As the school year comes to a close isn't it the perfect time to talk about NEXT year?! Haha! If you're an over-planner like me, than YES! It's almost too late to plan out what you will do next year! :-)
So, over the last few months I've had several people ask me about Ransom's schooling. As I've mentioned previously, this last year Ransom has been attending a little "Pre-K 3" class at a private Episcopal school near our house twice a week in the mornings. We made the decision for him to attend "school" this year mostly because he had gone to "school" ( I use the word school but its more like mother's day out when they're this young...) when he stayed with family during our Tabitha Year, and he loved it, and ALSO because we'd just moved to San Antonio and I knew that the routine/sameness of school plus the added bonus of making a few friends ( hopefully!) would be good for him as we got use to our new city.
That being said, our plans for this next year were a little less easy for me to decide. Ransom is turning 4 in August and so he could technically enter into the official "preschool" territory. I had tons of questions to answer and I'll try to cover all our options here for those who are interested.
1. When to start School ( as in the real, "let's learn some stuff" school)? Ransom is young for his year group. As in, he barely makes the Sept 1st cut off with his August birthday. I read endless articles about maturity and socialization and if your interested I can point you in some directions ( though I honestly didn't bookmark many of them). I also talked to teachers and parents. In fact, it was my go-to conversation with just about anyone. It probably got boring. But, you know what? In the end it boiled down to watching my own kid. And isn't that how it should be? I know studies and experience is really valuable and I know it definitely educated our decisions, but every child is different and we should treat them as such! I watched my kid with his little classmates and I watched him with kids at the park and the library. He gravitated towards the younger kids. His best friends at school? One turns 4 in June, the other doesn't turn 4 till next October. Kind of an interesting coincidence! Sure Ransom has a pretty impressive vocabulary and he's on the tall end so he keeps up with those older than him well both physically and acedimically . But the bottom line is that he'd still rather play, and when he is playing he gets intimidated easily by his older peers. He cares very little about learning to write his name, or even coloring within the lines. And while those things might not necessarily change with time, I'm still happy to give him one more carefree year before we start to seriously buckle down with academia. And hey! If this next year he decides he wants to learn some more sight words or how to write more letters than BONUS! I think a little more maturity socially will go a long way with his future schooling.
2. Private/Public/Homeschooling? Whew! Here's a real hot topic! First of all, let me just get the private school thing out of the way first....we're a one income family. We will probably remain as such for the foreseeable future ( until I become a chart toping author. boom.) so private school is not really in our budget. However, we did love Ransom's schooling experience this past year so much that we're actually waiting to see if we will be able to attend again next year-with a hefty amount of finical aid** But, let's say you're middle class, English is your first language, your children do not have any huge learning disablilties and you aren't military. Than you actually CAN'T attend public preschool in a lot of states because you don't meet the criteria! Craziness! But, honestly, you should be ok with that, Parents! Let's not rush our kids into school, OK? Let them be little!!! They are going to be in school for basically the rest of the time they are at home, so take a chill pill!
But, lets say you do feel like you kid needs some outside the home structure, or maybe a little extra socialization, or maybe you think your kid is behind in some basic learning milestones ( recognizing their name, basic phonic sounds and ABCs etc. ) and you don't feel up to the task of taking those things on at home. Than great! Private/public school may be for you! Bottom line: Please free yourself up of the pressure of outside sources! Friends, I know that as the years continue my question of whether to send my kids to school or homeschool them will only be more complicated. But, if I'm honest many of those complications will come from feeling pressure from the various parenting camps. Why can't we all just agree that homeschool and outside the home schooling both have benefits? Why can't we agree that sometimes those benefits will lean one way or the other for different children at different times? I hope that Brett and I will have the clarity of mind to decide each year for each child what will be best for them with the resources and understanding that we have for that upcoming year, and for all the things that we can't see we will rely on the Lord to direct us. And above all, so HELP ME if I'm ever judgmental toward someone else's parenting choice! Sure, here I am telling you what we've done on my blog, but I HOPE that you never feel like I'm telling you what YOU should do!
**After much prayer we couldn't decide whether to keep Ransom out of school this next year and start doing some homeschooling the next year for PreK ( or even just start doing a little this year and maybe do a combo two-years type deal) OR if having him in an actual school environment was something he would really need for this next year. ( we still don't have a ton of friends). SO in the end, not being able to afford his current preschool was a blessing. Our finical aid request is our metaphorical fleece. If we get it, then great! Ransom will benefit from the outside the home interaction and structure of another year of preschool. If not, than great! I've got library days, children museum art times and park outings planned to fill our days with the outings, socialization and stimulation that I think he will need.
3. How do I pick a school? So, let's say you've decided that sending your little precious angel off to preschool is the way to go. How do you go about picking said preschool? Now in some places your choices are limited. As in, ONE OPTION. In some ways, I really envy you! hahah! Then all you have to decide is if that ONE place is right for you and if not Homeschool it is!! Sweet! BUT let's say you've got a bunch of schools to chose from? Public schools ( if you meet the criteria-we did because we are military! Score!), charter schools ( same criteria), and private schools ( cost plays a factor).
I started by going online and going solely on location. Then once I'd found all the schools in my area I looked up all their rating and reviews that I could find online. greatschools.org is a good place to start, but even your basic google search usually reveals some reviews. Now, I don't take my reviews TOO seriously! BUT if all 50 reviews say that the principles never listen to the parents than that MIGHT be something to consider! After, I've read everything I can, I do a scheduled visit. You can call and make appointment and then be shown around the school in style. They will tell you all the wonderful things about the school and will try and highlight all the good things. You will want to ask questions like, "what learning styles do you uphold to?" And with preschool it either is "we are free form" ( aka you're paying for your kids to play) or "we follow such-and-such curriculum". Ask about tuition, parent involvement, do they do field trips/special events, teacher to student ratio, and are other "classes" such as another language or music extra or offered?
If you like a school you may want to go back and do a "pop in" visit unexpected to see if teachers still seemed fully engaged, if things differ depending on the time of day or the day of the week etc.
And, then, if you're like me....you'll barely pay attention to any of the above criteria. Instead, you will pay sole attention to how you feel about a certain school. Sad but true. I follow my intuition above the facts pretty much every time.
So, what about you? What things do you find really important in deciding the best schooling decision for your child? Did you do preschool or just go straight to kindergarden? If you child did preschool, what kind of preschool was it? I'm dying to hear your thoughts!