Over the past few months, several people have asked me to share my thoughts on school. When did I start sending my children to preschool? How do I feel about half day versus full day? Why did I choose to send my children to public school instead of private school?
In a way, it's hard to talk about education and the choices I've made for my children because I feel - probably incorrectly - that it locks me into the decisions I've made. I've chosen public school for my kids, and - if I share why - then I can never take another route.
So, let me begin with this disclaimer. If at any point this path doesn't work for one of my children or stops working for one of my children, I will not hesitate to return to the drawing board and look for a better solution.
Now, let's begin at the beginning.
Both of my boys began two-day-a-week half-day preschool at two years old. Both Griffin and Amos had been attending Mommy's Day Out for five hours a day two days a week since a very young age. Both boys were confident and curious and neither experienced any anxiety beyond the normal separation anxiety every toddler goes through.
So, for us, preschool was a no-brainer.
All of our decision-making is simplified because we live in a small town and there are fewer options. We only had three or four preschools to choose from and none of them were difficult to get into. We chose Immanuel Baptist Preschool because I was incredibly impressed by the director and loved the curriculum focus on self-control and character. I have never not once regretted that choice.
Both Griffin and Amos attended two-day-a-week classes for two years before moving up to five-day-a-week pre-K. We never considered holding them back for a year in the four-year-old class because - as I explained in this post - holding back was never the right choice for our boys.
After preschool, Griffin began kindergarten at Clark Elementary School (which just so happens to be next door to Immanuel Baptist Preschool!) in the fall of 2014. Amos will begin in the fall of this year. (WHELP!)
When it came time for elementary school, our options were a bit more complicated. Paducah has excellent public schools and two public school systems - Paducah Public Schools and McCracken County Public Schools. We also have St. Mary School System, our local Catholic private school, and Community Christian Academy, our local Christian private school. Then, of course, there is always homeschooling.
While I would never remove homeschooling as an option, I simply do not have the patience or skills to teach young children, even my own, how to read or add or subtract or do any of the most rudimentary skills. I can barely handle teaching Griffin how to tie his shoes. I just don't have the patience.
Now, helping a middle schooler or high schooler explore subject areas or do research or learn more about physics or algebra, I'd be all about that. That I could handle and would most likely enjoy. But teaching a five-year-old to read? Pass.
So, homeschooling was off the table.
As far as private school, the ability to send our children to great public schools was one of the primary reason we moved home in 2009. I understand that many aren't that lucky and private school is one of the best options they have. I am very thankful (and much richer!) because our family is not put in that position.
To many of my friends, religious education is important enough to choose one of our private schools. It is not to our family. I do not send my children to school for moral education. Now, I do believe that school is a good testing ground for the morals I've hopefully instilled in them but that's another post.
So, we were left with choosing between the city schools and the county schools. I am a product of the county school system and was the fourth generation of my family to graduate from Heath High School. However, several years ago the county high schools merged and Heath High School was closed ending any loyalty I had to the county school system.
We live in the city school district and the elementary school was around the corner from my house. Many of our close friends sent their children to the city schools and were incredibly happy the education their children were receiving.
Of course, the same could be said of our friends sending their children to elementary schools in the county. The differences between the elementary schools weren't many. So, we were left to look a little beyond kindergarten to the impact of our choice.
There are a couple of big differences between our area high schools. First, McCracken County Public School is the home to almost 2,000 high school students. The enrollment of Paducah Tilghman is about 750. That's a big difference. The enrollment at my high school was a little over 500 and while I understand the increased opportunities that come from a school that big, for me size matters and it seems that most of the science agrees.
Plus, Paducah Public Schools has a much more diverse population. My high school was small but it was also incredibly uniform with regards to race and economic background. Nicholas, however, went to a diverse high school and argues he is better for it. I understand that diversity isn't a top priority for every family. Obviously, I moved my family from Washington, D.C., to Paducah so it isn't the only thing that matters to me. However, it was important enough to consider.
Truthfully, throughout the entire process, I've always tried to remind myself that my kids will most likely be fine. They are smart. They have parents who care and are invested in their education. Should any problems arrive our family has the time and resources to deal with them. No decision is really going to make or break them educationally.
With our kids, careful thinking is always important but one decision rarely predicts the outcome of their entire lives.
Education is no different.