our children that education is a high priority for us. We won’t just be emotionally “present” for our children. We will be there physically, which is just as important for young children.

And that’s how to make your child’s kindergarten into a great school.

2 comments:

In Bug's Drawers said...

You write very well. I don't have children, but my mom is a teacher so I may refer her to your blog if I can get her on the computer, lol

~ Bug

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks Bug!

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