School choice

“School choice” has been on my radar a lot recently. Our oldest starts kindergarten in the fall, and in Durham, NC, there is a lot of school choice available. First, there are the choices offered just by our local school system: magnet schools, or schools with varying calendars, to which families can enter a lottery to be assigned. Then, there are area private and Catholic schools. There are also a proliferation of charter schools, which are technically public schools (they are basically free, as I understand, and they are publicly funded), but they run under their own “charters” and aren’t part of the regular school system. There’s always homeschooling, too.

We’ve decided to go with our neighborhood school. Here are a few reasons:

  • The lottery for the school system’s varying options happened in January. We watched some of our friends go through the school decision process last year and it seemed fairly stressful. Since I’m a high-stress person anyway, I need to save my school-choice stress for college, not kindergarten.
  • I am a result of public schools, and my husband mostly is, too. I went to a high school that was (and as far as I know, still is) considered fairly low performing and rough. I got an excellent education there. There are certainly conditions under which we’d think seriously about pulling out of public schools, but I am overall a believer in the value of public education.
  • Because I’m a believer in public education, I don’t really like charter schools. I think that the money and parental buy-in invested in them would probably be better spent on improving the local public schools.
  • We believe that teaching our children to follow Jesus is more important than teaching them how to make lots of money as adults (not that we’d succeed at the latter, since we haven’t figured it out ourselves). This means being part of the community we are in and loving the people around us, even when they are different. I think public school is a great place to learn this, both for kids and for parents.
  • I know several people who homeschool successfully. I’m pretty confident that I could not be one of those people unless I felt a very compelling need to. (Passage of this bill would be compelling enough for me.)
  • Oh, and the local school is 5 minutes from our house. This logistical factor is worth noting, too!

I am a worrier, and I completely understand the tendency to worry about one’s kids, whether they are getting a good education, and whether they will be ready for the future. This is one decision that lets me combine my effort to not worry with my natural inclination, based largely on my own school memories, to make use of our local school.

I’m not the only one who has neighborhood schools on my radar. I enjoy reading the NY Times’ Motherlode blog, and a recent post had related thoughts: 

Thank you, teachers

We are getting ready to send our oldest to kindergarten in the fall. In our part of North Carolina, there is LOTS of school choice–magnet schools, charter schools, lots of homeschooling co-ops. We have chosen to send our son to our neighborhood school. I plan to write a little more about this decision in the near future, but in further celebration of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem. I think I read it as a kid, probably in one of the school newsletters that went home every month. It’s a little campy, and certainly idealistic, but that’s part of the point. I really believe public education can be a great thing, but if you don’t go in with a helping of idealism about your school (the school your kids are attending), you aren’t going to be as invested in making reality approach that ideal. I don’t know that it has a title (I found 3-4 in the 3-4 different places that I found the poem on the web), but it has been attributed to Ray A. Lingenfelter, who, according to this source, was an elementary school principal:

I dreamed I stood in a studio
And watched two sculptors there,
The clay they used was a young child’s mind
And they fashioned it with care.

One was a teacher;
the tools she used were books and music and art;
One was a parent with a guiding hand and a gentle loving heart.

And when at last their work was done
They were pround of what they had wrought
For the things they had worked into the child
Could never be sold or bought.

And each agreed she would have failed
If she had worked alone
For behind the parent stood the school,
and behind the teacher stood the home.

P.S. Happy birthday, Jenny (one of my favorite teachers)!