Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Kindergarten

Schooling has been a tough decision for us in this household. DH grew up in the public school system. I also went to public school but was in the French Immersion program until grade 7 when my parents sent me to private school where I stayed until grade 11. In grade 11 I decided I wanted to attend public high school but hated it and dropped out after the first semester. I finished off my high school through "learn at home" Ontario curriculum courses where I just went to a testing centre to write exams and submit assignments. I then went on to do an undergraduate degree and am now almost halfway through a graduate masters degree. DH did some college before deciding he was better suited for a trade apprenticeship program. I think it must be easier for parents who had a shared educational experience because a certain choice may just more or less be a given.

With B turning 4 this Spring, we're faced with the difficult decision on what we want to do for his education. Up until now, he has been attending Montessori 3 mornings per week. We absolutely love the Montessori program, the school, and his progression. Although we could afford to keep sending him, it is expensive between $800-$900 per month to send him for full days and we feel that the benefits, although many, don't quite amount to the costs in comparison with public school which is free (I guess we pay for it in taxes but we pay these taxes regardless of whether he attends or not). We also have another child to think about too. If we keep B in Montessori then we'll have to follow suit with N which would double the cost. Furthermore, we want B to go to the same school as most other kids in the neighbourhood and public school comes with bussing to and from school. We also considered french immersion but in our area it doesn't start until grade 1. Homeschooling wasn't an option for us. 

Long story short, I called and pre-registered him for kindergarten at our local school. And like the type A person I am, I immediately did my research on the school - seeking the opinions of other parents; analyzing class sizes, enrolment, and extra curriculars; reading the meeting minutes of the parent council; and of course reading over the Ontario curriculum documents for kindergarten. Most recently, I came across the EQAO standardized testing results for the school. The results were far below the regional and provincial average. My immediate thought, like many other critical parents, was to see about registering B for an out of area public school with higher rankings. But then all the benefits of going to the local school would be lost. I then looked at other schools in the City and noticed that their rankings were all over the map and were not significantly correlated with income which I found surprising. After much deliberation. I thought...why should we send our child to an out of area school. Why shouldn't our local school just get their act together. I think this might be the problem with the public school system. All the people who are critical of the system take it upon themselves to find alternatives to achieve better outcomes for their own children, rather than advocating for improvements that will benefit everyone. This is what lets schools get away with less than stellar performance because they are left with parents who rightfully assume that schools are doing their jobs and don't question or parents who don't have the time (or perhaps the money) to stake out alternatives or assert pressure for change. I plan on writing a letter to the school principal asking him what actions the school plans on taking to improve their results and I also plan on bringing up this question at the welcome to kindergarten meeting in the presence of other parents so that the school knows that there are critical parents out there that will be holding them accountable.  

DH thinks I might be over-analyzing as he remarked the other day - "all the other parents will be able to relax because you'll have everything covered". 

Are others struggling over making education choices for their little (or big) ones?


Martina said...

The Great Debate!
I was hoping for 1/2 day kindergarden but my local school is full day....and french immersion is on the horizon too

On that note, i dont think your over analyzing, but I wouldn't stress too much about jk/sk

Kristy said...

Ours is half days still until 2013. I couldn't imagine sending B to full days yet. He still has an afternoon nap so I'm hoping that he'll be going mornings. With the ECE element, full days will likely be a little more balanced between learning through lessons and learning through play.

Sarah said...

I'm stressed about pre-school. Goodness.
You can never be too informed though. I was a private school kid and Chris was a public school kid. I think we'll end up doing public school unless we see a need for improved academics, etc.

kristi said...

oh yes definitely i stress over education for the boys. honestly it does not depend on the school it depends on the teacher. were taking it year by year at this point.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Oh my gosh, the expression in your header is priceless!

Yes, this is such a big, big decision. It's our children's future. Although children are incredibly resilient and no one decision made by an intentional parent is likely to permanently hurt them, they do absorb everything around them for the first six years of their lives and form the very core of their being. It's definitely not something to take lightly! Kudos to you for putting so much thought into it.

Kristy said...

Sarah - nice to know what others are doing

Kristi - I have heard from others too that it is really the teacher that makes all the difference. Here is to hoping for a good one!

Sara - Thanks for the support. Some parenting decisions are so difficult!